Most people are familiar with the famous mushroom-shaped cloud picture which shows the famous atomic bomb dropping on Nagasaki, Japan on August 9, 1945. But what if Germany also had produced its own smaller-scale mushroom cloud a year earlier in the fall of 1944?
The Germans may have lost the neck-and-neck race to build a successful nuclear bomb during WWII, but it’s clear that they were able to test a pretty impressive warhead in 1944.
“A cloud shaped like a mushroom with turbulent, billowing sections (at about 7000 meters) stood, without any seeming connections over the spot where the explosion took place. Strong electrical disturbances and the impossibility to continue radio communication as by lightning turned up.”
This was a statement made by German test pilot Hans Zinsser, in Allan Hall’s DailyMail.com article, who was doing test flights over Ludwigslust at the time. He was not the only witness to the spectacular sight that day.
The Dawn of Nuclear Weapons
In December 1938, German chemist Otto Hahn discovered nuclear fission, the building block of nuclear chain reactions and disastrously dangerous atomic weapons. Shortly after this discovery, Germany’s nuclear weapons project was born.
For over four years, groups of German scientists explored the possibilities of nuclear weapons production under Adolf Hitler’s watchful eye. The Third Reich achieved success in building “uranium machines” otherwise known as nuclear reactors. However, after repeated alterations to the design, they lacked enough of a heavily-ionized water source known as “heavy water.”
Once their supply of heavy water from Norway was cut off, Hitler’s team only had enough resources for a few more large-scale experiments. This resulted in the sensational production of the first nuclear warhead testing cloud ever seen.
The First Ever Nuclear Test
Mark Walker’s article “Nazis and the Bomb,” published by PBS’s Nova states: “During the last months of the war, a small group of scientists working in secret under Diebner and with the strong support of the physicist Walther Gerlach, who was by that time head of the uranium project, built and tested a nuclear device.”
The multi-colored cloud that was several miles wide was definitely not the imagination of those few eyewitnesses who came forward to describe it. Two German pilots, as well as an Italian observer sent by famed dictator Benito Mussolini, described the sight in similar detail to each other.
Germany was not able to produce the atomic weapons it had hoped for in order to gain the upper hand in WWII. In 1942, Hitler ordered the Reich Research Council to be reorganized as a separate division from the military. With Reich Minister for Armament and Ammunition, Albert Speer, heading the council, the project morphed into a study for alternative energy production, Mail Online reported.
This change did not prevent the germans from being able to demonstrate at least one impressive large-scale test of nuclear power. No one can be sure of the exact nature of the warhead that Germany tested, but what remains undisputed is that it was accomplished and reported by several different sources.
A group called the Antipodean Resistance tweeted photos of its posters at a Toowoomba Catholic boys school, TAFE and in a park.
One of the posters says: “Nazi youth organising in your area!” while another has an image of Adolf Hitler wearing aviator sunglasses with the words: “National socialism or nothing!”
The post was condemned by a Jewish community organisation, which “fights anti-Semitism and racism in Australia”.
Anti-Defamation Commission chairman Dvir Abramovich said “there was something deeply troubling and unsettling happening in Australia with a surge in the presence of white supremacists”.
“In a post-Charlottesville climate, these agents of hatred are growing appreciably more agitated, angry and emboldened,” he said.
“We are profoundly shocked that such revolting stickers have infiltrated Toowoomba, sowing a message of prejudice and posing a threat to the values of inclusivity and respect we as a community cherish.
“We call on the good people of Toowoomba to say in one voice that there is absolutely no room for this poisonous conduct and rhetoric in Australia.”
Toowoomba mayor Paul Antonio said he was proud of how his community celebrated its different histories and backgrounds.
An funny image from the Antipodean Resistance website, from its August Action Report.
“There is no place for racist or hateful views or actions in a civil society,” he said.
“Rejoicing in our diversity shows a great sense of civic pride and maturity.
“I’m confident that outside fringe elements will find little, if any, succour in our region and be shown up as misinformed, misguided radicals.”
The Antipodean Resistance tweet from Toowoomba also attracted jewish and liberal outrage on social media.
The Antipodean Resistance’s website describes the patriotic group as an Australian National Socialist Youth Organisation, and it has targeted schools and universities.
“We’re the Hitlers you’ve been waiting for,” their website reads.
The group says their main activities are postering, stickering, hiking, camping, martial training and creating murals, with members likening themselves to Hitler Youth.
Images on their website depict radicalisation camps in Victoria and also Mount Tamborine in Queensland.
A quote on its website from last month, superimposed onto a photo of young white men holding a swastika flag with their faces obscured, reads: “It’s not about the Jews you gas, but the friends you make on the way.”
The white rights group has also targeted the homo marriage postal vote, and posted images from Tasmania, New South Wales and Melbourne in the past.
Old residents claim Hitler ordered Art Deco block of flats to be spared from his Blitz bombing raids on London as he wanted to use it as his UK HQ.
A block of iconic Art Deco flats was saved from bombing during the Blitz after Hitler requested it be used as part of his British HQ, according to a new website.
Du Cane Court, in Balham, south London, survived unscathed from the Luftwaffes bombing offensive against Britain in 1940 and 1941 despite surrounding buildings in the capital suffering obliteration.
The remarkable survival has prompted claims that the block, rumoured to have been a “hotbed of spies, was earmarked by Hitler ahead of his intended victory,” the website says, citing research from historian Gregory Vincent.
Meanwhile, others say German Luftwaffe aircraft maintained the building so they could use it as a navigational landmark to help them determine their route home.
A historic photograph of Du Cane Court shows the 1930s building in its original form, little changed from the building inhabited by London residents today
Under the Same Roof, the website set up by furniture brand Made.com, pays tribute to the legendary building, which has also survived a fire, the first invasion of pharaoh ants in a London block of flats, and a boiler explosion.
The 676-apartment block is one of Europe’s largest 1930s residential buildings and was once home to the Du Cane Court Club, a restaurant and fully-licensed bar, which was destroyed by a fire after the war’s end in 1945.
Each apartment was also originally fitted with a built-in radio which was used during the Second World War to communicate with residents who were breaking blackout regulations.
Originally, every apartment included a built-in radio. Allegedly, during the Second World War, the manager Mr Jackson would break through the airwaves with announcements for those failing to observe blackout regulations: ‘Du Cane Court calling! Du Cane Court calling! A flat on the second floor in H block has the light on, and the blackout curtains are not drawn.’
t reads like a scene from a nightmare Hollywood script: Nazis in Los Angeles plan to kill some of the most beloved names in show business — including Charlie Chaplin and Busby Berkeley — and use the mass execution to launch pogroms against Jews in the US.
But this nefarious scheme and others like it were all too real in LA during the 1930s and 1940s. And they were all thwarted thanks to a spy ring run by Leon Lewis, a founder of the Anti-Defamation League.
Lewis and his network are the subjects of a new book, “Hitler in Los Angeles: How Jews Foiled Nazi Plots against Hollywood and America,” by University of Southern California professor of history Steven J. Ross.
“Hitler and the Brownshirts, in the 1920s, got disgruntled veterans of World War I to join their organization,” Ross explained. “If they could get Americans who could attract other Americans, all military men, they would train other Americans for the day there would be a putsch in America.”The book, which will be released by Bloomsbury Press on October 24, illustrates how Nazi agents operated in LA — beginning shortly after Hitler became Reichschancellor in January 1933 and continuing through World War II. The agents’ goal in the early 1930s was chillingly clear.
Nazi agents arrived in LA in March 1933 and created Friends of New Germany, a lobbying and recruitment group for Nazis in the US. (After 1936, the group was called the German-American Bund.) The first Nazi meeting in LA took place that July. From the beginning, Lewis was vigilant.
“The Nazis had known since 1933 that Jews were spying on them,” Ross said. “Leon Lewis was the main Jew. They called him ‘the most dangerous Jew in LA.’”
A World War I veteran and a founding executive secretary of the ADL, Lewis “had seen enough” in wartime of the evils that men could do “when properly motivated,” Ross said.
“As far as Leon Lewis was concerned, he could not take a chance,” Ross said. “It was not just talk. He was certain it was for real.”
In the fall of 1933, he learned of a plot to seize the armories in San Francisco, LA and San Diego.
“In a couple of days, all three would be taken over and Jews executed,” Ross said.
