As has been established from his writings, speeches and conversations during the late 1920s and early 1930s, the idea of Anglo-German collaboration against Bolshevism lay at the core of Hitler's foreign policy plans. This was a subject he invested with great hope, enthusiasm and an increasing sense of urgency in view of the perceived potential for a vast increase in Soviet power after 1928. The success of any such schemes, however, clearly depended not only on his desires and preferences but also on the response they received in Britain. Were the British, as Hitler believed, 'far-seeing' in recognizing the danger represented by the USSR? Were they prepared to play their part in ensuring the 'salvation and preservation of Europe and its culture'? In short, could the British Empire be won over to the idea of collaboration with a National Socialist Germany against the scourge of international Bolshevism?1
On the surface, the auspices for such a development, as judged from Berlin at the outset of Hitler's rule, did not appear entirely hopeless. The history of Anglo-Russian (and since 1917 Anglo Soviet) relations had never been especially happy. Allied now to the traditional Anglo-Russian rivalry in Asia was a deep rooted ideological conflict, manifested in numerous ways but most notably in British intervention against the Bolsheviks during the Russian civil war. It had also played a part in several ugly developments in Anglo-Soviet relations during the 1920s, such as the Zinoviev letter and Arcos raid. Moreover, influential British personalities had on numerous occasions spoken out against the Soviet regime and the threat that Bolshevism, with its proclaimed aim of universal revolution, posed to Germany and the wider world. 'The greatest danger that I see in the present situation,' proclaimed the British prime minister in 1919, 'is that Germany may throw in her lot with Bolshevism and place her resources, her brains, her vast organizing power at .the disposal of the revolutionary fanatics whose dream is to conquer the world for Bolshevism by force of arms. This danger is no mere chimera.'2 Lloyd George's secretary of state for war, Winston Churchill, was equally suspicious of Russia's new rulers and their dangerous ideology. 'If German democracy puts up a fight against Bolshevism and erects a bulwark against this doctrine,' he wrote in the Daily Express in April 1919, 'it will take its first step in tandem with the civilized world.'3
Ironically, in view of the role he would subsequently play in thwarting Hitler's ambitions, Churchill not only abhorred Bolshevism, as demonstrated by the leading role he had played in the movement for British intervention in the Russian civil war, but by 1930 evidently shared some of Hitler's ideas about how best to deal with it. Speaking to the charge d'affaires at the German embassy in London in October 1930, the future prime minister gave vent to his dislike of the Soviets whose practice of dumping goods on the world market at prices that undercut their competitors should, he suggested, be challenged by a German-French-British bloc under German leadership. What most alarmed Churchill, however, was the process of rapid modernization inaugurated under the first five year plan. The 'gradually accelerating industrialization' of Russia was 'a matter of extreme danger for the whole of Europe', which, despite the inevitable setbacks and Russian incompetence, 'could only be halted by the creation of a joint alliance against Russia, comprising the rest of Europe and America'.4 In common with many of his countrymen, however, Churchill, though vigorously anti-Bolshevik, was also highly suspicious of National Socialism and thoroughly distrustful of Hitler who, he was convinced, 'would seize the first available opportunity to resort to armed force'.5 Here, in essence, lay one of the dilemmas that would confront Hitler in his dealings with the British during the 1930s. While few people in Britain held any brief for Bolshevism or the Soviet system, their attitude towards it was largely defensive and founded on the desire to stem its advance rather than combine with other powers to destroy it by means of an international crusade. To that extent the perception of Germany as a bulwark against Bolshevism and the protector of Western civilization, to which numerous British personalities gave frequent expression during the 1930s, may well for a time have created a falsely encouraging impression in Berlin, where there was a considerable capacity for misconstruing things English.6
Nevertheless, despite this generally defensive attitude to the Bolshevik threat, it would be misleading to suggest that Hitler's warnings and pleas for British collaboration failed to make their mark in some sections of British society. Individuals such as Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Moore MP and C. G. Grey, editor of The Aeroplane, were from very early on enthusiastic supporters of the German leader's stand against the Bolsheviks; so too was the owner of the Daily Mail, Lord Rothermere, whose newspaper regularly championed the German cause on a variety of international issues. Thus, in an April 1934 issue of The Aeroplane, Grey wrote that if and when Russia began its onslaught 'Germany, backed by British troops on the ground and the Royal Air Force in the air, will probably prove to be quite an adequate defense of Western civilization'.7
