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John Simkin

Richard Milton: Best of Enemies: Britain and Germany

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This is the stunning popular history of 100 years (1845-1945) of Anglo-German love/hate. Richard Milton exposes the secrets of a relationship steeped in mutual admiration, blood and propaganda. In August 1914, Britain's first act of war was not to mobilise its army or the Grand Fleet. It was to cut cables preventing German propaganda from reaching American newspapers. This war of words would quickly become as vicious as the slaughter on the Western Front. For a century, Britain and Germany had been closer than any other two countries. Germany was Britain's biggest export market, and vice versa. Germans adopted English dress, customs and manners. German thinking on race, national identity, eugenics, and racial supremacy also had its roots in British thinkers like Darwin, Huxley and Galton. Even as late as the Nazi era, Hess, Himmler, Goering and Hitler himself remained passionate Anglophiles. During WW1, however, Germany, Britain and the USA spent billions on clandestine propaganda to blacken each other's reputations. This gargantuan effort gave birth to the PR industry itself - later seized upon by Nazi propagandist Goebbels to devastating effect. Richard Milton's expertly written popular history gives a fresh perspective on this tumultuous, painful love-hate relationship, and is also a brilliant study of propaganda itself - now more than ever a vital weapon of war.

http://www.iconbooks.co.uk/book.cfm?isbn=978-184046828-1

1. You make the claim in Best of Enemies that many of the greatest names in twentieth century English literature held racist beliefs that were indistinguishable from the Nazis. Isn’t this overstating the case?

2. You claim that many senior Nazis were infatuated with the English governing class and that Hitler was a "committed Anglophile" who was most passionate of all in his infatuation with England. What is your evidence for this claim?

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1. You make the claim in Best of Enemies that many of the greatest names in twentieth century English literature held racist beliefs that were indistinguishable from the Nazis. Isn’t this overstating the case?

Yes, it’s difficult to believe that many of Britain’s greatest literary figures were enthusiastic Nazis isn’t it? Yet the evidence come from the writers’ own words.

George Bernard Shaw, who welcomed Nietzsche’s Thus Spake Zarathustra as ‘the first modern book that can be set above the Psalms of David’, wrote that ‘the majority of men at present in Europe have no business to be alive’. Here Shaw was merely echoing his philosophical hero. Nietzsche had written: ‘The great majority of men have no right to existence, but are a misfortune to higher men.’

D.H. Lawrence went even further. Lawrence discovered Nietzsche’s writings in 1908 and became his most enthusiastic English disciple. ‘The mass of mankind’, he wrote in the voice of one of his characters, ‘is soulless … Most people are dead, and scurrying and talking in the sleep of death.’

In Fantasia of the Unconscious, Lawrence called for ‘three cheers for the inventors of poison gas’. And in a letter to Blanche Jennings Lawrence explains his plans to dispose of the masses who are already dead: ‘If I had my way I would build a lethal chamber as big as the Crystal Palace, with a military band playing softly and a Cinematograph working brightly; then I’d go out into the back streets and main streets and bring them in, all the sick, the halt and the maimed; I would lead them gently and they would smile me a weary thanks; and the band would softly bubble out the "Hallelujah Chorus".’

In the preface to On the Rocks, Shaw tells his readers that: ‘Extermination must be put on a scientific basis if it is ever to be carried out humanely and apologetically as well as thoroughly … if we desire a certain type of civilisation and culture, we must exterminate the sort of people who do not fit into it.’

T.S. Eliot’s parodies of the lower-middle-class clerk in ‘The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock’ were a reflection of his contempt for the masses. Virginia Woolf, E.M. Forster and Evelyn Waugh similarly created working-class characters and depicted their failed attempts at self-improvement as evidence of their worthlessness as people. Ezra Pound saw humanity as a ‘mass of dolts’, as ‘democracies electing their sewage’.

It is difficult to credit that writers like these seriously considered the murder of their fellow humans. Yet W.B. Yeats warned that: ‘Sooner or later we must limit the families of the unintelligent classes.’

Probably the most prominent advocate of eugenics was novelist H.G. Wells. Wells was a student of Thomas Huxley at what is today Imperial College, London, where he absorbed both Huxley’s passionate belief in Darwinism and his racist outlook. His early science fiction books such as The War of the Worlds and The Island of Doctor Moreau echo Darwin’s picture of the cold indifference of nature to any principle other than the survival of the fittest.

In his 1901 attempt to foresee future human society, Anticipations, Wells wrote of ‘The swarms of black and brown and dirty-white and yellow people, who do not come into the needs of efficiency.’ The world, he said, ‘is not a charitable institution and I take it they will have to go. It is their portion to die out and disappear.’ Of Britain’s African empire, Wells wrote: ‘the n squats and multiplies in stagnant pools of population.’ Wells also speaks of ‘People of the Abyss’, by which he means the ‘great useless masses of people’, the ‘vicious, helpless pauper masses’. He predicts that only countries that deal with these masses will thrive, and that the ‘nation that most resolutely picks over, educates, sterilises, exports or poisons its People of the Abyss’ will flourish.

Wells believed that the world of the future would ‘be shaped to favour the procreation of what is fine and efficient and beautiful in humanity’. This necessarily meant that for ‘the helpless and useless, the men of the New Republic will have little pity and less benevolence’. He despised democracy, saying that:

It has become apparent that whole masses of human population are, as a whole, inferior in their claim on the future, to other masses, that they cannot be given opportunities or trusted with power as the superior peoples are trusted, that their characteristic weaknesses are contagious and detrimental in the civilizing fabric, and that the range of incapacity tempts and demoralises the strong. To give them equality is to sink to their level, to protect and cherish them is to be swamped by their fecundity.

Wells translated these beliefs into a programme for social action that was primarily negative in aspect. It was no use, he believed, trying to select the best and the brightest. Society must evolve by getting rid of the unfit.

I believe that now and always the conscious selection of the best for reproduction will be impossible; that to propose it is to display a fundamental misunderstanding of what individuality implies. The way of nature has always been to slay the hindmost, and there is still no other way, unless we can prevent those who would become the hindmost being born. It is in the sterilisation of failure, and not in the selection of successes for breeding, that the possibility of an improvement of the human stock lies.