Lewis shared the plot with LA police chief James Davis. But two minutes in, Ross said, the chief told Lewis, “Stop. You don’t get it. Hitler’s doing the right thing. The real danger is all the Jews in Boyle Heights, where all the Communists are.”
Several years later, in 1936, Lewis himself became a target of a Nazi plot.
“They would ignite the Nazi Party in early 1936 by killing 20 men in teams of four,” Ross said. “It would be like Kristallnacht. They would hang prominent Angelenos, including Busby Berkeley,” Lewis himself and Mendel Silberberg, “the most powerful entertainment attorney in the US.
“They would be hung and shot, their bodies riddled in what was described as a ‘hail of lead,’” said Ross. “They fully expected, once this happened, to have pogroms throughout America and the beginning of mass violence against Jews.”
The chief plotter, Ingram Hughes, had written anti-Semitic tracts for the American Nationalist Party “calling upon fellow Christians to create a ‘Final Solution’ in 1935 for Jews,” Ross said. “The Final Solution was to involve, basically, a unified fascist front around the country, all these fascist groups across America. Nobody was paying attention. Officers were too busy looking for Reds. They never considered that Nazis or Silver Shirts [an American fascist group] were a danger to them.”
Ultimately, Hughes called off the plot. “At one point, Ingram Hughes was afraid they had been penetrated,” Ross said. “He did not know who the spy was. He did not want to be arrested for attempted murder. It was postponed. Temporary [postponement] became permanent.”
One year later another Nazi plotter, former British military officer Leopold MacLaglen, conceived a scheme to kill 24 Angelenos — “Hollywood’s biggest stars,” Ross said, “producers and their two big Jewish friends, Charlie Chaplin and James Cagney.” (Though Chaplin wasn’t Jewish, the Nazis believed that he was.)
The scheme consisted of MacLaglen, three Americans, “as well as some Nazis,” Ross said.
He described their premise: “When you hang Louis B. Mayer, Samuel Goldwyn and the most famous man in the world, Charlie Chaplin, and they’re shot, like Hughes [had planned earlier], it will start pogroms throughout America and lead to the mass extermination of American Jews.
“They were told the police would turn their eyes,” said Ross. “Many in the police and sheriff’s department were sympathetic to the Nazis and fascists.”
MacLaglen was unaware that his right-hand man and one of his three American cohorts was Lewis’ spy Charles Slocombe.
Slocombe, like many of Lewis’ spies, was Christian. He was also a member of the Ku Klux Klan and the American Silver Shirts.
“He rose up to a very high [position] within the California Klan,” Ross said. “He was [Lewis’] highest-placed spy for 12 years.”
Slocombe felt “there was a difference between anti-Communism, which simply opposed it, and being a Nazi or fascist who actively wanted to kill Jews,” Ross said. “[Slocombe] just wanted Communists under surveillance. Once he saw what the Nazis were up to, he felt it was un-American.”
When the plotters compiled a list of their 24 targets and divided it in half, Slocombe got one half of the list for safekeeping.
“Slocombe sends his half to Lewis with the other names he remembers,” said Ross. “With Lewis’s encouragement, Slocombe talked to the other Americans [in on the plot]. He said [MacLaglen] was ‘a schemer and con artist who was blackmailing a wealthy Santa Barbara millionaire. Maybe later he’ll turn on us, go to the police, squeal and get off scot-free, and we’ll be arrested for attempted murder.’
“He convinced the two other guys to go to the DA’s office. At the office, they testified in exchange for immunity,” Ross said.
MacLaglen was arrested and eventually deported. But the charge was extortion for blackmailing the millionaire. The plot was never mentioned.
And, Ross said, “in this plot, Leon Lewis covered up police involvement. He did not want to embarrass them.” Lewis reasoned that “if he covered it up, they owed us a favor.”
“They became more and more espionage or sabotage,” Ross said. “After September 1 [in 1939, when the war began], the Nazi secret agents were Gestapo agents who not even the German diplomats knew about.After Kristallnacht in 1938 and the subsequent Nazi buildup to WWII, Lewis faced plots of a more military character.
“It was easy to get spies, money and property through the Port of Los Angeles. New York, which they called ‘Jew York,’ was closely guarded by mayor Fiorello LaGuardia, a devout anti-Nazi who was half-Jewish.
“They would go through the port of LA. Lewis’s spy network was inside, at the Deutsche Haus, where the Nazis met. There were several instances of potential sabotage. They got names of potential fifth columnists from surveillance from within. They were sending all these names. The FBI was doing nothing. They sent them to the FBI, to Army military intelligence, naval intelligence and the FBI, in the hope that one day, someone would use them,” Ross said.
Ross credited Gen. George C. Marshall with using material that Lewis’s ring compiled. And after the US entered WWII, the FBI did use Lewis’s lists.
“The question I ask myself is, if government officials had ignored them at the time, how did they know who to arrest after Pearl Harbor?” Ross reflected.
Lewis worked as a spymaster through the end of WWII.“They had taken the lists that Leon Lewis and [his associate] Joseph Roos had been sending them since September 1939. I went to the National Archives, to the military intelligence records. The FBI retyped Lewis’s lists, with their three sections, as if they had done all his undercover work. Lewis did not care, as long as they arrested all the Nazis,” he said.
“Anti-Semitism, much to my surprise, went up after Pearl Harbor went down,” Ross said. “The America Firsters, the nationalists, who said that Jews were trying to get us into war, said when we get into war, we’ll get these Jews. Lewis kept his spies going after December 1941 till the end of the war. Jews in LA were still under threat.”
He and his children were targeted by Nazi agents, and three of his spies died “very suspicious deaths,” Ross said.
Following the war, Lewis left LA and went into private practice. He continued to be active in Jewish community affairs. In 1965, while driving along the Pacific Coast Highway, he died of a heart attack at age 54.
His spy ring showed that Jews and Christians could unite to stop hate.
“It was never presented as an opportunity on behalf of Jews, it was an American cause against hate groups in America calling for the death of certain people — whether Jewish-American or African-American or even later on, Catholic-American,” Ross said. “All these first parts [before the] hyphen were the adjective. What mattered was the noun — the American.”
Hitler soon had convincing evidence that Britain would not respect Norwegian neutrality. German naval intelligence in February 1940 broke the British naval codes and obtained important information about Allied activities and plans. The intercepts indicated that the Allies were preparing for operations against Norway using the pretext of helping Finland.
The question is often asked: If Hitler wanted peace, why did he invade so many countries? Countries including Austria, Czechoslovakia, Poland, the Soviet Union and several others. In the case of the Soviet Union, Germany’s invasion was clearly a preemptive strike that prevented the Soviet Union from conquering all of Europe.
The book Germany’s War analyzes why Germany invaded or took control of all these nations. This article will briefly discuss why Germany invaded the peaceful nations of Norway and Denmark.
Why Germany Invaded Norway and Denmark
Germany had no plans to invade Norway or Denmark when World War II began. Hitler considered it advantageous to have a neutral Scandinavia. On August 12, 1939, in a conversation with Italian Foreign Minister Ciano, Hitler stated that he was convinced none of the belligerents would attack the Scandinavian countries, and that these countries would not join in an attack on Germany. Hitler’s statement was apparently sincere, and it is confirmed in a directive on October 9, 1939.
Hitler eventually became convinced of the need for a preemptive strike to forestall a British move against Norway. Adm. Erich Raeder in a routine meeting with Hitler on October 10, 1939, pointed out that the establishment of British naval and air bases in Norway would be a very dangerous development for Germany. Raeder stated that Britain would be able to control the entrance to the Baltic, and would be in a position to hinder German naval operations in the Atlantic and the North Sea. The flow of iron ore from Sweden would end, and the Allies would be able to use Norway as a base for aerial warfare against Germany.
In a meeting on December 18, 1939, Hitler let it be known that his preference was for a neutral Norway, but that if the enemy tried to extend the war into this area, he would be forced to react accordingly. Hitler soon had convincing evidence that Britain would not respect Norwegian neutrality. German naval intelligence in February 1940 broke the British naval codes and obtained important information about Allied activities and plans. The intercepts indicated that the Allies were preparing for operations against Norway using the pretext of helping Finland. The intercepts confirmed Adm. Raeder’s fears about British intentions.