On similar lines the Daily Mail had proclaimed in November 1933 that the National Socialists were Europe's 'guardians against the Communist danger'.8 Another British peer, the secretary of state for air from 1931 to 1935, Lord Londonderry, was equally persuaded of the role that Germany, with British support, had to play in combating the Bolshevik menace. During his visit to Germany in early 1936 Londonderry was successfully propagandized by Nazi leaders and later recorded his impressions in a book entitled Ourselves and Germany. Londonderry doubtless spoke for many people, particularly those on the right of the political spectrum, in confessing to the suspicion that the British Foreign Office appeared to 'condone the associations with communism and Bolshevism through our affiliation with France, while paying but little regard to the robust attitude of Germany, Italy and Japan which whole-heartedly condemn communism and Bolshevism', which was a 'world-wide doctrine which aims at the internal disruption of all modern systems of Government with the ultimate object of what is termed World Revolution'.9 That being the case, Londonderry reasoned, in 1938, 'I was at a loss to understand why we could not make common ground in some form or another with Germany in opposition to Communism.'10
Even in these cases, however, the emphasis was less on an offensive strategy to eliminate the USSR as the centre of jewish Bolshevism' than on the importance of Britain and Germany standing shoulder to shoulder to defend western Europe against any possible future onslaught from the east. Few people, and certainly nobody in a position of genuine authority, were prepared to countenance let alone support German domination of eastern Europe, which would be the logical consequence of a victorious German attack on the USSR. If the Germans entertained an ideal in this respect it was most obviously represented by Sir Henry 'Chips' Channon, the Conservative MP for Southend who, clearly intoxicated by the anti-Bolshevik invective that had been the chief feature at the 1936 Nuremberg rally, saw nothing objectionable in the idea that 'we should let gallant little Germany glut her fill of the reds in the East and keep decadent France quiet while she does so.' Harold Nicolson, who recorded these words on 20 September 1936, retorted in a manner that might reasonably be taken to be more typical of the British mentality of the mid-1930s, particularly in view of the reaction Nazi internal policy had produced in Britain, and one that to an extent even helped to determine official British attitudes towards the Nazi regime. 'I say that this may be expedient but that it is wrong,' he wrote indignantly. 'We represent a certain type of civilized mind, and that we are sinning against the light if we betray that type. We stand for tolerance, truth, liberty and good humor. They stand for violence, oppression, untruthfulness and bitterness.'11
Despite Hitler's hopes, the general reaction to his assumption of power and the first repressive steps of his regime produced a profoundly negative impression in Britain, so much so that by May 1933 he felt compelled to register his disappointment to the British ambassador that British public opinion towards Germany had deteriorated sharply 'directly he had entered on [sic] office'.12 Nor was any improvement effected by the visit to London that same month of Rosenberg, whose assurances that the Hitler regime represented a factor for stability and a guarantee against the spread of communism in Europe. This made little impression on the British foreign secretary who instead instructed Rosenberg that Germany had in the space of two months 'lost the sympathy which she had gained in this country in ten years'13 Not only the German ambassador, Leopold von Hoesch, who wrote that the visit had caused British hostility to the new Germany to break out with 'full force',14 but Rosenberg too appears to have realized the severely detrimental effects of the visit that came to be characterized by a famous incident at the Cenotaph when an enraged British ex-serviceman threw into the Thames the swastika bedecked wreath that the German envoy had laid. Back in Berlin Rosenberg reflected that public opinion had been so obdurately anti-German that he had felt as if he had been 'on enemy territory'. Moreover, according to a British banker with whom he had spoken, there had never been and there still was not any widespread belief in the argument that communism threatened Germany. In the light of his experiences the best course Rosenberg could recommend was that German policy play for time, not least because he had gained from some of his conversations the curious impression that Britain was toying with the idea of waging a preventive war against Germany. The general impression with which he returned was thus overwhelmingly negative and extremely discouraging in view of the kind of progress in Anglo-German relations he and Hitler desired. IS Reports of Rosenberg's failure, claims Richard Griffiths, caused Hitler to lecture the British ambassador on 11 May on the 'role of the Jews in recent German history, and the need for the British to join in the fight against Communism'.16
