Having posted critical comments regarding the role of Winston Churchill in the activities that led to the Flight and Expulsion of Ethnic Germans, readers are asked to post their views here.
Churchill and Prussia
Winston Churchill was the driving force behind the extermination of Prussia and the forced expulsion of millions of Germans from Prussian territory annexed by Poland. His stated reason of compensating Poland at Germany's expense was his excuse for the expulsion, yet his real reason and aim was to make France the most powerful nation in western Europe - and a leader of the future EU.
Sir Winston Churchill remains arguably the most famous British politician of all-time and his legend as a war leader is firmly entrenched in British history.
Yet behind the myths and legends surrounding him lie some of the darkest deeds in world history, possibly deeds as savage as the Nazi Holocaust.
In 1947, the state of Prussia, the largest and most productive in Germany, was abolished by decree of the four Allied occupying powers for Germany, in a decree announced at the Allied Kommandatura in Berlin. This decree received little publicity and it passed almost without comment by the world's media. Why was this? The reason was that Prussia, once a powerful state in it's own right and later the dominant power in the newly created German Empire, had already ceased to exist.
When the allied leaders met at Teheran and later Yalta to decide the fate of post-war Europe, the future for Germany was top of the agenda. The USA and USSR agreed that Germany would have to be occupied, disarmed and partitioned. The way the partition was to be implemented was unclear, but both superpowers agreed that Prussia was to be separated from the rest of Germany. In other words, there was no mention of Prussia being abolished or exterminated or airbrushed out of the history books. Prussia would remain, albeit with it's wings firmly clipped.
It was at this point that Chuchill demonstrated his opportunism and altered the equation, altering, as he did so, the future history of Europe.
Churchill was born in 1874, 4 years after the Franco-Prussian war that had led to the founding of the German Empire, in an time of intense French hatred of Germany and Prussia, which would eventually lead to World War One. Despite being known as the "Great Commoner" (he refused a peerage from the King after World War 2 ended), he was actually the son of Lord Randolph Churchill, a brother of the Duke of Marlborough, and his early years were ones of privilege and wealth enjoyed by our aristocratic families. A life-long Francophile, he regularly spent holidays in the south of France and was an enthusiastic admirer of French history and culture. Like many English aristocrats, he could trace his family ancestry back to the Normans who had accompanied William the Conqueror over the Channel in 1066. In his writings, he makes no secret of his admiration for William and speaks of the native Anglo-Saxon population of England as "foul barbarians". He felt a natural affinity for France, as he demonstrated in his “Sinews of peace” speech (1947).
In 1914, Churchill was First Lord of the Admiralty, the civilian and political leader of the world's greatest navy. As the crisis leading to World War 1 developed, the Royal Navy's Home Fleet, it's largest component, was completing a major exercise in the Atlantic Ocean and preparing to return to it's home bases of Portsmouth, Plymouth, Chatham and Rosyth. At this point, war had not yet broken out and Britain was undecided if it would enter the conflict even if it came. Without consulting his Cabinet colleagues, Churchill ordered the Home Fleet to steam to it's war-time base of Scapa Flow. A wise precautionary move, or was it one intended to drive Britain into the coming conflict?
Between the wars, Churchill confided to his "inner circle" of friends that his destiny was to "lead the British people in another 30 Years War against Germany." By this, he did not mean a war that would last 30 years, but rather one that would devastate and depopulate Germany. Against this background, we should recall his enthusiastic backing for the genocidal Morgenthau Plan which was at least partially implemented in 1945.
At Teheran and Yalta, Churchill revealed his true aim. Mindful of Britain's pledge to defend Poland in 1939, and realizing also that Poland had no chance of regaining it's territory lost to the USSR in 1939, he proposed that Poland be "compensated" for the loss of it's eastern lands by annexing huge swathes of territory to the west in Germany, land that had been for centuries the state of Prussia. This wholesale land grab, taking East Prussia (less the area around Koenigsberg), West Prussia, Silesia, Eastern Pomerania, and part of Western Pomerania, would effectively destroy and eradicate Prussia, accompanied as it would be by the “ethnic cleansing” of those Germans (Prussians) whose ancestral homes were affected..
Was this done to "compensate Poland" as Churchill claimed or was there a more sinister motive? After 1945, Churchill promoted the foundation of the EEC, the forerunner of the EU, although he was against British involvement. In his public utterances, he supported and praised the new spirit of co-operation and peace between France, Italy, the Benelux countries - and the newly-formed Republic of West Germany. Given the burden of guilt imposed on Germany at Potsdam, 1945, and the huge problems facing the infant West German government of the time (reconstruction and reparations being only part of the problems they faced), it was obvious that France would be the dominant partner in any such economic alliance. Was this what he had worked all his life for?
