Part 3: Pleasing No One …continued from Part 2
Churchill was correct when he said his writings about Hitler satisfied neither Hitler’s defenders nor Hitler’s critics. One of the former was Lord Londonderry, a pro-Hitler peer who complained that Churchill’s Evening Standard piece would prevent a decent understanding with Germany. On 23 October 1937, Churchill replied to Lord Londonderry (Gilbert, Churchill: A Life, 581):
You cannot expect English people to be attracted by the brutal intolerances of Nazidom, though these may fade with time. On the other hand, we all wish to live on friendly terms with Germany. We know that the best Germans are ashamed of the Nazi excesses, and recoil from the paganism on which they are based. We certainly do not wish to pursue a policy inimical to the legitimate interests of Germany, but you must surely be aware that when the German Government speaks of friendship with England, what they mean is that we shall give them back their former Colonies, and also agree to their having a free hand so far as we are concerned in Central and Southern Europe. This means that they would devour Austria and Czechoslovakia as a preliminary to making a gigantic middle-Europe bloc. It would certainly not be in our interest to connive at such policies of aggression. It would be wrong and cynical in the last degree to buy immunity for ourselves at the expense of the smaller countries of Central Europe. It would be contrary to the whole tide of British and United States opinion for us to facilitate the spread of Nazi tyranny over countries which now have a considerable measure of democratic freedom.
It is possible now, knowing of what Hitler really was, to scoff at Churchill for failing to go all out against him in his writings of 1935-37. In fact, he had told the truth about Hitler from the beginning, but tempered some of his writing in an effort to meet the wishes of the Foreign Office—which was certain that Hitler could be handled, if only they didn’t upset him. Nevertheless, as Sir Martin Gilbert wrote: “neither the toned-down essay [in Great Contemporaries] nor the conciliatory article in the Evening Standard marked any change in Churchill’s attitude….”
When Churchill writes about buying immunity from a “gigantic bloc” marked by brutal intolerance, one is reminded of certain parallels with the policies of Western democracies toward similar fanatics in our own time.