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Letter From Robert Boothby to Churchill Regarding Meeting Hitler

(January 22, 1932)

Winston Churchill was concerned about Hitler’s anti-Semitic actions and rhetoric. This letter to Churchill from a fellow Conservative member of Parliament, Robert Boothby, describes Boothby’s meeting with Hitler and their discussion of the “the Jewish question.” It reveals concern about the Nazis, and perhaps something about latent anti-Semitism in the British establishment – a view not shared by Churchill. Later, while visiting Munich in 1932, Churchill met a German who offered to arrange a similar meeting with Hitler, but the Nazi leader failed to appear.

Dear Winston,

Many thanks for your cable. I am so relieved to hear you are now well on the road to recovery. But I fear it may be a tedious business, because you will not have begun to feel the full shock effects until quite recently.

I remember when I had my miserable little accident a couple of years ago. I though I had quite got over it until about three weeks later I started not sleeping, and for a time my nerves went all to blazes.

The only thing to do is to take it easy for a bit and I do hope you will.

Your Daily Mail articles made one feel that one had been through every stage of the accident with you, and caused a tremendous stir over here. What a time you have had.

It may be that you have not suffered greatly from delayed shock. But you must have had some. I found it comforting, in moments of the more savage depression, to reflect that there was a definite physical cause for my psychological condition, and - although this was more difficult to believe - that it was only a passing phase.

I’ve just got back from Germany, where I had a most interesting time.

They asked me to lecture in Hamburg and Berlin; and I had one audience of over 800 students, to whom I opened up on the values of democracy and personal liberty, as opposed to either fascism, communism, or the Roman Catholic Church!

They took it very well.

God intended them to be the docile and contented inhabitants of a series of bourgeois democratic states; but they were turned upside down by that filthy military clique and bogus Potsdam aristocracy. Now they are in a hopeless mess. The have no ‘flair’ for politics; and their parties are a mad jumble of conflicting forces and theories, based on institutions like the Trade Unions and the Catholic Church, which ought to be outside the business altogether.

But as a people they are tremendously formidable still, and I don’t blame the French for being frightened.

In Berlin I saw both Brüning and Hitler; and enclose an article I wrote for The Evening Standard, in case it should interest you.

At the end of my talk with Hitler I asked him what he was going to do to the Jews, and there was a grand scene, like a Bateman cartoon. Eventually he said he would veto ‘pogroms’, which wasn’t altogether reassuring. I told him that if he beat them up, it wouldn’t go down at all well in England, where we encouraged them to govern us. And afterwards a secretary confided to me that some of his more enthusiastic supporters had committed him a good deal farther than he intended to go.

The two things that impressed me most were their workers houses, which are magnificent; and their orderly desperation.

I sat next to a very nice young chap at dinner - a partner in Wassermanns Bank - and he said the most ‘hopeful’ characteristic of the younger generation in Germany was their fundamental desperation. The older people were lost without a foothold. But his own generation had never known security. They were thankful for anything - especially a good meal - and ready for anything, because they never knew what the morrow would bring.

Another man, also at the dinner, was manager of a chemical factory which was going into liquidation. I asked him if he was depressed, and he said “I can never be depressed again. I was captured by the Russians in 1915. I spent 9 months in Turkistan. Then I was sent to Siberia. I made enough money at woodwork to buy four horses and a sledge. I escaped and got to the Polish frontier in the winter of 1916-17, where I was recaptured.

Then I went to Vladivostock, and escaped again when the revolution came. I had to earn my living first under Koltchak, and then under the Bolsheviks; and I didn’t get back here till 1920.

After that I can’t burst myself over the liquidation of a Chemical factory.”

Brüning told me that he believed that the payment of reparations & international debts was fatal to the economic equilibrium of the world, and aggravated the currency difficulty: but that in any case no Chancellor who agreed to further payments would live for an hour in Germany. He pins his faith to a change in the French attitude after the elections; and said he would rather have the whole question shelved until the summer or autumn. He seems to have succeeded in this. But his outlook for the future is, on the face of it, unduly optimistic.

My warm regards to Mrs. Churchill, and best wishes for a successful tour - when it starts.

Yours ever


Sources: Library of Congress;
The Churchill Project.