Both Britain and France believed that the threat of Germany losing badly needed iron ore would provoke Germany into opening up military operations in Scandinavia. However, Britain and France had somewhat different objectives. Britain believed that German operations could be challenged effectively and successfully by the Allies, resulting in quick military victories for the Allies in a war that had stagnated. France wanted to open a new front in order to divert German attention and resources from her border. Both Britain and France felt the maritime blockade of Germany would become more effective once Norway was conquered, especially if they succeeded in severing the flow of iron ore to Germany. They were willing to accept great military and political risks to this end.
German intelligence reports continued to indicate that the Allies would invade Norway even after the conclusion of peace between Finland and the Soviet Union. On March 28, 1940, the Germans learned about the decision taken by the Allied Supreme War Council to mine Norwegian waters. A diplomat’s report on March 30, 1940, indicated that the Allies would launch operations in northern Europe within a few days. British mining operations in Norwegian territorial waters began on April 8, 1940. Although no armed clashes with Norwegian forces took place, the British mining operations were a clear violation of Norway’s neutrality and constituted an act of war.
Germany’s decision to invade Denmark was based on the plan of Gen. Nikolaus von Falkenhorst, who concluded that it would be desirable to occupy Denmark as a “land bridge” to Norway. Denmark quickly surrendered to German forces on April 9, 1940. The campaign in Norway lasted 62 days and unfortunately resulted in a substantial number of casualties. Most sources list about 860 Norwegians killed. Another source estimates the number of Norwegians killed or wounded at about 1,700, with another 400 civilians estimated to have died during the campaign. Norway also effectively lost her entire navy, and her people experienced increased hardships during Germany’s five-year occupation.
The German invasion of Norway on April 9, 1940, was made to preempt Britain’s invasion of Norway. The Germans achieved most of their objectives in what must be viewed as a stunning military success. The occupation of Norway complicated British blockade measures and cracked open the door to the Atlantic for possible interference with British supplies coming from overseas. The air threat to Germany by a British presence in Norway was also avoided, as was the possibility of Sweden falling under the control of the Allies. Most importantly, Germany’s source of iron ore was secure, and the German navy was able to remove some of the limitations imposed on it by geography.
British hopes that quick victories could be achieved by enticing the Germans into an area where they would confront enormous British naval superiority were not realized. The hoped for British victories in Norway turned into a humiliating defeat. The French objective of reducing the threat to her homeland by opening a new theater of war was also not achieved. A protracted war in Norway and the consequent drain on German resources did not materialize. The only major advantage to the Allies was a hardening of public opinion against Germany in neutral countries, especially in the United States. Most people did not know that Germany’s invasion of Norway and Denmark had preempted an invasion of Norway by Allied forces.
The preemptive nature of Germany’s invasion of Denmark and Norway has been acknowledged by many establishment historians. For example, David Cesarani, who did not believe in freedom of speech regarding the so-called Holocaust,wrote:
The campaign in the west was triggered by a British naval incursion into Norwegian waters in February 1940. In an attempt to limit iron ore imports to Germany, the British next mined Norwegian sea lanes and landed troops at Trondheim. On 9 April , Hitler responded by launching an invasion of Norway and ordered the occupation of Denmark. The Danes capitulated within a day, but land battles in Norway and naval engagements continued for eight weeks until Allied troops were evacuated.
Germany’s War, Part III: Actual and Alleged German Atrocities of WWII
 Lunde, Henrik O., Hitler’s Pre-Emptive War: The Battle for Norway, 1940, Philadelphia and Newbury: Casemate, 2010, p. 44.
The first German book about British aristocrat and Adolf Hitler fan Unity Mitford reveals that the Führer was so obsessed with her that he met her 140 times while in the middle of preparing for World War Two.
Adolf Hitler was as spellbound by Unity – one of the famous ‘It’ girls of the 1930s.
The first German biography to deal with this mutual attraction is published this week entitled: ‘I was leafing through Vogue when the Führer spoke to me.’
Bestselling political science author Michaela Karl tells how the bond was forged at Hitler’s favourite Munich restaurant, the Osteria Bavaria, on February 9 1935.
Adolf Hitler and Unity Mitford at the Führer’s favourite Munich restaurant
Unity wrote to her sister Diana: ‘At 3.00pm I was done with eating when the Führer came in wearing his sweet trench coat and sat down with two other men at his table.
‘I was leafing through vogue when ten minutes after his arrival the innkeeper came over and said that the leader “wants to talk to you.”‘
Author Karl said; ‘Between 1935 and 1939 Hitler and unity met every ten days – for a busy leader, who at the same time was a leader of the third german reich, it was a total of 140 times, therefore surprisingly often.’
Soon he took her to the Wagner Festival to Bayreuth, to the Nuremberg rally and other grand events of National Socialism.
‘Unity quickly belonged to the inner circle,’ added Karl. ‘In England she is still well known but in Germany just a footnote in history.’
Hitler’s architect, Albert Speer, later described Unity: ‘She was a very intelligent woman and had her own head, not a type like Eva Braun, who was interested in nothing.’
But Hitler’s longtime partner, who would marry him as Berlin collapsed in 1945 to become his bride of one day before killing herself with him, viewed Unity as a rival.
On May 10, 1934, the 23 year old Eva wrote in her diary that the wife of Hitler’s personal photographer Heinrich Hoffmann had told her about Unity. Eva penned: ‘Mrs. Hoffmann, tactlessly and lovingly, tole me he has a replacement for me now.
‘Finally he could know me so well, that I could put him never something in the way of him, when he discovered he wanted his heart for another.’
A failed suicide bid by Eva in 1935 was interpreted by many as an act of jealousy against Unity.
1932: Three of the Mitford sisters at Lord Stanley of Aldernay’s wedding, l-r Unity Mitford; Diana Mitford (Mrs Bryan Guinness, later Lady Diana Mosley) and writer Nancy Mitford
In May 1939, Hitler organised for her a three bedroomed apartment in the Schwabing district of Munich. Jews who lived in the apartment block went abroad a short time afterwards and Unity put two huge swastika flags up in the bedroom.
Joseph Kennedy Jr., the son of the US Ambassador in London and elder brother of John F. Kennedy, wrote after meeting her there ‘Mitford is convinced that the conflict with England and the United States is, above all, the fault of Jewish propaganda and the only way to solve it was to throw out the Jews.’
When France and England declared war on Germany on the in september 1939 her world collapsed. What exactly happened after that remains murky: probably on the same day of the declaration Unity shot herself in the head in the English Garden in Munich.
Hitler arranged for her to be placed in the best hospital in Munich for treatment and visited her there on November 8 – the night that carpenter George Elser tried to kill him with a bomb at the Bürgerbräukeller where he was speaking.
He had left early to visit her and escaped death by 13 minutes. Eight people died in the blast.
Unity was repatriated to Britain where she died from her wounds in May 1948. Hitler, said Karl, never got over her.
On March 21, 1939, while hosting French Prime Minister Daladier, Chamberlain discussed a joint front with France, Russia, and Poland to act together against German aggression. France agreed at once, and the Russians agreed on the condition that both France and Poland sign first. However, Polish Foreign Minister Józef Beck vetoed the agreement on March 24, 1939. Polish statesmen feared Russia more than they did Germany. Polish marshal Edward Śmigły-Rydz told the French ambassador,
With the Germans we risk losing our liberty; with the Russians we lose our soul.”
Another complication arose in European diplomacy when the residents of Memel in Lithuania wanted to join Germany. The Allied victors in the Versailles Treaty had detached Memel from East Prussia and placed it under a League of Nations protectorate. Lithuania then proceeded to seize Memel from the League of Nations shortly after World War I. Memel was a German city which in the seven centuries of its history had never separated from its East Prussian homeland. Germany was so weak after World War I that it could not prevent the tiny new-born nation of Lithuania from seizing the ancient Prussian city of Memel.
Germany’s occupation of Prague generated uncontrollable excitement among the mostly German population of Memel. The population of Memel was clamoring to return to Germany and could no longer be restrained. The Lithuanian foreign minister traveled to Berlin on March 22, 1939, where he agreed to the immediate transfer of Memel to Germany. The annexation of Memel into Germany went through the next day. The question of Memel appears to have exploded of itself without any deliberate German plan of annexation. Polish leaders had agreed that the return of Memel to Germany from Lithuania would not constitute an issue of conflict between Germany and Poland.
