Did Churchill Ever Admire Hitler? 1/3

Did Churchill Ever Admire Hitler? 1/3

Pho­to: Churchill Book Spe­cial­ist, http://www.wscbooks.com/

Part 1: “Gov­ern­ment by Dictators”

The Hitler chap­ter in Churchill’s book Great Con­tem­po­raries, like the rest of the vol­ume, was derived from a pre­vi­ous arti­cle. In this case the orig­i­nal was “The Truth about Hitler,” in The Strand Mag­a­zine of Novem­ber 1935 (Cohen C481). Ronald Cohen notes in his Bib­li­og­ra­phy that Strand edi­tor Reeves Shaw, who paid WSC £250 for the arti­cle, want­ed Churchill to make it “as out­spo­ken as you pos­si­bly can…absolutely frank in your judg­ment of [Hitler’s] meth­ods.” It was.

Two years lat­er, when Churchill was prepar­ing his Hitler essay for Great Con­tem­po­raries, he char­ac­ter­is­ti­cal­ly sub­mit­ted it to the For­eign Office, which asked that he tone it down. Pre­fer­ring that he not pub­lish it at all, they were some­what mol­li­fied by the result. (See Mar­tin Gilbert, Churchill: A Life, Lon­don: Heine­mann, 1991, 580-81). As a result of his “ton­ing down”, the belief has per­sist­ed that Churchill wrote approv­ing­ly of Hitler, in either his book or his article—or in oth­er writ­ings for the British press.

On 10 Octo­ber 1937, six days after pub­li­ca­tion of Great Con­tem­po­raries, Churchill pub­lished an arti­cle, “This Age of Gov­ern­ment by Great Dic­ta­tors,” his sev­enth install­ment in the series “Great Events of Our Time” for News of the World (Cohen C535.7). Here he traced the evo­lu­tion of the British democ­ra­cy from the feu­dal ages, the destruc­tion of con­ti­nen­tal monar­chies dur­ing the Great War, and the rise of the Bol­she­viks, Fas­cists and Nazis. His Hitler para­graphs in this piece are mainly—but not wholly—from his Great Con­tem­po­raries text.

In his open­ing about Hitler, Churchill retread­ed lan­guage from his 1935 Strand arti­cle which he had combed out of Great Con­tem­po­raries. He wrote of Hitler’s “guilt of blood” and “wicked” meth­ods. He also insert­ed two sen­tences from the Strand which are omit­ted from his book:

It is on this mys­tery of the future that his­to­ry will pro­nounce Hitler either a mon­ster or a hero. It is this which will deter­mine whether he will rank in Val­hal­la with Per­i­cles, with Augus­tus and with Wash­ing­ton, or wel­ter in the infer­no of human scorn with Atti­la and Tamerlane.

Were those words from his Strand arti­cle retained in defi­ance of the For­eign Office’s wish­es? Or were they there because Churchill was too good a writer not to re-use lines care­ful­ly com­posed two years ear­li­er? What­ev­er the rea­son, they do not mate­ri­al­ly change Churchill’s view of Hitler—and his con­sid­er­able doubt that his­to­ry would come to regard Hitler in a pos­i­tive light.

Con­tin­ued in Part 2…

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