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