Churchill on Peace with Hitler

Churchill on Peace with Hitler

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Cham­ber­lain at Hes­ton Aero­drome after his return from Munich, with his paper signed by Hitler, which he said promised “peace for our time,” 1938. (Wki­i­me­dia)

It has long been argued, most elo­quent­ly in Pro­fes­sor John Charmley’s Churchill: The End of Glo­ry, that Churchill’s sin­gle­mind­ed obses­sion with Hitler pre­vent­ed him from see­ing the longterm impli­ca­tions for Britain and the Empire by an alliance with the Sovi­et Union (cement­ed after Hitler’s attack on Rus­sia in June 1941).

The fol­low­ing rec­ol­lec­tion by Churchill’s Pri­vate Sec­re­tary, the late Antho­ny Mon­tague Browne, has always seemed to me the most appro­pri­ate com­ment by Churchill on the “peace option.” I first heard it when Sir Antho­ny addressed a Churchill din­ner at the Hotel Savoy in 1985. It lat­er appeared in Sir Anthony’s book, Long Sun­set, 1995:

 In the autumn of 1955, I dined alone with [Churchill] for sev­en­teen evenings. Those evenings alone with an octo­ge­nar­i­an were utter­ly fas­ci­nat­ing. All sorts of curi­ous pieces of infor­ma­tion came out….On 1940 I played the Devil’s Advo­cate. Leav­ing aside the appalling issue of the exter­mi­na­tion camps, which was then not evi­dent, would it have been bet­ter if we had joined the New Order, as a sub­stan­tial part of France was then inclined to do? Would the mon­strous tyran­ny of Stal­in­ism have been brought to an end, for Hitler most cer­tain­ly would have attacked Rus­sia and, unhar­rassed in the West, almost cer­tain­ly would have won? Would the equal­ly mon­strous tyran­ny of the Nazi regime have been mit­i­gat­ed or abbre­vi­at­ed by the influ­ence of Britain, whom Hitler had always respect­ed? Would we have kept our Empire and our finan­cial strength? WSC’s reply was brief:

 “You’re only say­ing that to be provoca­tive. You know very well we couldn’t have made peace on the heels of a ter­ri­ble defeat. The coun­try wouldn’t have stood for it. And what makes you think that we could have trust­ed Hitler’s word—particularly as he could have had Russ­ian resources behind him? At best we would have been a Ger­man client state, and there’s not much in that.”

 Of course, as some thought­ful his­to­ri­ans would say, Churchill was far more will­ing to trust Stalin’s word at Teheran and Yal­ta than, say, Cham­ber­lain was to trust Hitler’s word at Godes­berg and Munich. But that is anoth­er sto­ry.

6 thoughts on “Churchill on Peace with Hitler

  1. Hitler saw the faults and weak­ness­es in the democ­ra­cies, and wait­ed for the right moment…an eagle eye and the instinct of a crim­i­nal.

  2. Oh, I dun­no. Check some of the recent com­ments! But Churchill is like the Bible. He wrote and said so much (some would say TOO much), that his words can be used to prove almost every favorite the­o­ry. One has to look at the big pic­ture.

  3. This is the right web­page for every­one who would like to find out about this top­ic.
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