10.7.40

They have disabled the French battleship Richelieu, which was in Dakar harbour[1]. But no move to seize any of the French West African ports, which no doubt are not strongly held….. According to Vernon Bartlett[2], the Germans are going to make a peace offer along the lines I foresaw earlier, i.e. England to keep out of Europe but retain the Empire, and the Churchill government to go out and be replaced by one acceptable to Hitler. The presumption is that a faction anxious to agree to this exists in England, and no doubt a shadow cabinet has been formed. It seems almost incredible that anyone should imagine that the mass of the people would tolerate such an arrangement, unless they had been fought to a standstill first….. The Duke of Windsor[3] has been shipped off as Governor of the Bahamas, virtually a sentence of exile…… The book Gollancz has brought out, Guilty Men, the usual “indictment” of the Munich crowd, is selling like hot cakes. According to Time, the American Communists are working hand in glove with the local Nazis to prevent American arms getting to England. One can’t be sure how much local freedom of action the various Communists have. Till very recently it appeared that they had none. Of late however they have sometimes pursued contradictory policies in different countries. It is possible that they are allowed to abandon the “line” when strict clinging to it would mean extinction.

[1] On 8 July 1940, Royal Navy torpedo-boats attacked and seriously damaged the Richelieu at Dakar and the Jean Bart at Casablanca.

[2] Vernon Bartlett (1894-1983), author of many books on political affairs, was at this time a leading liberal political journalist. He worked for the News Chronicle (which tended to favour the Liberal Party’s approach) and reported on world crises, especially those associated with Hitler, Mussolini, and Far East.

[3] Edward, Duke of Windsor (1894-1972), had, as Prince of Wales, been extremely popular, and had expressed sympathy with the unemployed and those living in depressed areas. He ascended the throne, as Edward VIII, on 20 January 1936, but his decision to marry a twice-divorced woman, Mrs. Wallis Simpson, caused a crisis that led to his abdication on 10 December 1936. He and Mrs. Simpson married and lived in France thereafter except the war years, when he acted as governor of the Bahamas. Ill-feeling and controversy about the ‘Abdication Crisis’ has not entirely evaporated. Peter Davison

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36 Responses to 10.7.40

  1. JimmyGiro says:

    I believe the Duke of Windsor was implicated in giving information to the enemy regarding a downed German aircraft in Belgian territory, containing mission critical map data.

    If they sent him off out of mere spite over the abdication, they would have done that in the thirties.

  2. Pingback: Airminded · Post-blogging 1940

  3. Max says:

    The Duke of Windsor and his American wife were both pro-Hitler and had they not been ‘royalty’ would probably have been interned, like Oswald Mosley. The Bahamas was just an exotic internment camp. Hitler is said to have intended Edward to replace George after the German invasion, so what else could the British do with him? It was just a way of locking them away without appearing to do so.

  4. wordsmithsuk says:

    Fascinating information Max about the exile of the Duke of Windsor. I did not realise that a lot of people would have welcomed a Nazi invasion at that time.

  5. Greg says:

    It’s not clear to me why any communists would support the Nazis. My understanding was the Nazis went after them first when cleaning out German politics, and were ruthless about it. Why would American communists supporting American arms to England be self-destructive?

  6. Jim says:

    Greg– That’s an excellent question, and the answer will help you understand why Orwell wrote 1984 & Animal Farm. In 1939, Hitler and Stalin, formerly enemies (as you pointed out), made a “peace pact”.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Molotov%E2%80%93Ribbentrop_Pact

    Stalin’s friend defended as Russia’s only option to buy time to arm. Operation Barbarossa, the June 22nd, 1941 attack by Hitler on Russia, came as a surprise. Stalin thought Hitler would wait to conquer Britain before opening up another front.

    Crucially, communists in many countries saw the USSR as their best hope, as they hoped for Communist revolutions in their countries. This gave communists the reputations of caring more about the USSR than their own country. And many many communists outside of Russia DID leave the party in 1939 (with other waves leaving in 1956 in the wake of revelations about Stalin by Khrushev & revolts in Hungary & elsewhere).

    This willingness to follow the party line was unfortunately followed by many who thought highly of Mao in the 60’s (even as they agreed with Orwell re: the USSR). I highly recommend Orwell’s Road to Wigan Pier and Homage to Catalonia.

  7. George~~
    I just had to tell you that the “[i]t seems almost incredible that anyone should imagine…..” portion of today’s post was hilarious, thank you. Your short-term prophetic skills shine with this triumph.