It was not so much in the official diplomatic arena, however, that Hitler sought to register an impact. Mistrustful of the channels of official diplomacy and suspicious of career diplomats in general, the German leader wished to conduct his soundings personally in meetings with senior British statesmen, and to spread his message through the medium of propaganda abroad. In this way the diplomatic niceties could be dispensed with and the message conveyed clearly and with sufficient force. German propagandists operating in London during 1933, for example, spoke with extreme frankness about the Nazi regime's hostility to Bolshevism, which it was firmly resolved to eliminate, and the future intention to colonize the USSR as German Lebensraum. According to German propaganda agents, the pro-Soviet policy General von Seeckt pursued with the aim of avenging defeat in the First World War and visiting German revenge on the western powers had been a colossal mistake as it had been 'based on a miscalculation both to East and West; to the East because no alliance was possible with Bolshevism, which must be all or nothing; to the West because the national triumph of vanquishing the former victors would not in the event entail that reunion of Germanic stock which is the aim of the present regime'.17
Special envoys who gained access to senior politicians brought similar messages. For example, Hitler's special emissary and future ambassador in London, Joachim von Ribbentrop, spoke equally openly about Germany's future intentions during a visit to Britain in late 1933. In the presence of Stanley Baldwin on 20 November he outlined the dangers presented by Bolshevism, insisted on the need for an Anglo-German understanding, explained that Germany considered itself a continental country with 'no visions of a world Empire' and, when pressed on the question of exactly where Germany would seek to settle its surplus population, made some 'vague references to Russia'. The general message was thus clear, simple and entirely consistent with the arguments Hitler used in public and private during the early 1930s: Germany and Europe were threatened by Bolshevism; Hitler desired friendship with Britain, whose empire was not threatened by National Socialism and whose cooperation in the fight against communism was both necessary and desirable; and any future German expansion would take place at the expense of the USSR, the ideological enemy of both Britain and Germany. Four days later Ribbentrop told Lord Davidson that 'peace in Europe with a strong British Empire was the only certain defense against the spread of Bolshevism' .18 To British visitors Hitler was, if possible, even more outspoken about his intentions. In February 1934, for example, he declared to Squadron Leader F. W. Winterbotham that Britain, the USA and Germany should rule the world, and assured his visitor that 'the Germans themselves would destroy the Communists by the conquest of Russia'. All he asked of Britain was that it concentrate on its imperial affairs and 'not interfere with Germany's plans of expansion'.19
During 1934-35, as the number of British visitors to Germany increased, more and more prominent Britons were granted interviews with Hitler. This enabled him to spell out in detail his fears about the growing potential of the USSR, the dangers of ideological infection by Bolshevism and the consequent need for solidarity and vigilance. A useful example of the arguments the German leader employed on such occasions is provided by the record of his conversation with Lord Lothian in January 1935. Although France was presently showing signs of political instability, Hitler began, the 'most unstable factor in the situation' was the USSR. When it came to communism, he went on, 'no one knew this question better than he,' for he had 'seen its ravages in Germany and fought it for many years'. Communism was neither one of those philosophies that would simply disappear after a number of years nor a temporary party phenomenon; it was in fact a 'world conquering idea', which might usefully be compared with the great religions. Those who believed it could be confined within state borders were living under dangerous illusions, for it would take root wherever it could find a footing. Bolshevik ideology was only half the problem, however, for one must also take into account the 'might, greatness and power' of the home of communism, Soviet Russia. The sheer size of the USSR, the invulnerability of its industrial centers, its massive population, the richness of its agriculture and its natural resources gave Russia an 'unparalleled capacity to withstand the attack of enemies, however powerful'. When this material power was combined with the communist philosophy, a truly formidable foe would confront one in wartime, particularly given that Bolshevik sympathizers would seek to undermine the home front. To this must also be added the danger posed by Russia's industry, which in ten years' time would have grown to 'enormous dimensions', enabling it to engage in 'devastating' competition and to undermine the economy and culture of those states that had hitherto enjoyed a higher standard of living. 