Ten days after the German onslaught on the West began, on the evening German tanks reached Abbeville, General Jodl, after describing in his diary how the Fuehrer was “beside himself with joy,” added: “… is working on the peace treaty … Britain can get a separate peace any time after restitution of the colonies.” That was May 20. For several weeks thereafter Hitler seems to have had no doubts that, with France knocked out, Britain would be anxious to make peace. His terms, from the German point of view, seemed most generous, considering the beating the British had taken in Norway and in France. He had expounded them to General von Rundstedt on May 24, expressing his admiration of the British Empire and stressing the “necessity” for its existence. All he wanted from London, he said, was a free hand on the Continent.
So certain was he that the British would agree to this that even after the fall of France he made no plans for continuing the war against Britain, and the vaunted General Staff, which supposedly planned with Prussian thoroughness for every contingency far in advance, did not bother to furnish him any. Halder, the Chief of the General Staff, made no mention of the subject at this time in his voluminous diary entries. He was more disturbed about Russian threats in the Balkans and the Baltic than about the British.
Indeed, why should Great Britain fight on alone against helpless odds? Especially when it could get a peace that would leave it, unlike France, Poland and all the other defeated lands, unscathed, intact and free? This was a question asked everywhere except in Downing Street, where, as Churchill later revealed, it was never even discussed, because the answer was taken for granted.28 But the German dictator did not know this, and when Churchill began to state it publicly—that Britain was not quitting—Hitler apparently did not believe it. Not even when on June 4, after the evacuation from Dunkirk, the Prime Minister had made his resounding speech about fighting on in the hills and on the beaches; not even when on June 18, after Pétain had asked for an armistice, Churchill reiterated in the Commons Britain’s “inflexible resolve to continue the war” and in another one of his eloquent and memorable perorations concluded:
Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that, if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will say: “This was their finest hour.”
These could be merely soaring words from a gifted orator, and so Hitler, a dazzling orator himself, must have thought. He must have been encouraged too by soundings in neutral capitals and by the appeals for ending the war that now emanated from them. On June 28 a confidential message arrived for Hitler from the Pope—analogous communications were addressed to Mussolini and Churchill—offering his mediation for “a just and honorable peace” and declaring that before initiating this step he wished to ascertain confidentially how it would be received.29 The King ofSweden was also active in proposing peace to both London and Berlin.
In the United States the German Embassy, under the direction of Hans Thomsen, the chargé d’affaires, was spending every dollar it could lay its hands on to support the isolationists in keeping America out of the war and thus discourage Britain from continuing it. The captured GermanForeign Office documents are full of messages from Thomsen reporting on the embassy’s efforts to sway American public opinion in Hitler’s favor. The party conventions were being held that summer and Thomsen was bending every effort to influence their foreign-policy planks, especially that of the Republicans.
On June 12, for example, he cabled Berlin in code “most urgent, top secret” that a “well-known Republican Congressman,” who was working “closely” with the German Embassy, had offered, for $3,000, to invite fifty isolationist Republican Congressmen to the Republican convention “so that they may work on the delegates in favor of an isolationist foreign policy.” The same individual, Thomsen reported, wanted $30,000 to help pay for full-page advertisements in the American newspapers, to be headed “Keep America Out of the War!”*30
The next day Thomsen was wiring Berlin about a new project he said he was negotiating through an American literary agent to have five well-known American writers write books “from which I await great results.” For this project he needed $20,000, a sum Ribbentrop okayed a few days later.†31
One of Hitler’s first public utterances about his hopes for peace with Britain had been given Karl von Wiegand, a Hearst correspondent, and published in the New York Journal-American on June 14. A fortnight later Thomsen informed the German Foreign Office that he had printed 100,000 extra copies of the interview and that
I was able furthermore through a confidential agent to induce the isolationist Representative Thorkelson [Republican of Montana] to have the Fuehrer interview inserted in the Congressional Record of June 22. This assures the interview once more the widest distribution.33
The Nazi Embassy in Washington grasped at every straw. At one point during the summer its press attaché was forwarding what he said was a suggestion of Fulton Lewis, Jr., the radio commentator, whom he described as an admirer of “Germany and the Fuehrer and a highly respected American journalist.”
