Histomat: Adventures in Historical Materialism

'Historical materialism is the theory of the proletarian revolution.' Georg Lukács

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Reasons to Hate the Daily Mail # 94: Hitler-worship

[With its notoriously right wing columnists - including now also Nick Cohen - aside, there are lots of well known reasons for democrats, radicals and socialists to despise the Daily Mail - a paper founded in 1896 as its founder Alfred Harmsworth (later Lord Northcliffe) stated to help foster 'the power, the supremacy and the greatness of the British Empire'. When Lord Northcliffe died in August, 1922, the Daily Mail 'newspaper' was taken over by Lord Rothermere, who in the 1930s famously gave support to Oswald Mosley and the British Union of Fascists - writing an infamous article, 'Hurrah for the Blackshirts', in January, 1934, in which he praised Mosley for his 'sound, commonsense, Conservative doctrine' - sort of a pre-runner to the Daily Star's recent love-in with the English Defence League. Yet less well known is Lord Rothermere's admiration for Adolf Hitler, who he met several times before his death in 1940 and described as 'a human being of great culture'. For a paper that is so obsessed with the personal lives of the rich and powerful it is odd that there was little on the Daily Mail's own website about this particular relationship - and so I thought I would bring it to wider attention here -hopefully to help cut the sales of the Daily Mail itself but also as it sheds light on the admiration shared by many in the British ruling class for Adolf Hitler and fascism more generally during the 1920s and 1930s - as well as Hitler's own admiration and respect for the white supremacy represented by the British Empire].

Lord Rothermere and Adolf Hitler - The Love That Dare Not Speak Its Name
Lord Rothermere and Adolf Hitler

Lord Rothermere used The Daily Mail to argue for Hitler's policies long before Hitler actually got to power - but abruptly withdrew his support in 1930. Later that year, Rothermere told Hitler that Jewish businessmen had withdrawn advertising from the newspaper and he had been forced to 'toe the line'. Hitler began to leave out anti-Semitic comments from his speeches during elections, but once in power Hitler began to express anti-Semitic ideas again.

In his 1939 book Warnings and Predictions, (only online on a pro-Nazi site so I won't link to it) Rothermere explained what he had first seen in Hitler:

When Herr Hitler took open power in the January of 1933, I realised that his psychology was very different from that of our own statesmen and very different from that of the men who had led the German republic. Here was a man whose life had been hard. In boyhood and youth he had been poor and thwarted. In early manhood he had been a serving soldier performing the most dangerous of front-line tasks, those of a battalion runner. He had been decorated for gallantry, had been wounded and gassed. In the years of later manhood he, with other ex-servicemen, had seen his country thrust down into the very mud of world disrepute. He had suffered from the ineptitude of those charged with the Government of his country. He had been affronted by the spectacle of members of an alien race flourishing in Germany and Austria while his own countrymen were in penury. He had attained power only by the use of force combined with a new application of rhetorical and propagandist powers.

With Hitler in power, Lord Rothermere publically declared his renewed support. Writing in The Daily Mail on 10th July, 1933, he praised Hitler's new regime which had stopped Germany 'rapidly falling under the control of its alien elements' - Jewish people - and urging 'all British young men and women to study closely the progress of the Nazi regime in Germany'. Adolf Hitler in a letter to Lord Rothermere on 7th December, 1933 relayed his thanks to Rothermere for 'the wise and beneficial public support' the Daily Mail had given him so far.

In his book, Lord Rothermere stressed that both himself and Hitler had a mutual hope for a deeper more meaningful relationship between not just themselves but between Britain and Nazi Germany. 'In an interchange of views about the possibility of Anglo-German friendship that I had with him [Hitler] not very long after his coming to power, he [Hitler] wrote:

