A correspondent to the Financial Times has slipped a red herring into the store of Winston Churchill quotations.
In a letter to the FT on April 14th, Mary Ellen Synon was defending Irish Taoiseach Eamon de Valera’s 1945 letter to the German Embassy in Dublin expressing condolences on the suicide death of Adolf Hitler. Ms. Synon suggested that this was just a formality; after all, Churchill sent condolences to Moscow on the death of Stalin.
For the record, Winston Churchill sent no condolences, made no speeches, didn’t even send a sympathy card, on the death of Joseph Stalin in March 1953.
A canard we see all over the web has it that Churchill made some speech of praise upon Stalin’s death—or, even more preposterously, ten years later, when Sir Winston had long since stopped making speeches.
None of this is correct. Neither a search through Churchill’s 15 milllion-word digital canon, nor the Churchill Archives Centre at Cambridge, can find any trace of condolences of any kind.
This is not to say Churchill wasn’t misled by Stalin on at least one occasion during World War II. See “Stalin never broke his word to me.” Churchill’s Words?”
(The Financial Times ran my correction in their April 27th Letters column, but the link I Tweeted doesn’t work unless you are a registered user of the FT website.)