The Fuehrer should address telegrams to Roosevelt … reading approximately as follows: “You, Mr. Roosevelt, have repeatedly appealed to me and always expressed the wish that a sanguinary war be avoided. I did not declare war on England; on the contrary I always stressed that I did not wish to destroy the British Empire. My repeated requests to Churchill to be reasonable and to arrive at an honorable peace treaty were stubbornly rejected by Churchill. I am aware that England will suffer severely when I order total war to be launched against the British Isles. I ask you therefore to approach Churchill on your part and prevail upon him to abandon his senseless obstinacy.” Lewis added that Roosevelt would, of course, make a rude and spiteful reply; that would make no difference. Such an appeal would surely make a profound impression on the North American people and especially in South America …34
Adolf Hitler did not take Mr. Lewis’ purported advice, but the Foreign Office in Berlin cabled to ask how important the radio commentator was in America. Thomsen replied that Lewis had “enjoyed a particular success of late … [but that] on the other hand, in contrast to some leading American commentators, no political importance is to be attached to L.”*35
Churchill himself, as he related later in his memoirs, was somewhat troubled by the peace feelers emanating through Sweden, the United States and the Vatican and, convinced that Hitler was trying to make the most of them, took stern measures to counter them. Informed that the German chargé in Washington, Thomsen, had been attempting to talk with the British ambassador there, he cabled that “Lord Lothian should be told on no account to make any reply to the German Chargé d’Affaires’ message.”36
To the King of Sweden, who had urged Great Britain to accept a peace settlement, the grim Prime Minister drafted a strong reply.
… Before any such requests or proposals could even be considered, it would be necessary that effective guarantees by deeds, not words, should be forthcoming from Germany which would ensure the restoration of the free and independent life of Czechoslovakia, Poland, Norway, Denmark, Holland, Belgium and above all, France …*37
That was the nub of Churchill’s case and apparently no one in London dreamt of compromising it by concluding a peace that would preserve Britain but permanently enslave the countries Hitler had conquered. But this was not comprehended in Berlin, where, as I recall those summer days, everyone, especially in the Wilhelmstrasse and the Bendlerstrasse, was confident that the war was as good as over.
All through the last fortnight of June and the first days of July, Hitler waited for word from London that the British government was ready to throw in the sponge and conclude peace. On July 1 he told the new Italian ambassador, Dino Alfieri,* that he “could not conceive of anyone in England still seriously believing in victory.”38 Nothing had been done in the High Command about continuing the war against Britain.
But the next day, July 2, the first directive on that subject was finally issued by OKW. It was a hesitant order.
The Fuehrer and Supreme Commander has decided:
That a landing in England is possible, providing that air superiority can be attained and certain other necessary conditions fulfilled. The date of commencement is still undecided. All preparations to be begun immediately.
Hitler’s lukewarm feeling about the operation and his belief that it would not be necessary is reflected in the concluding paragraph of the directive.
All preparations must be undertaken on the basis that the invasion is still only a plan, and has not yet been decided upon.39
When Ciano saw the Fuehrer in Berlin on July 7, he got the impression, as he noted in his diary, that the Nazi warlord was having trouble making up his mind.
He is rather inclined to continue the struggle and to unleash a storm of wrath and of steel upon the English. But the final decision has not been reached, and it is for this reason that he is delaying his speech, of which, as he himself puts it, he wants to weigh every word.40
On July 11 Hitler began assembling his military chiefs on the Obersalzberg to see how they felt about the matter. Admiral Raeder, whose Navy would have to ferry an invading army across the Channel, had a long talk with the Fuehrer on that date. Neither of them was eager to come to grips with the problem—in fact, they spent most of their time together discussing the matter of developing the naval bases at Trondheim and Narvik in Norway.
The Supreme Commander, judging by Raeder’s confidential report of the meeting,41 was in a subdued mood. He asked the Admiral whether he thought his planned speech to the Reichstag “would be effective.” Raeder replied that it would be, especially if it were preceded by a “concentrated” bombing attack on Britain. The Admiral, who reminded his chief that the R.A.F. was carrying out “damaging attacks” on the principal German naval bases at Wilhelmshaven, Hamburg and Kiel, thought the Luftwaffe ought to get busy’ immediately on Britain. But on the question of invasion, the Navy Commander in Chief was distinctly cool. He urgently advised that it be attempted “only as a last resort to force Britain to sue for peace.”
He [Raeder] is convinced that Britain can be made to ask for peace simply by cutting off her import trade by means of submarine warfare, air attacks on convoys and heavy air attacks on her main centers….