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WELCOME! Fantastic material above! Explains a lot about the thinking behind the 'Empire' and other internal events. Please don't neglect to answer Question #2 [above] and if you have any clues on flight of Hess playing into this 'love affair'. Again, a hearty welcome to this Forum from me.

Hi Peter,

Many thanks for your warm welcome and I'm glad you found the literary quotes useful. I certainly won't neglect John's second question "You claim that many senior Nazis were infatuated with the English governing class and that Hitler was a "committed Anglophile" who was most passionate of all in his infatuation with England. What is your evidence for this claim?"

The evidence I've collected for this is pretty far ranging and takes up several chapters in the book, but my main reasons briefly are these. First Hitler himself said in Mein Kampf (I'm paraphrasing) that German foreign policy before the First War should have gone to any lengths to conclude a strategic alliance with England and he added (in 1923) that that should still be the focus of German foreign policy. He even advocated giving up commercial competition with Britain in overseas markets in order to "appease" Britain (my word not his). Hitler also demonstrated a personal intimacy with England in many trivial but revealing ways. He subscribed to glossy magazines like The Tatler; he sat down to tea and cucumber sandwiches every afternoon at 5:00 O'clock (complete with swastikas on the tea cups). Something that I find completely baffling is that his favourite film was "Lives of a Bengal Lancer" - a preposterous piece of Hollywood tosh in which American matinee idols Gary Cooper and Franchot Tone impersonate British officers in the North West Frontier, quelling an uprising by treacherous natives!

More seriously, he surrounded himself with English speaking Germans who were passionately fond of England and the English and who had many English friends - people such Hess, Ribbentrop, Speer, Goering, Heydrich, Doenitz, Jodl, Economics Minister Schacht and other, less well-known figures who were nonetheless part of Hitler’s immediate circle, such as Karl Haushofer, Ernst Hanfstaengl and Ernst Bohle.

With regard to your question about Hess, I don't know if this forum has discussed Martin Allen's book "The Hitler/Hess deception"? This is a fascinating book in which Allen brings forward persuasive evidence to suggest that Hess was the victim of an intelligence deception plan by British Intelligence intended to deceive the Nazis into believing that a peace plan was possible, in order to gain time to complete her rearmaments.

Best wishes

Richard Milton

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Thanks a second time. Yes, in fact it was I who had previously mentioned Allen's book on the Forum prior. Does your book cover corporate and banking/financial links and personages between the two you'd care to outline, as they might have significance to the Wars?

I do deal with "trading with the enemy" in both the First and Scond wars and the founding of the Bank for International Settlements at Schact's instigation (he's an interesting figure who deserves a more detailed understanding, isn't he?) However, apart from a brief history of the takeover of Siemens Brothers by the government in 1914, I mainly follow the standard works such as Charles Higham's "Trading with the Enemy".

Best wishes

Richard

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Please don't neglect to answer Question #2 [above] and if you have any clues on flight of Hess playing into this 'love affair'. Again, a hearty welcome to this Forum from me.

Richard does cover this issue in his book (it is one of the reasons I have invited him to answer questions on his book). Richard, see this thread:

http://educationforum.ipbhost.com/index.php?showtopic=10003

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1. In chapter 14 you point out that between September 1939 and July 1940 there were no fewer than sixteen separately identifiable sets of negotiations between London and Berlin. Did you find any evidence that these negotiations carried on after the summer of 1940.

2. You rightly point out on page 218 that as late as 27th May 1940 Churchill was telling the cabinet that he was willing to do a deal with Hitler in order to get a peace settlement. The language of cabinet was very different from his public speeches at the time. You quote the German general as saying: “If we smash England militarily, the British Empire will collapse. Germany will not benefit from this.” This is of course true. Do you agree that the common enemy was the Soviet Union and if that was the case, these negotiations would have taken place right up to Operation Barbarossa taking place?

3. On page 212 you raise the possibility that the SOE fooled Hitler that Churchill was really interested in reaching a peace agreement with Germany and that is the reason Rudolf Hess was captured on 10th May, 1941. Is it not possible that Churchill was willing to talk to Hess about a peace settlement? Several of his closest political allies had meetings with Hess in his first few days of captivity. Interestingly, they used false names in the process.

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1. In chapter 14 you point out that between September 1939 and July 1940 there were no fewer than sixteen separately identifiable sets of negotiations between London and Berlin. Did you find any evidence that these negotiations carried on after the summer of 1940.

The last of attempt by Germany to make peace with Britain seems to have been in the first week of September 1940, a full year after the war had started and it seems clearly to have been a personal attempt by Hitler.

The War Cabinet was astonished to receive a ‘Most Secret’ encrypted telegram from Victor Mallet, British ambassador to Sweden. Mallet had been contacted by a Berlin barrister named Dr Ludwig Weissauer who, said Mallet, ‘is understood to be a direct emissary of Hitler’. Weissauer, explained the ambassador, ‘wishes me to meet him very secretly order to … talk on the subject of peace’.

At first, this approach was treated with some suspicion, as though the work of a crank. But Ludwig Weissauer turned out to be the chief legal counsel to the Nazi Party and Hitler’s own personal legal adviser.

Mallet went on to say that the emissary wished any conversations that took place to remain secret and said he would report back directly to Hitler in person. This strongly suggested that the initiative had originated with Hitler himself.

In the end this approach came to nothing, like all the others. The War Cabinet instructed Mallet to ignore the message.

It seems to me that this attempt failed for the same reason that all the other peace talks had failed: Churchill would sign a peace agreement with Germany but not with Hitler, while Hitler would sign a peace agreement with Britain but not with Churchill.

So it was not until late in 1940, when the bombs started falling both on London and Berlin, that Hitler finally accepted that he was never going to conclude a negotiated peace with Britain, that Churchill was probably leader for the duration and that the only way he could bring Britain to the negotiating table would be to conquer Russia. Hitler thus decided to implement his eastern strategy anyway on the grounds that, once Russia was defeated, Britain’s last hope would have been destroyed and Britain would then have no alternative but to get rid of Churchill, appoint Lloyd George or a similar figure as Prime Minister and sue for peace.

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Sorry to jump back - I've only just started reading this thread.

You should read The Poison Belt by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle - it's about the Earth passing through a belt of poisonous gas which apparently eliminates from the Earth all life apart from that of the enlightened (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Poison_Belt).

