Modern photos of Munich courtesy of Geoff Walden.
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Neville & Joseph Chamberlain at War
"I AM MYSELF A MAN
OF PEACE TO THE DEPTHS
OF MY SOUL."
The agreement, signed at Munich, far from halting the looming war, actually convinced Hitler and the Nazis that the British were weak - personified by Chamberlain's slow drawling speech at the airport on his return - and not inclined to interfere with their territorial acquisitions. Below, glum afterwards, because one suspected - feared - the whole thing was a charade; the other knew it.
Neville Chamberlain was personally, a thoroughly decent man, making him, many would say, actually really unfit to rub shoulders with the kinds of people usually found occupying the top job he found himself in. (In fact he loathed Lloyd George.)
He had another serious failing - unlike Tony Blair (Britain), George Bush (USA), Stephen Harper (Canada), John Howard (Australia) in our day - he had no appetite for war, having - unlike them - experienced the horror of war, and lived through the first two modern wars of the 20th century... He knew what a terrible, totally destructive thing war is and wanted no repeats if at all possible.
These bellicose gentlemen of our day, prove the old adage that history repeats itself because men - women have not been given a chance to prove their mettle - are, apparently, too stupid to learn from history or books; it has always been a sickness among the muscle-bound sex, that those urge war who have experienced it the least - need we add the military service shirkers Bush and Clinton - and so are eager to extend its destructiveness - at long distances, by remote control is preferable - usually upon weak, defenceless populations, to get the economic and political advantages they want. Eerily enough, isn't that just like Hitler...
It is not an anomaly of History that Tony Blair - the leader of the British Labour Party, for goodness sake, can you believe it? - is responsible for orchestrating - as Bush's poodle - the killing of thousands of Iraqui men, women, and children, and plunging that nation into worse chaos than it has known in its history. OK, we concede they are nonwhite, non-Christian, and non-Jewish...
But Hitler was different from these men; he had personal courage tested in the fire of war in the front lines. He talked the talk because he had walked the walk. Unlike them, he had put his life on the line for his country, in the trenches of World War I, like millions of his generation. He shared the experience of Neville Chamberlain in being participants in the worst war in human history - Neville as a Government Minister and backbencher MP, Hitler as a soldier.. Both men were transformed because of it.
Chamberlain and Hitler shared something else - a belief that the Allies had imposed an unduly harsh and unjust peace on Germany after World War I, that had ruthlessly plundered her of what resources she had left, plunging her into massive civil unrest, nurturing a population festering with a demand for revenge and the restoration of Germany's stolen territories and the sense of national pride she had before the war.
(This, of course, is exactly what Neville's latter day successor, Tony Blair - and his friends - have orchestrated in Iraq, by bombing the country - the people, the buildings, the heritage sites - back to the Stone Age, and having their business cohorts plundering her of her heritage treasures and oil resources. And, need we add here, creating a million - make that two million - angry little Hitlers in their wake, waiting for their moment to give payback, big time, in London, New York, and Toronto. Who says History doesn't repeat on me...?)
Neville was probably a pacifist at this stage of his life. Unfortunately it was Chamberlain's misfortune to be up against another man, Adolf Hitler, who, in spite of having seen war up close and personal - wanted more!
Perhaps it was to overcome a feeling of personal inadequacy...
As well as producing nice plates, Munich also produced fine poetry and songs, including, World War II's most famous ditty, composed sometime in 1939 mocking the Nazi leaders. (School teachers, you may teach it to your children by singing it for them to the tune of the Colonel Bogey March)
Hitler has only got one ball,
Goering has two but they are small,
Himmler, has something sim'lar,
But Goebbels has no balls at all...
Though mildly amusing, this famous song is not really helpful at clarifying history by explaining Hitler's motivation. This - blush - shortcoming has been rectified by our very own Poet Laurier...
The Eunuch from Munich
There was a dictator from Munich,
Who strutted in a military tunic;
'Cause, say those who recall...
He had but one ball,
And feared he was damn near a eunuch!
The Poet Laurier
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Stereoview, Neville Chamberlain, Aileen & Ada Roberts 1900
Orig. stereoview - Size - 9 x 18 cm
Found - London, UK
Britain in the nineteenth century was - much like the US is today - a social and political order where the rich bought or bribed their way to occupy the seats of power for themselves (Mayor Bloomberg of New York, about half of US senators are multimillionaires), their families (Kennedys, Bushes, Rockefellers), and their business associates (Halliburton, CNN).
Joseph Chamberlain, the Colonial Secretary during the Boer War, got his son, Colonel Neville, a plum job as Chief ADC to Lord Roberts, the Commander-in-Chief of the war against the Boers in South Africa in 1900. This guaranteed that Neville below was visible up front and centre with the leaders and the action, without having him exposed to personal danger in any way.
