July 23, 2015

The Royals & The Nazis

Newly-published pictures from 1933 reveal chilling images of British royal family members giving a Nazi salute (see below).

"We should acknowledge the dark side of attitudes to the Nazis not only within the Royal Family, but throughout Britain's ruling class, before 1939," writes Max Hastings.

A fascinating read and important part of history, which raises questions today about British attitudes towards Jews and Israel, the Jewish state.  |  July 19, 2015; Updated July 22, 2015

The Queen Is Blameless - But Many Aristocrats DID Support The Nazis During Second World War

By Max Hastings

Beyond argument, it is a chilling image: on a summer’s day at Balmoral in 1933, the Queen and her mother, then Duchess of York, give what seems unmistakably a Nazi salute, watched or urged on by the Prince of Wales, later briefly Edward VIII.

Both Queen Elizabeths, mother and daughter, have commanded such affection and respect for so long that it is painful to see their images tarnished.

The first big thing to say about the newly-published pictures, however, is to remember when they were taken.

British royals
Snapshot: A young Queen Elizabeth II seems to salute with her mother as Edward holds Margaret in the 17-second cine film clip from 1933.

In 1933, the Nazis had only just ascended to power. Few sensitive people doubted their nastiness, manifested in years of street violence on the path to government.

But in those days there had as yet been no Second World War, no Holocaust. Many intelligent Britons believed that the German people had rightful grievances about their harsh treatment after the First World War.

Many music-hall comedians parodied the Hitler salute. It is overwhelmingly likely that the royals uplifting their arms at Balmoral were playing what seemed a harmless game, rather than making anything resembling a political gesture. It is our knowledge of what happened to the world afterwards that makes the photograph seem so sinister.

All that said, however, we should acknowledge the dark side of attitudes to the Nazis not only within the Royal Family, but throughout Britain’s ruling class, before 1939. Their preoccupation in those days was not with what Hitler might do in the future, but with what the Bolsheviks had done in the recent past.

In 1933, the Russian Revolution had happened just 16 years earlier. The nobility had been slaughtered wholesale. The Tsar and Tsarina, together with their beautiful daughters and handicapped son, had been murdered in the cellar at Ekaterinburg.

In the years since, communism had spread like a plague virus across Europe. Industrial turmoil, disaffection among the working class, was a fact of life from Jarrow to Munich, Lyons to Barcelona. Many people, both leftists and capitalists, were convinced that within a few short years, the established order would be swept away.

This fevered, almost hysterical political mood made aristocrats and royal families tremble in their stately homes and palaces. 

They feared the communists and the Russians far more than they feared the Nazis. Many of them until the outbreak of war applauded Hitler because he kept his own people under rigorous control, and suppressed communism with an iron hand.

Anti-Semitism remained respectable in British upper-crust circles until the revelation of the Holocaust in 1945.

The most popular thriller-writers of the time, the likes of John Buchan, Sapper and Dornford Yates, cast Jews – and especially Russian Jews – as their principal villains. Sapper had Bulldog Drummond and his ‘Black Gang’ tar and feather some allegedly delinquent Jewish ‘agitators’.

This, then, was the climate among Britain’s social elite. The Prince of Wales, who ascended and then descended the throne in 1936 to become Duke of Windsor, thought as well of the Nazis as they did of him. 

He incurred a rebuke from his father, George V, when in 1935 he expressed public enthusiasm for a rapprochement with Germany. When Hitler met the duke and his new wife at Berchtesgaden following the abdication, the Nazi leader said regretfully afterwards that the duchess ‘would have made a good queen’. On the same trip, it was widely reported when the duke gave the Nazi salute in earnest. The New York Times wrote: ‘He has lent himself, perhaps unconsciously but easily, to National Socialist propaganda.’

While the duke’s successor on the throne, George VI, was a prudently cautious man who offered no overt hostages to fortune, in private he and his wife Queen Elizabeth were sympathetic to the Chamberlain government’s policy of appeasing the dictators, and highly critical of the wild man Winston Churchill and his warnings of the menace of Nazism.