'We should approach this vast economic problem by bringing together States which have a common outlook and interest,' Hitler concluded. The countries which have relatively the same interests are Germany, England, France, Italy and Scandinavia. They should arrive at some agreement which prevents their nationals from promoting the industrialization of countries such as China and India. It is suicidal to establish industries in the agricultural regions of Asia. From these countries we would do better to take raw materials in return for our manufactured goods. If such an agreement is not reached, England, Germany and America will lose their export trade. Looking far into the future we believe that something like this must be done in order to save the civilization which these countries have built Up.20
Despite finishing on a note that concerned not so much the Soviet Union as the future economic development of the non-industrialized world, the drift of Hitler's argument was hardly difficult to fathom and clearly centered on the need for solidarity between like-minded nations against what he perceived, or wished others to perceive, as a deadly combination of Soviet military power and revolutionary communist doctrines.
It was a similar story the following year when Hitler poured out his anxieties to Lord Londonderry about developing trends in Soviet politics and the 'growing menace to the world from Bolshevism'. The current situation, he declared in February 1936, might be compared with the eve of the French Revolution when those who had warned of the 'impending disaster' that was about to engulf Europe had been dismissed as 'pessimists and fantasts'. So it was that he too was now derided in certain quarters for cautioning against any underestimation of the Bolshevik threat lest Europe and the world should plunge into 'a catastrophe of the same kind'. Europe was in a frail and unstable condition, and many states, including France, were teetering on the brink of internal disorder. 'Against this decay in continental Europe', Hitler continued, 'stands the extraordinary development of Soviet power'. Territorially immune from attack, invulnerable to blockade and with its industrial centers located at a safe distance from hostile bombers, the Soviet nation of 180 million people had turned into the world's greatest military power. That was not the end of it, however, for the USSR was also the 'embodiment of an idea', and how 'such ideas have worked when combined with great strength we know only too well from the French Revolution'. On the one hand, therefore, stood a collection of 'distraught insecure governments', faced on the other by a 'gigantic Soviet block' of enormous strength. 'The dangers which arise from this are perhaps not clearly recognized by all, and have not yet come into the light of day with such clarity as they have here,' Hitler concluded portentously. 'But if this evolution goes any further, if the decomposition in Europe becomes more pronounced, and the strengthening of Soviet power continues at the same rate as hitherto, what will be the position in ten, twenty, or thirty years?'21
Hitler's ultimate purpose in delivering this and other such diatribes against the USSR is surely revealed by his final remarks to Londonderry about the dangers of permitting matters to drift until the Soviet threat became so great that it would be impossible to resist. The obvious course of action therefore would be to prevent any further growth of Russian power. In short, either Russia halted its military and industrial development voluntarily, which was clearly unlikely, ora halt would be imposed from outside. It was not of course, as Hitler habitually insisted, Germany's intention to make war on the USSR, but just as he was categorical and reassuring on that point, which, in view of other evidence may safely be dismissed as a palpable untruth, so too was he more often than not vague and imprecise about exactly how the Soviet threat might be combated. In this respect it should be recalled that what Hitler required from Britain was not so much military assistance in his planned onslaught against Russia but, as he had told Winterbotham, a political undertaking not to interfere with his plans. His purpose in lecturing British visitors thus lay more in conveying a sense of urgency and threat with the aim of making any 'preventive' German action against the USSR in the future more palatable and acceptable.
