1940: Winston Churchill And The Nazi Peril
by David Semple
January 17, 2018
The release of the film Darkest Hour brings to our cinema screens this year the dramatic real life story of Winston Churchill’s first month as prime minister of Great Britain. May 1940 was the turning point in the history of modern Europe. Western Europe was conquered by the primitive and violent regime of Adolf Hitler as Germany tried to take on all the nations of Europe and destroy the legacy of the Enlightenment completely and for all time. Europe has never recovered from the New Order of Nazi Germany.
Hitler hated Jews. He hated and feared Judaism. He hated the spiritual hold of the Holy Bible over the Western world. Hitler and his National Socialist ideology represented a truly frightening force which turned the German people away from Judeo-Christian values towards a dark form of primitive paganism. Winston Churchill entered No 10 Downing Street on May 10th 1940, becoming the only politician in the West who would stand between victory for Nazi Germany and the survival of Western civilization. This month marks the 53rd anniversary of Churchill’s funeral. Winston Churchill could not achieve victory over Nazi Germany without the Soviet Union, the United States and the British Empire. But he did stop Germany from winning the war, Hitler’s war, and made sure that Britain did not lose that war.
Seventy-eight years ago Great Britain and France were at war with Nazi Germany. Hitler had been in power for seven years, during which he took Germany out of the League of Nations, re-armed the Third Reich in preparation of fighting a war for the domination of Europe, re-militarized the Rhineland in breach of the Treaty of Versailles in the face of indifference from the other Great Powers, annexed his native Austria into the German Reich, and took the Sudetenland from Czechoslovakia with the consent of Great Britain and France. Hitler thus made Germany the dominant power on the European continent in just five short years.
After watching Hitler annex the rest of Czechoslovakia without the threat of Britain and France going to war against Germany, Hitler was convinced the Western Powers would do nothing to stop his takeover of Poland in September 1939. But Britain’s Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain, whose policy of appeasing Germany had collapsed in complete failure just six months earlier, in March 1939, had no choice but to go to war with Germany as public opinion in Britain turned against Hitler. The British people had only one year earlier supported appeasement, but now they were beginning to realise that appeasement was only going to bring Nazi tyranny to the streets of London. They still hadn’t woken up to the dangers that Nazism posed to the British way of life. They were, however, beginning to see that Winston Churchill had been right about Nazi Germany all along while the British political establishment and the anti-war Labour left were completely wrong.
Britain and France declared war on Germany on September 3rd 1939, but continued to allow Hitler to take the initiative throughout the winter months. The so-called phoney war from September 1939 to May 1940 was a dismal failure for the British and French, who did little to stop Germany apart from starting an economic blockade of the Third Reich. They also dropped propaganda leaflets on German cities whilst German troops were executing thousands and thousands of innocent civilians in Poland. In May/June 1940, Germany invaded Western Europe, and the defeatist French, along with the small British Expeditionary Force, collapsed in the face of the Nazi military steamroller. France never fully recovered from the mass slaughter of the Great War and its people seemed to lose the will to save their country. The new French President, Petain, a hero of the Great War, agreed to an armistice with Germany. Surrender was humiliating for French honour but offered the French people a quiet life and saved Paris from destruction. In effect, the French valued the architecture of Paris over the fight for freedom. Totalitarianism became sexy.
The British people, although complacent towards the extreme dangers posed by Nazism, still had the will to fight for their freedoms. As a result, British Jews were the only European Jews not to suffer in the Holocaust. Great Britain and its Commonwealth Allies were now alone after suffering their worst military defeat since the American Revolution, with the evacuation of hundreds of thousands of Allied troops from Dunkirk. British and French incompetence allowed Germany to turn Europe into a huge prison camp, wherein the Nazis proceeded to destroy the old Europe of the Enlightenment and drag the continent into a short but deadly dark age from which Europe has not fully recovered to this day. Nazi Germany’s victories marked the death of Western civilisation in Europe for five years. If Hitler had won the war, European civilisation would have been utterly destroyed and replaced by a primitive totalitarian empire of death. It took only six weeks for Hitler to conquer Western Europe, but it took an alliance of the British Empire, the Soviet Union and the United States five long years to destroy the Third Reich.