    Thank you also, for sharing your thought processes as you sort out who is who in the chaos. For example, the American Communists are not befriending the Nazis, they are facilitating the destruction of England with an eye toward the same for America. Thank you for peering into the distinctive regional methodologies employed by the “various Communists” energized throughout the globe at this time.

    Meanwhile, it being Wednesday, the Germans send 70 planes to raid dock targets in South Wales. Also, according to my informants: In the British reckoning this is the first day of the battle of Britain.

  8. Max says:

    The American Nazi Bund was a force in America at that time. They were hardly in favour of saving Britain from Hitler. Orwell saw the American Communists as being ‘objectively fascist’, as he put it, at that time, so on the same side as the ANB people.

  9. Jim says:

    I wouldn’t say the American Nazi Bund was a powerful force. They existed (so technically they were a force), but not so powerfully as
    • Isolationists (who didn’t want America involved),
    • admirers of Hitler’s economic rebuilding and anti-communism &
    • pacifists and such
    (three distinct groups- center, right and left)

    Criticism of war was at an all-time high in the early thirties in the US and Britain; when memories of the useless slaughter of World War I were fresh in people’s mind.

    http://j.mp/DeLongGreatWar

  10. From Minute 9, War Cabinet Meeting, 11 July:

    The Prime Minister said that he proposed to broadcast on Sunday evening. In his speech he would refer to our relations with the French. He would say that it was not proposed to take any further action against units of the French Fleet, in particular the Jean Bart, and that His Majesty’s Government regarded that phase of the war as being over. He proposed to strike a restrained and not unfriendly note, and might refer to the French as an oppressed people, who would be liberated by the defeat of Germany.

    The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs said that in any public statement it would be better to describe any Frenchmen who were well disposed towards us as anti-Nazi or anti-German, rather than as pro-Ally or “free Frenchmen.”

    The War Cabinet took note of these statements.

  11. Bahamas as “a sentence of exile”? Not exactly Siberia is it, George.
    Telegraph reader I expect. I hope they don”t forget to post it to him.

  12. Max says:

    Quite right. And Mosley was released from detention half way through the war (1943) thanks to friends in high places. Orwell was not pleased and shook with anger behind his Daily Telegraph.

  13. C’mon Orwell, nothing for 2 days? Surely Jerry was doing something interesting over the ditch?

  14. Stephen says:

    The Duke of Windsor in the Caribbean makes an amusing and surprising appearance in William Boyd’s wonderful novel ‘Any Human Heart’.

  15. Greg says:

    Jim, I was more musing on individuals than party/national politics. And ignoring the realities of human nature, incomplete information and maybe cognitive dissonance to boot. I’m also thinking of the virulent and long-lasting hatred of the Nazis by postwar communist East Germans and their handlers. The book I had in mind was more “Out of the Night”. It still gives me the depressed creepy-crawlies, and I’ve always hoped it was at least somewhat exaggerated for propaganda.

    Change of topic, Eric Rudsdale gives a review of Churchhill:
    “The Prime Minister spoke on the radio today, another of his gloomy speeches, promising nothing but death and destruction to us all for years to come until the final victory which will give us FREEDOM and so on …”

    http://wwar2homefront.blogspot.com/

  16. Max says:

    The first German bombs had been dropped close to London and the Battle of Britain was getting under way over the Channel so presumably George has other things to occupy his mind than keeping up his diary. And isn’t he also busy reviewing plays and films in London around now?

  17. Jim says:

    Greg-
    “party/national politics” IS “individual” politics.

    That was consistently one of Orwell’s points– he was always trying to remind us of how dependent large, irrational structures were on individuals (you, me, folks reading this) ceasing to think– and made some good contributions, still relevant, to how that process works in Politics and The English Language.

    When individual Communists started thinking more, they left the Party in 1939 and 1956.

    I hadn’t heard of Out of the NIght

    Thanks for mentioning it.

  18. This may or may not be appropriate but I feel the following link is relevant to the nth power and so I must risk sharing it (though it’s been out there since January [2010]) here with Eric and E., in July 1940, for their encouragement. It involves a Holocaust survivor, his daughter and his grandchildren: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EUvo5OHH6o8 .

  19. Of course, the video is gone. I’m sorry. I have it here, if you’re interested => http://JamesonLewis3rd.com/Blog/?p=1696

  20. Barry Larking says:

    “I did not realise that a lot of people would have welcomed a Nazi invasion at that time.”

    This statement is groundless.