It was not only during unofficial conversations that Hitler warned of the dangers the USSR presented and hinted at the need to make timely preparations for the inevitable showdown with Bolshevism. While those themes appear to have featured more prominently in his discussions with private British visitors to Germany than in exchanges with British ministers and diplomats, at least prior to 1935-36, one should remember that the German priority in official diplomatic dealings with Britain before 1935 was not anti-Bolshevism but rearmament. Without armaments a campaign against the USSR would remain nothing but a pipe dream. It was also easier for Hitler to speak freely and with genuine conviction to a receptive audience of British aristocrats than to the British ambassador who was representative of the career diplomats he so despised. This is not to say, however, that the subject of Soviet Russia and Bolshevism did not feature in Hitler's exchanges with Sir Horace Rumbold or Sir Eric Phipps, each of whom was convinced that Mein Kampf should be taken with deadly seriousness. Rumbold noted 1933 that Hitler believed that to range Germany alongside Rusia against the west, as Seeckt had advocated, would be 'criminal, especially as the aim of the Soviets is the triumph of international Judaism'. Although it was unclear how far Hitler was 'prepared [go to] put his fantastic proposals into operation', the ambassador believed he could not abandon the 'cardinal points of his programme any more than Lenin or Mussolini' could. Moreover, when acknowledging that since taking office Hitler had been 'as cautionary and discreet as he was formerly blunt and frank', Rumbold fear that this was due to his desire to buy time for rearmament, and that it would be illusory to hope for any modification of Hitler's vie", Indeed, the foreign policy emerging from Hitler's speech throughout 1933 was 'no less disquieting' than that laid down the pages of Mein Kampf. 22
During his first conversation with Hitler, Sir Eric Phipps found himself subjected to a 'long disquisition' on the danger Russia posed to Germany, an observation Hitler chose to couple with vague remarks 'that he sought certain possibilities of expansion in Eastern Europe', and an assurance that he had no intention of solving the Polish Corridor problem by force.23 Ministers, too, were not spared. The following February Hitler warned Anthony Eden that 'Russia must never be forgotten, because if Russia was not a menace today she would be a very formidable menace tomorrow.'24
In early 1935, when the issue of rearmament was effectively buried following the reintroduction of conscription and the announcement of the existence of the Luftwaffe, the German leader signposted to visiting British ministers where he would prefer to deploy his new weapons. In the presence of Sir John Simon and Anthony Eden, at the point in their conversation where the Eastern Pact was raised, he registered his familiar suspicions about the USSR, which, he inferred, might one day fall on Germany. There was an 'aggressive tendency' in Russia and no distinction could be drawn between the doctrines of Bolshevism, which remained the same as they had been 15 years earlier, and the aims of the Soviet government. This dangerous combination of 'Bolshevist doctrine and the political aims of Russia', coupled with Russian military and economic strength, left him with the impression that 'from Russia there was greater probability of war than from other countries'. As for the proposed Eastern Pact, he was certain that Russia's interest in the project was insincere and transitory. Russia's only desire, as he had informed Lothian a month earlier, was to put on a show of solidarity with the European powers that would enable it to concentrate on its difficulties in the Far East. Once that situation had been stabilized, Russia's interest in the Eastern Pact would evaporate. It would be far better therefore, in the German view, to ensure security in Eastern Europe by means of bilateral nonaggression pacts such as those that Germany had concluded with Poland. When Eden remarked that, to the British mind, communism appeared to be more of an internal than an international threat, and that even if Russia were dangerous it would surely be better to draw it into an arrangement designed to strengthen European solidarity, Hitler showed his true colors. By his explicit reference to the Russian menace, he explained, he had not meant to suggest that solidarity and cooperation between the European nations was not necessary. In his view, however, Russia was clearly alien to Europe for he was 'firmly convinced that one day cooperation and solidarity would be urgently necessary to defend Europe against the Asiatic and Bolshevik menace'. Having registered the preliminaries during the morning meeting, Hitler pressed his point home that same afternoon with a direct appeal, his most transparent to date during an official conversation, for collaboration with Britain against an unnamed but obvious enemy.