The Germans enjoyed a relatively easy war during 1939-1940 as Hitler stood triumphant over Europe and France collapsed like a house of cards in May/June 1940. Hitler was the most popular German leader in a thousand years. When war was easy and the enemy was weak, as it was in 1939-1940, the Germans totally supported their new totalitarian Reich without reservation. They paid the price for their love affair with Nazism when they suffered the worst military defeat in history in 1945, with Germany left in ruins as the Nazi government signed an unconditional surrender to the Anglo-Americans and Soviets, humiliated and disgraced in front of the world. Yet, most Nazis got away with their horrible war crimes without being punished. Nazi crimes marked a new low point in human history, with the extermination of six or seven million Jews in factory-like concentration camps.
The Holocaust would not have happened had the Western powers – France, the United States and Great Britain – not stood by passively as the Third Reich gobbled up other nations unopposed. Hitler could have been stopped if the French military had intervened in 1936, when Hitler re-militarised the Rhineland. The Czechs were sold down the river by Britain and France at the Munich Conference in 1938, when war against Germany should have been declared. Czechoslovakia was a not unformidable military nation with a large armaments industry and a populace willing to fight for their freedom. Appeasement led to military defeat for the West, with British independence saved only by the English Channel and North Sea. Nazi Germany lacked the naval supremacy necessary to invade the British Isles in 1940 and 1941. Hitler, however, became over-confident and invaded Russia in order to make sure that the British could not convince Stalin to change sides. Russia and Germany divided Eastern Europe between them during first year of the war, with Russia providing arms and essential raw materials to the Nazis for almost two years. Unfortunately for Hitler, Churchill embraced an alliance with his old enemy Communist Russia in 1941 and continued to fight a war against Italy and Germany in the Mediterranean and North Africa, which prevented Germany from defeating the Soviet Union with the full force of its military and industrial might.
Britain And Europe
Appeasement of Germany became Britain’s official foreign policy during the 1930s precisely because most British statesmen feared Soviet Communism more than than they feared Nazism. Thus, Neville Chamberlain and Lord Halifax completely lost the plot as they continued to appease Germany until it became all too obvious that all the concessions they offered to Hitler could not satisfy the hunger of this strange German veteran corporal from the First World War with his hilarious Charlie Chaplin mustache. They ended up delivering the whole of continental Europe into the hands of the Nazis. For Chamberlain, Czechoslovakia was a small country far, far away, irrelevant to the national interests of Britain. The National Government, formed in 1931, abandoned the nation’s centuries-old established foreign policy, which was to insist that no dominant power was allowed to achieve political hegemony on the continent.
From 1792 to 1815, Great Britain sought to destroy French revolutionary forces, and later Napoleonic France, to keep the balance of power in Europe. Napoleon tried to invade the British Isles, proving to William Pitt, the British prime minister known as “the pilot that weathered the storm,” that divide and rule on the continent was the only way to protect British security. For the same reasons, Great Britain had no alternative but to ally itself with France and Russia to stop the Germany of Kaiser Wilhelm from creating a continental customs union dominated by Germany. Wilhelm intended to destroy the British Empire in India and the Middle East by forming an alliance with the Muslim Caliphate, the Ottoman Empire ruled from Constantinople. After a poor start to the Great War, the new Government of David Lloyd George tipped the balance in favour of the Western powers by conquering the Ottoman territories of the Middle East.
Neville Chamberlain, the son of a brilliant Liberal statesman who championed the case for Empire Free Trade, looked to the Empire and not Europe. He decided that German domination of the continent did not collide with British interests. This break with traditional British foreign policy allowed the Nazis to destroy freedom all across the continent. And it was a disaster for his successor, Winston Churchill, who watched Western Europe collapse under the Nazi steamroller.