We can see the period 1648-1945 as a titanic struggle for control of Germany between France, Austria and Prussia, although this is perhaps an oversimplification and ignores other events in world history. In 1945, it was obvious that France had finally won this struggle, largely by default, as other nations (mainly the USSR) had actually won the fight for it. French leaders such as de Gaulle enthusiastically endorsed Churchill's plan for destroying Prussia, as this would lead to the creation of the sort of Germany France has always wanted, a rich but weak, compliant nation always willing to do France's bidding. In this context, it's remarkable that, on a map, West Germany, pre-re-unification (1990), looks very similar to Bonaparte's "Confederation of the Rhine", a previous attempt to settle Germany to France's satisfaction which collapsed following the Corsican's invasion of Russia (1812) and the subsequent German uprising against French rule (1813). Is this perhaps why France under Mitterand opposed German re-unification so strongly?
Even today, Germany is still France's willing partner and financier, prepared to play second fiddle to French ambitions.
Although executed (literally!) by others, the murder of Prussia, together with the slaughter, mass rape and enslavement of millions of it's citizens, and the expulsion of the remainder under conditions that demonstrated "not just an absence of niceness, but the very maximum of brutality" (Victor Gollancz), was instigated by Churchill.
Sir Winston Churchill, the best British Prime Minister France has ever had?
Many thanks for a very interesting post.
Though I respectfully suggest that we appear to agree that Chuchill did indeed suffer from chronic Germanophobia, your view on him being a Francophile is something that I admit to not having considered, having focussed instead on his love of the US of A. I need to read more on this.
I don't think it's any secret that Churchill loved France almost as much as he loved the USA. He regularly took his holidays on the Rivierra and was well-known in French political circles between the wars. Despite his actions against Vichy France at Mers-el-Kebir, Dakar, Syria and Madagascar, and despite his often prickly, tense relations with de Gaulle, he always maintained, in public at least, respect and admiration for France. In his speech to the House of Commons (the famous or infamous "clean sweep will be made" speech about Prussia) on returning from Yalta, he praised the way France had "come bouncing back strongly" in 1944. The USA and USSR wanted to keep France out of Germany in 1945 and have a 3-power occupation, and it was Churchill who insisted that France be treated as an "equal" victor power with it's own occupation zone - with disastrous results for thousands of German women raped in Stuttgart and many other places (an entire volume could be written about this war crime, but never has. Suffice it to say that "French" troops, many of them Morrocan and Algerian, raped more women in a week than the German Army had in the whole of France in 4 years of occupation.).
In 1944, Churchill publicly attended a high profile mass in Paris with de Gaulle soon after it's liberation and showed himself the erstwhile friend of the French, whilst British newsreels, which took their lead from him, described "gallant" France as "occupied but never defeated" - a rather curious contradiction in terms.
After the war, Churchill was a keen advocate of the EEC though he was dubious about British entry into it. His "iron curtain" speech showed how his thoughts on world security went. France with it's huge army would defend and police western Europe, while Britain, traditionally a sea- rather than a land-power, would protect the Empire and the rest of the world, in conjunction with the USA.
Privately, he was probably having doubts about France, having watched their miserable performance in 1940. Soon after leaving office, he said in pessimistic mood, to an aide: "What now stands between the white snows of Russia and the White Cliffs of Dover?" In public, however, he remained a fervent admirer and supporter of France. He even offered a "way ahead" to Germany in a speech in Strasbourg in 1952 (or thereabouts) made in French, in which he predicted a succesful economic future for both France and Germany - as long as Germany accepted French leadership. This speech was praised as a way of rehabilitating Germany, but the reality was that Germany had to accept French dominance.
Well, he got his way in a sense. Germany, it's military power broken in 1945, and with Prussia, the state that gave Germany it's steel backbone, eradicated forever, remains subservient to France in the EU. France is very much the top dog in Europe and remains the only nation that has used it's veto in EU decision-making - an indication that France expects the EU to work for French interests.
I could write a lot more on this subject, but it might pay you to read Churchill's "History of the English-Speaking Nations" or his "History of World War Two." You may already have done so, in which case you'll be aware of his shortcomings as a historian. They shed some very revealing light on his Francophilia.