You can read the full text here:

http://www.pagebypagebooks.com/Arthur_Cona...he_Poison_Belt/

This was written in 1913 …

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2. You rightly point out on page 218 that as late as 27th May 1940 Churchill was telling the cabinet that he was willing to do a deal with Hitler in order to get a peace settlement. The language of cabinet was very different from his public speeches at the time. You quote the German general as saying: “If we smash England militarily, the British Empire will collapse. Germany will not benefit from this.” This is of course true. Do you agree that the common enemy was the Soviet Union and if that was the case, these negotiations would have taken place right up to Operation Barbarossa taking place?

Hitler’s thinking at this time appears to me to be something along these lines: England is not in much of a position to damage German strategic interests, which lie in Eastern Europe. To damage Britain militarily would not benefit Germany strategically, but it could harm German strategic interests by making potential enemies such as America Japan and Russia stronger, especially in the middle east and far east.

Britain (through the agency of Churchill) is holding out against signing a peace treaty because it thinks Russia will engage and defeat Germany (or keep Germany busy long enough to re-arm and perhaps get America into the war). Therefore, by attacking Russia, Hitler is killing two birds with one stone. First, implementing Germany’s principal geopolitical aim of establishing a new land-based empire in the centre of the Eurasian landmass (as foreshadowed by Halton Mackinder in "The geographical pivot of history" and passed on through Karl Haushofer and Rudolph Hess to Hitler). Second, removing all hope for England of Russia riding to the rescue and, thus, forcing Britain to get rid of Churchill and sue for peace.

I have to say, I can’t fault this strategy. I can’t help feeling it would certainly have worked had Hitler not become fatally obsessed with taking Stalingrad. With Russian oil and other raw materials at his disposal, there would have been nothing to stop Hitler implementing his Eurasian strategy and no hope for Britain except compromise.

I agree that Russia was the "common enemy" in the sense that it was the strategic policy of the Nazis and many of their British supporters to eliminate communism and carve the world up into two great empires, one sea based and one land based, under the control of the "master race" ie the Teutons and their Anglo-Saxon cousins. I’m not sure whether Hitler would have bothered talking to the British again after having taken the decision to implement Barbarossa in the next Spring, as he would presumbly have though his military victory over Russia would do his talking for him.

I also point out in the book that the British War Cabinet was labouring under a fatal delusion in 1940. They believed that Germany had over reached itself economically and that no great power, even one as strong as Germany, could keep its economy on a war footing for very long. The cabinet thought that the more they played for time, the more likely it was that that the German economy would collapse. In fact, Germany was so strong ecnomically that it didn’t even both to go onto a war footing until 1943.

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2. You rightly point out on page 218 that as late as 27th May 1940 Churchill was telling the cabinet that he was willing to do a deal with Hitler in order to get a peace settlement. The language of cabinet was very different from his public speeches at the time. You quote the German general as saying: “If we smash England militarily, the British Empire will collapse. Germany will not benefit from this.” This is of course true. Do you agree that the common enemy was the Soviet Union and if that was the case, these negotiations would have taken place right up to Operation Barbarossa taking place?

Hitler’s thinking at this time appears to me to be something along these lines: England is not in much of a position to damage German strategic interests, which lie in Eastern Europe. To damage Britain militarily would not benefit Germany strategically, but it could harm German strategic interests by making potential enemies such as America Japan and Russia stronger, especially in the middle east and far east.

Britain (through the agency of Churchill) is holding out against signing a peace treaty because it thinks Russia will engage and defeat Germany (or keep Germany busy long enough to re-arm and perhaps get America into the war). Therefore, by attacking Russia, Hitler is killing two birds with one stone. First, implementing Germany’s principal geopolitical aim of establishing a new land-based empire in the centre of the Eurasian landmass (as foreshadowed by Halton Mackinder in "The geographical pivot of history" and passed on through Karl Haushofer and Rudolph Hess to Hitler). Second, removing all hope for England of Russia riding to the rescue and, thus, forcing Britain to get rid of Churchill and sue for peace.

I have to say, I can’t fault this strategy. I can’t help feeling it would certainly have worked had Hitler not become fatally obsessed with taking Stalingrad. With Russian oil and other raw materials at his disposal, there would have been nothing to stop Hitler implementing his Eurasian strategy and no hope for Britain except compromise.

I agree that Russia was the "common enemy" in the sense that it was the strategic policy of the Nazis and many of their British supporters to eliminate communism and carve the world up into two great empires, one sea based and one land based, under the control of the "master race" ie the Teutons and their Anglo-Saxon cousins. I’m not sure whether Hitler would have bothered talking to the British again after having taken the decision to implement Barbarossa in the next Spring, as he would presumbly have though his military victory over Russia would do his talking for him.

I also point out in the book that the British War Cabinet was labouring under a fatal delusion in 1940. They believed that Germany had over reached itself economically and that no great power, even one as strong as Germany, could keep its economy on a war footing for very long. The cabinet thought that the more they played for time, the more likely it was that that the German economy would collapse. In fact, Germany was so strong ecnomically that it didn’t even both to go onto a war footing until 1943.

We seem to be in agreement about Churchill's actions in the summer of 1940. However, there is evidence that these negotiations were still taking place in 1941. For example, in 1959, Heinrich Stahmer, Albrecht Haushofer’s agent in Spain, claimed that meetings between Samuel Hoare, Lord Halifax and Rudolf Hess took place in Spain and Portugal between February and April 1941. The Vichy press reported that Hess was in Spain on the weekend of 20/22 of April 1941. The correspondence between British Embassies and the Foreign Office are routinely released to the Public Record Office. However, all documents relating to the weekend of 20/22 April, 1941 at the Madrid Embassy are being held back and will not be released until 2017.

Karl Haushofer was arrested and interrogated by the Allies in October 1945. The British government has never released the documents that include details of these interviews. However, these interviews are in the OSS archive. Karl told his interviewers that Germany was involved in peace negotiations with Britain in 1940-41. In 1941 Albrecht was sent to Switzerland to meet Lord Templewood (Samuel Hoare) the British ambassador to Spain. This peace proposal included a willingness to “relinquish Norway, Denmark and France”. Karl goes onto say: “A larger meeting was to be held in Madrid. When my son returned, he was immediately called to Augsburg by Hess. A few days later Hess flew to England.”