Hitler wanted to destroy Judeo-Christian civilisation and replace it with a technological and scientific bureaucracy married to the primitive instincts of pre-Christian Europe. Technology without ethics. Science without soul. To use the words of Churchill, Hitler promised a “new dark age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of a perverted science.” Hitler wanted to destroy an entire civilisational era, which we now call the Modern Age, and replace it with the primitive and violent world of scientific totalitarianism, devoid of the Jewish ethics from the Bible, which had been embraced by the Romans in the fourth century. Hitler despised the weakness he saw at the core of Christianity. But, most of all, he despised the Torah, Jewish teachings and the Jewish people, whom he wanted to wipe off the face of the planet. At the core of Nazism, much as at the core of Islam, was a hatred of Jews and Judaism. That’s why Hitler found himself in alliance with infamous Muslims like the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem. The war aims of Nazism and Islam merged together during the Second World War. They wanted to destroy both the British Empire and the Jewish people.
Churchill understood the threat that Nazism posed to the Western powers. Chamberlain did not. He had too much confidence in the British Empire, without which Great Britain would be reduced to the status a secondary power unable to compete with Germany. However, the British Empire in the late 1930s suffered from imperial overstretch. There was no way in which Britain could take on the combined military forces of Germany, Italy and Japan, even with the support of its Dominions. Chamberlain realised this, which is why he chose to appease Germany and Italy. But there was no way, however, Britain could stop aggressive German expansion in Europe without building a continental alliance to resist Hitler. This is where Chamberlain failed. He did have a plan, unlike all the other leaders in the West. But his plan was built on his complete inability to understand what Hitler was about. Hitler, like most primitive dictators, only understood and respected strength through military might. The German dictator saw Chamberlain as weak and ineffective. He had no fear of British appeasement, only British rearmament. And Chamberlain was chasing Germany in the arms race. Churchill realised the importance which Europe played in British politics, whereas Chamberlain thought his island nation could stand aloof from problems on the continent in “splendid isolation”.
Coincidentally, Chamberlain ended Britain’s commitment to continue the Zionist mission statement set out in the British Mandate of Palestine. He thus terminated the Balfour Declaration with his 1939 White Paper for Palestine. Determined to appease the Muslims, and knowing that the Jews of Palestine had no choice but to support Britain’s now inevitable war against Germany, Chamberlain terminated Jewish immigration to Palestine just as Hitler was about to conquer Europe. Over a period of four years, a total of 70,000 Jews would still be allowed entry into Palestine, after which further Jewish immigration would only be allowed if the Palestinian Arabs would permit it. The leader of the Palestine Arabs was allied with Nazi Germany and eventually became involved in Hitler’s Final Solution, the mass murder of all Jews. Thus, Neville Chamberlain’s unintended political legacy was the death of millions of European Jews.
The implosion of British power during the period between the two world wars was an act of national suicide committed by a weak political class which no longer had the drive to create empire and glory, the empire and glory which had spread freedom from our shores and planted it around the world as far away as Australia. They no longer had the will to defend their hard-earned freedoms. Hitler represented an alternative, safety guaranteed by complete obedience to the power of the state. Tyranny over humanity. The Nazi threat was defeated thanks to one man, Winston Churchill, bringing back the patriotism, and the love of freedom, which characterized British people. Had it not been for the political will of Churchill, Hitler would have won his war in 1940 and freedom would have been destroyed in Europe and Britain, perhaps forever.
Churchill Saves England
The Conservative Party of the 1930s was almost completely hostile to Winston Churchill. Most Conservative MPs saw the half-American grandson of the Duke of Marlborough to be a reactionary right winger, clinging onto the values of the Victorian Age, unwilling to accept, indeed actively opposing, the new Conservative policy of granting Dominion status to India. Worst of all, Churchill had opposed the appeasement policy of the National Government during a decade in which the upper classes were quite willing to accept Hitler as the master of the European continent so long as Britain was left alone to mind its Empire. Churchill, on the other hand, knew that British independence would be at first undermined, and later destroyed, if Hitler were allowed to establish his sadistic New Order across the whole continent.
Before the war, Churchill had visited the Maginot Line and questioned his French hosts about the exposed border with Belgium. The French were confident their defenses were sufficiently strong enough to resist a German advance through the Ardennes forest. Churchill saw the danger and knew that armored divisions could easily move in secrecy through this frontier. When this indeed happened in May 1940, Churchill began preparations for the British Expeditionary Force to be withdrawn from the port of Dunkirk.
