Did Churchill Praise Hitler?

Did Churchill Praise Hitler?

On Judgment at Nuremberg

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

In a speech to the Reich­stag in ear­ly Novem­ber 1938, Hitler attacked Churchill and oth­ers who had object­ed to the Munich Pact. He men­tioned names and described them as war­mon­gers. Churchill replied in the House of Com­mons on 6 Novem­ber. He expressed sur­prise that the “head of a great State” should attack pri­vate Mem­bers of Parliament.

The full context

What Churchill said next is often been quot­ed out of con­text to sug­gest it was in praise of Hitler. Whether this is your ref­er­ence to Judg­ment at Nurem­berg I’m not sure. A par­tial quo­ta­tion is in Churchill by Him­self, 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.


Churchill con­tin­ued, in words that were not in praise:

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….

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.

Further on Churchill – Hitler

“The Myth That Churchill Admired Hitler,” 2017.

“Churchill’s Hitler Essays: He Knew the Führer from the Start,” 2024.

“Win­ston Churchill on Peace with Hitler,” 2023.

“Did Hitler Autho­rize the Flight of Rudolf Hess?” 2023.

“Hitler’s Sput­ter­ing Aus­tri­an Anschluss,” 2020.

12 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 Per­son­al 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. 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.” 

  6. 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.

  7. 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.)

  8. 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.”

  9. 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.”

  10. 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.

  11. 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. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

RML Books

Richard Langworth’s Most Popular Books & eBooks

Links on this page may earn commissions.