    “Quite right. And Mosley was released from detention half way through the war (1943) thanks to friends in high places. Orwell was not pleased and shook with anger behind his Daily Telegraph.”

    Orwell commented in print on Mosley’s release at the time. The Communists (who themselves had vigourously opposed the “bosses war” right up to June 1941) were in the forefront of demands to “hang Mosley”. Orwell points this out and writes though the government would be perfectly justified to execute Mosley if the Germans had invaded evidently thought him no danger by 1943.

    The Duke of Windsor was a foolish and irresponsible man but no leader nor traitor. He was simply too feckless to be left twiddling his thumbs in England. He got on with Americans and the Bahamas was the best place for him.

    It is almost impossible to re-construct the mental atmosphere, still less the political realities of 1940 in 2010. As matters stood no country apart from Hitler’s Germany had wished for war, nor could discern any outcomes from such a war which might prevail. There were none of the great tensions in Europe which preceded the First World War. The Second World War manufactured itself as it went along and drew in a bewildering cast of actors as it went. Who knows that Brazil joined the Allies in 1943? Orwell recounts ow two men captured in Normandy in 1944 spoke no known language and conversed only to each other. Eventually a British soldier who had spent time on the frontier of Tibet recognised their speech. It transpired they had been captured first by the Russians in Mongolia, sent to build fortifications and seized by invading Germans who next sent them to build fortresses in France. Finally they were returned home, as Orwell writes, knowing nothing about the world shaking events in which they were caught up. The same might said for many more who had less excuse, not least newspaper proprietors.

  21. Jim says:

    Barry-
    Why do you say “the second world war manufactured itself”? That almost sounds like the passive voice that Orwell warned against.

    I would say that Adolf Hitler was the aggressor. He lived in a country driven insane by the aftermath of World War II and a callous Versailles Treaty. He wanted war, always said as much; and Winston Churchill warned about him from 1934 onwards, for many years in vain.

    The world played games in which they said he wasn’t that strong, didn’t want war, wouldn’t be/wasn’t really that bad. But he was, he did, and he really was.

  22. Barry Larking says:

    Jim.

    In the sense that there were no war aims on the Allied side – a side which grew by default since apart from Britain and France (and their respective dominions) none of the others were beligrents until the war had been under way for a year or more. Even Italy did not declare war (on Britain alone) until June 1940. The only declared war aim came later with the demand for Germany’s ‘Unconditional surrender’ – effectively a device to keep the beligerents in the field, particularly Russia. During the war the major allies – Britain, Russia and the U.S.A. bargained and manovred for something like an agreed outcome, but nothing that had been set upon in September 1939 survived.

    Germany was not driven ‘insane’ (or sane) by the Versailles treaties (though German minorities in the newly created Czechoslovakia and elsewhere in the former German speaking lands of the east were restless. (Following the Allied victory in 1945 an estimated 10-12 million German speakers, including my in-laws family, were driven out of their homes in the east in the largest ethnic clensing in history.) The much vaunted determination in 1919 to ‘squeeze Germany until the pips squeak’ withered away. French troops enetered the Saarland in 1923 but even that was not sufficient to get Germay to pay. Indeed, in the years up to the Wall Street crash Germany had become an attractive centre of sophistication in many areas of life, rivalled only by Paris. The Great Depression ended that era. Widespread desititution (and a lax political system) gave Hitler his chance, but only narrowly.

    Many forget what events do to those who are caught up in them. Hitler, had he died in 1935, 38 or even 40, would not today be much of a figure attracting attention. Constantly people view the pre-War Hitler from the perspective of his great crimes – committed in the main after 1940-41. This is not how he was seen at the time.

    Regards

  23. A “virtual sentence of exile” (to paraphrase Orwell), is either evidence of a sense of humor or a complete lack of one.

    No matter how incorrigible this ne’er-do-well, he’s not going to swim away across the ocean to escape the Gauguin-esque life on a tropical island. Yes, he could acquire a boat, plane, et cetera but, why?

    It’s Monday, July 15 and the Democrat Party convention at Chicago opens. U-108 is launched. Battleship FS Richelieu is commissioned. SS Evdoxia [my grandmother's name] was sunk 40 miles SW of Bull Rock, Ireland by U-34.

    Speaking of virtual exile, the cruiser USS Trenton (CL-11) sails from Lisbon, Portugal for Annapolis, Maryland, USA, with members of the royal family of the Duchy of Luxembourg on board.

  24. Max says:

    Duke of Windsor ‘no traitor’. Well, neither was Petan till the Germans put him at the Head of Vichy France. The D of W was not given the chance to test his loyalty in similar circumstances.

