Major-General Gerd Schultze-Rhonhof (ret.) tallks about his groundbreaking revisionist history of the run-up to the Second World War, “The War That Had Many Fathers” (Der Krieg der viele Väter hatte).
This fascinating lecture has racked up more than 200,000 views in various uploads on YouTube, but despite the existence of an excellent Portuguese translation, until now there has been no English version available for the rest of us. Break the spell of more than seven decades of “Allied” propaganda and try seeing the run-up to 1 September 1939 as the Germans did. The results might surprise you. Essential viewing.
Note 1: According to Duff Cooper’s own account of the event, as published in his 1953 volume of memoirs “Old Men Forget,” his wife did not read the Sixteen Points, but rather heard them on the radio when they were broadcast by the BBC, belatedly, on 31 August 1939:
“On the morning of September 1st I played golf at Goodwood. I never played worse. I couldn’t concentrate on the game because I was thinking of what had happened the night before. We had listened to the eleven o’clock news and had heard the German sixteen points to Poland given out without commentary. I was horrified. And was the more horrified because Diana [his wife] hearing them said that they did not seem to her unreasonable. I tried to explain to her how they meant the end of Poland, but I felt that the reactions of millions of people might be the same as hers.
“I rang up Winston, who said he felt exactly as I did, but that he had already spoken to the Daily Mail, who were inclined to take a favorable view of the German proposals. . .. I then got on to Camrose [William Berry, Baron (later Viscount) Camrose, owner of the Daily Telegraph and other papers], who also agreed with me. . .. I urged that the Daily Telegraph should come out with a strong leading article condemning the terms.
“When we had finished our round of golf we went into the club house for a drink. Two men sitting at the bar were discussing future race-meetings. One of the two, the secretary, I knew slightly. As we left he said to me, ‘Hitler started on Poland this morning.’ . . . That was how I heard that the second World War had begun. As we drove back to Bognor my heart felt lighter than it had for a year.”
– Old Men Forget (London: Ruper Hart Davis, 1953), p. 257
Despite his faulty “staging” of the event (perhaps the result of extrapolating from secondary sources), Schultze-Rhonhof thus clearly has the gist of the story correct: Duff Cooper—and Winston Churchill, too—were alarmed at the prospect of the British public finding the program of the Sixteen Points a reasonable alternative to war, and used their influence with the press to ensure that it be presented in as unfavorable a light as possible.
(For the original Sixteen Points, see “Documents on the Events Preceding the Outbreak of the War” http://www.ibiblio.org/pha/policy/pre…, pp. 485-8. A recording of the 1939 BBC broadcast which Diana Cooper heard is available on the BBC site: http://www.bbc.co.uk/archive/ww2outbr….)
Note 2: The passage from Churchill’s speech @ 33:58 is not in fact a direct quotation, but rather a loose paraphrase of his remarks taken from a secondary German source (Erich Kern, “Verheimlichte Dokumente: Was den Deutschen verschwiegen wird”). Churchill’s actual words from the most relevant part of the speech, as recorded in the Hansard transcripts, are as follows:
“The removal of the just grievances of the vanquished ought to precede the disarmament of the victors. I hope I have made that quite clear. To bring about anything like equality of armaments, if it were in our power to do so, which it happily is not, while those grievances remain unredressed, would be almost to appoint the day for another European war—to fix it as if it were a prize fight. It would be far safer to reopen questions like those of the Dantzig Corridor, and Transylvania, with all their delicacy and difficulty, in cold blood and in a calm atmosphere and while the victor nations still have ample superiority, than to wait and drift on, inch by inch and stage by stage, until once again vast combinations, equally matched, confront each other face to face.”
Note also that the correct date for the speech is 23 (not 24) November 1932, and that it was given before the House of Commons. (Schultze-Rhonhof incorrectly states that it was an “Oberhausrede,” i.e., a speech before the [“Upper”] House of Lords.)