Did Churchill Praise Hitler?

Did Churchill Praise Hitler?

The film “Judg­ment at Nurem­berg” sug­gests that Churchill “praised Hitler” right after the Munich Pact, which would seem an odd time for Churchill to be singing the prais­es of the Führer. What’s the sto­ry? —K.C., Washington

Hitler addressing the Reichstag, 1941. (Wikimedia Commons)
Hitler address­ing the Reich­stag, 1941. (Wiki­me­dia Commons)

In a speech to the Reich­stag in ear­ly Novem­ber 1938, Hitler had attacked Churchill and oth­ers who had object­ed to the Munich Pact by name and describ­ing them as “war­mon­gers.” Reply­ing in the House of Com­mons on 6 Novem­ber, Churchill said:

I am sur­prised that the head of a great State should set him­self to attack British mem­bers of Par­lia­ment who hold no offi­cial posi­tion and who are not even the lead­ers of par­ties. Such action on his part can only enhance any influ­ence they may have, because their fel­low-coun­try­men have long been able to form their own opin­ion about them and real­ly do not need for­eign guidance.

What Churchill then said has often been quot­ed out of con­text to sug­gest that he was an admir­er of Hitler. A par­tial quo­ta­tion is in Churchill by Him­selfthe “Peo­ple” chap­ter, Hitler, page 346. But just so there’s no doubt, I have sup­plied all the words rep­re­sent­ed by ellipses in my book:

I have always said that if Great Britain were defeat­ed in war I hoped we should find a Hitler to lead us back to our right­ful posi­tion among the nations. I am sor­ry, how­ev­er, that he has not been mel­lowed by the great suc­cess that has attend­ed him. The whole world would rejoice to see the Hitler of peace and tol­er­ance, and noth­ing would adorn his name in world his­to­ry so much as acts of mag­na­nim­i­ty and of mer­cy and of pity to the for­lorn and friend­less, to the weak and poor.

Since he has been good enough to give me his advice I ven­ture to return the com­pli­ment. Herr Hitler also showed him­self undu­ly sen­si­tive about sug­ges­tions that there may be oth­er opin­ions in Ger­many besides his own. It would be indeed aston­ish­ing if, among 80,000,000 of peo­ple so vary­ing in ori­gin, creed, inter­est, and con­di­tion, there should be only one pat­tern of thought. It would not be nat­ur­al: it is incred­i­ble. That he has the pow­er, and, alas! the will, to sup­press all incon­ve­nient opin­ions is no doubt true. It would be much wis­er to relax a lit­tle, and not try to fright­en peo­ple out of their wits for express­ing hon­est doubt and diver­gences. He is mis­tak­en in think­ing that I do not see Ger­mans of the Nazi regime when they come to this coun­try. On the con­trary, only this year I have seen, at their request, Herr Bohle, Herr Hen­lein, and the Gauleit­er of Danzig, and they all know that.

In com­mon with most Eng­lish men and women, I should like noth­ing bet­ter than to see a great, hap­py, peace­ful Ger­many in the van­guard of Europe. Let this great man search his own heart and con­science before he accus­es any­one of being a war­mon­ger. The whole peo­ples of the British Empire and the French Repub­lic earnest­ly desire to dwell in peace side by side with the Ger­man nation. But they are also resolved to put them­selves in a posi­tion to defend their rights and long-estab­lished civ­i­liza­tions. They do not mean to be in anybody’s pow­er. If Herr Hitler’s eye falls upon these words I trust he will accept them in the spir­it of can­dour in which they are uttered.

14 thoughts on “Did Churchill Praise Hitler?

  1. Thanks for clar­i­fy­ing Churchill’s state­ment. That one always bugged me since I heard it in Judge­ment at Nurem­berg.
    Churchill was no angel, but that par­tic­u­lar com­ment always seemed out of character.

  2. (To Mr. Balls, below):
    I think you are a lit­tle con­fused. You have cer­tain­ly con­fused me—and tak­en me out of context.

    1) My state­ment (in a reply below) was: “What Churchill incor­rect­ly called ‘poi­son gas’ was tear gas” is clear­ly linked to my descrip­tion of the gas he con­sid­ered using in Iraq in 1921. 