A celebrated Keystone stereoview shows Neville posing with Lord Roberts' two daughters in Bloemfontein. It was the perfect posting for a man who was the antithesis of the gung ho men of action - including Winston Churchill - who peopled the British Victorian army officer corps, and were always first to put their bodies in the line of fire, at the head of their men. They talked the talk, yes, but no soldier ever exceeded them in personal courage. They walked the walk and died in huge numbers in the Boer War at the place of honour, in front of their troops
He grew up to be what we see no more: a Conservative with a social conscience dedicated to helping the less fortunate, and he had a huge list of achievements to prove he meant it and felt it.
As Lord Mayor of Birmingham and as a cabinet minister (including Chancellor of the Exchequer and Minister of Health, several times) in Conservative governments during and after World War I, including those of Lloyd George and Stanley Baldwin, he helped to lay the groundwork for the modern British welfare state, to the point where, more than one, questioned whether he was a Conservative at all... In fact Neville never used the term to describe himself, but preferred the term Unionist - a coalition government man.
A man of stalwart principles and convictions, he refused a knighthood, and, twice, refused cabinet posts thrust upon him, choosing to remain a backbencher instead. Where is a modern Conservative capable of such restraint, in the group grope for the trough and titles? Eh, Conrad?
Neville was simply a man for whom a Conservative meant Progressive man of conscience with enough concern for the less fortunate in society to legislate change.
And quite different than in our day where Conservatives and conservatives mostly posture their social conscience for political effect, preferring to give billions to their friends in the defence contracts business, while denying a decent minimum wage (in the US and Canada) to single mothers raising kids in poverty. These, having, by an accident of birth, been born into a single mother's household, get a poor start in life; they become the next generation's muggers, thieves, and murderers... But that, the neo-cons say sternly, is exactly why we have the death penalty (US), or should bring it back (Canada)... That's what they mean when they say God provides for everyone...
Conservatives nowadays are much more comfortable - like Blair, Bush, Howard, and Harper - in bombing poor people, from the Stone Age to the pre-Stone Age. And feeling downright proud of it... In the name of Freedom, or Democracy, whatever...!
The Axel of Evil's greed for oil (the US) and the continual traditional greed for Arab territories (Israel) makes people say and do crazy things, including committing humongous human rights abuses (says the UN, and Jimmy Carter, though not, he hastened to add, the US media, which, the Nobel Peace Prize Winner, in reply to Larry King - who asked why the lapse - answered by breaking into a huge grin, saying that he didn't know - proving that even Nobel Laureates and US Presidents lie when necessary.) Oh, and did we forget to mention the killing of hundreds of thousands of Muslim men, women, and children, in Lebanon, Iraq, and Afghanistan.
Neville Chamberlain, who emphasized the social improvement - the progressive as opposed to regressive component of conservatism - to making war in foreign fields for plunder, would not have seen eye to eye with the modern brand of neoconservatives, like Tony Blair - a wolf in sheep's clothing - who betrayed all pretense to socialist roots in an attempt to shoot more foreigners even than the Iron Lady, Maggie Thatcher. To Chamberlain there was something too ominously familiar about all of them...
Hmmm.... That's it! They reminded him of that guy he met in Munich...
But there was a major difference; he would grant you that.
The moustache! That's it.. He had a moustache...
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Toby Jug, Joseph Chamberlain - 1899
Orig. ceramic jug - Size - 15 cm
Found - Frankford, ON
The Man Who Started World War II...
"Old Joe" was a domineering martinet of a father, who browbeat his sons into shy, submissive, retiring personalities, who withdrew from conflict with others at crucial times in their - high profile - public lives.
(His other son Austen was a breath away from being Prime Minister himself when he was - easily - persuaded to step aside for a better man!)
It is a sad touchstone of History that Old Joe's other weak son, Neville, was Prime Minister just at the time that a strong and tough leader was required to confront Herr Hitler, not accommodate him...
But Old Joe had died in 1914 and never saw the horrid consequences that his overbearing style of family upbringing had brought the world.
At the end of World War I, the Allies punished Germany with a ruthless treaty, that stripped away many of her former territories, placing large German populations under the control of foreign nation states - Poland, Czechoslovakia, France, and this in spite of guarantees by the Allied leaders that this would not happen.
This gauntlet thrown in the face of German national feeling, while honouring other people's national aspirations, festered in the minds and hearts of Germans, and nurtured the rising Nazi Party under Hitler. He capitalized on this seething resentment, using it to propel himself into the Chancellorship in 1933.
Hitler's principal aim was to return Germany to her Golden Age of Glory, before World War I, by overturning the restrictive and demeaning clauses of the Treaty of Versailles. He secretly started to rearm, believing he could only right the treaty's wrongs, and reclaim the lost German populations, by force.
In fact, he discovered that bluff would work much better, against the Allies who were still so shattered by the horrific losses they had suffered, in the late war, that none wanted to resort to arms for any reason. As Hitler's voice thundered defiance over the radio, German troops marched into the Rheinland, March 3, 1936. No one opposed them...
In March 1938, German troops marched into (German-speaking) Austria where they were welcomed with flowers and cheers. No one opposed them...
The Allies on all sides wondered where Hitler would bully his way in next. War seemed the only way to stop this shouting dictator who strutted in a military uniform to extraordinary effect.