"I have derived from fate the heavy task of giving back again to a great people and State by every means its natural honour. I see in this one of the most essential preparations for a real and lasting understanding, and I beg you, Lord Rothermere, never to regard my work from any other point of view. The feelings and views of Parliamentary demagogues are liable to rapid and unexpected changes. The world may, however, for what I care, reproach me with what it will. One reproach they certainly cannot level at me: that I have been vacillating in my views and unreliable in my work. If an unknown man with such weaknesses set out to win over a nation in fifteen years he would meet with no success. Herein resides, perhaps, the faith—exaggerated, as many believe—in my own personality. I believe, my dear Lord Rothermere, that in the end my unchanging standpoint, undeviating staunchness and my unalterable determination to render a historically great contribution to the restoration of a good and enduring understanding between both great Germanic peoples will be crowned with success. And believe me that this is the most decisive contribution to the pacification of the world. An Anglo-German understanding would form in Europe a force for peace and reason of 120,000,000 people of the highest type. The historically unique colonial ability and sea-power of England would be united to one of the greatest soldier-races of the world. Were this understanding extended by the joining-up of the American nation, then it would indeed be hard to see who in the world could disturb peace without wilfully and consciously neglecting the interests of the White race.'

However it was only in 1938 that the relationship advanced to a whole new level. In telegram to 'my dear Fuhrer' Adolf Hitler on 1st October, 1938, Lord Rothermere would declare:

My dear Fuhrer everyone in England is profoundly moved by the bloodless solution to the Czechoslovakian problem. People not so much concerned with territorial readjustment as with dread of another war with its accompanying bloodbath. Frederick the Great was a great popular figure. I salute your excellency's star which rises higher and higher.

As Lord Rothermere explains in his 1939 book about the changed mood in 1938:

'While I have always understood the British antipathy to the use of physical violence, I have equally understood the causes of its use in countries abroad of different circumstances from our own. I understand it there, just as I understand the causes of the violence shown to the rebels in India when the Sepoys were blown from the guns after the massacre of British women and children at Delhi. I deplore the use of concentration camps in Germany and Italy to-day, just as I deplored Kitchener's use of them in Africa at the beginning of the century, but in each case I have understood their evil necessity.

For this reason, and because I knew the man, I felt constrained, when Herr Hitler was being roundly abused by the English Left-wing Press, to tell the British public what I knew of him. In two issues of The Daily Mail in May 1938 I wrote of him what I now gladly put on more permanent record:

"Great numbers of people in England," I wrote, "regard Herr Hitler as an ogre, but I would like to tell them how I have found him. He exudes good-fellowship. He is simple, unaffected and obviously sincere. It is untrue that he habitually addresses private individuals as if they were public meetings.

"He is supremely intelligent. There are only two others I have known to whom I could apply this remark—Lord Northcliffe and Mr. Lloyd George. If you ask Herr Hitler a question, he makes an instant reply full of information and eminent good sense. There is no man living whose promise given in regard to something of real moment I would sooner take.

"He believes that Germany has a divine mission and that the German people are destined to save Europe from the designs of revolutionary Communism. He has a great sense of the sanctity of the family, to which Communism is antagonistic, and in Germany has stopped the publication of all indecent books, the production of suggestive plays and films, and has thoroughly cleaned up the moral life of the nation.

"Herr Hitler has a great liking for the English people. He regards the English and the Germans as being of one race. This liking he cherishes notwithstanding, as he says, that he has been sorely tried by malicious personal comments and cartoons in the English Press.

"I was talking with Herr Hitler some eighteen months ago when he said, 'Certain English circles in Europe speak of me as an adventurer. My reply is that adventurers made the British Empire.'"

To this I added some details of a conversation I had had with him about relative air strengths, and the following week, in response, as will be seen, to the interest my picture of the man had aroused, I wrote further:

"My remarks about Herr Hitler last week aroused a great deal of interest, apparently, among readers who hitherto have had to form their idea of him from newspaper comments and caricature.

"Herr Hitler is proud to call himself a man of the people, but, notwithstanding, the impression that has remained with me after every meeting with him is that of a great gentleman. He places a guest at his ease immediately. When you have been with him for five minutes, you feel that you have known him for a long time.

"His courtesy is beyond words, and men and women alike are captivated by his ready and disarming smile.

"He is a man of rare culture. His knowledge of music, painting and architecture is profound."

Many people seemed to find difficulty in reconciling the conception of a man of culture with a man of resolute action.

Why this should be so, I do not know. British 'Christian Generals' like Havelock and Gordon had the same mixture of traits. General John Nicholson, one of the heroes of the Indian Mutiny, was a man of great culture and personal piety, but he was relentless not only with the enemy but with his own colleagues if he esteemed them weak. Almost his dying words when he learnt that his successor in command was showing an unwise softness to the enemy were, "Thank God, I still have strength enough left to shoot him!"