The moment would come when the European nations must stand together. For the time being they were engaged in preventing their own controversies from exploding. But the moment might come when the European nations must stand together, in particular, when Germany and Britain must stand together. ... The German Government wanted agreement with Britain and also with France, but in the case of the latter it was very difficult to dissipate certain misunderstandings; and an understanding with Britain would be a valuable asset '" it might be that even the British Empire might one day be glad to have Germany's help and Germany's forces at her disposal. '" He had outlined a bold idea, but he had wished to put it forward.25
These conversations also gave Hitler an opportunity to explain his objections to the Eastern Pact. When the proposals had been formally delivered to the powers in mid-1934 Hitler may well have drawn some encouragement from early indications that the British wished to have nothing whatsoever to do with the project. That much had certainly been implied in a speech delivered by Eden in July in which it was stated that Britain would undertake no further commitments beyond those it had assumed in the original Treaty of Locarno. Moreover, it was reported that the British had made their feelings known to the French foreign minister during his visit to London a few days later, and had in fact 'displayed a hostility towards Russia, the strength of which astonished Barthou'. 26 Shortly afterwards, however, when it became apparent that the British attitude to the Eastern Pact was cautiously positive in view of the contribution it might make to European pacification, and because it would stave off a Franco-Soviet alliance, Hitler's reaction was correspondingly severe. Britain, he was alleged to have told Neurath, was 'betraying Europe' because it was 'recognizing the signature of the Bolsheviks at the very moment when Moscow was stirring up trouble from Amsterdam to San Francisco'.27
The meetings in March 1935 thus gave Hitler a chance to state his case and seek to persuade the British that the Eastern Pact would not improve security in Europe, but would, as he put it, 'merely serve to organize war' because it would give the 'appearance of respectability to those who wanted allies'.28 Perhaps predictably his criticism of the Eastern Pact rapidly degenerated into an attack on Bolshevism and, if only indirectly, a reference to how pleasing he would find collaboration with Britain. No one in Germany had any desire to be rescued by the Bolsheviks, noted the chancellor. Indeed, he was 'more afraid of Russian help than of a French attack'. British assistance he would gladly accept; Bolshevik assistance, on the other hand, never. Indeed, such a prospect was 'about on a par with the Roman Catholic Church wanting to militarise its monasteries and assist Buddhism or Mohammedanism'.29
The British reaction to Hitler's warnings about the Soviet Union's strength and intentions, his appeal for an Anglo-German understanding and his statements on the Eastern Pact were not especially encouraging. The conversations had not started particularly brightly as far as Hitler was concerned. Whereas in his introductory statement Simon had noted that of the two methods of organizing the future - general cooperation between the nations or 'a division into two camps, resulting in isolation on the one side, and the formation of blocs' - and had clearly registered a strong desire for the former, Hitler clearly favored the latter. These opposing strategies could even be discerned in the language each side employed; while the British spoke of 'general cooperation', Hitler was more concerned to establish 'general solidarity' against the USSR. Lacking any 'expansive character', National Socialism was no threat to this solidarity among the states of Europe. Unfortunately, however, 'there were opposed to this political creed a number of other ideas which did not confine themselves spiritually and politically to one people, but deliberately aimed at internationalism and wished to infect others, openly seeking to conquer other nations.'30
To what extent these experiences colored Hitler's view of the prospect of securing British cooperation for his aims against Jewish-Bolshevik' Russia is difficult to gauge. Three months later, however, when the Anglo-German Naval Agreement was concluded, Hitler believed he had finally made his breakthrough in relations with Britain and that an Anglo-German alliance was imminent.31 In view of the political significance the German leader attached to the treaty it is no surprise that even in the forum of negotiations about fleet ratios there should be an unmistakable reference to the common destiny of both nations in the fight against the 'chaos' that was threatening Europe. The only solution to current problems, insisted Ribbentrop, the chief German negotiator, was an Anglo-German agreement that would coordinate the interests of the two powers and through which they would adopt 'a certain common and realistic basic attitude' towards those problems.32
