Friday, December 18, 2015

The 1937 Meeting of Ribbentrop and Churchill: Hitler Offered an Alliance Between Germany and the British Empire

The foundation of Hitler's goals was the reunification of the German people and securing their future existence via living space. Hitler's vision of the Europe's future also conceived of an alliance with Britain and Italy, a Europe united in peace, and an end to Communism in the world. An alliance with the British Empire was integral to Hitler's world vision; he saw in it a stabilizing world force and a racial ally. In 1937, Ribbentrop met Churchill and conveyed this; to realize it, German was prepared to make great concessions.

Ribbentrop was the first to describe the meeting. During testimony at the Nuremberg Trial in 1946, Ribbentrop described the details of his meeting with Churchill in 1937.

Map showing British shipping and the Empire's holdings as of 1937.

The polestar of Hitler's foreign policy was 1) reunification of lost German peoples and lands back into the Reich and 2) securing of their future existence. To realize the latter, Hitler had envisioned the extension of German living space at the expense of the USSR. Hitler's key, desired allies in Europe, for strategic and geopolitical reasons, included Italy and Britain; a neutral France, Belgium, and Holland would ensure stability in Western Europe. After World War I, these ideas settled like rich and fertile soil. In Mein Kampf, Hitler writes:
On soberest and coldest reflection, it is today primarily these two states, England and Italy, whose most natural selfish interests are not, in the most essential points at least, opposed to the German nation's requirements for existence, and are, indeed, to a certain extent, identified with them. [1]
Hitler's desire for an alliance with Italy was principally political and cultural: Hitler admired Mussolini's Fascist regime, and in time would come to develop a sense of loyalty to the Duce that would not dissipate even at the height of war. Mussolini's ambitions, moreover, were not a threat or nuisance to Hitler's real ambitions. Mussolini's conception of Italian "vital space" (spazio vitale) would be extended principally to areas in the Balkans, North Africa, and the Mediterranean. Mussolini also shared Hitler's strong anti-Bolshevism.

Hitler's desire for an alliance with Britain was racial, cultural, and ideological. His admiration for the British people and his respect for the Empire that they had built is expressed at an unusual moment of history: In 1940, after Hitler occupied France and the Low Countries, remaining British forces fled to Dunkirk, and Hitler had to decide between allowing them to flee or capturing them. He allowed them to be rescued. Hitler confided to Frau Troost:
The blood of every single Englishman is too valuable to shed. Our two people belong together, racially and traditionally. That is and always has been my aim, even if our generals can't grasp it. [2]
Hitler had no desire for war with Britain, and viewed the Empires of Britain, France, Belgium Italy, Portugal, Spain and the Netherlands as vital elements of stability in the world and the basis of lasting weal and prosperity in Europe. It was vital to reach an understand with the British Empire, since it was the key to peace and unity in Europe. Indeed, there was no real cause for conflict: British interests were commercial, naval, and colonial, its Empire a sea power. The German Reich was a soil and land power, with continental interests.

Hitler's worldview conceived of a basic, natural constellation of interests: The United States as handmaiden of the Americas, the British Empire as master of the seas, the Empires of Western Europe as overseer of Africa, Central Asia, and the Far East, and the German Reich as steward of Eastern Europe and Eurasia.[3] From 1933 on, Hitler focused his efforts with Britain on the creation of an Anglo-German entente or alliance. Hitler's peace offers and proposals made by Hitler through the 1930s were thorough and extensive.

In 1937, Ribbentrop, still German Ambassador to Britain, asked to meet with Churchill, who was influential in Parliament but not yet Prime Minister. Ribbentrop would later remark on this meeting at Nuremberg. In The Gathering Storm, Churchill recalls their meeting, stating that Ribbentrop told him that Hitler was prepared to make far-reaching concessions:
The gist of his statement to me was that Germany had sought the friendship of England. On the Continent we are still often called England. He said he could have been Foreign Minister of Germany, but he had asked Hitler to let him come over to London in order to make the full case for Anglo-German entente, or even alliance. Germany would stand guard for the British Empire with all its greatness and extent. They might ask for the return of the German colonies, but this was evidently not cardinal. What was required was that Britain should give Germany a free hand in the East of Europe. She must have her Lebensraum, or living space, for her increasing population. Therefore, Poland and the Danzig Corridor must be absorbed. White Russia and the Ukraine were indispensable to the future life of the German Reich, of more than seventy million souls.
Behind Ribbentrop's informal proposal was a serious conviction on Hitler's part that Britain and Germany belonged together. Hitler believed that British difficulties with Germany arose not from any real conflict of interest, but from discord created by Jewish influence and both Zionist and American meddling. Among the several points Ribbentrop raised, he said:
  1. Germany sought at least the friendly neutrality of Britain.
  2. Germany sought at most a formal alliance with Britain.
  3. Germany recognized the existence of the British Empire, and whether in an entente or alliance, was prepared to use its own resources to preserve it.
  4. Germany sought to extend its influence and presence in the East at the expense of the Soviet Union; all it asked of Britain was noninterference.
In the early 1950s, Churchill recorded an audio version of The Gathering Storm. Here is the segment pertaining to the above passage from his postwar book:

US neoconservatives claim that Churchill had some sort of special insight into Hitler's actual intentions; for example, that Hitler was bent on war, despite a stated desire for peace. Such claims twist the facts. They appear credible, because they are partially factual: Hitler was indeed bent on war, but the war he ultimately wanted was against Stalin's regime. Churchill knew this, both from his meeting with Ribbentrop and via his own understanding of Hitler in his writings and speeches. It was Churchill's choice to lie so he could get his war.

Churchill also knew that Hitler had preferred an alliance with Poland to war. Polish Marshal Rydz-Smigly, who had been supported by Poland's Jews in his promotion to his post, once remarked that "Poland wants war with Germany and Germany will not be able to avoid it even if she wants to." Churchill was aware a British war guarantee to Poland would compel Hitler to use force if he wanted to regain Danzig and make a thrust toward the Soviet Union. For Churchill and world Jewry, the British war guarantee was meant to ensure war.
"There is only one power which really counts. The power of political pressure. We Jews are the most powerful people on earth, because we have this power, and we know how to apply it." - Vladimir Jabotinsky, Jewish Daily Bulletin, 27 July, 1935
"When the National-Socialists and their friends cry or whisper that this [World War II] is brought about by Jews, they are perfectly right." - Jewish magazine, Sentinel of Chicago, 8 October, 1940
"Germany’s most unforgivable crime before the Second World War was her attempt to extricate her economic power from the world’s trading system and to create her own exchange mechanism which would deny world finance its opportunity to profit." - Winston Churchill, to Lord Robert Boothby, quoted in Sidney Rogerson, Propaganda in the Next War, Foreword to 2nd Ed., 2001
World Jewry wanted a war of retribution against Hitler and an opportunity to use historical victimization as a weapon to bludgeon nations into funding their Israeli State. Both Jewish and Anglo-American financiers wanted to bring Germany back to heel under world finance and have unlimited opportunities to exploit her resources. Hitler had wanted a Germany with sufficient living space to secure autarky for the German people. His vision was a threat to the order that world Jewry wanted to impose on Europe and the entire world.

After the war, a victorious Soviet Union betrayed a resentment over what it claimed was the efforts of the British government to 
conspire with Hitler to give him a free hand in the East in exchange for an alliance; Soviet intelligence had it backwards, as it was Hitler that sought a union with Britain, but it is telling that they were aware of this fatal contingency.

The specter of this contingency raises questions about the outcomes of an Anglo-German alliance, or even a minimal assumption of British neutrality: There would have been no war guarantee to Poland and no war in the West; an agreement over Danzig would likely have been followed by a German-Polish alliance; a war against the U.S.S.R. may have occurred in early 1940, and with the Red Army reeling from Stalin's Great Purge in the late 1930s, it would likely have been defeated. Communism may have collapsed in 1940.

The Empires of Western Europe, including the French Empire, the Dutch Empire, and the Belgian Empire, would have endured, and Europe would have remained central in world affairs with few, if any, assailants. Hitler would have used Germany's position to block competition, including from Japan, to Europe's cornering of markets. There would have been no racial decline, and no crisis of mass immigration to Europe and America, and the nations of the West would likely have undergone a scientific and cultural renaissance.

[1] Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf, Vol. 2, Ch. 13.
[2] Quoted in John Toland, Adolf Hitler, Doubleday & Company, New York, 1976, p. 706.
[3] This map shows the distribution of world powers and Europe's Empires. If you click on the map, you can see the imperial possessions of Britain, France, Belgium and Holland. Each nation is labeled as such.