Throughout the 1930’s, Winston Churchill spoke out concerning German rearmament, Britain’s lack of comparable military strength, and Adolf Hitler. Churchill spent most of the decade a mere Member of Parliament and not a member of the British Cabinet. By July of 1939, the British newspapers would demand overwhelmingly that Churchill be made a member of the Cabinet. ((The following British papers all featured editorials calling for Churchill be included in the Cabinet: Daily Telegraph, Observer, Yorkshire Post, Manchester Guardian, News Chronicle, Daily Mirror, Evening News, Star, and the Daily Worker. Martin Gilbert, Winston S. Churchill: Vol. 5, Prophet of Truth, 1922-1939 (London: Minerva, 1990), 1080-1082.))
One such newspaper declared on July 2, “That one who has so firm a grasp of the realities of European politics should not be included in the Government must be as bewildering to foreigners as it is regrettable to most of his own countrymen.” ((Martin Gilbert, Winston S. Churchill: Vol. 5, Prophet of Truth, 1922-1939 (London: Minerva, 1990), 1080.))
Churchill’s firm “grasp of the realities of European politics” come as early as 1930 on the subject of Hitler.
1930: SWEEPING FASCIST SUCCESS
In mid-September 1930, the reports of Germany’s elections were pouring in. The big news item was the gains made by the Nazi Party. The group that had received so much press recently had acquired 6.4 million German votes. This allowed the Nazis to increase their number of seats in the German Parliament from 12 to 107 leaving them second only to the Socialists, who had 143 seats.
With nearly a 900% increase in parliamentary power, the headlines in Britain were “SWEEPING FASCIST SUCCESS.” ((In big, bold CAPS, the the third title of the article read “SWEEPING FASCIST SUCCESS”. The Times, “The German Elections: Full Returns,” September 16, 1930.))
Early in the next month, Hitler gave an interview with The Times in which he explained that the Nazi Party was “not out for a bloody revolution.” He went on to proclaim that his party had made itself “the second strongest party, and at the next election we shall become the strongest party in the Reich.” Hitler assured the interviewer that, “We will conquer political power by strictly legal means.” ((The Times, “Nazi Foreign Policy: Herr Hitler’s Statement,” October 4, 1930.))
A few days later, Hitler gave a speech to approximately 30,000 party members, celebrating the recent elections. Hitler described the electoral process as the battle for a new German soul and national spirit. He went on to state that the recent election was merely a milestone on the road towards their final goal, which was the radical reformation of Germany by legal means. ((The Times, “Herr Hitler’s Speech: Alternative to Bolshevism,” October 6, 1930.))
Churchill Not Convinced
Churchill was following the news coming from Germany in detail and remained unconvinced. On October 19, 1930, he met with Prince Bismarck at the German Embassy to discuss current events. When the topic of Hitler and the Nazi Party arose, Churchill acknowledged Hitler’s declarations that he had no intention of waging a war of aggression, however, as the Prince noted, Churchill “was convinced that Hitler or his followers would seize the first available opportunity to resort to armed force.” ((Quoted in Martin Gilbert, Winston S. Churchill Volume V Companion Part 2 Documents: The Wilderness Years, 1929-1935 (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1981), 196-197.))
The Prince documented the conversation and sent it to the Foreign Ministry in Berlin. The Senior Counselor at the German Embassy in London attached a note stating, “Although one should always bear in mind Winston Churchill’s very temperamental personality when considering his remarks, they nevertheless deserve particular attention.” ((Ibid.))
The Prince concluded, “as far as can be humanly foreseen he [Churchill] will play an influential role in any Conservative government in years to come.” ((Quoted in Martin Gilbert, Winston S. Churchill: Vol. 5, Prophet of Truth, 1922-1939 (London: Minerva, 1990), 407.))
Both Churchill and the German Senior Counselor were correct in their predictions. In 1939, Hitler would invade Poland and a year later, Churchill would play an influential role as Prime Minister.