The evacuation at Dunkirk, which allowed over 200,000 British troops and over 100,000 French troops to reach England, took place in the background of the most Important cabinet meetings of the 20th Century, perhaps even of British history. Between Friday 26th May and Tuesday 28th May the War Cabinet met daily, sometimes several times a day, to discuss whether or not to do a deal with Hitler which would end the war and get Britain out of its commitments to its allies. Lord Halifax wanted to open discussions with Germany through the Italian dictator Benito Mussolini, which would lead to a peace conference and bring about an end to the war.
Lord Halifax: “Suppose the French Army collapsed and Herr Hitler made an offer of peace terms. Suppose the French Government said ‘We are unable to deal with an offer made to France alone and you must deal with the Allies together.’ Suppose Herr Hitler, being anxious to end the war through knowledge of his own internal weaknesses, offered terms to France and England, would the Prime Minister be prepared to discuss them?”
Churchill replied that “he would not join France in asking for terms, but if he were told what the terms offered were, he would be prepared to consider them.”
In the book “A Certain Eventuality”, Phillip Bell writes, “The War Cabinet discussions of 26, 27 and 28 May marked a decisive point in British history and by implication in the history of Europe. There can be no doubt that if the War Cabinet had agreed to the French proposal, and approached Mussolini with a view to mediation, they would not have gone back on that decision. Once the possibility of negotiation had been opened, it could not have been closed, and the government could not have continued to lead the country in outright defiance of German power.”
Halifax was not a traitor. He was a patriot who did not realistically see any way Britain could win the war if France made a separate peace with Germany. Thus, he tried his best to get the War Cabinet to make approaches to Mussolini, who was willing to act as a mediator. Italy had not yet entered the war in May 1940. Churchill outright rejected any approaches to Mussolini. “At the moment our prestige in Europe” was very low, said Churchill, “The only way we could get it back was by showing the world that Germany had not beaten us. If, after two or three months, we could show they we were still unbeaten, our prestige would return. Even if we were beaten, we should be no worse off than we should be if we were now to abandon the struggle. Let us therefore avoid being dragged down the slippery slope with France. The whole of this maneuver was intended to get us so deeply involved in negotiations that we should be unable to turn back. We had gone a long way already in our approach to Italy, but let us not allow M Reynaud to get us involved in a confused situation. The approach proposed was not only futile, but involved us in a deadly danger.”
Halifax seemed on the verge of resignation. He told one of his colleagues, “I can’t work with Winston any longer.” He asked Churchill “to come out in the garden with him” for a talk, referring to the large garden behind Downing Street. If Halifax were to resign, this would bring down the government, as Churchill did not have the support of most Conservative MPs, who were still loyal to Neville Chamberlain. Churchill managed to impress upon Halifax that his resignation would “open up the gravest possible national crisis.”
The next day, Tuesday 28th May, Neville Chamberlain admitted “it was right to remember that the alternative to fighting on nevertheless involved a considerable gamble.” Churchill said that “nations which went down fighting rose again, but those that surrendered tamely were finished.” He went on to say that “the chances of decent terms were a thousand to one against”.
Churchill then went to a meeting of the full cabinet in a room in the House of Commons. He admitted to his ministers that he had been thinking about whether it “was his duty to consider negotiations” with Hitler, whom he called “that man”, but he had come to the conclusion that “it was idle to think that, if we tried to make peace now, we should get better terms from Germany than if we went on and fought it out. The Germans would demand our fleet – that would be called ‘disarmament’ – our naval bases, and much else. We should become a slave state, though a British government which would be Hitler’s puppet would be set up – under Mosley or some such person – and where should we be at the end of all that?” Churchill told the twenty-five members of the full cabinet, “Of course, whatever happens at Dunkirk, we shall fight on”.
In his War Memoirs, he went on to say, “There occurred a demonstration which, considering the character of the gathering – twenty-five experienced politicians and Parliament men, who represented all the different points of view, whether right or wrong, before the war – surprised me. Quite a number seemed to jump up from the table and came running to my chair, shouting and patting me on the back. There is no doubt that had I at this juncture faltered at all in leading the nation, I should have been hurled out of office. I was sure every Minister was ready to be killed quite soon, and have all his family and possessions destroyed, rather than give in. It fell to me in those coming days and months to express their sentiments on suitable occasions. This I was able to do, because they were mine also. There was a white glow, overpowering, sublime, which ran through our island from end to end.”
