The Man Who Saved Europe How Winston Churchill Stopped the Nazis

Corbis

Part 9: Churchill's Role in the Explusion of Germans from Easter Europe


Churchill did, however, contribute to the expulsion of Germans from Eastern Europe, as historian Detlef Brandes has shown. He did so by supporting (and thus legitimizing) the demands of the Polish and Czechoslovak exile governments in London. According to the Churchill, the Germans were to "be given a brief amount of time to gather the bare necessities and leave."

At first, he was referring to East Prussia and the Sudetenland, but he eventually included Pomerania and parts of Silesia in his plans.

It was one of Churchill's darkest hours when, at the Summit of the Big Three in Tehran in 1943, he picked up three matchsticks, which were meant to represent Germany, Poland and the Soviet Union. He had already agreed to Stalin's demand that part of Poland was to go to the Soviet Union. Now he placed the matches together to illustrate the consequences: By pushing the Soviet match toward the West, he was also shifting the positions of the other two matches. Stalin found this depiction of Poland's westward shift amusing.

Of course, the Germans would have to vacate the territory that fell to Poland. As a result, several million people were ultimately rounded up, robbed and expelled, and tens of thousands died during the forced marches.

'A Tragedy on a Prodigious Scale'

Churchill later criticized the brutal behavior of the Poles and Soviets, calling it "a tragedy on a prodigious scale" -- as if ethnic cleansings had ever been anything but tragic.

And what was to happen to Hitler, who was ultimately responsible for the entire calamity by starting the war in the first place?

Before the Holocaust, Churchill toyed with the idea of banishing Hitler and other top Nazis to an isolated island, just as Napoleon had once been banished to Elba. Or perhaps he was simply tipsy when he voiced this idea.

But when the Holocaust began, such bizarre ideas were quickly taken off the table. Churchill learned of the Nazis' crimes after the British cracked the code the Germans had used to encrypt SS and police reports on the massacres of Jews in the Soviet Union in the summer of 1941.

In 1942, the prime minister told the cabinet that he would have Hitler put to death if he were captured -- without a trial and in the electric chair, like a "gangster."

For Churchill, Hitler was the "mainspring of evil."

As we know, Hitler committed suicide in his bunker a few days before Germany capitulated in 1945. As Churchill writes in his memoirs, it was a more preferable end for the Nazi dictator, after all.

He had finally prevailed, and the duel had ended.

In July 1945, when the victorious Churchill toured the ruins of Berlin, he asked to be taken to the bunker where Hitler ended his life. He was also shown the spot in the courtyard of the Reich Chancellery where the dictator's body was incinerated.

Of course, Churchill's visit was not announced ahead of time. Nevertheless, a large number of people gathered in front of the Chancellery, and when Churchill walked through the crowd, he was astonished to hear the Germans celebrate him as a hero. Only one old man shook his head disapprovingly.

And that was how it was with Churchill.

There are those who dislike him because he was an imperialist, because a single human life meant little to him, and because he lost his sense of perspective during the bombing war and endorsed ethnic cleansing.

In the end, however, we can only be pleased that he won the duel.

Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan

Article...


Comments
Discuss this issue with other readers!
9 total posts
Show all comments
Page 1
heitgitsche 08/20/2010
1. The other side of the coin
Churchill wanted revenge on the Germans - no matter if Nazis or not. He encouraged the expulsion of about 15 million Germans from their homes of 800 years, the greatest "etnic cleansing" in European history. He was not powerful enough to stop Stalin from expanding and England`s time as a world power was over
verbatim128 08/24/2010
2.
Zitat von sysopSome 70 years ago, Hitler's Wehrmacht was chalking up one victory after the next, but then Winston Churchill confronted the dictator. Their duel decided World War II. The former British prime minister has been viewed as one of the shining lights of the 20th century ever since. Is the reputation justified? http://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/0,1518,712259,00.html
A kind and tactful account of Churchill's confrontation with the dictator. Certainly, the former British prime minister has been rightfully viewed as one of the shining lights of the 20th century. Was Winston Churchill's reputation justified, when considering the total outcome? Ask, if only that were possible, the over 100 million people of the countries bargained away with Stalin, mostly because of Churchill's dreams and fantasies. The people who were enslaved for almost half a century, the same century that made Churchill shine; ask the people who lived and died under communism.
BTraven 08/24/2010
3.
Hard to imagine that Churchill wanted to meet Hitler when he had not been yet the Führer since, at least in my opinion, it shows that he took him seriously while the majority of politician still laughed about him. Perhaps, he was curious to get to know a person of whom was said he would be an excellent speaker, so he, as a distinguished orator who had privileged education, could find out whether Hitler was really as good as it was told. And it offers him the possibility to elicit whether they have more similarities than the one which determined the life of both – their anticommunism. It would be interesting to know whether the history would have been completely different had he met Hitler in Munich. Imagine Hitler had meet the expatriate Stalin in Vienna. Both were quite young at that time therefore the probability that such a meeting, perhaps even a close relationship between both, could have changed the path of history seems to me quite low. Concerning Churchill’s role during WWII I think the author exaggerates his influence. Neither an invasion of England nor a peace treaty had enabled Hitler to withdraw troops form the west in order to deploy them to Russia. Controlling Britain would have been quite difficult for the Wehrmacht. The level of collaboration would have been much lower than in France or Holland, for example. And Britain had broken any peace treaty as soon as fast it saw the change to defeat Hitler. You do not need a war to make Britain to a large aircraft carrier used by GI’s.
BTraven 08/24/2010
4.
Zitat von heitgitscheChurchill wanted revenge on the Germans - no matter if Nazis or not. He encouraged the expulsion of about 15 million Germans from their homes of 800 years, the greatest "etnic cleansing" in European history. He was not powerful enough to stop Stalin from expanding and England`s time as a world power was over
It is quite reasonable that he wanted to take revenge, however, the question is had he really the strength had to do it? I doubt it. Churchill did not want that Soviet Union dominated the Eastern Europe in such a way that Stalin could decide where his country should border its neighbours. Stalin was modest he only took back was he had lost, except the area around Lemberg which was on the western side of the Curzon Line, when he was fighting against the Poles. The area as far as I know was, quite contrary to parts of the country from where the new “settlers” came, not so much affected by the war, so new inhabitants instantly found flats they were denied in their home towns and villages. The same luck had the Poles because almost all the towns they had taken from Germany, there is one exception, Breslau, of course, were intact. In both areas German troops were overrun by the Red Army. Neither Roosevelt nor Churchill had the power to prevent Stalin from starting one of the greatest expulsion in modern age. They would have tried to curb him had they had the means to impress Stalin. They did not have any alternative but to sacrifice the countries again.
travelerdiogenes 09/19/2010
5. Surely this is a joke
Churchill stopped Hitler? How about the 10 million Soviet soldiers who fought and died in the East? And HOW many Brits died fighting the Germans? 400,000 to 495,000 so. About 4%-5% as many. In total, there were over 1300 Soviet divisions fighting the Germans. The British Air Corps fought the Germans off, yes. But how many German units did they have to fight? The Soviets had 350 air divisions fighting the Germans, some of which were completely destroyed. Churchill stopped the Germans? Please.
Show all comments
Page 1

© SPIEGEL ONLINE 2010
All Rights Reserved
Reproduction only allowed with the permission of SPIEGELnet GmbH


TOP
Die Homepage wurde aktualisiert. Jetzt aufrufen.
Hinweis nicht mehr anzeigen.