The C. in C, Navy [Raeder], cannot for his part therefore advocate an invasion of Britain as he did in the case of Norway …
Whereupon the Admiral launched into a long and detailed explanation of all the difficulties involved in such an invasion, which must have been most discouraging to Hitler. Discouraging but perhaps also convincing. For Raeder reports that “the Fuehrer also views invasion as a last resort.”
Two days later, on July 13, the generals arrived at the Berghof above Berchtesgaden to confer with the Supreme Commander. They found him still baffled by the British. “The Fuehrer,” Halder jotted in his diary that evening, “is obsessed with the question why England does not yet want to take the road to peace.” But now, for the first time, one of the reasons had begun to dawn on him. Halder noted it.
He sees, just as we do, the solution of this question in the fact that England is still setting her hope in Russia. Thus he too expects that England will have to be compelled by force to make peace. He does not like to do such a thing, however. Reasons: If we smash England militarily, the British Empire will disintegrate. Germany, however, would not profit from this. With German blood we would achieve something from which only Japan, America and others will derive profit.
On the same day, July 13, Hitler wrote Mussolini, declining with thanks the Duce’s offer to furnish Italian troops and aircraft for the invasion of Britain. It is clear from this letter that the Fuehrer was at last beginning to make up his mind. The strange British simply wouldn’t listen to reason.
I have made to Britain so many offers of agreement, even of co-operation, and have been treated so shabbily [he wrote] that I am now convinced that any new appeal to reason would meet with a similar rejection. For in that country at present it is not reason that rules …42
Three days later, on July 16, the warlord finally reached a decision. He issued “Directive No. 16 on the Preparation of a Landing Operation against England.”43
July 16, 1940
Since England, despite her militarily hopeless situation, still shows no sign of willingness to come to terms, I have decided to prepare a landing operation against England, and if necessary to carry it out.
The aim of this operation is to eliminate the English homeland as a base for the carrying on of the war against Germany, and, if it should become necessary, to occupy it completely.
The code name for the assault was to be “Sea Lion.” Preparations for it were to be completed by mid-August.
“If necessary to carry it out.” Despite his growing instinct that it would be necessary, he was not quite sure, as the directive shows. The “if” was still a big one as Adolf Hitler rose in the Reichstag on the evening of July 19 to make his final peace offer to Britain. It was the last of his great Reichstag speeches and the last of so many in this place down the years that this writer would hear. It was also one of his best. I put down my impressions of it that same evening.
The Hitler we saw in the Reichstag tonight was the conqueror and conscious of it, and yet so wonderful an actor, so magnificent a handler of the German mind, that he mixed superbly the full confidence of the conqueror with the humbleness which always goes down so well with the masses when they know a man is on top. His voice was lower tonight; he rarely shouted as he usually does; and he did not once cry out hysterically as I’ve seen him do so often from this rostrum.
To be sure, his long speech was swollen with falsifications of history and liberally sprinkled with personal insults of Churchill. But it was moderate in tone, considering the glittering circumstances, and shrewdly conceived to win the support not only of his own people but of the neutrals and to give the masses in England something to think about.
From Britain [he said] I now hear only a single cry—not of the people but of the politicians—that the war must go on! I do not know whether these politicians already have a correct idea of what the continuation of this struggle will be like. They do, it is true, declare that they will carry on with the war and that, even if Great Britain should perish, they would carry on from Canada. I can hardly believe that they mean by this that the people of Britain are to go to Canada. Presumably only those gentlemen interested in the continuation of their war will go there. The people, I am afraid, will have to remain in Britain and … will certainly regard the war with other eyes than their so-called leaders in Canada.
Believe me, gentlemen, I feel a deep disgust for this type of unscrupulous politician who wrecks whole nations. It almost causes me pain to think that I should have been selected by fate to deal the final blow to the structure which these men have already set tottering … Mr. Churchill … no doubt will already be in Canada, where the money and children of those principally interested in the war have already been sent. For millions of other people, however, great suffering will begin. Mr. Churchill ought perhaps, for once, to believe me when I prophesy that a great Empire will be destroyed—an Empire which it was never my intention to destroy or even to harm …
Having thus tilted at the dogged Prime Minister and attempted to detach the British people from him, Hitler came to the point of his lengthy speech.