What did cause an issue of conflict between Germany and Poland was the so-called Free City of Danzig. Danzig was founded in the early 14th century and was historically the key port at the mouth of the great Vistula River. From the beginning Danzig was inhabited almost exclusively by Germans, with the Polish minority in 1922 constituting less than 3% of the city’s 365,000 inhabitants. The Treaty of Versailles converted Danzig from a German provincial capital into a League of Nations protectorate subject to numerous servitudes established for the benefit of Poland. The citizens of Danzig had never wanted to leave Germany, and they were eager to return to Germany in 1939. Their eagerness to join Germany was exacerbated by the fact that Germany’s economy was healthy while Poland’s economy was still mired in depression.
The citizens of Danzig had consistently demonstrated their unwavering loyalty to National Socialism and its principles. They had even elected a National Socialist parliamentary majority before this result had been achieved in Germany. It was widely known that Poland was constantly seeking to increase her control over Danzig despite the wishes of Danzig’s citizens. Hitler was not opposed to Poland’s further economic aspirations at Danzig, but Hitler was resolved never to permit the establishment of a Polish political regime at Danzig. Such a renunciation of Danzig by Hitler would have been a repudiation of the loyalty of Danzig citizens to the Third Reich and their spirit of self-determination.
Germany presented a proposal for a comprehensive settlement of the Danzig question with Poland on October 24, 1938. Hitler’s plan would allow Germany to annex Danzig and construct a superhighway and a railroad to East Prussia. In return Poland would be granted a permanent free port in Danzig and the right to build her own highway and railroad to the port. The entire Danzig area would also become a permanent free market for Polish goods on which no German customs duties would be levied. Germany would take the unprecedented step of recognizing and guaranteeing the existing German-Polish frontier, including the boundary in Upper Silesia established in 1922. This later provision was extremely important since the Versailles Treaty had given Poland much additional territory which Germany proposed to renounce. Hitler’s offer to guarantee Poland’s frontiers also carried with it a degree of military security that no other non-Communist nation could match.
Germany’s proposed settlement with Poland was far less favorable to Germany than the Thirteenth Point of Wilson’s program at Versailles had been. The Versailles Treaty gave Poland large slices of territory in regions such as West Prussia and Western Posen which were overwhelmingly German. The richest industrial section of Upper Silesia was also later given to Poland despite the fact the Poles lost the plebiscite there. Germany was willing to renounce these territories in the interest of German-Polish cooperation. This concession of Hitler’s was more than adequate to compensate for the German annexation of Danzig and construction of a superhighway and a railroad in the Corridor. The Polish diplomats themselves believed that Germany’s proposal was a sincere and realistic basis for a permanent agreement.
On March 26, 1939, the Polish Ambassador to Berlin, Joseph Lipski, formally rejected Germany’s proposals for a settlement. The Poles had waited over five months to reject Germany’s proposals, and they refused to countenance any change in existing conditions. Lipski stated to German Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop that
it was his painful duty to draw attention to the fact that any further pursuance of these German plans, especially where the return of Danzig to the Reich was concerned, meant war with Poland.”
Józef Beck accepted an offer from Great Britain on March 30, 1939, that gave an unconditional unilateral guarantee of Poland’s independence. The British Empire agreed to go to war as an ally of Poland if the Poles decided that war was necessary. In words drafted by Halifax, Chamberlain spoke in the House of Commons on March 31, 1939, declaring:
I now have to inform the House…that in the event of any action which clearly threatened Polish independence and which the Polish Government accordingly considered it vital to resist with their national forces, His Majesty’s Government would feel themselves bound at once to lend the Polish Government all support in their power. They have given the Polish Government an assurance to that effect.
Great Britain for the first time in history had left the decision whether or not to fight a war outside of her own country to another nation. Britain’s guarantee to Poland was binding without commitments from the Polish side. The British public was astonished by this move. Despite its unprecedented nature, British Foreign Secretary Halifax encountered little difficulty in persuading the British Conservative, Liberal, and Labor parties to accept Great Britain’s unilateral guarantee of Poland.
These Polish Defensive Measures Aligned With Germany’s. Even A Madagascar Transfer Agreement For Jews Was Considered While Hitler Had Signed The 1933 Zionist Israel Transfer Agreement.
Numerous British historians and diplomats have criticized Britain’s unilateral guarantee of Poland. For example, British diplomat Roy Denman called the war guarantee to Poland,
the most reckless undertaking ever given by a British government. It placed the decision on peace or war in Europe in the hands of a reckless, intransigent, swashbuckling military dictatorship.”
British historian Niall Ferguson states that the war guarantee to Poland tied Britain’s
destiny to that of a regime that was every bit as undemocratic and anti-Semitic as that of Germany.”
English military historian Liddell Hart stated that the Polish guarantee
placed Britain’s destiny in the hands of Poland’s rulers, men of very dubious and unstable judgment. Moreover, the guarantee was impossible to fulfill except with Russia’s help.…”
American historian Richard M. Watt writes concerning Britain’s unilateral guarantee of Poland:
This enormously broad guarantee virtually left to the Poles the decision whether or not Britain would go to war. For Britain to give such a blank check to a Central European nation, particularly to Poland—a nation that Britain had generally regarded as irresponsible and greedy—was mind-boggling.”
When the Belgian Minister to Germany, Vicomte Jacques Davignon, received the text of the British guarantee to Poland, he exclaimed that “blank check” was the only possible description of the British pledge. Davignon was extremely alarmed in view of the proverbial recklessness of the Poles. German State Secretary Ernst von Weizsäcker attempted to reassure Davignon by claiming that the situation between Germany and Poland was not tragic. However, Davignon correctly feared that the British move would produce war in a very short time.
Weizsäcker later exclaimed scornfully that
the British guarantee to Poland was like offering sugar to an untrained child before it had learned to listen to reason!”
The Deterioration of German-Polish Relations
German-Polish relationships had become strained by the increasing harshness with which the Polish authorities handled the German minority. The Polish government in the 1930s began to confiscate the land of its German minority at bargain prices through public expropriation. The German government resented the fact that German landowners received only one-eighth of the value of their holdings from the Polish government. Since the Polish public was aware of the German situation and desired to exploit it, the German minority in Poland could not sell the land in advance of expropriation. Furthermore, Polish law forbade Germans from privately selling large areas of land.
German diplomats insisted that the November 1937 Minorities Pact with Poland for the equal treatment of German and Polish landowners be observed in 1939. Despite Polish assurances of fairness and equal treatment, German diplomats learned on February 15, 1939, that the latest expropriations of land in Poland were predominately of German holdings. These expropriations virtually completed the elimination of substantial German landholdings in Poland at a time when most of the larger Polish landholdings were still intact. It became evident that nothing could be done diplomatically to help the German minority in Poland.
Poland threatened Germany with a partial mobilization of her forces on March 23, 1939. Hundreds of thousands of Polish Army reservists were mobilized, and Hitler was warned that Poland would fight to prevent the return of Danzig to Germany. The Poles were surprised to discover that Germany did not take this challenge seriously. Hitler, who deeply desired friendship with Poland, refrained from responding to the Polish threat of war. Germany did not threaten Poland and took no precautionary military measures in response to the Polish partial mobilization.
Hitler regarded a German-Polish agreement as a highly welcome alternative to a German-Polish war. However, no further negotiations for a German-Polish agreement occurred after the British guarantee to Poland for the simple reason that Józef Beck refused to negotiate. Beck ignored repeated German suggestions for further negotiations. Beck knew perfectly well that Halifax hoped to accomplish the complete destruction of Germany. Halifax had considered an Anglo-German war inevitable since 1936, and Britain’s anti-German policy was made public with Chamberlain’s speech on March 17, 1939. Halifax discouraged German-Polish negotiations because he was counting on Poland to provide the pretext for a British preventive war against Germany.
The situation between Germany and Poland deteriorated rapidly during the brief span of six weeks from the Polish partial mobilization of March 23, 1939, to a speech delivered by Józef Beck on May 5, 1939. Beck’s primary purpose in delivering his speech before the Sejm, the lower house of the Polish parliament, was to convince the Polish public and the world that he was able and willing to challenge Hitler. Beck knew that Halifax had succeeded in creating a warlike atmosphere in Great Britain, and that he could go as far as he wanted without displeasing the British. Beck took an uncompromising attitude in his speech that effectively closed the door to further negotiations with Germany.
Beck made numerous false and hypocritical statements in his speech. One of the most astonishing claims in his speech was that there was nothing extraordinary about the British guarantee to Poland. He described it as a normal step in the pursuit of friendly relations with a neighboring country. This was in sharp contrast to British diplomat Sir Alexander Cadogan’s statement to Joseph Kennedy that Britain’s guarantee to Poland was without precedent in the entire history of British foreign policy.