When Hess arrived in Scotland he asked to be taken to the Duke of Hamilton. The “middleman” mentioned in the earlier letter. In fact, Hamilton lived close to where Hess landed.

If Hamilton was the “middleman” who was he acted for. Was it George VI or Winston Churchill? Or were they working together on this? We also know that Samuel Hoare and Lord Halifax acted as middleman in 1940-41. Hoare was Churchill’s ambassador to Spain. Is it possible that Churchill had not given permission for these talks to take place? If not, Hoare and Halifax were guilty of treason. The same claim could be made against the Duke of Hamilton.

According to Lieutenant-Colonel Malcolm Scott, Hess had told one of his guards that “members of the government” had known about his proposed trip to Scotland. Hess also asked to see George VI as he had been assured before he left Germany that he had the “King’s protection”. As I said earlier, according to the authors of “Double Standards” (2001) the Duke of Kent was with Hamilton at his home (Dungavel House) on the night that Hess arrived in Scotland. Was the Duke of Kent acting as the representative of the king or prime minister? The authors of Double Standards, who accept the view that Churchill remained a strong opponent of appeasement, believe the Duke of Kent, the Duke of Hamilton, Samuel Hoare and Lord Halifax, were all working for George VI. They point out that Hamilton, as Keeper of the Royal Household, was very close to the king. However, is it credible that this is the case? For example, Duke of Kent and the Duke of Hamilton both served in the RAF during the war. Churchill arranged for both to be promoted soon after the arrival of Hess. By this time Churchill was either aware that both men were traitors or were acting on behalf of the government. Churchill’s actions following the arrival of Hess suggest the second of these two options.

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We seem to be in agreement about Churchill's actions in the summer of 1940. However, there is evidence that these negotiations were still taking place in 1941. For example, in 1959, Heinrich Stahmer, Albrecht Haushofer’s agent in Spain, claimed that meetings between Samuel Hoare, Lord Halifax and Rudolf Hess took place in Spain and Portugal between February and April 1941. The Vichy press reported that Hess was in Spain on the weekend of 20/22 of April 1941. The correspondence between British Embassies and the Foreign Office are routinely released to the Public Record Office. However, all documents relating to the weekend of 20/22 April, 1941 at the Madrid Embassy are being held back and will not be released until 2017.

Karl Haushofer was arrested and interrogated by the Allies in October 1945. The British government has never released the documents that include details of these interviews. However, these interviews are in the OSS archive. Karl told his interviewers that Germany was involved in peace negotiations with Britain in 1940-41. In 1941 Albrecht was sent to Switzerland to meet Lord Templewood (Samuel Hoare) the British ambassador to Spain. This peace proposal included a willingness to “relinquish Norway, Denmark and France”. Karl goes onto say: “A larger meeting was to be held in Madrid. When my son returned, he was immediately called to Augsburg by Hess. A few days later Hess flew to England.”

When Hess arrived in Scotland he asked to be taken to the Duke of Hamilton. The “middleman” mentioned in the earlier letter. In fact, Hamilton lived close to where Hess landed.

If Hamilton was the “middleman” who was he acted for. Was it George VI or Winston Churchill? Or were they working together on this? We also know that Samuel Hoare and Lord Halifax acted as middleman in 1940-41. Hoare was Churchill’s ambassador to Spain. Is it possible that Churchill had not given permission for these talks to take place? If not, Hoare and Halifax were guilty of treason. The same claim could be made against the Duke of Hamilton.

According to Lieutenant-Colonel Malcolm Scott, Hess had told one of his guards that “members of the government” had known about his proposed trip to Scotland. Hess also asked to see George VI as he had been assured before he left Germany that he had the “King’s protection”. As I said earlier, according to the authors of “Double Standards” (2001) the Duke of Kent was with Hamilton at his home (Dungavel House) on the night that Hess arrived in Scotland. Was the Duke of Kent acting as the representative of the king or prime minister? The authors of Double Standards, who accept the view that Churchill remained a strong opponent of appeasement, believe the Duke of Kent, the Duke of Hamilton, Samuel Hoare and Lord Halifax, were all working for George VI. They point out that Hamilton, as Keeper of the Royal Household, was very close to the king. However, is it credible that this is the case? For example, Duke of Kent and the Duke of Hamilton both served in the RAF during the war. Churchill arranged for both to be promoted soon after the arrival of Hess. By this time Churchill was either aware that both men were traitors or were acting on behalf of the government. Churchill’s actions following the arrival of Hess suggest the second of these two options.

Hi John,

It’s a puzzle isn’t it? On 26 May 1940, the war cabinet met under Churchill and Neville Chamberlain quoted Churchill in his diary entry as telling the cabinet, ‘if we could get out of this jam by giving up Malta and Gibraltar and some African colonies he would jump at it.’ Given Britain’s position this seems a reasonable conclusion on Churchill’s part and one might reasonably expect him and his colleagues to do everything in their power to further peace negotiations with Germany, whatever the circumstances, even if only as a distraction.

Yet among Churchill’s first actions on coming to power was to get rid of arch-appeasers Samuel Hoare (as ambassador to Madrid) and Lord Halifax (as ambassador to Washington.) As usual, the problem is that one can interpret this two ways. It could either be an unmistakable signal to Berlin that Britain was under new management and that there would be no peace treaty; or it could be a tough bargaining move, laying the groundwork for concessions for a peace treaty!

My own view is that the personal antipathy between Churchill and Hitler was what prevented a peace agreement. I can’t help feeling that, had either Churchill or Hitler stood aside in 1940, then Goering (or whoever) would very likely have concluded peace with Lloyd George (or whoever) and that this move would have been supported by many on both sides.

Hess may well have been duped by British Intelligence into thinking a peace treaty was possible, as Martin Allen contends, but it was in my view a deception that was only too close to the truth at the time. I agree with what I think is your view, that it was when postwar history came to be written that the "Fight on the beaches" rhetoric became the accepted version and all talk of peace negotiations was quietly forgotten.