In this hour I feel it to be my duty before my own conscience to appeal once more to reason and common sense in Great Britain as much as elsewhere. I consider myself in a position to make this appeal since I am not the vanquished begging favors, but the victor speaking in the name of reason.
I can see no reason why this war must go on.*
He was not more specific than that. He made no concrete suggestions for peace terms, no mention of what was to happen to the hundred million people now under the Nazi yoke in the conquered countries. But there were few if any in the Reichstag that evening who believed that it was necessary at this stage to go into the details. I mingled with a good many officials and officers at the close of the session and not one of them had the slightest doubt, as they said, that the British would accept what they really believed was a very generous and even magnanimous offer from the Fuehrer. They were not for long to be deceived.
I drove directly to the Rundfunk to make a broadcast report of the speech to the United States. I had hardly arrived at Broadcasting House when I picked up a BBC broadcast in German from London. It was giving the British answer to Hitler already—within the hour. It was a determinedNo!*
Junior officers from the High Command and officials from various ministries were sitting around the room listening with rapt attention. Their faces fell. They could not believe their ears. “Can you make it out?” one of them shouted to me. He seemed dazed. “Can you understand those British fools?” he continued to bellow. “To turn down peace now? They’re crazy!”
The same evening Ciano† heard the reaction to the crazy English on a much higher level in Berlin than mine. “Late in the evening,” he noted in his diary, “when the first cold English reactions to the speech arrive, a sense of ill-concealed disappointment spreads among the Germans.” The effect on Mussolini, according to Ciano, was just the opposite.
He … defines it “a much too cunning speech.” He fears that the English may find in it a pretext to begin negotiations. That would be sad for Mussolini, because now more than ever he wants war.44
The Duce, as Churchill later remarked, “need not have fretted himself. He was not to be denied all the war he wanted.”45
“As a maneuver calculated to rally the German people for the fight against Britain,” I wrote in my diary that night, “Hitler’s speech was a masterpiece. For the German people will now say: ‘Hitler offers England peace, and no strings attached. He says he sees no reason why this war should go on. If it does, it’s England’s fault.’”
And was that not the principal reason for giving it, three days after he had issued Directive No. 16 to prepare the invasion of Britain? He admitted as much—beforehand—to two Italian confidants, Alfieri and Ciano. On July 1 he had told the ambassador:
… It was always a good tactic to make the enemy responsible in the eyes of public opinion in Germany and abroad for the future course of events. This strengthened one’s own morale and weakened that of the enemy. An operation such as the one Germany was planning would be very bloody … Therefore one must convince public opinion that everything had first been done to avoid this horror …
In his speech of October 6 [when he had offered peace to the West at the conclusion of the Polish campaign—W.L.S.] he had likewise been guided by the thought of making the opposing side responsible for all subsequent developments. He had thereby won the war, as it were, before it had really started. Now again he intended for psychological reasons to buttress morale, so to speak, for the action about to be taken.46
A week later, on July 8, Hitler confided to Ciano that
he would stage another demonstration so that in case the war should continue—which he thought was the only real possibility that came into question—he might achieve a psychological effect among the English people … Perhaps it would be possible by a skillful appeal to the English people to isolate the English Government still further in England.47
It did not prove possible. The speech of July 19 worked with the German people, but not with the British. On July 22 Lord Halifax in a broadcast made the rejection of Hitler’s peace offer official. Though it had been expected, it somehow jolted the Wilhelmstrasse, where I found many angry faces that afternoon. “Lord Halifax,” the official government spokesman told us, “has refused to accept the peace offer of the Fuehrer. Gentlemen, there will be war!”
It was easier said than done. In truth neither Hitler, the High Command nor the general staffs of the Army, Navy and Air Force had ever seriously considered how a war with Great Britain could be fought and won. Now in the midsummer of 1940 they did not know what to do with their glittering success; they had no plans and scarcely any will for exploiting the greatest military victories in the history of their soldiering nation. This is one of the great paradoxes of the Third Reich. At the very moment when Hitler stood at the zenith of his military power, with most of the European Continent at his feet, his victorious armies stretched from the Pyrenees to the Arctic Circle, from the Atlantic to beyond the Vistula, rested now and ready for further action, he had no idea how to go on and bring the war to a victorious conclusion. Nor had his generals, twelve of whom now bandied field marshals’ batons.