    2) In that arti­cle, “O’Reilly, Churchill and Poi­son Gas,” I then move on to Churchill’s query about use of gas in 1943, and quote Sir Mar­itn Gilbert: “But the mil­i­tary experts to whom Churchill remit­ted the ques­tion doubt­ed whether gas, of the essen­tial­ly non-lethal kind envis­aged by Churchill, could have a deci­sive effect, and no gas raids were made.” (Gilbert, Churchill: A Life, 783.)

    You then offer two Churchill mem­os, one of which you mis­date, which you say prove Sir Mar­tin Gilbert was “lying” or “con­flat­ing,” because (you say), they are in ref­er­ence to “Nor­mandy alone.” Not so. In 1943 Churchill was try­ing to think of con­tin­gen­cies that might arise in the com­ing inva­sion. In May 1944 he was indeed think­ing of Nor­mandy. But by July 1944 the inva­sion was a month old, and he was think­ing of the rest of the war.

    3) The PM’s Per­son­al Minute (“On July 6 I asked for…”) was dat­ed July 25th, not July 6th. (How indeed could it be?) Churchill asks about mus­tard gas (which is mis­er­able stuff but far less lethal than chlo­rine or phos­gene). Gilbert him­self quotes this minute (Road to Vic­to­ry 1941-1945), page 865. Gilbert adds:

    “In fact, unknown to Churchill, the Vice-Chiefs of Staff, meet­ing on July 13, had con­sid­ered Churchill’s minute, and instruct­ed the enquiry into ‘the ques­tion of employ­ing gas against Ger­many’ to be made by the Joint Plan­ning Staff….Equally unknown to Churchill, the enquiry had been put in train on July 16, so that when the Chiefs of Staff met on July 26 to con­sid­er Churchill’s sec­ond minute, they were able to pro­vide their report, not ‘with­in three days’ as he had asked, but with­in a few hours. In its first eight and a half pages, the report argued against the use of gas.”

    4) PM’s Per­son­al Minute (“I want a cold-blood­ed cal­cu­la­tion”) is quot­ed in Gilbert, Road to Vic­to­ry, page 776. You cor­rect­ly state that this was in rela­tion to the com­ing Nor­mandy inva­sion. How­ev­er, a far more spe­cif­ic “cold blood­ed cal­cu­la­tion” request by Churchill was dat­ed July 6th, a month after the inva­sion. It—and not his May 21st message—is in fact the memo Churchill refers to on July 25th (above).

    Both Gilbert (Road to Vic­to­ry, 840-41) and Hillsdale’s Churchill Doc­u­ments (Vol­ume 20), quote this memo com­plete­ly. Your excerpt is from one of sev­en num­bered para­graphs on use of gas—not only in Nor­mandy, but in the ongo­ing march to Berlin. Again Gilbert records the reaction:

    “On July 8 the Chiefs of Staff Com­mit­tee, at its morn­ing meet­ing with Brooke pre­sid­ing, dis­cussed what the min­utes described as Churchill’s request ‘that a com­pre­hen­sive exam­i­na­tion be made of the ques­tion of employ­ing gas against Ger­many’. Por­tal, the only mem­ber of the Chiefs of Staff to speak on this issue, said that he was ‘not con­vinced’ that the use of gas would pro­duce the results sug­gest­ed in Churchill’s minute. ‘It was very dif­fi­cult’, Por­tal told the meet­ing, ‘to achieve a heavy con­cen­tra­tion of gas over a large area’, nor did he believe that the use of gas against launch­ing sites ‘would stop fly­ing bomb attacks.'” 

    So I am left per­plexed as to how, cor­rect­ly and chrono­log­i­cal­ly inter­pret­ed, any of these mem­os can be con­sid­ered con­tra­dic­to­ry, mis­rep­re­sen­ta­tive, con­flat­ed, mis­lead­ing, or some­thing Mar­tin Gilbert lied about. Togeth­er they rep­re­sent Churchill’s con­sis­tent con­cern, in World War II, that Britain be pre­pared to retal­i­ate in kind to any use of any gas by the ene­my. They nev­er did; and Britain nev­er did. But to win wars, one has to be prepared.

  3. “What Churchill incor­rect­ly called “poi­son gas” was tear gas” – Langworth 

    “But the mil­i­tary experts to whom Churchill
remit­ted the ques­tion doubt­ed whether gas, of the essen­tial­ly non-lethal
kind envis­aged by Churchill, could have a deci­sive effect, and no gas
raids were made.”
    – Sir Mar­tin Gilbert [as quot­ed by Langworth]

    Sir Mar­tin was lying, as well as—if you’ve quot­ed him correctly—conflating texts from entire­ly sep­a­rate doc­u­ments. I poss­es pho­tos I took per­son­al­ly of the doc­u­ments I quote here. 