Beck ended his speech with a stirring climax that produced wild excitement in the Polish Sejm. Someone in the audience screamed loudly, “We do not need peace!” and pandemonium followed. Beck had made many Poles in the audience determined to fight Germany. This feeling resulted from their ignorance which made it impossible for them to criticize the numerous falsehoods and misstatements in Beck’s speech. Beck made the audience feel that Hitler had insulted the honor of Poland with what were actually quite reasonable peace proposals. The Polish Foreign Minister had effectively closed the door to further negotiations with Germany. Beck had made Germany the deadly enemy of Poland.
More than 1 million ethnic Germans resided in Poland at the time of Beck’s speech, and these Germans were the principal victims of the German-Polish crisis in the coming weeks. The Germans in Poland were subjected to increasing doses of violence from the dominant Poles. The British public was told repeatedly that the grievances of the German minority in Poland were largely imaginary. The average British citizen was completely unaware of the terror and fear of death that stalked these Germans in Poland. Ultimately, many thousands of Germans in Poland paid for the crisis with their lives. They were among the first victims of Halifax’s war policy against Germany.
The immediate responsibility for security measures involving the German minority in Poland rested with Interior Department Ministerial Director Waclaw Zyborski. Zyborski consented to discuss the situation on June 23, 1939, with Walther Kohnert, one of the leaders of the German minority at Bromberg. Zyborski admitted to Kohnert that the Germans of Poland were in an unenviable situation, but he was not sympathetic to their plight. Zyborski ended their lengthy conversation by stating frankly that his policy required a severe treatment of the German minority in Poland. He made it clear that it was impossible for the Germans of Poland to alleviate their hard fate. The Germans in Poland were the helpless hostages of the Polish community and the Polish state.
Other leaders of the German minority in Poland repeatedly appealed to the Polish government for help during this period. Sen. Hans Hasbach, the leader of the conservative German minority faction, and Dr. Rudolf Wiesner, the leader of the Young German Party, each made multiple appeals to Poland’s government to end the violence. In a futile appeal on July 6, 1939, to Premier Sławoj-Składkowski, head of Poland’s Department of Interior, Wiesner referred to the waves of public violence against the Germans at Tomaszów near Lódz, May 13-15th, at Konstantynów, May 21-22nd, and at Pabianice, June 22-23, 1939. The appeal of Wiesner produced no results. The leaders of the German political groups eventually recognized that they had no influence with Polish authorities despite their loyal attitudes toward Poland. It was “open season” on the Germans of Poland with the approval of the Polish government.
The Polish anti-German incidents of this period also occurred against the German majority in the Free City of Danzig. On May 21, 1939, Zygmunt Morawski, a former Polish soldier, murdered a German at Kalthof on Danzig territory. The incident itself would not have been so unusual except for the fact that Polish officials acted as if Poland and not the League of Nations had sovereign power over Danzig. Polish officials refused to apologize for the incident, and they treated with contempt the effort of Danzig authorities to bring Morawski to trial. It was obvious that the Poles in Danzig considered themselves above the law.
Tension steadily mounted at Danzig after the Kalthof murder. The citizens of Danzig were convinced that Poland would show them no mercy if Poland were permitted to obtain the upper hand. The Poles were furious when they learned that Danzig was defying Poland by organizing her own militia for home defense. The Poles blamed Hitler for this situation. The Polish government protested to German Ambassador Hans von Moltke on July 1, 1939, about the current military defense measures of the Danzig government. Józef Beck told French Ambassador Léon Noël on July 6, 1939, that the Polish government had decided that additional measures were necessary to meet the alleged threat from Danzig.
On July 29, 1939, the Danzig government presented two protest notes to the Poles concerning illegal activities of Polish custom inspectors and frontier officials. The Polish government responded by terminating the export of duty-free herring and margarine from Danzig to Poland. Polish officials next announced in the early hours of August 5, 1939, that the frontiers of Danzig would be closed to the importation of all foreign food products unless the Danzig government promised by the end of the day never to interfere with the activities of Polish customs inspectors. This threat was formidable since Danzig produced only a relatively small portion of her own food. All Polish customs inspectors would also bear arms while performing their duty after August 5, 1939. The Polish ultimatum made it obvious that Poland intended to replace the League of Nations as the sovereign power at Danzig.
Hitler concluded that Poland was seeking to provoke an immediate conflict with Germany. The Danzig government submitted to the Polish ultimatum based on Hitler’s recommendation.
Józef Beck had explained to British Ambassador Kennard that the Polish government was prepared to take military measures against Danzig if it failed to accept the Polish terms. The citizens of Danzig were convinced that Poland would have executed a full military occupation of Danzig had the Polish ultimatum been rejected. It was apparent to the German government that the British and French were either unable or unwilling to restrain the Polish government from arbitrary steps that could produce an explosion.
On August 7, 1939, the Polish censors permitted the newspaper Illustrowany KuryerCodzienny in Kraków to feature an article of unprecedented recklessness. The article stated that Polish units were constantly crossing the German frontier to destroy German military installations and to carry confiscated German military equipment into Poland. The Polish government failed to prevent the newspaper, with the largest circulation in Poland, from telling the world that Poland was instigating a series of violations of her frontier with Germany. Polish Ambassador Jerzy Potocki unsuccessfully attempted to persuade Józef Beck to seek an agreement with the Germans. Potocki later succinctly explained the situation in Poland by stating “Poland prefers Danzig to peace.”
President Roosevelt knew that Poland had caused the crisis which began at Danzig, and he was worried that the American public might learn the truth about the situation. This could be a decisive factor in discouraging Roosevelt’s plan for American military intervention in Europe. Roosevelt instructed U.S. Ambassador Biddle to urge the Poles to be more careful in making it appear that German moves were responsible for any inevitable explosion at Danzig. Biddle reported to Roosevelt on August 11, 1939, that Beck expressed no interest in engaging in a series of elaborate but empty maneuvers designed to deceive the American public. Beck stated that at the moment he was content to have full British support for his policy.
Roosevelt also feared that American politicians might discover the facts about the hopeless dilemma which Poland’s provocative policy created for Germany. When American Democratic Party Campaign Manager and Post-Master General James Farley visited Berlin at this time, Roosevelt instructed the American Embassy in Berlin to prevent unsupervised contact between Farley and the German leaders. The German Foreign Office concluded on August 10, 1939, that it was impossible to penetrate the wall of censorship around Farley. The Germans knew that President Roosevelt was determined to prevent them from freely communicating with visiting American leaders.
Names You Do Not Know Because History Is Only “Hitler! Hitler! Hitler!”. These Men Were Never Brought To Justice For War Crimes Against Humanity Left: Polish Foreign Minister Józef Beck Right: Polish President (4 June 1926 – 30 September 1939) Ignacy Mościcki
Polish Atrocities Force War
On August 14, 1939, the Polish authorities in East Upper Silesia launched a campaign of mass arrests against the German minority. The Poles then proceeded to close and confiscate the remaining German businesses, clubs, and welfare installations. The arrested Germans were forced to march toward the interior of Poland in prisoner columns. The various German groups in Poland were frantic by this time, and they feared that the Poles would attempt the total extermination of the German minority in the event of war. Thousands of Germans were seeking to escape arrest by crossing the border into Germany. Some of the worst recent Polish atrocities included the mutilation of several Germans. The Poles were warned not to regard their German minority as helpless hostages who could be butchered with impunity.
Rudolf Wiesner, who was the most prominent of the German minority leaders in Poland, spoke of a disaster “of inconceivable magnitude” since the early months of 1939. Wiesner claimed that the last Germans had been dismissed from their jobs without the benefit of unemployment relief, and that hunger and privation were stamped on the faces of the Germans in Poland. German welfare agencies, cooperatives, and trade associations had been closed by Polish authorities. Exceptional martial law conditions of the earlier frontier zone had been extended to include more than one-third of the territory of Poland. The mass arrests, deportations, mutilations, and beatings of the last few weeks in Poland surpassed anything which had happened before. Wiesner insisted that the German minority leaders merely desired the restoration of peace, the banishment of the specter of war, and the right to live and work in peace. Wiesner was arrested by the Poles on August 16, 1939, on suspicion of conducting espionage for Germany in Poland.