There is, of course, a reason for this, although it was not clear to us at the time. The Germans, despite their vaunted military talents, lacked any grand strategic concept. Their horizons were limited—they had always been limited—to land warfare against the neighboring nations on the European Continent. Hitler himself had a horror of the sea* and his great captains almost a total ignorance of it. They were land-minded, not sea-minded. And though their armies could have crushed in a week the feeble land forces of Britain if they had only been able to come to grips with them, even the narrow waters of the Dover Straits which separated the two—so narrow that you can see across to the opposite shore—loomed in their minds, as the splendid summer began to wane, as an obstacle they knew not how to overcome.
There was of course another alternative open to the Germans. They might bring Britain down by striking across the Mediterranean with their Italian ally, taking Gibraltar at its western opening and in the east driving on from Italy’s bases in North Africa through Egypt and over the canal to Iran, severing one of the Empire’s main life lines. But this necessitated vast operations overseas at distances far from home bases, and in 1940 it seemed beyond the scope of the German imagination.
Thus at the height of dizzy success Hitler and his captains hesitated. They had not thought out the next step and how it was to be carried through. This fateful neglect would prove to be one of the great turning points of the war and indeed of the short life of the Third Reich and of the meteoric career of Adolf Hitler. Failure, after so many stupendous victories, was now to set in. But this, to be sure, could not be foreseen as beleaguered Britain, now holding out alone, girded herself with what small means she had for the German onslaught at the summer’s end.
* It was first reported and long believed that from 25,000 to 30,000 Dutch were killed, and this is the figure given in the 1953 edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica. However, at Nuremberg the Dutch government gave the figure as 814 killed.8
* There were no criminal convictions at Nuremberg for the bombing of Rotterdam.
* The two armored corps of Reinhardt and Guderian made up General Ewald von Kleist’s panzer group, which consisted of five tank divisions and three motorized infantry divisions.
* After the war Gamelin stated that his reply was not “There is none,” but “There is no longer any.” (L’Aurore, Paris, November 21, 1949.)
* From, among others, General Sir Alan Brooke, who commanded the British IInd Corps and later became Field Marshal Lord Alanbrooke, Chief of the Imperial General Stoff. See Sir Arthur Bryant, The Turn of the Tide, based on Alanbrooke’s diaries.
* This fact, established from the records of Rundstedt’s own headquarters, did not prevent the General from making several statements after the war which put the blame entirely on Hitler. “If I had had my way,” he told Major Milton Shulman, a Canadian intelligence officer, “the English would not have got off so lightly at Dunkirk. But my hands were tied by direct orders from Hitler himself. While the English were clambering into the ships off the beaches, I was kept uselessly outside the port unable to move … I sat outside the town, watching the English escape, while my tanks and infantry were prohibited from moving. This incredible blunder was due to Hitler’s personal idea of generalship.” (Shulman, Defeat in the West, pp. 42–43.)
To a commission of the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg on June 20, 1946 (mimeographed transcript, p. 1490), Rundstedt added: “That was a very big mistake of the Commander … How angry we leaders were at that time is indescribable.” Rundstedt made similar declarations to Liddell Hart (The German Generals Talk, pp. 112–13) and to the Nuremberg Military Tribunal in the trial of United States v. Leeb (pp. 3350–53, 3931–32, of the mimeographed transcript).
Telford Taylor in The March of Conquest and Major L. F. Ellis in The War in France and Flanders, 1939–40 have analyzed the German Army records of the incident and drawn conclusions that somewhat differ. Ellis’ book is the official British account of the campaign and contains both British and German documents. Taylor, who spent four years as an American prosecutor at the Nuremberg trials, is an authority on the German documents.
* A good many of the exhausted Tommies on the beaches, who underwent severe bombings, were not aware of this, since the air clashes were often above the clouds or some distance away. They knew only that they had been bombed and strafed all the way back from eastern Belgium to Dunkirk, and they felt their Air Force had let them down. When they reached the home ports some of them insulted men in the blue R.A.F. uniforms. Churchill was much aggrieved at this and went out of his way to put them right when he spoke in the House on June 4. The deliverance at Dunkirk, he said, “was gained by the Air Force.”
* On this day, June 17, 1940, the exiled Kaiser sent from Doorn, in occupied Holland, a telegram of congratulations to Hitler, whom he had for so long scorned as a vulgar upstart. It was found among the captured Nazi papers.