Regards

Richard

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It’s a puzzle isn’t it? On 26 May 1940, the war cabinet met under Churchill and Neville Chamberlain quoted Churchill in his diary entry as telling the cabinet, ‘if we could get out of this jam by giving up Malta and Gibraltar and some African colonies he would jump at it.’ Given Britain’s position this seems a reasonable conclusion on Churchill’s part and one might reasonably expect him and his colleagues to do everything in their power to further peace negotiations with Germany, whatever the circumstances, even if only as a distraction.

Yet among Churchill’s first actions on coming to power was to get rid of arch-appeasers Samuel Hoare (as ambassador to Madrid) and Lord Halifax (as ambassador to Washington.) As usual, the problem is that one can interpret this two ways. It could either be an unmistakable signal to Berlin that Britain was under new management and that there would be no peace treaty; or it could be a tough bargaining move, laying the groundwork for concessions for a peace treaty!

It is a mistake to suggest that Churchill immediately got rid of his appeasers. In fact, he went out of his way to create a balanced cabinet. When Churchill took office he did not sack the arch-appeaser as foreign secretary, Lord Halifax. Instead he was allowed to hold onto his job. Churchill nominated Chamberlain as Leader of the House of Commons. Labour members of the war cabinet complained about this decision and so he became Lord President of the Council. However, he still remained in the government. So also did Sir John Simon, the third of the guilty men, who was given the job of Lord Chancellor.

Historians often claim that they only man to lose his job as a result of his appeasement policies was Samuel Hoare. Responsible for the Hoare-Laval Pact in 1935, he was forced to resign when the scheme was widely denounced as appeasement of Italian aggression. Hoare returned to the government under Chamberlain as Secretary of State for the Home Office. On the outbreak of the war in 1939 he joined the War Cabinet as Lord Privy Seal. Hoare lost this post when Churchill took power. However, Churchill sent Hoare to be British ambassador in Madrid. It was here that he carried out negotiations with the Nazis.

Duff Cooper, the man who resigned from the government over Munich only got the Ministry of Information. Yet, Lord Beaverbrook, who had used his newspaper empire to advocate appeasement right up to the outbreak of the war, was brought into the war cabinet as minister of aircraft production. Beaverbrook, who was considered to be Churchill’s most important adviser, was the leading figure, along with Lord Halifax, of what became known as the “Peace Party”. Beaverbook made it clear to friends in 1939 that the “British Jews were pushing the country into an unnecessary war” (Anne Chisholm and Michael Davie, Beaverbrook: A Life, page 347) and that entry into war was “mistaken and unnecessary” (A. J. P. Taylor, Beaverbrook, page 231).

Churchill also allowed Sir Stewart Menzies to remain as head of MI6. Menzies had been a strong advocate of appeasement. Menzies, like others on the far-right, believed the real enemy was communism and argued that Churchill should form a military alliance with Nazi Germany against the Soviet Union. As head of MI6 Menzies “had the right of access at any time of the day or night to the King, Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary, making him the most powerful men in the country.” (Anthony Cave Brown, Bodyguard of Lies, pages 13-14). According to Scott Newton (Profits of Peace: The Political Economy of Anglo-German Appeasement, pages 124-127), Menzies was at the very centre of the peace group in Britain in 1940.

This was Churchill’s way of showing Hitler that he was willing to negotiate an end to the war. Hitler responded to this by making a speech in the Reichstag where he insisted that he was not his intention to destroy the British Empire and called for peace negotiations. “I consider myself in a position to make this appeal since I am not the vanquished begging favours, but the victor speaking in the name of reason. I can see no reason why this war must go on.” (Hitler, speech in the Reichstag, 19th July, 1940) This helps to explain why Hitler acted in the way he did at Dunkirk.

On 22nd May 1940 some 250 German tanks were advancing along the French coast towards Dunkirk, threatening to seal off the British escape route. Then, just six miles from the town, at around 11.30 a.m., they abruptly stopped. Hitler had personally ordered all German forces to hold their positions for three days. This order was uncoded and was picked up by the British. They therefore knew they were going to get away. German generals begged to be able to move forward in order to destroy the British army but Hitler insisted that they held back so that the British troops could leave mainland Europe.

Some historians have argued that this is an example of another tactical error made by Hitler. However, the evidence suggests that this was part of a deal being agreed between Germany and Britain. After the war, General Gunther Blumentritt, the Army Chief of Staff, told military historian Basil Liddell Hart that Hitler had decided that Germany would make peace with Britain. Another German general told Liddell Hart that Hitler aimed to make peace with Britain “on a basis that was compatible with her honour to accept”. (The Other Side of the Hill, pages 139-41)

Minutes of the Cabinet meetings in May 1940 reveal Churchill’s strategy. As Clive Ponting argues: “Churchill argued in favour, not of continuing the war until victory, but of trying to get through the next two or three months before making a decision on whether or not to ask for peace.” (Clive Ponting, 1940: Myth and Reality, 1990, page 108)

Why then did these negotiations fail? We know from German sources that Hitler was willing to withdraw from all his European gains in exchange for “German friendly governments”. All Hitler wanted from Churchill was to be given a free-hand against the Soviet Union. Churchill also wanted Soviet communism destroyed. The only problem for Churchill concerned his image. He had portrayed himself as the warrior who was unwilling to negotiate and end to the conflict. Despite saving the lives of possibly millions of British people, he might also be seen as an appeaser who had cynically engineered the removal of Chamberlain in order to gain power. Churchill cared more about his political reputation, something he had only just got back, than he did about the fate of the British people (his plane was always kept ready to take him to Canada if Germany invaded the country).

I would argue that the evidence suggests that these negotiations went on right up to at least May 1941. When Hess arrived in Scotland on 10th May 1941 Churchill was quick to deny that the two countries were involved in peace negotiations. Hitler then made a similar statement. Both men were concerned to portray Hitler as a man who had a mental breakdown. However, evidence is available that indicates that Hitler was fully aware of Hess’s flight to Scotland.

Karlheinz Pintsch, Hess adjutant, was given the task of informing Hitler about the flight to Scotland. James Leasor found him alive in 1955 and used him as a major source for his book, The Uninvited Envoy. Pintsch told Leasor of Hitler’s response to this news. He did not seem surprised, nor did he rant and rave about what Hess had done. Instead, he replied calmly, “At this particular moment in the war that could be a most hazardous escapade.” (Roger Nanvell & Heinrich Fraenkel, Hess: A Biograthy, page 107)

Hitler then went onto read the letter that Hess had sent him. He read the following significant passage out aloud. “And if this project… ends in failure… it will always be possible for you to deny all responsibility. Simply say I was out of my mind.” Of course, that is what both Hitler and Churchill did later on. However, at the time, Hitler at least, still believed that a negotiated agreement was possible.