Hugh Dalton, the Minister of Economic Warfare, who was an admirer of Churchill, described the meeting in his memoirs: “Therefore, he said, ‘We shall go on and we shall fight it out, here or elsewhere, and if at last the long story is to end, it would be better it should end, not through surrender, but only when we are rolling senseless on the ground.’ There was a murmur of approval round the table, in which I think Amery, Lord Lloyd and I were loudest. Not much more was said. Nobody expressed even the faintest flicker of dissent.”
Churchill then returned to the War Cabinet, fully armed with the support of the full cabinet. He had pulled off a coup against Lord Halifax, who now felt that he could no longer object to fighting on. Churchill “thought an appeal to the United States at the present time would be altogether premature. If we made a bold stand against Germany, that would command their admiration and respect, but a groveling appeal, if made now, would have the worst possible effect. He therefore did not favor making any approach on the subject at the present time.” Thus, Winston Churchill had won the battle against those, like Lord Halifax, who thought that it would be possible to get reasonable terms out of Hitler. Churchill understood Hitler better than his colleagues and better than Hitler understood him. He was not confident of winning the war alone, with only the support of the Empire. However, he fully intended to drag the United States into the conflict.
As Churchill told his son Randolph during those dark days in May, “Of course we can beat them. I shall drag the United States in.”
The following week, on 4th June 1940, he addressed the House of Commons with one of his most inspiring speeches, which ended with the following prescient words;
“We shall never surrender, and even if, which I do not for a moment believe, this island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God’s good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old.”
Winston Churchill, in using the term “New World’, was clearly talking about not just the Empire, but also the United States. He knew that Britain could, at best, not lose the war. He began with some success, slowly starting to drag the Americans into the war, starting in July 1940, step by step, by providing first armaments, then economic aid and eventually American protection for British convoys. Churchill’s Britain became freedom island.
I shall end with the words of historian John Lukacs:
“Churchill understood something that not many people understand even now. The greatest threat to Western civilization was not Communism. The greatest and most dynamic power in the world was not Soviet Russia. It was the Third Reich of Germany. The greatest revolutionary of the twentieth century was not Lenin or Stalin. It was Hitler. Hitler not only succeeded in merging nationalism and socialism into one tremendous force; he was a new kind of ruler, representing a new kind of populist nationalism. What is more, the remnants of the older order (or disorder) were not capable of withstanding him; indeed, some of their conservative representatives, in Germany or elsewhere, were inclined – for many reasons, including the fear of Communism – to accommodate themselves to him. It was thus that in 1940 he represented a wave of the future. His greatest reactionary opponent, Churchill, was like King Canute, attempting to withstand and sweep back that wave. And – yes, mirabile dictu – this King Canute succeeded because of his resolution and – allow me to say this – because of God’s will, of which, like every human being, he was but an instrument. He was surely no saint, he was not a religious man, and he had many faults. Yet so it happened.”
I agree with the Mr Lukacs’ verdict that Churchill gave Western civilization a further fifty years it would not otherwise have had if he had not become prime minister of Great Britain. But I shall quote Lukacs again here:
“Fifty years before the rise of new kinds of barbarism not incarnated by the armed might of Germans or Russians, before the clouds of a new Dark Age may darken the lives of our children and grandchildren. Fifty years! Perhaps that was enough.”
These words were written almost twenty years ago. Since then we have lived through 9/11, the War on Terror and the collapse of the world order Churchill left behind in 1945 and the re-ordering of the world set in motion by Mr Gorbachev. The West has not risen to the challenge of the fall of the Berlin Wall. We live in a much more dangerous world than the world of 1990. And the West is showing signs of falling apart from within. Eighty years ago, our ancestors were lucky to have Winston Churchill. Today, there are no more Churchills amongst our political leaders, only bureaucrats out of touch with our Western values, increasingly hostile to our Western freedoms.