Under the deeply moving impression of the capitulation of France I congratulate you and the whole German Wehrmacht on the mighty victory granted by God, in the words of the Emperor Wilhelm the Great in 1870: “What a turn of events brought about by divine dispensation.”
In all German hearts there echoes the Leuthen chorale sung by the victors of Leuthen, the soldiers of the Great King: “Now thank we all our God!”
Hitler, who believed that the mighty victory was due more to himself than to God, drafted a restrained reply, but whether it was ever sent is not indicated in the documents.21
The Fuehrer had been furious a little earlier when he learned that a German unit which overran Doorn had posted a guard of honor around the exiled Emperor’s residence. Hitler ordered the guard removed and Doorn posted as out of bounds to all German soldiers. Wilhelm II died at Doorn on June 4, 1941, and was buried there. His death, Hassell noted in his diary (p. 200), “went almost unnoticed” in Germany. Hitler and Goebbels saw to that.
* The defeatist French High Command forbade any offensive action against Italy. On June 14 a French naval squadron bombarded factories, oil tanks and refineries near Genoa, but Admiral Darlan prohibited any further action of this kind. When the R.A.F. tried to send bombers from the airfield at Marseilles to attack Milan and Turin the French drove trucks onto the field and prevented the planes from taking off.
* It was blown up three days later, at Hitler’s command.
* It was stipulated that it would go into effect as soon as the France—Italian armistice was signed, and that hostilities would cease six hours after that event.
* It arrived there July 8. Ironically, it was destroyed in an Allied bombing of Berlin later in the war.
* Such an advertisement appeared in the New York Times June 25, 1940.
† By July 5, 1940, Thomsen had become so apprehensive about his payments that he cabled Berlin for permission to destroy all receipts and accounts:
The payments … are made to the recipients through trusted go-betweens, but in the circumstances it is obvious that no receipts can be expected … Such receipts or memoranda would fall into the hands of the American Secret Service if the Embassy were suddenly to be seized by American authorities, and despite all camouflage, by the fact of their existence alone, they would mean political ruin and have other grave consequences for our political friends, who are probably known to our enemies …
I therefore request that the Embassy be authorized to destroy these receipts and statements and henceforth dispense with making them, as also with keeping accounts of such payments.
This telegraphic report has been destroyed.32
* The doings of the German Embassy in Washington at this period, as disclosed in its own dispatches which are published in Documents on German Foreign Policy, would furnish the material for a revealing book. One is struck by me tendency of the German diplomats to tell the Nazi dictator pretty much what he wanted to hear—a practice common among representatives of totalitarian lands. Two officers of OKW told me in Berlin that the High Command, or at least the General Staff, was highly suspicious of the objectivity of the reports from the Washington embassy and that they had established their own military intelligence in the United States.
They were not served very well by General Friedrich von Boetticher, the German military attaché in Washington, if one can judge by his dispatches included in the DGFP volumes. He never tired of warning OKW and the general staffs of the Army and Air Force to whom his messages were addressed, that America was controlled by the Jews and the Freemasons, which was exactly what Hitler thought. Boetticher also overestimated the influence of the isolationists in American politics, especially of Colonel Charles A. Lindbergh, who emerges in his dispatches as his great hero. An extract or two indicates the tenor of his reports.
July 20, 1940: … As the exponent of the Jews, who especially through Freemasonry control the broad masses of the American people, Roosevelt wants England to continue fighting and the war to be prolonged … The circle about Lindbergh has become aware of this development and now tries at least to impede the fatal control of American policy by the Jews … I have repeatedly reported on the mean and vicious campaign against Lindbergh, whom the Jews fear as their most potent adversary … [DGFP, X, pp. 254–55.]
August 6, 1940: … The background of Lindbergh’s re-emergence in public and the campaign against him.
The Jewish element now controls key positions in the American armed forces, after having in the last weeks filled the posts of Secretary of War, Assistant Secretary of War, and Secretary of the Navy with subservient individuals and attached a leading and very influential Jew, “Colonel” Julius Ochs-Adler, as secretary to the Secretary of War.
The forces opposing the Jewish element and the present policy of the United States have been mentioned in my reports, taking account also of the importance of the General Staff. The greatly gifted Lindbergh, whose connections reach very far, is much the most important of them all. The Jewish element and Roosevelt fear the spiritual and, particularly, the moral superiority and purity of this man.
