Sunday, November 01, 2009

When the Hitler Salute Came to London

Wartime London with Harry Harris - Nazi funeral from Wolfstar on Vimeo.

Here’s a hitherto unseen clip of the funeral of the German Ambassador to Britain being held at the Germany Embassy on Carlton House Terrace, overlooking The Mall, in 1936. This is the first time the video has been made public and it shows Grenadier Guards and Nazi soldiers marching together and carrying a coffin with a swastika draped on it. What's astonishing are the number of people watching, overlooking the Mall, giving the Hitler salute.

The video is a clip from the Discovery Channel’s World War II season and it’ll be the subject of a programme that airs on the 8th of November entitled Wartime London with Harry Harris, a London taxi driver and historian.


Nick B said...

Amazing footage but I can't help but think that the saluting crowd were probably just being polite!

Anonymous said...

Amazing video. Disturbing and of course unexpected. Thank you for letting us know. It will no doubt provoke (rightly) a lot of discussion.

Adrian said...

Interesting documentary about Len Deighton on Radio 4 this afternoon - well wort a listen. Len was an honest historian of the WW2 era, and one of the things pointed out on the programme was that many in the upper&middle classes were more anti-USSR than they were anti-Germany, even well into the war.

Tom said...

The closing comments made me laugh out loud. "It's a good job he didn't live to see it, I suppose." Naturally the privelege of living to see your own funeral is one reserved for the likes of Inspector Clouseau, John Darwin and Scrooge.

mckie said...

I think it's not hitherto unknown; this footage or something very like it features in the film It Happened Here.

Span Ows said...

that really is something: shades of a film version of any of various novels about Britain under Nazi rule had they won WW2.

Jimmy said...

No doubt anyone criticising the proceedings would have been called a lefty smear merchant.

D Ledbetter said...

The Hitler salutes from teh British public doesn't surprise me.

I've always said that if Hitler ahd come over the channel, England would have reacted like France.

Some resistance/insurgent groups would have raised up, but the vast majoirty would have been passive civilians, and many would have collaborated willingly with the occupiers.

trevorsden said...

The England football team did a similar thing before a match with Germany in about 36 or so.

Before war broke out and the nazis were the recognised govt - I can see that the salute (also used in Italy) would not have the same connotations as it did later.

Did Mosely use the 'nazi' salute? I imagine so, and so this episode is not particularly interesting.

quietzapple said...

I like this, from 1938 I think:

The USA was less deferential.

DaveA said...

Trevorsden, it was in fact 14th May 1938 and we spanked them 6-3 away.

"the England players joined in the Nazi raised-arm salute as the German national anthem was played and Nazi leaders Göring, Goebbels, Hess and von Ribbentrop watched. Some accounts say the English players did so reluctantly, but others maintain the fuss did not arise until the British press made it an issue. In any event, England then set about dismantling a very good German team, although sweltering heat eventually slowed them in the second half."

The image of England players saluting is the 2nd URL.

Leslie said...

I haven't seen that particular footage before but I've seen stills of the "London Hitler salutes" before. I always understood it was common knowledge.

For the people saying "ZOMG! Teh Britz luv Teh Nazis!", I'd encourage a little bit of realism. This was 1936, when Germany had not yet entered its truly aggressive phase (no territorial demands yet) and when there was a great deal of sympathy for the country and an increasing recognition that Germany had been treated very unfairly by the Versailles Treaty.

The Nazi salutes, though problematic in hindsight, were merely a gesture of respect from a public who saw Ambassador v. Hoesch in a very positive light, as a man who supported peace. Hoesch, incidentally, was a career diplomat who was not appointed by Hitler, but by the Weimar Republic. As ambassador he repeatedly challenged Hitler's policies and, had he not died in April 1936, he very likely would not have remained in his post.

This footage (which I would emphasise was not unknown at all) is not proof of the underlying fascistic sympathies of the British public. It is proof merely of the crowd's intent to be respect towards a popular representative of a foreign power with whom Britain still retained peaceful relations.

Sunder Katwala said...

Throughout this period, several British newspapers who supported the appeasement policy were enormously critical of any attempts to criticise Hitler or the Nazi regime, arguing that these were left-wing smears against the fascists. That may have had some influence on both elite and public opinion.

Geoffrey Dawson as editor of The Times barred any reference of Nazi anti-semitism from the newspaper.