    “On July 6 I asked for a dis­pas­sion­ate report on the mil­i­tary aspects of threat­en­ing to use lethal and cor­ro­sive gas­es on the ene­my if they did not stop the use of indis­crim­i­nate weapons. I now request this report with­in three days.”
    —Prime Minister’a WPer­son­al Minute, Ser­i­al D.217/4. July 6, 1944. UK NA: CAB 120-775.

    Churchill’s ref­er­ence to mus­tard gas in this memo was for use in Nor­mandy alone.

    “I want a cold-blood­ed cal­cu­la­tion made as to how it would pay us to use poi­son gas, by which I mean prin­ci­pal­ly mus­tard. We will want to gain more ground in Nor­mandy so as not to be cooped up in a small area. We could prob­a­bly deliv­er 20 tons to their 1 and for the sake of the 1 they would bring their bomber air­craft into the area against our supe­ri­or­i­ty, thus pay­ing a heavy toll.

    “I do not myself believe that the Ger­mans will use gas on the beach­es, although this is the most potent way in which gas could be used….General Mont­gomery tells me that he is leav­ing all his anti-gas equip­ment on this side and his men are not even to car­ry gas masks. I agree with this.”
    —Prime Minister’s Per­son­al Minute, Ser­i­al D.163/4. May 21, 1944. Ibid.

  4. Churchill was a war crim­i­nal. He should have been tried for putting war muni­tions on pas­sen­ger lin­ers like RMS Lusi­ta­nia, and for using chem­i­cal weapons in Russia.

  5. Pub­lish it? Why not? It’s a free coun­try, and every­one has the right to embar­rass themselves.

    Let me get this straight. Anx­ious to pro­mote my flawed vision, I edit­ed out a com­ment by the real Ser­gio (whom “Lord Marl­bor­ough” says I mis­led below), and sub­sti­tut­ed a fake Ser­gio, writ­ing only pos­i­tive things. Aside from the lim­it­ed hours in the day, I sup­pose I could do this. But Word­Press has this annoy­ing habit of iden­ti­fy­ing one’s ISP, and would slap my name on it. This may scare you: Word­Press knows who you are.

    Churchill said: “He spoke with­out a note, and almost with­out a point.” At least “Lord Marl­bor­ough” made some points. So I have to ask if you have any, oth­er than to push the Vul­gar­i­ty Meter. There’s a lim­it to that, even in a democracy.

    N.B.: Inter­est­ing that most mes­sages like this come from peo­ple who use screen names, while those with adult obser­va­tions often ful­ly iden­ti­fy themselves—like Mr. Ser­gio Asun­cion (below) who will get a copy.

  6. I am not hold­ing my breath for you to pub­lish this. But I will go through the motion:
    A cer­tain Ser­gio referred to by the article’s author, and by anoth­er read­er (so-called Lord Marl­bor­ough -for lack of a bet­ter name­sake-), appears to have wad­ed in Win­ston Churchill and threw some ‘punch­es’.

    How­ev­er, his post is nowhere to be seen. It must have been removed. Inter­est­ing­ly, while the orig­i­nal Ser­gio has been edit­ed out of oppo­si­tion to the arti­cle (how demo­c­ra­t­ic, sir), an impos­tor Ser­gio appears to have eat­en his words and seen the ‘light’.

    Talk­ing about hav­ing your cake and eat­ing it. I wouldn’t both­er sug­gest­ing to you telling you to take your hyp­o­crit­i­cal democ­ra­cy and shove it up a cer­tain part of your rear anato­my, but I think that I just did.

    Long may your exem­plary wis­dom and tol­er­ance of any opin­ion that does not run con­trary to your flawed vision continue.

  7. By gad, your Lord­ship, I think you’re on to some­thing! Thanks for quot­ing your favorite part from my orig­i­nal post….

    Indeed I only just today quot­ed those words (and many oth­ers) in the Hitler chap­ters for my next book, Churchill and the Avoid­able War, on the 1930s. (The ques­tions: Was he right or wrong? Was World War II pre­ventable? The answers, respec­tive­ly, will be: “both” and “yes, but with great difficulty.”) 