The following day Hitler knew that Churchill had refused to do a deal and then the cover-up began. Pintsch was now a dangerous witness and he was arrested and was kept in solitary confinement until being sent to the Eastern Front in 1944. He was captured by the Soviets and kept alive until being released in 1955. (James Leasor, The Uninvited Envoy, page 69).

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It’s a puzzle isn’t it? On 26 May 1940, the war cabinet met under Churchill and Neville Chamberlain quoted Churchill in his diary entry as telling the cabinet, ‘if we could get out of this jam by giving up Malta and Gibraltar and some African colonies he would jump at it.’ Given Britain’s position this seems a reasonable conclusion on Churchill’s part and one might reasonably expect him and his colleagues to do everything in their power to further peace negotiations with Germany, whatever the circumstances, even if only as a distraction.

Yet among Churchill’s first actions on coming to power was to get rid of arch-appeasers Samuel Hoare (as ambassador to Madrid) and Lord Halifax (as ambassador to Washington.) As usual, the problem is that one can interpret this two ways. It could either be an unmistakable signal to Berlin that Britain was under new management and that there would be no peace treaty; or it could be a tough bargaining move, laying the groundwork for concessions for a peace treaty!

It is a mistake to suggest that Churchill immediately got rid of his appeasers. In fact, he went out of his way to create a balanced cabinet. When Churchill took office he did not sack the arch-appeaser as foreign secretary, Lord Halifax. Instead he was allowed to hold onto his job. Churchill nominated Chamberlain as Leader of the House of Commons. Labour members of the war cabinet complained about this decision and so he became Lord President of the Council. However, he still remained in the government. So also did Sir John Simon, the third of the guilty men, who was given the job of Lord Chancellor.

Historians often claim that they only man to lose his job as a result of his appeasement policies was Samuel Hoare. Responsible for the Hoare-Laval Pact in 1935, he was forced to resign when the scheme was widely denounced as appeasement of Italian aggression. Hoare returned to the government under Chamberlain as Secretary of State for the Home Office. On the outbreak of the war in 1939 he joined the War Cabinet as Lord Privy Seal. Hoare lost this post when Churchill took power. However, Churchill sent Hoare to be British ambassador in Madrid. It was here that he carried out negotiations with the Nazis.

Duff Cooper, the man who resigned from the government over Munich only got the Ministry of Information. Yet, Lord Beaverbrook, who had used his newspaper empire to advocate appeasement right up to the outbreak of the war, was brought into the war cabinet as minister of aircraft production. Beaverbrook, who was considered to be Churchill’s most important adviser, was the leading figure, along with Lord Halifax, of what became known as the “Peace Party”. Beaverbook made it clear to friends in 1939 that the “British Jews were pushing the country into an unnecessary war” (Anne Chisholm and Michael Davie, Beaverbrook: A Life, page 347) and that entry into war was “mistaken and unnecessary” (A. J. P. Taylor, Beaverbrook, page 231).

Churchill also allowed Sir Stewart Menzies to remain as head of MI6. Menzies had been a strong advocate of appeasement. Menzies, like others on the far-right, believed the real enemy was communism and argued that Churchill should form a military alliance with Nazi Germany against the Soviet Union. As head of MI6 Menzies “had the right of access at any time of the day or night to the King, Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary, making him the most powerful men in the country.” (Anthony Cave Brown, Bodyguard of Lies, pages 13-14). According to Scott Newton (Profits of Peace: The Political Economy of Anglo-German Appeasement, pages 124-127), Menzies was at the very centre of the peace group in Britain in 1940.

This was Churchill’s way of showing Hitler that he was willing to negotiate an end to the war. Hitler responded to this by making a speech in the Reichstag where he insisted that he was not his intention to destroy the British Empire and called for peace negotiations. “I consider myself in a position to make this appeal since I am not the vanquished begging favours, but the victor speaking in the name of reason. I can see no reason why this war must go on.” (Hitler, speech in the Reichstag, 19th July, 1940) This helps to explain why Hitler acted in the way he did at Dunkirk.

On 22nd May 1940 some 250 German tanks were advancing along the French coast towards Dunkirk, threatening to seal off the British escape route. Then, just six miles from the town, at around 11.30 a.m., they abruptly stopped. Hitler had personally ordered all German forces to hold their positions for three days. This order was uncoded and was picked up by the British. They therefore knew they were going to get away. German generals begged to be able to move forward in order to destroy the British army but Hitler insisted that they held back so that the British troops could leave mainland Europe.

Some historians have argued that this is an example of another tactical error made by Hitler. However, the evidence suggests that this was part of a deal being agreed between Germany and Britain. After the war, General Gunther Blumentritt, the Army Chief of Staff, told military historian Basil Liddell Hart that Hitler had decided that Germany would make peace with Britain. Another German general told Liddell Hart that Hitler aimed to make peace with Britain “on a basis that was compatible with her honour to accept”. (The Other Side of the Hill, pages 139-41)

Minutes of the Cabinet meetings in May 1940 reveal Churchill’s strategy. As Clive Ponting argues: “Churchill argued in favour, not of continuing the war until victory, but of trying to get through the next two or three months before making a decision on whether or not to ask for peace.” (Clive Ponting, 1940: Myth and Reality, 1990, page 108)

Why then did these negotiations fail? We know from German sources that Hitler was willing to withdraw from all his European gains in exchange for “German friendly governments”. All Hitler wanted from Churchill was to be given a free-hand against the Soviet Union. Churchill also wanted Soviet communism destroyed. The only problem for Churchill concerned his image. He had portrayed himself as the warrior who was unwilling to negotiate and end to the conflict. Despite saving the lives of possibly millions of British people, he might also be seen as an appeaser who had cynically engineered the removal of Chamberlain in order to gain power. Churchill cared more about his political reputation, something he had only just got back, than he did about the fate of the British people (his plane was always kept ready to take him to Canada if Germany invaded the country).