Contrary to Hitler's hopes, the Anglo-German Naval Agreement failed to initiate a close understanding with Britain, and by the close of 1935 it was becoming evident that the prospect of such an understanding was as remote as ever. Hitler's annoyance and frustration at this state of affairs was revealed in a tempestuous and significant interview with Sir Eric Phipps in mid-December. The interview, which the British had requested in the hope of discovering Germany's attitude to the possibility of a general European settlement, found Hitler very much out of sorts, in no mood for an exchange of views about the questions that concerned Britain, in which he in any case had no interest, and, most importantly, critical of the British attitude to the USSR. He used the occasion to indulge in a violent denunciation of the Franco-Soviet Pact, which, by bringing Russia 'into the picture', that is by involving it in 'European' questions, had completely upset the balance of power on the continent. Not only that, but the Soviet Union's vast military strength was a direct threat to Germany whose capital city 'might easily in a few hours be reduced to [al heap of ashes by a Russian air attack'. The German leader was equally unimpressed by recent British attempts to improve relations with the Soviet Union through the medium of possible financial assistance, a move he attributed to a British desire to 'set up' Russia as a 'counterweight to Japan'. Phipps naturally denied any such intention and remarked that as 'we were all living in the same house' it would obviously 'be useless to try and ignore the presence of one inhabitant, viz. Russia'. The British hope was that by negotiating with Russia it might gradually evolve in a more moderate direction, and, according to the ambassador, 'it was possible that she was already doing so'. This, however, Hitler 'hotly and indignantly denied', dismissing Russia as a 'foul and unclean inhabitant of the house with whom the other dwellers should have no political truck whatever'; to his mind the Russians were 'noxious microbes who should be politically isolated'. Russia's attachment to the idea of fomenting world revolution and its widespread subversive activities to that end rendered laughable the notion of any pacts of 'non-interference', for the Soviets were 'continually guilty of the most aggressive and insolent underground interference in the affairs of all civilized States, not excluding the British Empire'.33
This obvious annoyance with the British did not mean that he had abandoned all hope of an understanding. Indeed, when the conversation turned to the Anglo-German Naval Agreement, Hitler declared that he had resisted demands from others to press for a 50 per cent ratio of the British fleet in order 'to show beyond doubt his determination to remain on the most friendly terms with US'.34 Nevertheless, he was undoubtedly annoyed that British policy, far from attuning itself to the idea of Anglo-German collaboration against Bolshevism, was not only tolerant of the French alliance with the USSR but considering rendering assistance to the 'world enemy'.
That this aspect of the matter was of some .concern to Hitler appears to be confirmed by his conversation two months later with Arnold Toynbee, the director of the Royal Institute of International Affairs in London, who was asked point blank why Britain was 'so friendly with Russia'. The German leader did not expect an answer to his question, Toynbee recalled years later, for he had only posed it to answer it himself. Sure enough, Hitler then proceeded to develop the thesis he had recently put to Sir Eric Phipps that Britain was seeking to accommodate the USSR through its desire for an ally against Japan. Somewhat astonishingly, given that his own negotiations with Japan for an agreement against Russia were already well advanced, he then made the following declaration: But, if you need a friend to help you against Japan, why should your friend be Russia? Why should not I be the friend that you need? Of course, if I was to be your friend in need, you would have to give me back my colonies. But, if you had given me back my colonies, and you then had trouble with Japan, I would give you six divisions and some warships at Singapore.35
If nothing else,
these remarks, despite their obviously rhetorical nature, might be taken as an
accurate measure of Hitler's priorities in seeking political partners against
the Soviet Union. For while ultimately it would be possible to fall on Russia
without Japanese assistance, the operation would be gravely complicated without
first securing some form of accommodation with the British. To that end Hitler
now began to consider adapting his policy towards Britain which from 1936
onwards, although it was still geared to the achievement of an understanding
based on a common antipathy to Bolshevism, gradually shifted from voluntary
concession to a more active phase of pressure and blackmail.