    The prob­lem is, the one-two punch­es you offer Ser­gio are not Churchill’s first and last com­ments on Hitler, but some­thing like his 37th and 75th; and sep­a­rat­ed by three years—from 1935 (when Hitler was preach­ing peace and har­mo­ny) to 1938 (after Hitler had grabbed the Rhineland, Aus­tria, and Czecho­slo­va­kia). A let­ter Hitler wrote Lord Rother­mere, in May 1935, except for the white suprema­cy bits, could have been writ­ten by the Pope. One must con­sid­er what hap­pened in between. 

    Not only did Churchill “let his tongue rat­tle away,” he nev­er cen­sored a word. He left a mil­lion-doc­u­ment archive, pub­lished 15 mil­lion words in books, arti­cles, speech­es and papers—oodles of grub for those with pre­con­ceived notions to extract exact­ly what they need to prove he was “a wicked old poltroon.” (You can say that; I couldn’t pos­si­bly comment.)

    I am not going to leak my book because I ful­ly expect you to buy the e-book for £1 and make me 70p richer—and then write anoth­er furi­ous let­ter. But I will quote my first para­graph of Chap­ter 2, “Ger­many Armed”:

    “Churchill’s crit­ics have used his writ­ings to argue that he was ‘for Hitler before he was against him.’ In an abstract sense, Churchill did admire Hitler’s dom­i­nat­ing polit­i­cal skill and nerve. With his innate opti­mism he even hoped briefly that Hitler might mel­low. But in his fun­da­men­tal under­stand­ing Churchill, unlike most of his con­tem­po­raries, nev­er wavered. He was right all along: dead right.”

    N.B. Sad­dam Hus­sein used more than mus­tard gas, reli­able author­i­ties sug­gest: nerve gas, per­haps cyanide. What Churchill incor­rect­ly called “poi­son gas” was tear gas; mus­tard gas, while pret­ty rough, was not Saddam’s com­plete recipe. And if you’re going to quote the rude things Churchill said about Gand­hi, you might con­sid­er what Gand­hi said about Churchill—after the India Bill had passed and Churchill had urged him to “make the thing a success.” 

  8. Sad­ly Ser­gio, you have been mis­led on here. You were ini­tial­ly cor­rect to assume that Win­ston Churchill had uttered words of praise for Adolf Hitler. And here they are:

    “One may dis­like Hitler’s sys­tem and yet admire his patri­ot­ic achieve­ment. If our coun­try were defeat­ed, I hope we should find a cham­pi­on as indomitable to restore our courage and lead us back to our place among the nations.” – Win­ston Churchill ‘Hitler and His Choice’ (orig­i­nal­ly 1935)

    He was pro­vi­sion­al enough to repeat him­self whilst adding a para­graph or two in order to play up to being tak­en out of con­text at a lat­er date. The politician’s favourite excuse: “My words have been tak­en out of context.”.

    Churchill’s sec­ond emis­sion relat­ing to Hitler, his tidied up ver­sion replete with pro­vi­sion­al get out clause (con­text) reads as:

    “I have always said that if Great Britain were defeat­ed in war I hoped we should find a Hitler to lead us back to our right­ful posi­tion among the nations. I am sor­ry, how­ev­er, that he has not been mel­lowed by the great suc­cess that has attend­ed him. The whole world would rejoice to see the Hitler of peace and tol­er­ance, and noth­ing would adorn his name in world his­to­ry so much as acts of mag­na­nim­i­ty and of mer­cy and of pity to the for­lorn and friend­less, to the weak and poor. … Let this great man search his own heart and con­science before he accus­es any­one of being a war­mon­ger.” – ‘Mr. Churchill’s Reply,” House of Com­mons, 6Nov38

    I wouldn’t rest on these two sep­a­rate quotes as being any sort of defin­ing fac­tor on the char­ac­ter of Win­ston Churchill. In truth he has let his tongue rat­tle away on so many occa­sions oft shock­ing those lis­ten­ing with his scant regard for human­i­ty and he shocked even more whilst writ­ing with no audi­ence to impress, such as when he was pres­i­dent of the air coun­cil in 1919, he wrote: 

    “I do not under­stand the squea­mish­ness about the use of gas. I am strong­ly in favour of using poi­so­nous gas against uncivilised tribes.” 

    A few years lat­er mus­tard gas was used against the Kurds. A crime Sad­dam Hus­sein was hung for.

