No Cards, No Flowers: Churchill on the Death of Stalin

No Cards, No Flowers: Churchill on the Death of Stalin

Stalin redux

Joseph Stal­in 1878-1953

A cor­re­spon­dent to the Finan­cial Times slipped a red her­ring into our store of Churchill quo­ta­tions, and thanks to the news­pa­per for pub­lish­ing my correction.

In a let­ter to the FT, Mary Ellen Syn­on defend­ed Irish Taoiseach Eamon de Valera’s expres­sion of con­do­lences at the Ger­man Embassy upon the death of Adolf Hitler. Ms. Syn­on sug­gest­ed that this was just an ordi­nary diplo­mat­ic gesture—a for­mal­i­ty. After all, didn’t Churchill offer con­do­lences or a homi­ly fol­low­ing the death of Stalin?

Churchill was out­raged by de Valera’s action, but was not guilty of the same lack of pro­pri­ety (or hypocrisy). For the record, Churchill sent no con­do­lences, made no speech­es, not even a sym­pa­thy card, on the death of Joseph Stal­in in March 1953.

“Great leader of the Russian people”: nyet

A canard we see fre­quent­ly has Churchill mak­ing some speech of praise upon Stalin’s death, or even, more pre­pos­ter­ous­ly, ten years lat­er, when Sir Win­ston had long stopped mak­ing speeches.

None of this is cor­rect, because Churchill’s 20 mil­lion-word dig­i­tal canon, and 80 mil­lion words about him, offer noth­ing of the kind. (The Hills­dale Col­lege Churchill Project main­tains this archive for schol­ars and stu­dents.) Nei­ther does the Churchill Archives Cen­tre at Cam­bridge. No con­do­lences of any kind were expressed. Indeed The Churchill Doc­u­ments con­tain no state­ment of any kind on the subject.

This is not to say Stal­in did not mis­lead Churchill at least once, because he did. See “Stal­in nev­er broke his word to me.” Churchill’s Words?

About that cartoon

Wiki­me­dia Com­mons pro­duces the rather bizarre mock­ery of Churchill’s ally in Sim­pli­cis­simus. Nazi pro­pa­gan­da reg­u­lar­ly lam­pooned Churchill and Roo­sevelt align­ing them­selves with the Sovi­et dic­ta­tor. Wiki­me­dia writes: “The Ger­man satir­i­cal car­toon­ist and car­i­ca­tur­ist Erich Schilling (1885-1945) worked for Sim­pli­cis­simus from 1907 to 1944. Although ini­tial­ly opposed to the Nazi Par­ty, he even­tu­al­ly became a sup­port­er of the Hitler regime.

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