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
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 Himself, the “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.