...Whatever means the new regime in Germany found necessary to establish itself, it is undoubtedly true, as I wrote on May 20th 1938 in The Daily Mail that: "Herr Hitler's policy is achievement without bloodshed.''

Were I to make public some of the communications which I have had from Herr Hitler, in a correspondence bridging now several years, it would be apparent that one of his dearest hopes, cherished, as he himself has told me, long before his advent to power in Germany, is that Germany and Britain should stand side by side in amity.

One sentence I may quote, for it is in no way different from some of his public utterances. It is this: "Whatever may happen, I want to assure you at the conclusion of this letter that I firmly believe that a time will come in which England and Germany will be the solid pillars in a worried and unstable world."

On another occasion Herr Hitler said to me, "If to-day I stand for an Anglo-German understanding, this does not date from yesterday or the day before. During the last fifteen years I have spoken in Germany at least 4,000 to 5,000 times before small, large and immense mass audiences. There does not, however, exist a single speech of mine, nor a single line ever written by me, in which I have expressed myself contrary to this opinion against an Anglo-German understanding. On the contrary, I have during all this time fought for it by word and in writing."

Despite the necessity for subordinating nearly everything to the gigantic task of rearming his country, Herr Hitler has a reasoned, as well as a temperamental, aversion from war. Some six years ago he expressed to me the belief that a methodical, scientific examination of European history over the last three hundred years would show that nine-tenths of the blood-sacrifices of the battle-fields was shed entirely in vain—that is to say, in vain measured by the natural interests of the participating nations.

He made no exception in the case of Germany. On the contrary, he insisted that his people in those three hundred years had lost at least twenty to twenty-five million souls, probably even more, in wars which had been essentially profitless to the nation, measured not in terms of a questionable fame but of practical profit.

As I have said earlier, people have accused Herr Hitler of megalomania. That, of course, is always the charge levelled against a man who emerges from the ruck and takes and wields power. It was said of Caesar, it was said of Napoleon, it was said of Rhodes.

That Hitler has a great and even mystic faith in his destiny is true. It would be strange, in the light of his achievements, if he had not...

I know that when the Anglo-German Trade Agreement was reached, Herr Hitler's belief was that it might well pave the way to a wider and better understanding.

In one of his addresses to his own people, Herr Hitler declared that his true wish was to see Germany freed from the necessity of wrangling with her neighbours, that he might pursue his work of rebuilding the nation not only metaphorically but actually.

His plans for the replanning of the great German cities are very dear to his heart. It can never be for-gotten, when one enjoys his personal hospitality, that in the days of his extreme youth, and extreme poverty, his aspirations were purely artistic and architectural. Those aspirations were thwarted by circumstances, but the inner spirit which inspired them has not really changed.

He has in him something of the dual nature of our own General Wolfe, the conqueror of Canada, who, as all schoolboys know, said he would rather have written Grey's 'Elegy' than take Quebec. If ever, by the grace of God, Europe enters upon an era of dependable peace in his life-time, it is quite certain that he will show in sociology the same drive and vision that he has hitherto shown in international and internal politics.

This is a side of his character which is rarely shown to the British public by those who comment upon him. It is, probably, a side completely overlooked by our diplomats in their dealings with him.

In writing thus of Hitler, the man, I have no desire merely to 'glorify' him or to seem to condone some of the acts and measures which he has found necessary during the six years of his autocracy to bring his people from the slough of odium and distress to their old position as a great nation able to bargain on terms of equality with their neighbours. My only desire is to give a sound perspective to the portrait of him in British minds, and to show that the ogre is, as I wrote a year ago, a human being of great culture.

In early 1939 after Hitler invaded Czechoslovakia Rothermere wrote 'a very indiscreet letter to the Fuhrer congratulating him on his walk into Prague' and urged Hitler to follow up his coup with the invasion of Romania. In June 1939, with war clouds gathering, Lord Rothermere wrote to Hitler, 'My Dear Fuhrer', again - a final love letter as it were - before war and Lord Rothermere's death signalled the end of their relationship:

"My Dear Führer, I have watched with understanding and interest the progress of your great and superhuman work in regenerating your country...The British people, now like Germany strongly rearmed, regard the German people with admiration as valorous adversaries in the past, but I am sure that there is no problem between our two countries which cannot be settled by consultation and negotiation."

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