    BL has the advantage of me. How did people see Hitler before 1941? I wasn’t around at the time as BL evidently was.

  25. Jim says:

    How to find out how people saw Hitler?
    1- Look at old magazines (orig copies can be found at universities)
    2- microfilm of papers
    3- contemporary history & current event books
    4- careful use of wikipedia and online sources

    I enjoyed reading a recent British book on the Seventies by Frances Wheeden, Strange Days Indeed. I lived through the decade, but I was better able to see some aspects of it (the paranoia & confusion) more clearly decades later.

    And I remember seeing a book in a communist bookstore that reprinted a warning from the early twenties on the dangers of Hitler. (Of course there could have been other books on other demagogues, but they wouldn’t be reprinted, as BL points out).

  26. “One can’t be sure how much local freedom of action the various Communists have. Till very recently it appeared that they had none.”

    They’ve been creeping around in the shadows and Orwell has been keeping an eye on them, watching as they step into the light ninja-like to scandalise the Socialist brand and to, basically, use guerrilla politics to undermine the very foundations of worldwide civilisation. It’s all a power play, the ritual Dance of the Interpretations of a 19th century manifesto. Orwell has herein given us an exquisite exercise in ideological muscle-flexing in two movements; something by Max Ernst as a backdrop; or Paul Klee.

  27. Barry Larking says:

    Max.

    Petain was the choice of the overwhelming number of French people, a fact forgot after the Allied victory when ‘French Resistance’ became the sole characterisation of the Occupation. With such support Petain was not a traitor, could not be. It is sobering to remember how few French people fought for the Resistance before June 1944. Out of many millions of French the pre-1944 Resistance was never more than around 5000. I have recently been at the Resistance Museum in Morvan, Burgundy and the bravery of these people is terribly moving. But they were few and most French people were their enemies in some sense. Four out of five denunciations of Resistance personnel to the German authorities were made by French people. Morvan tells nothing of this. Many times denied it seems the British (via code breaking) were well aware of the vulnerabilities of the Resistance to double agents and may have exploited this. Certainly one head of the Resistance in Paris was a known double agent and used by both sides to deceive the other before the Normandy landings.

    There are no grounds for promoting the feeble Duke of Windsor to the status of traitor. Unless I see evidence I cannot even join in the condemnation. Yet pointing fingers in France had dire consequences. As late as the 60s French men were being killed for what they had done or not done during the Occupation. It is a dark passage in French history and one which ought now to be approached with care and sympathy.

    I was born post War. Until very recently I accepted in broad measure the explanations and details of the Second World War at face value. Only experience and reflection have bought to the surface some rather glaring anomalies and contradictions which ought to have been obvious from the beginning. I ought to have added that had Churchill died before the war began or soon after he too would be forgot by now; even moreso de Gaulle. Curiously, Mussolini, the least impressive major war time leader might survive in historical terms dying five or ten years sooner.

    Regards.

  28. CAL says:

    I was in college from 1938 to 1942; that’s why I’m reading all your comments with interest. We were — at least I was — aware of Hitler’s rise, of the terrible things going on in Germany and in China. We knew that before long we, too, would be in the war, and were dreading it.

  29. Jim says:

    Thanks for sharing your knowledge, Barry. It is helpful. Since you were born after the war, your experience must be of reading, and perhaps some conversations you’ve had. Might you want to name some books, documents & conversations that have been helpful for you?

  30. Barry Larking says:

    Jim.

    It is rather a matter of thinking things through. I have read much, including memoirs (mostly self serving), articles and commentaries, listened and conversed. The chronology of the events of the Second World War is worth examining in detail and by comparing and contrasting this with statements and so on. I am not an historian by training simply a reader and conversationalist. I note that I have perhaps over emphaised here or there; yet, I once met a man who had been present at a decisive battle in the east (a British P.O.W. he had to cut German SS officers hair – “very, very vain”). Only years later did he discover he had been in the midst of ‘history’. Witnesses to events see only as much as we might imagine ourselves. One thing which strikes me is how the shape of the Second World War has changed over time; by this I mean the shifts of significance given to various phases and or participants. Orwell fascinates because he wrote from the sidelines for a obscure publications but some of his judgements (see for example “Not Counting Niggers” – and I apologise for the offensive word, his not mine) were extraordinarily prescient.

    Regards.

  31. Alex says:

    Thanks to all for the insightful comments.