1. Wagener, Hitler: Memoirs of a Confidant, pp. 158-9.
2. Laqueur, Russia and Germany, p. 20.
3. Daily Express, 12 April 1919.
4. ADAP, BIXVl, no. 16, Bernstorff to AA, 21 October 1930.
5. M. Gilbert, Winston Churchill: Documents, vol. 5, pt. 2, The Wilderness Years, 1929-1935 (London, 1981) memorandum by Prince Bismarck, 20 October 1930, p. 197.
6. On this aspect see G. T. Waddington, '''An idyllic and unruffled atmosphere of complete Anglo-German misunderstanding": Aspects of the Operations of the Dienststelle Ribbentrop in Great Britain, 1934-1938', History, 265 (1997) pp. 44-72, especially pp. 57ff.
7. R. Griffiths, Fellow Travellers of the Right: British Enthusiasts for Nazi Germany 1933-1939 (Oxford, 1983) p. 139, citing The Aeroplane, 19 April 1933.
8. Daily Mail, 28 November 1933.
9. The Marquess of Londonderry, Ourselves and Germany (London, 1938) p.21.
10. Ibid., p. 129. ll. N. Nicolson (ed.) Harold Nicolson: Diaries and Letters 1930-1939 (London, 1966) 20 September 1936, p. 273. See also in this connection DBFP, 2IXVlII, no. 466, minute by Vansittart, 20 May 1937.
12. DBFP, 2N, no. 139, Rumbold to Simon, II May 1933.
13. Ibid., no. ll8, Simon to Rumbold, 8 May 1933. See also ibid., no. 126, Simon to Rumbold, 10 May 1933.
14. ADAP, C/l/l, no. 237, Hoesch to AA, 15 May 1933.
15. BK, ZSg. 133/44, memorandum by Rosenberg, 'Zweite Londoner Reise vom 4. bis 15 Mai 1933', 15 May 1933.
16. Griffiths, Fellow Travellers of the Right, p. 114.
17. PRO, F0371/1675l/Cl0679, Kell to Vansittart, 4 December 1933.
18. House of Lords, Davidson Papers, memoranda by Davidson, 20 November 1933, 24 November 1933 [Waddington collection].
19. F. W. Winterbotham, The Ultra Secret (London, 1974) pp. 4-5; Winterbotham, The Nazi Connection, pp. 53-4.
20. BBL, R90l/60976, memorandum, unsigned and undated, enclosed in Ribbentrop to Neurath, 4 February 1935.
21. Londonderry, Ourselves and Germany, pp. 84ff. See also I. Kershaw, Making Friends with Hitler: Lord Londonderry and Britain's Road to War (London, 2004) p. 138.
22. DBFP, 2N, no. 36, Rumbold to Simon, 26 April 1933.
23. PRO, F0371/17369/W12257, Phipps to Simon, 24 October 1933.
24. DBFP, 2NI, no. 305, Phipps to Simon, 22 February 1934.
25. Ibid., 2/XII, no. 651, notes of Anglo-German conversations held at the chancellor's palace, Berlin, on 25 and 26 March 1935.
26. ADAP, C/IIl/l, no. 84, Hoesch to AA, 12July 1934.
27. PRO, F0408/64, Part LXVII, no. 78, Phipps to Simon, 19 July 1934.