On Sunday [August 4] Lindbergh delivered a blow that will hurt the Jews. He … stressed that America should strive for sincere collaboration with Germany with a view to peace and the preservation of Western culture. Several hours later, the aged General Pershing, who has long been a puppet in the hands of Roosevelt, which means of the Jews, read over the radio a declaration, foisted upon him by the wire-pullers, to the effect that America would be imperiled by England’s defeat …
The chorus of the Jewish element casting suspicion on Lindbergh in the press, and his denunciation by a Senator … Lucas, who spoke against Lindbergh over the radio Monday night at Roosevelt’s behest … as a “fifth columnist,” that is, a traitor, merely serve to underline the fear of the spiritual power of this man, about whose progress I have reported since the beginning of the war and in whose great importance for future German–American relations I believe. [DGFP, X, pp. 413–15.]
On September 18, Thomsen, in a further report, gave an account of a confidential conversation he said had taken place between Lindbergh and several American General Staff officers. Lindbergh gave it as his opinion that England would soon collapse before German air attacks. The General Staff officers, however, held that Germany’s air strength was not sufficient to force a decision. (DGFP, X, pp. 41315.)
On October 19, 1938, three weeks after Munich, Lindbergh had been awarded—and had accepted—the “Service Cross of the German Eagle with Star.” This was, I believe, the second highest German decoration, usually conferred on distinguished foreigners who, in the official words of the citations, “deserved well of the Reich.”
* There are in the DGFP volumes several dispatches to the German Foreign Office about alleged contacts with various British diplomats and personages, sometimes direct, sometimes through neutrals such as the Franco Spaniards. Prince Max von Hohenlohe, the Sudeten-German Anglophile, reported to Berlin on his conversations with the British minister in Switzerland, Sir David Kelly, and with the Aga Khan. He claimed the latter had asked him to relay the following message to the Fuehrer:
The Khedive of Egypt, who is also here, had agreed with him that on the day when the Fuehrer puts up for the night in Windsor, they would drink a bottle of champagne together … If Germany or Italy were thinking of taking over India, he would place himself at our disposal … The struggle against England was not a struggle against the English people but against the Jews. Churchill had been for years in their pay and the King was too weak and limited … If he were to go with these ideas to England, Churchill would lock him up…. [DGFP, X, pp. 294–95.]
It must be kept in mind that these are German reports and may not be true at all, but they are what Hitler had to go on. The Nazi plan to enlist the Duke of Windsor, indeed the plot to kidnap him and then try to use him, as disclosed in the Foreign Office secret papers, is noted later.
* Attolico had been replaced by Alfieri at the instigation of Ribbentrop in May.
* There was a colorful scene and one unprecedented in German history when Hitler suddenly broke off his speech in the middle to award field marshals’ batons to twelve generals and a special king-size one to Goering, who was given the newly created rank of Reich Marshal of the Greater German Reich, which put him above all the others. He was also awarded the Grand Cross of the Iron Cross, the only one given during the entire war. Halder was passed over in this avalanche of field marshal awards, being merely promoted one grade, from lieutenant general to general. This promiscuous award of field-marshalships—the Kaiser had named only five field marshals from the officer corps during all of World War I and not even Ludendorff had been made one—undoubtedly helped to stifle any latent opposition to Hitler among the generals such as had threatened to remove him on at least three occasions in the past. In achieving this and in debasing the value of the highest military rank by raising so many to it, Hitler acted shrewdly to tighten his hold over the generals. Nine Army generals were promoted to field marshal: Brauchitsch, Keitel, Rundstedt, Bock, Leeb, List, Kluge, Witzleben and Reichenau; and three Luftwaffe officers: Milch, Kesselring and Sperrle.
* Churchill later declared that this immediate and brusque rejection of Hitler’s peace offer was made “by the BBC without any prompting from H. M. Government as soon as Hitler’s speech was heard over the radio.” (Churchill, Their Finest Hour, p. 260.)
† The Italian Foreign Minister had behaved like a clown during the Reichstag session, bobbing up and down like a jack-in-the-box to give the Fascist salute every time Hitler paused for breath. I also noticed Quisling, a pig-eyed little man, crouching in a corner seat in the first balcony. He had come to Berlin to beg the Fuehrer to reinstate him in power in Oslo.
* “On land I am a hero, but on water I am a coward,” he told Rundstedt once. (Shulman, Defeat in the West, p. 50.)