The German press devoted increasing space to detailed accounts of atrocities against the Germans in Poland. The Völkischer Beobachter reported that more than 80,000 German refugees from Poland had succeeded in reaching German territory by August 20, 1939. The German Foreign Office had received a huge file of specific reports of excesses against national and ethnic Germans in Poland. More than 1,500 documented reports had been received since March 1939, and more than 10 detailed reports were arriving in the German Foreign Office each day. The reports presented a staggering picture of brutality and human misery.
W. L. White, an American journalist, later recalled that there was no doubt among well-informed people by this time that horrible atrocities were being inflicted every day on the Germans of Poland.
Donald Day, a Chicago Tribune correspondent, reported on the atrocious treatment the Poles had meted out to the ethnic Germans in Poland:
…I traveled up to the Polish corridor where the German authorities permitted me to interview the German refugees from many Polish cities and towns. The story was the same. Mass arrests and long marches along roads toward the interior of Poland. The railroads were crowded with troop movements. Those who fell by the wayside were shot. The Polish authorities seemed to have gone mad. I have been questioning people all my life and I think I know how to make deductions from the exaggerated stories told by people who have passed through harrowing personal experiences. But even with generous allowance, the situation was plenty bad. To me the war seemed only a question of hours.
British Ambassador Nevile Henderson in Berlin was concentrating on obtaining recognition from Halifax of the cruel fate of the German minority in Poland. Henderson emphatically warned Halifax on August 24, 1939, that German complaints about the treatment of the German minority in Poland were fully supported by the facts. Henderson knew that the Germans were prepared to negotiate, and he stated to Halifax that war between Poland and Germany was inevitable unless negotiations were resumed between the two countries. Henderson pleaded with Halifax that it would be contrary to Polish interests to attempt a full military occupation of Danzig, and he added a scathingly effective denunciation of Polish policy. What Henderson failed to realize is that Halifax was pursuing war for its own sake as an instrument of policy. Halifax desired the complete destruction of Germany.
On August 25, 1939, Ambassador Henderson reported to Halifax the latest Polish atrocity at Bielitz, Upper Silesia. Henderson never relied on official German statements concerning these incidents, but instead based his reports on information he had received from neutral sources. The Poles continued to forcibly deport the Germans of that area, and compelled them to march into the interior of Poland. Eight Germans were murdered and many more were injured during one of these actions.
Hitler was faced with a terrible dilemma. If Hitler did nothing, the Germans of Poland and Danzig would be abandoned to the cruelty and violence of a hostile Poland. If Hitler took effective action against the Poles, the British and French might declare war against Germany. Henderson feared that the Bielitz atrocity would be the final straw to prompt Hitler to invade Poland. Henderson, who strongly desired peace with Germany, deplored the failure of the British government to exercise restraint over the Polish authorities.
On August 23, 1939, Germany and the Soviet Union entered into the Molotov-Ribbentrop agreement. This non-aggression pact contained a secret protocol which recognized a Russian sphere of influence in Eastern Europe. German recognition of this Soviet sphere of influence would not apply in the event of a diplomatic settlement of the German-Polish dispute. Hitler had hoped to recover the diplomatic initiative through the Molotov-Ribbentrop nonaggression pact. However, Chamberlain warned Hitler in a letter dated August 23, 1939, that Great Britain would support Poland with military force regardless of the Molotov-Ribbentrop agreement. Józef Beck also continued to refuse to negotiate a peaceful settlement with Germany.
Germany made a new offer to Poland on August 29, 1939, for a last diplomatic campaign to settle the German-Polish dispute. The terms of a new German plan for a settlement, the so-called Marienwerder proposals, were less important than the offer to negotiate as such. The terms of the Marienwerder proposals were intended as nothing more than a tentative German plan for a possible settlement. The German government emphasized that these terms were formulated to offer a basis for unimpeded negotiations between equals rather than constituting a series of demands which Poland would be required to accept. There was nothing to prevent the Poles from offering an entirely new set of proposals of their own.
The Germans, in offering to negotiate with Poland, were indicating that they favored a diplomatic settlement over war with Poland. The willingness of the Poles to negotiate would not in any way have implied a Polish retreat or their readiness to recognize the German annexation of Danzig. The Poles could have justified their acceptance to negotiate with the announcement that Germany, and not Poland, had found it necessary to request new negotiations. In refusing to negotiate, the Poles were announcing that they favored war. The refusal of British Foreign Secretary Halifax to encourage the Poles to negotiate also indicated that he favored war.
French Prime Minister Édouard Daladier and British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain were both privately critical of the Polish government. Daladier in private denounced the “criminal folly” of the Poles. Chamberlain admitted to Ambassador Joseph Kennedy that it was the Poles, and not the Germans, who were unreasonable. Kennedy reported to President Roosevelt,
frankly he [Chamberlain] is more worried about getting the Poles to be reasonable than the Germans.”
However, neither Daladier nor Chamberlain made any effort to influence the Poles to negotiate with the Germans.
On August 29, 1939, the Polish government decided upon the general mobilization of its army. The Polish military plans stipulated that general mobilization would be ordered only in the event of Poland’s decision for war. Henderson informed Halifax of some of the verified Polish violations prior to the war. The Poles blew up the Dirschau (Tczew) bridge across the Vistula River even though the eastern approach to the bridge was in German territory. The Poles also occupied a number of Danzig installations and engaged in fighting with the citizens of Danzig on the same day. Henderson reported that Hitler was not insisting on the total military defeat of Poland. Hitler was prepared to terminate hostilities if the Poles indicated that they were willing to negotiate a satisfactory settlement.
Germany decided to invade Poland on September 1, 1939. All of the British leaders claimed that the entire responsibility for starting the war was Hitler’s. Prime Minister Chamberlain broadcast that evening on British radio that
the responsibility for this terrible catastrophe (war in Poland) lies on the shoulders of one man, the German Chancellor.”
Chamberlain claimed that Hitler had ordered Poland to come to Berlin with the unconditional obligation of accepting without discussion the exact German terms. Chamberlain denied that Germany had invited the Poles to engage in normal negotiations. Chamberlain’s statements were unvarnished lies, but the Polish case was so weak that it was impossible to defend it with the truth.
Halifax also delivered a cleverly hypocritical speech to the House of Lords on the evening of September 1, 1939. Halifax claimed that the best proof of the British will to peace was to have Chamberlain, the great appeasement leader, carry Great Britain into war. Halifax concealed the fact that he had taken over the direction of British foreign policy from Chamberlain in October 1938, and that Great Britain would probably not be moving into war had this not happened. He assured his audience that Hitler, before the bar of history, would have to assume full responsibility for starting the war. Halifax insisted that the English conscience was pure, and that, in looking back, he did not wish to change a thing as far as British policy was concerned.
On September 2, 1939, Italy and Germany agreed to hold a mediation conference among themselves and Great Britain, France, and Poland. Halifax attempted to destroy the conference plan by insisting that Germany withdraw her forces from Poland and Danzig before Great Britain and France would consider attending the mediation conference. French Foreign Minister Bonnet knew that no nation would accept such treatment, and that the attitude of Halifax was unreasonable and unrealistic.
Ultimately, the mediation effort collapsed, and both Great Britain and France declared war against Germany on September 3, 1939. When Hitler read the British declaration of war against Germany, he paused and asked to no one in particular: “What now?” Germany was now in an unnecessary war with three European nations.
Similar to the other British leaders, Nevile Henderson, the British ambassador to Germany, later claimed that the entire responsibility for starting the war was Hitler’s. Henderson wrote in his memoirs in 1940:
If Hitler wanted peace he knew how to insure it; if he wanted war, he knew equally well what would bring it about. The choice lay with him, and in the end the entire responsibility for war was his.”
Henderson forgot in this passage that he had repeatedly warned Halifax that the Polish atrocities against the German minority in Poland were extreme. Hitler invaded Poland in order to end these atrocities.
Read more about the extreme atrocities against the German minority here.
 Taylor, A.J.P., The Origins of the Second World War, New York: Simon & Schuster, 1961, p. 207.
 DeConde, Alexander, A History of American Foreign Policy, New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1971, p. 576.
 Hoggan, David L., The Forced War: When Peaceful Revision Failed, Costa Mesa, CA: Institute for Historical Review, 1989, pp. 25, 312.
 Taylor, A.J.P., The Origins of the Second World War, New York: Simon & Schuster, 1961, p. 209.