    It’s refreshing to get a view of WWII that doesn’t include nationalist claptrap.

    And thanks also to B. Larking for pointing out G.O.’s essay.

    Written at a time when Britain was at the pinnacle of the world system, it does indeed seem prescient. Currently, in the United States left wing politics are similarly “humbug”. Also, the ‘Peace Bloc’ which Orwell rails into is very similar to contemporary criticisms lodged against the G20 and other like-minded organizations.

  32. James Russell says:

    Considering that the Treaty of Versailles did not drive Germany insane is to ignore the effects of the hyper inflation that struck Germany in the late ’20s. We have only had a glimpse into the psychological damage caused by a failure of the banking system by recent events, but seeing all savings destroyed by inflation at previously unheard of levels, where money becomes a joke, and normal trading conventions break down completely in a leading industrialised nation must have had a long-lasting effect on the psyche of the German people. And this was certainly fuelled, if entirely caused by the Versailles treaty as well as problems across the Atlantic.

    This, and the rather bizarre situation where Germany surrendered at the end of the Great War without foreign powers setting foot on German soil are generally regarded as two important factors in the rise of Facism in Germany. It can be seen here in Europe as increasing immigration from improved mobility mixed with economic downturn has moved significant numbers of the general population to the far right.

    That is not to ignore the effect of the use of mass propaganda, including promulgating distortions and rabble-rousing displays of power in hoodwinking/inspiring people to support a new form of politic, but without the environment, it is unlikely that such a policy would have gained such a level of support so quickly.

  33. That Germany had already been stark-raving mad for decades prior to Hitler’s rise to infamy is an interesting perspective.

    Does this say that Germany was so utterly resentful because they were guilty as charged to the point that, to avoid admitting it to themselves, they became a nation of obsessive/compulsive sociopaths seeking vengeance upon all humanity for their own guilt?

    We all remember that Early Spring day in Versailles when Foreign Minister Ulrich Graf von Brockdorff-Rantzau announced that, “Wir kennen die Wucht des Hasses, die uns hier entgegentritt. Es wird von uns verlangt, daß wir uns als die allein Schuldigen am Krieg bekennen; ein solches Bekenntnis wäre in meinem Munde eine Lüge [We know the full brunt of hate that confronts us here. You demand from us to confess we were the only guilty party of war; such a confession in my mouth would be a lie.].”

  34. Barry Larking says:

    James Russell.

    Hyper inflation in Germany was a serious as you contend but following re-structuring Germany was soon successful, industrially and econmically, more so than post 1918 France or perhaps, Britain. It was the Wall Street crash which produced the miserable effects you describe (and not solely in Germany). The Treaty of Versailles can take no credit nor blame for this. Germany’s terms forced on Russia in March 1918 at Brest Litovsk were rather harsher in any case.

    You mentinon the fact that no Allied soldier set foot on German soil despite the defeat of the German armies; this single fact was an important rallying cry for the Nazis. ‘Never defeated, simply stabbed in the back – by the Jews and Communists’. It found a ready audience.

  35. Jim says:

    The link to the essay by George Orwell which talks of the racism of early plans for a United Nations are here.

    http://j.mp/9vcR3l

    I was pretty sensitized to this by watching The Battle Of Algiers this weekend, along with the excellent accompanying documentaries in the Criterion Collection version (available at better DVD rental outlets everywhere).

    In Algeria, white French settlers were 10% of the population, and dominated the 90% of muslim, arab natives. On day of Nazi surrender, Algerians held a celebration parade and noted that, having served in the war, they wanted that much-vaunted freedom and self-determination. Gendarmes seized the banners, which led to riots in which 103 whites were killed. This was followed by a French massacre of 6,000-plus natives.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S%C3%A9tif_and_Guelma_massacre

    This triggered a long civil war in which the French were asked to approve of torture & much else as the only method of staying there. French voters refused in an 1961 referendum.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/French_referendum_on_Algerian_self-determination,_1961

    I left out many details, which are available in various Wikipedia articles. Again, Orwell’s essay is at http://j.mp/9vcR3l

  36. jhameac says:

    Thanks Jim so much for the link to this essay. GO shows great insight – “prescience” I think BL terms it – no doubt, but who would skip a breakfast of phrases such as his “monstrous harlequinade” or “pettifogging grizzle”!

    I admire Orwell’s trust in individuals and mistrust of societal organs, as in his concluding paragraph, e.g. “…how to mobilize the decency of the English people, which one meets with everywhere when one talks to human beings instead of reading newspapers.”

    Kudos.

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