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Winston Churchill: Speech to the Allied Delegates

(June 12, 1941)

In the twenty-second month of the war against Nazism, we meet here in this old Palace of St. James's, itself not unscarred by the fire of the enemy, in order to proclaim the high purposes and resolves of the lawful constitutional governments of Europe whose countries have been overrun, and we meet here also to cheer the hopes of free men and free peoples throughout the world.

Here before us on the table lie the title deeds of ten nations or states whose soil has been invaded and polluted and whose men women and children lie prostrate or writhing under the Hitler yoke.

But here also, duly authorized by Parliament and the democracy of Britain, are gathered the servants of the ancient British monarchy and the accredited representatives of the British dominions beyond seas of Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, of the Empire of India, of Burma and of our colonies in every quarter of the globe. They have drawn their swords in this cause. They will never let them fall till life is gone or victory is won.

Here we meet while from across the Atlantic Ocean the hammers and lathes of the United States signal in a rising hum their message of encouragement and their promise of swift and ever-growing aid.

What tragedies, what horrors, what crimes has Hitler and all that Hitler stands for brought upon Europe and the world! The ruins of Warsaw, of Rotterdam, of Belgrade are monuments which will long recall to future generations the outrage of unopposed air bombing applied with calculated scientific cruelty to helpless populations. Here in London and throughout the cities of our island and in Ireland there may also be seen marks of devastation. They are being repaid and presently they will be more than repaid.

But far worse than these visible injuries is the misery of the conquered peoples. We see them hounded, terrorized, exploited. Their manhood by the million is forced to work under conditions indistinguishable in many cases from actual slavery. Their goods and chattels are pillaged or filched for worthless money. Their homes, their daily life are pried into and spied upon by the all pervading system of secret political police which, having reduced the Germans themselves to abject docility, now stalks the streets and byways of a dozen lands. Their religious faiths are affronted, persecuted or oppressed in the interest of a fanatic paganism devised to perpetuate the worship and sustain the tyranny of one abominable creature. Their traditions, their culture, their laws, their institutions, social and political alike, are suppressed by force or undermined by subtle, coldly planned intrigue.

The prisons of the continent no longer suffice. The concentration camps are overcrowded. Every dawn German volleys crack. Czechs, Poles, Dutchmen, Norwegians, Yugoslavs and Greeks, Frenchmen, Belgians, Luxemburgers make the great sacrifice for faith and country. A vile race of Quislings-to use a new word which will carry the scorn of mankind down the centuries-is hired to fawn upon the conqueror, to collaborate in his designs and to enforce his rule upon their fellow countrymen while groveling low themselves. Such is the plight of once glorious Europe and such are the atrocities against which we are in arms.

Your excellencies, my lords and gentlemen, it is upon this foundation that Hitler, with his tattered lackey, Mussolini, at his tail and Admiral Darlan frisking by his side, pretends to build out of hatred, appetite and racial assertion a new order for Europe. Never did so mocking a fantasy obsess the mind of mortal man.

We cannot tell what the course of this fell war will be as it spreads, remorseless, through ever wider regions.

It will not be by German hands that the structure of Europe will be rebuilt or union of the European family achieved. In every country into which the German armies and Nazi police have broken there has sprung up from the soil a hatred of the German name and contempt for the Nazi creed which the passage of hundreds of years will not efface from human memory.

We know it will be hard; we expect it to be long, we cannot predict or measure its episodes or its tribulations. But one thing is certain, one thing is sure, one thing stands out stark and undeniable, massive and unassailable for all the world to see. We cannot see how deliverance will come or when it will come, but nothing is more certain that every trace of Hitler's footsteps, every stain of his infected, corroding fingers will be sponged and purged and, if need be, blasted from the surface of the earth.

We are here, your excellencies, to affirm and fortify our union in that ceaseless and unwearying effort which must be made if the captive peoples are to be set free.

A year ago His Majesty's Government was left alone to face the storm, and to many of our friends and enemies alike it may have seemed that our days, too, were numbered and that Britain and its institutions would sink forever beneath the verge. But I may with some pride remind your excellencies that even in that dark hour when our army was disorganized and almost weaponless when scarcely a gun or tank remained in Britain, when almost all our stores and ammunition had been lost in France, never for one moment did the British people dream of making peace with the conqueror and never for a moment did they despair of the common cause.

On the contrary, we proclaimed at that very time to all men, not only to ourselves, our determination not to make peace until every one of the ravaged and enslaved countries was liberated and until the Nazi domination was broken and destroyed.

See how far we have traveled since those breathless days of June, a year ago! Our solid, stubborn strength has stood an awful test. We are the masters of our own air and now reach out in ever-growing retribution upon the enemy. The Royal Navy holds the seas. The Italian fleet cowers, diminished, in harbor and the German Navy largely is crippled or sunk.

The murderous raids upon our ports, cities and factories have been powerless to quench the spirit of the British nation, to stop our national life or check the immense expansion of our war industry. Food and arms from across oceans are coming safely in. Full provision to replace all sunken tonnage is being made here, and still more by our friends in the United States. We are becoming an armed community. Our land forces are being perfected in equipment and training.

Hitler may turn and trample this way and that through tortured Europe. He may spread his course far and wide and carry his curse with him. He may break into Africa or into Asia. But it is here, in this island fortress, that he will have to reckon in the end. We shall strive to resist by land and sea.

We shall be on his track wherever he goes. Our air power will continue to teach the German homeland that war is not all loot and triumph. We shall aid and stir the people of every conquered country to resistance and revolt. We shall break up and derange every effort which Hitler makes to systematize and consolidate his subjugations. He will find no peace, no rest, no halting place, no parley. And if, driven to desperate hazards, he attempts invasion of the British Isles, as well he may, we shall not flinch from the supreme trial. With the help of God, of which we must all feel daily conscious, we shall continue steadfast in faith and duty till our task is done.

This then, my lords and gentlemen, is the message which we send forth today to all states and nations, bound or free, to all the men in all the lands who care for freedom's cause. To our Allies and well-wishers in Europe, to our American friends and helpers drawing ever closer in their might across the ocean, this is the message-lift up your hearts, all will come right. Out of depths of sorrow and sacrifice will be born again the glory of mankind.

[British Library of Information]

Sources: ibiblio