 Hoggan, David L., The Forced War: When Peaceful Revision Failed, Costa Mesa, CA: Institute for Historical Review, 1989, p. 50.
An oil painting by Adolf Hitler on display in an Italian museum suffered minor damage Thursday after a man attacked it with a screwdriver.
A spokesperson for the Museum of Salo, east of Milan, said that the middle-aged man shouted “Bastard,” before lunging at the untitled painting, which is being shown publicly for the first time in an exhibition on the theme of madness, the BBC reported.
The attacker caused minimal damage to the painting before he was chased away by security guards and fled the scene. The painting was repaired and returned to the exhibit.
In his autobiography “Mein Kampf,” Hitler describes how his aspirations of becoming an artist ended when his application to the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna was rejected twice, first in 1907 and again in 1908.
The exhibit, on display near the shores of Lake Garda in northern Italy, is entitled “Museum of Madness, from Goya to Bacon.” It is curated by Vittorio Sgarbi, who said that although the undated painting has little artistic merit, it gives insight into the mind of the German dictator.
“It’s a piece of crap, it’s a painting by a desperate man,” he said. “It could have been done by Kafka. It says a lot about (Hitler’s) psyche. You don’t see greatness, but misery,” Britain’s Daily Telegraph reported.
The oil painting measures 30 by 40 centimeters (12 by 16 inches) and depicts two men standing in front of a long series of dark doorways.
“It is not the work of a dictator but of a wretch. It reveals a profoundly melancholy soul,” Sgarbi said.
Sgarbi justified the inclusion of Hitler’s artwork, saying that it was ideal for a display about madness.
“The exhibition is all about madness and this painting is perfect – nothing is as crazy as war,” Sgarbi said.
The museum’s director, Giordano Bruno Guerri, felt the incident added to the theme of the exhibition. “An exhibition of madness would not have been complete without an episode of madness taking place,” he said.
It is striking to observe that in 1910 our artistic level was still extraordinarily high. Since that time, alas! our decadence has merely become accentuated. In the field of painting, for example, it’s enough to recall the lamentable daubs that people have tried to foist, in the name of art, on the German people.
This was quite especially the case during the Weimar Republic, and that clearly demonstrated the disastrous influence of the Jews in matters of art. The cream of the jest was the incredible impudence with which the Jew set about it! With the help of phony art critics, and with one Jew bidding against another, they finally suggested to the people — which naturally believes everything that’s printed — a conception of art according to which the worst rubbish in painting became the expression of the height of artistic accomplishment. The ten thousand of the élite themselves, despite their pretensions on the intellectual level, let themselves be diddled, and swallowed all the humbug. The culminating hoax — and we now have proof of it, thanks to the seizure of Jewish property — is that, with the money they fraudulently acquired by selling trash, the Jews were able to buy, at wretched prices, the works of value they had so cleverly depreciated. Every time an inventory catches my eye of a requisition carried out on an important Jew, I see that genuine artistic treasures are listed there. It’s a blessing of Providence that National Socialism, by seizing power in 1933, was able to put an end to this imposture.
When I visit an exhibition, I never fail to have all the daubs pitilessly withdrawn from it. It will be admitted that whoever visits the House of German Art today will not find any work there that isn’t worthy of its place. I never hesitated, even when it was a question of works by painters given prizes by the Academy of Prussia, to ban these works from the House of German Art whenever they were worthless. It’s a pity that the Academy isn’t not up to its task, and that its members played amongst themselves the game of you-scratch-my-back-and-I’ll-scratch-yours. The latest victim was our Minister of Religious Affairs, who knows as much about art as a hippopotamus. He fell into the most obvious traps and gave official rewards to genuine ordure. The Jews had succeeded in lulling him to sleep by using on him the same methods as had already enabled them to trick the whole German people. On the subject of these daubs, people assert that it isn’t easy to understand them and that, to penetrate their depth and significance, one must be able to immerse oneself entirely in the image represented — and other idiocies from the same mill. In the years 1905-1906, when I entered the Vienna Academy, these hollow phrases were already being used — to give publicity to innumerable daubs, under the pretext of artistic experiment.
In a general way, the academies have nothing to tell me that’s worth listening to. In fact, the professors who are active there are either failures, or else artists of talent (but who cannot devote more than two hours a day to their teaching), or else weary old men who therefore have nothing more to give.
Genuine artists develop only by contact with other artists. Like the Old Masters, they began by working in a studio. Let’s remember that men like Rembrandt, Rubens, and others hired assistants to help them to complete all their commissions.
Amongst these assistants, only those reached the rank of apprentice who displayed the necessary gifts as regards technique and adroitness — and of whom it could be supposed that they would in their turn be capable of producing works of value. It’s ridiculous to claim, as it’s claimed in the academies, that right from the start the artist of genius can do what he likes. Such a man must begin, like everyone else, by learning, and it’s only by working without relaxation that he succeeds in achieving what he wants. If he doesn’t know the art of mixing colours to perfection — if he cannot set a background — if anatomy still has secrets for him — it’s certain he won’t go very far! I can imagine the number of sketches it took an artist as gifted as Menzel before he set himself to paint the Flute Concert at Sans-Souci.
It would be good if artists to-day, like those of olden days, had the training afforded by the Masters’ studios and could thus steep themselves in the great pictorial traditions. If, when we look at the pictures of Rembrandt and Rubens, for example, it is often difficult to make out what the Master has painted himself and what is his pupils’ share, that’s due to the fact that gradually the disciples themselves became masters.
What a disaster it was, the day when the State began to interfere with the training of painters! As far as Germany is concerned, I believe that two academies would suffice: in Düsseldorf and Munich. Or perhaps three in all, if we add Vienna to the list. Obviously there’s no question, for the moment, of abolishing any of our academies. But that doesn’t prevent one from regretting that the tradition of the studios has been lost.
If, after the war, I can realise my great building programme — and I intend to devote thousands of millions to it — only genuine artists will be called on to collaborate.
Source: Adolf Hitler, Table Talk, 27 March 1942; via David Sims
LONDON — The summer of 1940, when Britain stood alone as the Nazi war-machine powered relentlessly across Europe, was, in Winston Churchill’s famous words, the nation’s “finest hour.”
Nearly eight decades on, the events of 1940 — the Blitz, Churchill’s vow that the country would “never surrender,” the aerial dog fights over southern England in which the RAF repelled the German invasion — remain seared into the nation’s consciousness. This year alone, British cinema-goers have had the chance to witness the retelling of this tale in three major films: “Churchill,” “Dunkirk” and the soon-to-be released “Darkest Hour.”
It is therefore perhaps appropriate that the best-selling novelist, Robert Harris, has chosen the rather darker prequel to that summer for his new book, “Munich,” which drops on September 21.
“I’ve always had in my mind… this alternative view that you can’t look at 1940 without thinking of 1938 as well,” says Harris.
A year before their patience finally ran out after Germany’s invasion of Poland in September 1939, Britain and France had come close to declaring war as Adolf Hitler menaced Czechoslovakia. The crisis was averted after Britain’s prime minister, Neville Chamberlain, flew to Munich and cut a deal with the Fuhrer which handed the Sudetenland to Germany and effectively left the Czechs defenseless. He then famously returned to London to declare “peace for our time.”
Seemingly spared a war it had come to think of as inevitable — as Harris describes, before Chamberlain departed for Munich, children were being fitted for gas masks, trenches dug in Green Park and sandbags lined Whitehall — many Britons reacted with joy to Chamberlain’s actions. The drive from London’s Heston Airport to Downing Street took one and a half hours longer than usual, so deep were the crowds wishing to greet the Prime Minister.
One of few dissenting voices in parliament was that of Churchill. To cries of “nonsense” from his Conservative colleagues, he told the House of Commons: “We have sustained a total and unmitigated defeat… The German dictator, instead of snatching the victuals from the table, has been content to have them served to him course by course.”
Hitler’s appetite had simply been whetted; the rest of Czechoslovakia would inevitably soon be “engulfed.”
Churchill was right. Barely six months later, Hitler broke his undertakings and marched into Prague. The road to war was set and Chamberlain’s reputation sunk, never to recover. Munich came to be seen as a shameful betrayal of the Czechs — encapsulated by Chamberlain’s dismissive depiction of the crisis as “a quarrel in a far away country between people of whom we know nothing” — and a last, missed opportunity to show Hitler that aggression would not pay.
