I suppose I must have been about sixteen years old, even then a keen historian & president of my school history society yet still in the fifth form.
I remember my father, a wartime fighter pilot, telling me of the burning shame he felt at the appeasement of the German National Socialists in 1938. As did of course many. But remember Chamberlain was cheered to the rafters when he returned from Munich & made his infamous speech about ‘peace in our time’ & flaunting his worthless piece of paper on the steps of his aeroplane.
Yet the reality was not so simple. The Great War had killed one million of the British Empire’s young men & maimed a further million. It had turned Great Britain into a debtor nation & changed the social fabric of the country. Nobody wanted a war in Britain & who could blame them?
WWI was not really any business of the Empire, no good came out of it, what good could come out of it now? Indeed Professor Norman Stone makes the point WWII was no business of the British, & he makes a powerful argument.
Notwithstanding that, German National Socialism was born out of the most evil war to date, it bred political idealism that caught the mood of much of the nation. It is politically incorrect to say this now, but to a nation that had lost a war, suffered two million war dead, disastrous inflation & a humiliating peace treaty National Socialism manifested itself as an ideal worth pursuing.
Especially attractive to youth as socialism still appears to be. The general antidote to socialism is cynicism, a phenomenon that tends to affect the old. Socialism is still popular today in spite of its consistent & obvious failures. But political idealism is not susceptible to historical analysis.
Many of the great & the good in 1930s Britain, in the depth of a recession, saw an option for Britain.
Herr Schacht, Hitler’ s evil genius economist seemed to have worked miracles with youth unemployment & industrial production, could it work in the United Kingdom?
The support for the Third Reich government permeated every nook & cranny of British political life.
It is why Churchill was in the wilderness. Had it not been so there would have been no ‘wilderness’.
It has become fashionable to pretend NAZIS were somehow not socialists today. Nonsense.
I quote a speech by General Von Blomberg at a NAZI Party rally in March 1936
‘The National Socialist state places at our disposal its entire economic strength, its people, its entire male youth’.
Who was either in full or tacit support of the new German political ideal? Who went even further & endorsed the reoccupation of the Rhineland by the Third Reich?
Garvin’s Sunday Observer & Rothermere’s Sunday Dispatch. Which papers condemned Czech ‘intransigence’ when Hitler annexed the Sudetenland? The Times leader of September 9th 1938,
Who were our senior diplomats? Sir Nevile Henderson, British ambassador to Berlin, Lord Lothian (Cliveden set), Lord Londonderry, Ward Price, (Daily Mail). There were many more.
But I am amazed eighty years on I am now enduring the humiliation my father felt all those years ago.
I see our prime minister & her pack of civil servants grovel at the feet of Foreign dictators whilst the press look on uncritically.
The concept of a Federal Europe was born out of another even more hideous war, certainly for mainland Europe although not Great Britain.
The idealistic dream of a federal Europe is understandable on the continent. Perhaps the sacrifice of democracy & individual freedom are a price worth paying, again perhaps not. It is no dream of the British people, but it is indeed the dream of the political , academic & bureaucratic class. Always masked by fake trade arguments, as if political union was necessary to trade ! A concept too absurd to even discuss. Yet politicians, academics & bureaucrats know nothing of trade. Indeed as a genre they made a specific choice at Oxford to avoid commerce, far too vulgar for their sensitive souls.
We have the antecedents of those NAZI fellow travellers from the 1930s. The Lords Mandelson, Adonis, Kinnock, , too many other placemen life peers to even name, scores of shady civil servants led by Oily Robbins, another Nevile Henderson in spades. Appeasers, chancers, crooks, who will never argue for their genuine goal, a Federal State with one army, one people one leader.
We have heard it all before. We can be thankful for just one thing, the European Union has not, as yet, infantry divisions, tanks & an air force to impose their will on the British.
Even if they did I suspect the outcome would remain the same as last time.