    How­ev­er, his dis­taste for the “uncivilised” didn’t stop there. He brand­ed Gand­hi “a half-naked fakir” who “ought to be laid, bound hand and foot, at the gates of Del­hi and then tram­pled on by an enor­mous ele­phant with the new viceroy seat­ed on its back”.

    And there’s plen­ty more occa­sions record­ed through­out his­to­ry where this wicked old poltroon allowed his true per­son to be revealed.

  9. Not at all, it’s quite accu­rate, and you cor­rect­ly include Churchill’s words usu­al­ly excised by spin artists. But he said that about Mus­soli­ni, not Hitler.

    Your quote is from Churchill’s press state­ment in Rome (20 Jan­u­ary 1927) after meet­ing with Count Volpi, Italy’s finance min­is­ter, over the Ital­ian war debt (Churchill was then Chan­cel­lor of the Exche­quer), and after two brief meet­ings with Mus­soli­ni. You tend to say polite things about a nation’s leader when you want him to cough up the mon­ey his coun­try owes yours. 

    I repro­duced this quo­ta­tion in Churchill By Him­self, with the fol­low­ing note: “The first words of this pas­sage have often been extract­ed from the rest to sug­gest that Churchill approved of Fas­cism. As the con­text shows, what he approved of was Italy not falling to Bol­she­vism, which he then feared more than any­thing. The remark is redo­lent of his usu­al court­li­ness to for­eign hosts. As the years passed and cir­cum­stances changed, his view of Fas­cism darkened.” 

    Churchill was even more loqua­cious in praise of Mus­soli­ni in his des­per­ate let­ter urg­ing him not to enter the war in 1940, when France was col­laps­ing. You tend to say dis­arm­ing things when you are try­ing to encour­age a fel­low not to stab you in the back. After Mus­so did that, he want from “law-giv­er” to “whipped jack­al” in the Churchill lexicon.

    Was Churchill impressed by the Mus­soli­ni of 1927? Quite pos­si­bly. A lot of peo­ple were. For­tu­nate­ly Churchill nev­er redact­ed a thing from his archives, where we can pore over a mil­lion doc­u­ments, along with 15 mil­lion pub­lished words, find­ing exact­ly what we want. (See next communication.)

  10. This was prob­a­bly out of con­text too, eh?

    “I could not help being charmed, like so many oth­er peo­ple have been, by his gen­tle and sim­ple bear­ing and by his calm, detached poise in spite of so many bur­dens. If I had been an Ital­ian, I am sure that I should have been whole-heart­ed­ly with you from start to fin­ish in your tri­umphant strug­gle against the bes­tial appetites and pas­sions of Lenin­ism. But in Eng­land we have not yet had to face this dan­ger in the same dead­ly form…But that we shall suc­ceed in grap­pling with Com­mu­nism and chok­ing the life out of it – of that I am absolute­ly sure.”

  11. You recall wrong. The Gath­er­ing Storm, London:Cassell, 1948, page 43:

    “These months in the Lands­berg fortress were how­ev­er suf­fi­cient to enable him to com­plete in out­line Mein Kampf, a trea­tise on his polit­i­cal phi­los­o­phy inscribed to the dead of the recent Putsch. When even­tu­al­ly he came to pow­er there was no book which deserved more care­ful study from the rulers, polit­i­cal and mil­i­tary, of the Allied Pow­ers. All was there – the pro­gramme of Ger­man res­ur­rec­tion, the tech­nique of par­ty pro­pa­gan­da; the plan for com­bat­ing Marx­ism; the con­cept of a Nation­al-Social­ist State; the right­ful posi­tion of Ger­many at the sum­mit of the world. Here was the new Koran of faith and war: turgid, ver­bose, shape­less, but preg­nant with its message.”

  12. The quote sup­plied still isn’t com­plete. If I recall, Churchill praised Mein Kampf imme­di­ate­ly before the the seg­ment the author of this web­site supplied.

  13. Thank you very much for the clar­i­fi­ca­tion! Since I watched the afore­men­tioned movie, I had tak­en for grant­ed Churchill had real­ly praised Hitler in an ear­ly time. Adding that to his seem­ing sup­port to eugenic poli­cies led me to think he was ide­o­log­i­cal­ly close to the Nazis’ own sin­is­ter point of view.However, the text shows that, on the con­trary, Churchill asked Hitler to take into con­sid­er­a­tion the Ger­man people’s diverse opin­ions and to be gen­tle with the less for­tu­nate ones. 

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