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Hunt for 'traitor': The film clip was copied by a researcher with 'access to the royal archives' several years ago, however it was not sold to The Sun until a few weeks ago.

The Royal Family lived alongside a British aristocracy that regarded the Nazis as incorrigibly vulgar, but thought they had some good political ideas. Lord Redesdale and his family the Mitfords were especially notorious, but the far grander Lord Londonderry also formed a close relationship with the Nazi leadership, and often entertained Joachim von Ribbentrop when he served as Hitler’s ambassador in London.

Henry ‘Chips’ Channon, a Tory MP married to Honor Guinness who was one of London society’s richest and most notorious oilers and greasers, befriended Nazis almost as eagerly as he clung to Edward VIII. He, too became an intimate of von Ribbentrop during his time in London, and wrote in his diary on June 4, 1936: ‘He has now invited us to stay as Hitler’s guests for the Olympic Games. Honor accepted gleefully’.

At the summit of the aristocracy, a string of dukes were openly enthusiastic about the dictators – Westminster, Wellington, Buccleuch, Bedford, Marlborough, Hamilton to name only the foremost. The Duke of Wellington was a member of the Link, the extreme Right-wing group whose most prominent members were interned on security grounds in 1940.

Extreme Right-wing views were commonplace among the British aristocracy and business class, and the Royal Family heard plenty of them. Many of their closest relations were Germans, some of them warmly enthusiastic about Hitler.

This does not mean that they were in the least unpatriotic: when Britain and Germany went to war in September 1939, the King and Queen Elizabeth played an admirable part in the nation’s war effort, and became symbols of its refusal to be cowed by the Luftwaffe blitz.

But substantial parts of the Royal Family’s pre-war correspondence remain today locked away from the eyes of historians and biographers, even after the passage of three-quarters of a century. As long as this is so, suspicions will persist about what they said and wrote to each other about politics, and especially about Hitler and the Nazis.

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Moving on: The Queen made her first appearance since footage showing her performing a Nazi salute as a young girl was published in The Sun on Sunday morning

My own guess would be that they were no more and no less enlightened in their attitudes than were most dukes and lords: they, too, were far more frightened of communists than of fascists. Both Edward VIII and George VI shared the desperate yearning of pre-war prime minister Neville Chamberlain and his appeasers to avoid another world war.

No sensible person will think even a smidgeon the worse of our own Queen Elizabeth II for her gesture revealed in a film shot 80 years ago, when she was six or seven years old. Today the Nazi salute has become universally recognised as the symbol of one of the most evil forces in the history of the world. In 1933, however, its crimes still lay in the future.

Antonia Fraser, the historian who is only six years younger than the Queen, tellingly remarked yesterday that in her own childhood, she thought about Hitler in much the same way as she did about Charlie Chaplin. In the 1930s the Royal Family led much more sheltered lives than today, and often revealed their naivete about politics. Little Princess Margaret is alleged to have wailed to her nanny when war broke out in 1939: ‘Who is this Hitler spoiling everything?’

Her father the King capitulation to Hitler at Munich, and lamented to a diplomat on August 29, 1939, the fact that the Fuhrer’s looming invasion of Poland had forced the interruption of a record grouse-shooting season in Scotland: ‘It was utterly damnable that the villain Hitler had upset everything.’

The only cause for real sadness and repugnance is our knowledge that one of those portrayed in the film, the Prince of Wales and future Duke of Windsor, undoubtedly believed, and continued to believe, that Hitler was rather a good thing. When war came the Nazis were convinced that they could enlist the duke’s and duchess’s support.

In 1940 Himmler dispatched to their temporary refuge in neutral Lisbon Walter Schellenberg, his foreign intelligence chief, to persuade them to come to Berlin. Churchill feared the Windsors could indeed become Hitler’s tools, and had them hastily shipped to Bermuda.

The duke spent the rest of the war in privileged captivity on the island as nominal governor, and it was a wise precaution. It is all too credible that, left to his own devices, this boundlessly foolish and egotistical man could have become a Nazi puppet ruler.

Original article here.


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