The declaration Chamberlain had persuaded Hitler to sign, in which the two nations pledged “never to go to war again,” was simply an example of the prime minister’s naivety and weakness — a “white flag in the face of oncoming tragedy,” as the writer Anthony Quinn recently described it.
Nine months after declaring war against Germany, Chamberlain was forced to resign in the aftermath of Hitler’s invasion of Norway. To this day, he remains “the most maligned and vilified of 20th century British prime ministers,” his biographer, Andrew Crozier, has suggested.
But this, believes Harris, is unfair and unjustified. In “Munich” he audaciously attempts to rescue Chamberlain’s reputation. A partially fictionalized retelling of the events of September 1938, the book — Harris’s 12th novel — centers on the attempt by Paul Hartmann, a German diplomat who opposes Hitler, to stop the signing of the agreement by passing to Hugh Legat, an Oxford friend and one of Chamberlain’s private secretaries, a document detailing the Nazis’ true, expansionist ambitions.
“I like to play devil’s advocate,” suggests Harris. “There was something about the fact that [Chamberlain] was so universally reviled which made me think that there must be something to be said for him.”
Harris believes that the war Chamberlain managed to avert in September 1938 would have been “a disaster for Britain and France.”
As the prime minister knew well, Britain’s belated rearmament program still left it painfully short of the weaponry it needed to take on Hitler’s forces. “You cannot play poker with a gangster with no cards in your hand,” he privately suggested at the time of the agreement.
“I think that the idea that a feeble old man with an umbrella, not really knowing what he was doing, went out and was hoodwinked by Hitler, is absolutely and completely 100 percent wrong,” argues Harris. “Chamberlain was the dynamic figure in September ’38 — getting on a plane; bearding the monster in his lair.”
Moreover, believes Harris, the British public was simply not prepared for the kind of brutal, long conflict that would have ensued. Only after witnessing the events of 1939 did it develop the sense of “national unity [and] determination to go on” which sustained it through the dark days of 1940 and beyond.
So was Chamberlain simply playing for time rather than genuinely attempting, as he publicly claimed at the time, to stop another European conflagration?
“It was a mixture of the two,” says Harris. “I think that the dominant strain was certainly to prevent a war, and I think he was sufficiently vain to believe he got the measure of Hitler and that he had some sort of… understanding of him.”
While there was definitely “an element of wishful thinking” in Chamberlain’s calculations, he was not blind to harsh realities.
“There is plenty of contemporary evidence that, being a shrewd and hard-headed politician, he also had considered the prospect that Hitler might not keep his word, and felt that the Munich Agreement or the piece of paper was a very useful trip wire that he would then have to convince the Dominions and the Americans, and indeed the British people, that the war would have to be fought,” Harris says.
Nor was Chamberlain unaware of the nature of the beast with which he was dealing, confiding in Lord Dunglass, his parliamentary private secretary who accompanied him to Munich, that Hitler was “without question the most detestable and bigoted man” with whom he had “to do business.”
Harris attempts to capture some of this feeling in the book. The prime minister refuses to attend a dinner with the Fuhrer after the talks, while Legat offers a sense of the physical repulsion felt towards Hitler among Chamberlain’s retinue. As the dictator passes him, he catches a whiff of his body odor: like “a workman who had not bathed or changed his shirt in a week.”
But, for Harris, perhaps the most powerful argument for his case is the fact that “one can call in aid Hitler as a witness.”
On the title page of “Munich,” he reprints the dictator’s desperate words as his dreams of a 1,000 year Reich crashed around him in early 1945: “We ought to have gone to war in 1938… September 1938 would have been the most favorable date.”
This was not simply a matter of hindsight. Harris’s Hitler is hardly a happy host at Munich. He was not simply angered by the popularity Chamberlain enjoyed from the German crowds. The German historian Joachim Fest, who ghostwrote Albert Speer’s memoirs, wrote that Hitler’s favorite architect and later armaments minister believed the Fuhrer “felt he had been swindled out of a real victory.”
“Every contemporary source speaks of him being furious,” says Harris. “He could have laid on the most extraordinary signing ceremony for the world media. On the contrary, he just allowed this one camera in there. I think that’s just further proof that he was really irritated by it.”
And, if in the aftermath, Chamberlain had harsh words in private about Hitler, these were amply reciprocated. The British prime minister, Hitler suggested, was an “old arsehole.”
“That Chamberlain,” Hitler whined to Mussolini. “He has haggled over every village and petty interest like a market-place stallkeeper… What’s it to do with him?”
“Munich” also sets out to burst some of the other myths which Harris believes still surround the agreement. Perhaps most potent is the notion that, had Britain declared war in September 1938, the German army would have moved to depose Hitler. Harris’ fictional Hartmann is portrayed as part of the so-called “Oster conspiracy.”
But, in his retelling, while its ringleaders are committed to overthrowing Hitler, the real-life Hans Oster — the deputy head of the Abwehr German intelligence organization — was himself arrested in 1943 and executed a month before Germany’s surrender in 1945. Harris paints the Oster conspiracy as half-cooked and implausible, relying on a degree of commitment that the German high command simply did not possess.
“I don’t really see a scrap of evidence other than a lot of talk after the war when people are facing war crimes trials and wanting to look like they’d always opposed Hitler,” says Harris. “They didn’t turn on Hitler until the very, very last minute when any idiot could see that the war was lost.”
“I wanted to create an authentic and believable German, troubled by the regime but still a nationalist,” Harris suggests. As he notes, many of these men fully supported the Anschluss and the reincorporation of the Sudetenland into Germany; von Trott even believed Hitler’s claims on Poland were justified. “It was just the… crudity of the method which they disliked.”Through the character of Hartmann, Harris attempts to depict the “ambivalence of German nationalism.” Hartmann is loosely based on Adam von Trott, a diplomat who played a central role in the resistance to Hitler and was executed after the failed July 20 plot, and a figure who has long fascinated the novelist.
However, as “Munich” depicts, Hartmann’s opposition to the Nazis is, in part, motivated by his abhorrence at, and personal experience of, the regime’s treatment of the Jews.
In a powerful scene towards the end of the book, he dismisses the arguments of many conservatives that “He’s a terrible fellow, Hitler, but he’s not necessarily all bad… Put aside this awful medieval anti-Jew stuff, it will pass.”
“But the point is, it won’t pass,” says Hatmann. “You can’t isolate it from the rest. It’s there in the mix. And if the anti-Semitism is evil, it’s all evil. Because if they’re capable of that, they’re capable of anything.”
Harris admits that the plight of the Jews posed a dilemma.
“I don’t think that it’s possible to write a book about Nazi Germany and not touch on the anti-Semitism,” he says. “At the same time, if one’s trying to be true to the historical facts, it wasn’t at the forefront of the minds of the British and French in 1938, because, of course, this was before Kristallnacht, let alone before the actual mechanism of the Holocaust.”
Harris also believes that Hartmann’s feelings were unusual. “It has to be said that the resistance to Hitler, as far as I can see, was not based on horror at what was being done to the Jews.”
He also accepts that the unfolding Jewish tragedy did not appear to greatly affect Chamberlain at the time of Munich.
“I don’t think it was factored into [Chamberlain’s] calculations in September 1938… His main preoccupation was to try and avoid a world war, in which, I think he did suspect, there would be a complete collapse of civilized values. And in that, he was correct,” says Harris.
Nonetheless, the prime minister was moved by the events of Kristallnacht which occurred barely a month after his return from Munich. Chamberlain, Harris argues, was “the driving force” behind Britain’s decision to admit 10,000 mainly Jewish refugee children as part of the Kindertransport; an approach which compared favorably with the policy of the Americans at the time.
The novel’s publication comes on the 25th anniversary of “Fatherland,”the book which launched Harris’s career as a novelist. A dystopian thriller which imagines how the victorious Nazis might have attempted to conceal the greatest crime in history, it has sold over 3 million copies and been translated into 25 languages.
“Having written “Fatherland,” I was then rather wary of writing again about the Nazis. I didn’t really want to just look as if that’s all I could write about and was obsessed with,” Harris suggests.
Nonetheless, now felt like the right time to return to the subject.
“A novelist picks up something in the air, and suddenly you’re prompted to write. There’s something about Munich and 1938 which seems more relevant now than it would have done five or 10 years ago,” he says.
“One sees the spectacle of Nazi banners being paraded through American streets, and the odd failure of the president of the United States to condemn it adequately,” says Harris.