I would argue that the evidence suggests that these negotiations went on right up to at least May 1941. When Hess arrived in Scotland on 10th May 1941 Churchill was quick to deny that the two countries were involved in peace negotiations. Hitler then made a similar statement. Both men were concerned to portray Hitler as a man who had a mental breakdown. However, evidence is available that indicates that Hitler was fully aware of Hess’s flight to Scotland.

Karlheinz Pintsch, Hess adjutant, was given the task of informing Hitler about the flight to Scotland. James Leasor found him alive in 1955 and used him as a major source for his book, The Uninvited Envoy. Pintsch told Leasor of Hitler’s response to this news. He did not seem surprised, nor did he rant and rave about what Hess had done. Instead, he replied calmly, “At this particular moment in the war that could be a most hazardous escapade.” (Roger Nanvell & Heinrich Fraenkel, Hess: A Biograthy, page 107)

Hitler then went onto read the letter that Hess had sent him. He read the following significant passage out aloud. “And if this project… ends in failure… it will always be possible for you to deny all responsibility. Simply say I was out of my mind.” Of course, that is what both Hitler and Churchill did later on. However, at the time, Hitler at least, still believed that a negotiated agreement was possible.

The following day Hitler knew that Churchill had refused to do a deal and then the cover-up began. Pintsch was now a dangerous witness and he was arrested and was kept in solitary confinement until being sent to the Eastern Front in 1944. He was captured by the Soviets and kept alive until being released in 1955. (James Leasor, The Uninvited Envoy, page 69).

I agree with much of what you say here, but I would observe that the fact that the Wermacht allowed the BEF to escape with light casualties at Dunkirk doesn't necessarily mean that Hitler had done a deal or thought he had done a deal with the British right. It could also mean that Hitler was so keen to conclude such a deal that he was willing to go to almost any lengths to achieve it, including drawing back from open attack on vital British interests. He may even have imagined that such a show of "mercy" would ingratiate him with Whitehall.

The other observation I have is that there seems to have been (at least) two kinds of British right winger in the 1930s. There were those fearful of Russia and Communism, who found themselves in bed with Hitler and the Nazis whether they liked it or not. Then there were those who wholeheartedly accepted Nazi doctrines who were only too happy to get into bed with Hitler. It would be interesting to know which sort Menzies was. And isn't it ironic that while senior members of the intelligence community like Menzies were practising their Seig Heils in front of the shaving mirror in the privacy of their bathrooms, Maxwell Knight at MI5 was busy infiltrating all the right wing "clubs" to save the nation from fascism!

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It’s a puzzle isn’t it? On 26 May 1940, the war cabinet met under Churchill and Neville Chamberlain quoted Churchill in his diary entry as telling the cabinet, ‘if we could get out of this jam by giving up Malta and Gibraltar and some African colonies he would jump at it.’ Given Britain’s position this seems a reasonable conclusion on Churchill’s part and one might reasonably expect him and his colleagues to do everything in their power to further peace negotiations with Germany, whatever the circumstances, even if only as a distraction.

Yet among Churchill’s first actions on coming to power was to get rid of arch-appeasers Samuel Hoare (as ambassador to Madrid) and Lord Halifax (as ambassador to Washington.) As usual, the problem is that one can interpret this two ways. It could either be an unmistakable signal to Berlin that Britain was under new management and that there would be no peace treaty; or it could be a tough bargaining move, laying the groundwork for concessions for a peace treaty!

It is a mistake to suggest that Churchill immediately got rid of his appeasers. In fact, he went out of his way to create a balanced cabinet. When Churchill took office he did not sack the arch-appeaser as foreign secretary, Lord Halifax. Instead he was allowed to hold onto his job. Churchill nominated Chamberlain as Leader of the House of Commons. Labour members of the war cabinet complained about this decision and so he became Lord President of the Council. However, he still remained in the government. So also did Sir John Simon, the third of the guilty men, who was given the job of Lord Chancellor.

Historians often claim that they only man to lose his job as a result of his appeasement policies was Samuel Hoare. Responsible for the Hoare-Laval Pact in 1935, he was forced to resign when the scheme was widely denounced as appeasement of Italian aggression. Hoare returned to the government under Chamberlain as Secretary of State for the Home Office. On the outbreak of the war in 1939 he joined the War Cabinet as Lord Privy Seal. Hoare lost this post when Churchill took power. However, Churchill sent Hoare to be British ambassador in Madrid. It was here that he carried out negotiations with the Nazis.

Duff Cooper, the man who resigned from the government over Munich only got the Ministry of Information. Yet, Lord Beaverbrook, who had used his newspaper empire to advocate appeasement right up to the outbreak of the war, was brought into the war cabinet as minister of aircraft production. Beaverbrook, who was considered to be Churchill’s most important adviser, was the leading figure, along with Lord Halifax, of what became known as the “Peace Party”. Beaverbook made it clear to friends in 1939 that the “British Jews were pushing the country into an unnecessary war” (Anne Chisholm and Michael Davie, Beaverbrook: A Life, page 347) and that entry into war was “mistaken and unnecessary” (A. J. P. Taylor, Beaverbrook, page 231).

Churchill also allowed Sir Stewart Menzies to remain as head of MI6. Menzies had been a strong advocate of appeasement. Menzies, like others on the far-right, believed the real enemy was communism and argued that Churchill should form a military alliance with Nazi Germany against the Soviet Union. As head of MI6 Menzies “had the right of access at any time of the day or night to the King, Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary, making him the most powerful men in the country.” (Anthony Cave Brown, Bodyguard of Lies, pages 13-14). According to Scott Newton (Profits of Peace: The Political Economy of Anglo-German Appeasement, pages 124-127), Menzies was at the very centre of the peace group in Britain in 1940.

This was Churchill’s way of showing Hitler that he was willing to negotiate an end to the war. Hitler responded to this by making a speech in the Reichstag where he insisted that he was not his intention to destroy the British Empire and called for peace negotiations. “I consider myself in a position to make this appeal since I am not the vanquished begging favours, but the victor speaking in the name of reason. I can see no reason why this war must go on.” (Hitler, speech in the Reichstag, 19th July, 1940) This helps to explain why Hitler acted in the way he did at Dunkirk.