The most explicitly pro-Nazi arguments in the British press, and attacks on opponents of Nazism, were carried in the Daily Mail: a small selection can be read here at the bottom of this page.

Four months after the Reichstag fire and Enabling Act of 1933, Rothermere wrote

"I urge all British young men and women to study closely the progress of the Nazi regime in Germany. They must not be misled by the misrepresentations of its opponents. The most spiteful distracters of the Nazis are to be found in precisely the same sections of the British public and press as are most vehement in their praises of the Soviet regime in Russia.

They have started a clamorous campaign of denunciation against what they call "Nazi atrocities" which, as anyone who visits Germany quickly discovers for himself, consists merely of a few isolated acts of violence such as are inevitable among a nation half as big again as ours, but which have been generalized, multiplied and exaggerated to give the impression that Nazi rule is a bloodthirsty tyranny.

The German nation, moreover, was rapidly falling under the control of its alien elements. In the last days of the pre-Hitler regime there were twenty times as many Jewish Government officials in Germany as had existed before the war. Israelites of international attachments were insinuating themselves into key positions in the German administrative machine. Three German Ministers only had direct relations with the Press, but in each case the official responsible for conveying news and interpreting policy to the public was a Jew".

DocRichard said...

I was going to say maybe they weren't giving Nazi salutes, maybe someone was handing out free copies of the Daly Mail and asked the crowd who wanted one. But then I read Sunder's helpful comment, and decided I did not have to go to the trouble.

Jabba the Cat said...

You just need to look at the levels of collaboration in the Channel Islands during the war to get an idea of how people would probably have behaved on the mainland if there was a German invasion and occupation. It was not a pretty picture.

................................. said...

There would have been a large number of staff from the German Embassy, their families and ex-patriots attending; they will have made up the vast majority of those saluting, with I suppose a few right-wing nutjobs thrown in.

My understanding is that the Ambassador would have military honours by virtue of the fact that he was a member of the royal Court - Ambassadors are to the Court of St James.

Bloody sinister though, all the same... This is how things would be like if Nick Griffin had his way.

Jonforest said...

I'm sure you are right Jabba but you can't use the Channel Islands as an example as the islanders are largely French by ancestry!
In fact, law-abiding countries with strong Government machines make good countries to conquer as the conquerors can simply take over the existing mechanism.
The Norwegians are a proud, independent people but resistance to the Germans there did not reach the same level as it did in Yugoslavia, despite both having mountainous terrain conducive to guerrilla war.
In contrast, failed countries like Afghanistan and Somalia are difficult to control.
One of the reasons for the success of the Norman conquest of Anglo Saxon England was that the bunch of thugs, murderers, mercenaries and chancers that made up the Norman army were able to take over the most sophisticated Government system in Europe west of Byzantium.
Unfortunately, having been softened up to Norman influence by Edward, there were too many English willing to collaborate in the systematic destruction of their own culture in the early years of the occupation, though it did them little good as they were quickly replaced by Normans in all the positions of power across the country.
By the time the English in the north woke up to what was happening and rose in rebellion, it was too late and it took several generations for the north to recover from the resulting massacres and reprisals.
Whatever our reaction to invasion would be today, we in Britain certainly already have plenty of people willing - no, determined - to destroy our heritage, culture and traditions and to give away the powers and privileges that should belong to a sovereign nations.

Jabba the Cat said...

@ Jonfores

You should watch Marcel Ophul's The Sorrow and the Pity which is now available on DVD. This documentary covers the topic most intelligently.

DespairingLiberal said...

That was fun, thanks Sunder for reprinting those Rothermere quotes. I particularly like the one from the page you linked to:

" My dear Fuhrer everyone in England is profoundly moved by the bloodless solution to the Czechoslovakian problem. People not so much concerned with territorial readjustment as with dread of another war with its accompanying bloodbath. Frederick the Great was a great popular figure. I salute your excellency's star which rises higher and higher. "

Rothermere sent that to Hitler in October 1938. At that time, the SS and Gestapo were busy killing or deporting some 63,744 people they deemed undesirable in the newly conquered er liberated "former Sudentenland". These included the usual homosexuals, trade unionists, gypsies, etc.

The current Lord Rothermere must be so very proud.

the joker said...

London police gave the Nazi salute to Oswald Moseley on his street marches, also.

Damon said...

In among all the ritual Daily Mail hate-fest lets not forget other papers flirted with fascism too