On 22nd May 1940 some 250 German tanks were advancing along the French coast towards Dunkirk, threatening to seal off the British escape route. Then, just six miles from the town, at around 11.30 a.m., they abruptly stopped. Hitler had personally ordered all German forces to hold their positions for three days. This order was uncoded and was picked up by the British. They therefore knew they were going to get away. German generals begged to be able to move forward in order to destroy the British army but Hitler insisted that they held back so that the British troops could leave mainland Europe.

Some historians have argued that this is an example of another tactical error made by Hitler. However, the evidence suggests that this was part of a deal being agreed between Germany and Britain. After the war, General Gunther Blumentritt, the Army Chief of Staff, told military historian Basil Liddell Hart that Hitler had decided that Germany would make peace with Britain. Another German general told Liddell Hart that Hitler aimed to make peace with Britain “on a basis that was compatible with her honour to accept”. (The Other Side of the Hill, pages 139-41)

Minutes of the Cabinet meetings in May 1940 reveal Churchill’s strategy. As Clive Ponting argues: “Churchill argued in favour, not of continuing the war until victory, but of trying to get through the next two or three months before making a decision on whether or not to ask for peace.” (Clive Ponting, 1940: Myth and Reality, 1990, page 108)

Why then did these negotiations fail? We know from German sources that Hitler was willing to withdraw from all his European gains in exchange for “German friendly governments”. All Hitler wanted from Churchill was to be given a free-hand against the Soviet Union. Churchill also wanted Soviet communism destroyed. The only problem for Churchill concerned his image. He had portrayed himself as the warrior who was unwilling to negotiate and end to the conflict. Despite saving the lives of possibly millions of British people, he might also be seen as an appeaser who had cynically engineered the removal of Chamberlain in order to gain power. Churchill cared more about his political reputation, something he had only just got back, than he did about the fate of the British people (his plane was always kept ready to take him to Canada if Germany invaded the country).

I would argue that the evidence suggests that these negotiations went on right up to at least May 1941. When Hess arrived in Scotland on 10th May 1941 Churchill was quick to deny that the two countries were involved in peace negotiations. Hitler then made a similar statement. Both men were concerned to portray Hitler as a man who had a mental breakdown. However, evidence is available that indicates that Hitler was fully aware of Hess’s flight to Scotland.

Karlheinz Pintsch, Hess adjutant, was given the task of informing Hitler about the flight to Scotland. James Leasor found him alive in 1955 and used him as a major source for his book, The Uninvited Envoy. Pintsch told Leasor of Hitler’s response to this news. He did not seem surprised, nor did he rant and rave about what Hess had done. Instead, he replied calmly, “At this particular moment in the war that could be a most hazardous escapade.” (Roger Nanvell & Heinrich Fraenkel, Hess: A Biograthy, page 107)

Hitler then went onto read the letter that Hess had sent him. He read the following significant passage out aloud. “And if this project… ends in failure… it will always be possible for you to deny all responsibility. Simply say I was out of my mind.” Of course, that is what both Hitler and Churchill did later on. However, at the time, Hitler at least, still believed that a negotiated agreement was possible.

The following day Hitler knew that Churchill had refused to do a deal and then the cover-up began. Pintsch was now a dangerous witness and he was arrested and was kept in solitary confinement until being sent to the Eastern Front in 1944. He was captured by the Soviets and kept alive until being released in 1955. (James Leasor, The Uninvited Envoy, page 69).

I agree with much of what you say here, but I would observe that the fact that the Wermacht allowed the BEF to escape with light casualties at Dunkirk doesn't necessarily mean that Hitler had done a deal or thought he had done a deal with the British right. It could also mean that Hitler was so keen to conclude such a deal that he was willing to go to almost any lengths to achieve it, including drawing back from open attack on vital British interests. He may even have imagined that such a show of "mercy" would ingratiate him with Whitehall.

The other observation I have is that there seems to have been (at least) two kinds of British right winger in the 1930s. There were those fearful of Russia and Communism, who found themselves in bed with Hitler and the Nazis whether they liked it or not. Then there were those who wholeheartedly accepted Nazi doctrines who were only too happy to get into bed with Hitler. It would be interesting to know which sort Menzies was. And isn't it ironic that while senior members of the intelligence community like Menzies were practising their Seig Heils in front of the shaving mirror in the privacy of their bathrooms, Maxwell Knight at MI5 was busy infiltrating all the right wing "clubs" to save the nation from fascism!

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Guest David Guyatt

Hello Richard,

Most interesting thread which I have come to somewhat belatedly for which apologies.

In your post #13 you state:

Quote:

Yet among Churchill’s first actions on coming to power was to get rid of arch-appeasers Samuel Hoare (as ambassador to Madrid) and Lord Halifax (as ambassador to Washington.) As usual, the problem is that one can interpret this two ways. It could either be an unmistakable signal to Berlin that Britain was under new management and that there would be no peace treaty; or it could be a tough bargaining move, laying the groundwork for concessions for a peace treaty!

Unquote

I wonder if an answer to the conundrum of Churchill eventually ridding himself of the arch-appeasers Hoare and Halifax, was that he belatedly learned of their true association?

Samuel Hoare was a member of the inner circle of the Milner Group and had served, as you know, in a Cabinet position. Other members of Milner’s “inner circle” group who had been in Cabinet with Hoare were Leopold Amery, Edward Wood and Lord Robert Cecil. Lord Halifax was also a member of Milner’s group and likewise represented their interests in Cabinet.

This very likely explains the meeting between Halifax Hoare and Hess in Spain and Portugal in February – April 1941, which John mentioned earlier (post #12).

The Duke of Hamilton connection to the Hess affair remains an intriguing one. The Duke’s brother, Lord Malcolm Douglas-Hamilton was a wing commander during WWII, but later became a founding member of the racist International Association for the Advancement of Eugenics and Ethnology (IAAEE) that was headquartered in Scotland. He was also a member of the “Cliveden Set” – the post war name given to the Milner Group. Not least of the connections is the fact Robert Gayre was the head of the US branch of the IAAEE. Gayre was also a founding member of the curious post war Augustan Society in California that was founded by former OSS officers who reeked of nazi ideology. Gayre amongst several other founding member of the AS were also members of the Shickshinny Knights – which has been discussed elsewhere.

The Russian connection of the Shickshinny Knights – and the fact that its members were universally and even rabidly anti communist should not, I think, be overlooked in the general scheme of things.

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