The Sudeten Germans, distributed around the edge of the Czechoslovakian knife, thrust into the German gut, demanded again to join Germany, as they had in 1918, when they had been rebuffed by the Allies. Hitler demanded to have them.
By September, 1938 everyone believed war was inevitable; the Allies were not going to allow Hitler to dismantle any more of the territorial arrangements dictated by the Peace Treaty.
Instead of reaching for his weapons, Neville Chamberlain grabbed his umbrella - immortalized below in a toby jug - and left for Munich to try to hammer out an accord with Hitler, along with Daladier, and Mussolini, that would solve the problem of the Germans in the Sudetenland that threatened the peace of Europe.
The Munich Agreement handed the Sudetenland over to Germany, depriving the sovereign state of Czechoslovakia of much of its wealth, defences, and a huge proportion of its most productive population. All, of course, without its consent. It was not invited to sit in on its dismemberment.
Everyone thought this peaceful solution was best; all the military staff did, including the British and German. None were prepared to fight. The French and Italians were pleased too. And Neville Chamberlain. None wanted war just to protect the rights of Czechs. After all Britain and France had created Czechoslovakia not 20 years before. They felt they could also undo a flawed work now that it threatened a European peace.
Only Hitler was angry, of the meddling Neville Chamberlain whom he called a "silly old fool." He told associates if he ever came back he would "jump on his chest in front of the cameras."
Chamberlain must have sensed this. Because in a private walk with Hitler he had him sign an extra agreement promising that Hitler would settle all further territorial disputes, which involved British interests, through negotiation.
This is the paper Chamberlain waved in the air at the airport which Neville said promised "Peace in Our Time."
The glorious plate above, wonderfully captures the triumphant euphoria the public felt that Chamberlain had averted another terrifying World War; it also marks the turning point in the countdown to World War II. Neville brought home the Peace that everyone in Britain - in Europe - wanted. The British civilian population was still reeling from the hundreds of thousands of family members they had just so recently buried... The British General Staff also insisted that the Armed Forces was not at all ready for any kind of war anywhere.
Neville Chamberlain's family background made him the perfect messenger for a peaceful accommodation with Herr Hitler.
Though historians have blamed Neville as The Appeaser, and the man who made war ultimately inevitable, he is more properly the man who reflected the moment, the wishes and point of views of the vast majority of the British civilian and military populations.
The nay sayers, as they always are, were mostly in the opposition - and probably complaining more because of tradition than of conviction... Churchill excepted...
Still, Churchill was the outcast when Chamberlain returned a hero in 1938. But not for long... Herr Hitler was on the march, tearing to shreds the piece of paper waved so hopefully by Neville Chamberlain.
He must already have suspected he had failed; he returned home to fast track the rearmament of Britain. Within weeks it began to dawn on everybody that Peace was not to be. It was just a matter of time till the military felt it was ready and the spark would be found that was the pretext for war.
By March 1939, Hitler took over the rest of Czechoslovakia; no one opposed him...
In September he used a border incident as an excuse to invade Poland, which had a huge, captive German population.
This time it was Chamberlain who gave Hitler an ultimatum. Finally someone threatened Hitler with war if he did not stop Nazi aggression against Poland. It was the Appeaser of Munich himself. But too little too late to save millions of lives.
Hitler plowed ahead, sure that it was just another bluff...
The Appeaser of Munich had found the steel in his back...
World War II had begun.
In May, 1940, after Hitler invaded Belgium, the Netherlands, and France, Neville was forced to resign and was replaced by Churchill.
Luckily, the plate has fared better than the Munich Agreement, the Peace in our Time document, and Neville, who died of cancer in 1940, only six months after leaving office, having seen the world descend into madness one more time...
And no doubt, glad to go...
Canada In WW II
When Britain went to war it was a foregone conclusion that Canada, with its huge British immigrant population, would follow suit to support the Mother Country.
1.1 million Canadian men and women served in the armed forces of whom 45,000 ultimately gave their lives in WW II
Over 620,000 had served in World War I - again in support of Great Britain - of whom 67,000 gave their lives - over 10%.
Britain In WW II
In World War I, 5.4 million British men and women served in the armed forces, of whom over 700,000 ultimately gave their lives.
In World War II some 450,000 British men and women gave their lives.
Adolf Hitler & Saddam Hussein
These two men had a lot in common - no not evil - but something far worse: profound ignorance. They were tribally narrow in the worst sense of the word. Fatally so...
Hitler had never been to a foreign country in his entire life, until his troops overran them. He and Hussein had no idea, whatsoever, of the mind-set of other - foreign - peoples. So they both made huge mistakes in interpretation in trying to forecast how other European countries would react to their foreign policy initiatives.
They made another mistake: taking foreign diplomats at face value.
Hitler was encouraged in his wars of aggression because he mistook the accommodating stance of Britain, and France, not only as weakness, but approval. And so acted accordingly. Who can blame him! Hitler certainly did not want, or expect, his 1000 year Reich to last only six years past Munich.
His ignorance of foreigners, his total lack of international experience, made him act like a tribal chief in some isolated Saharan outback. He had a total blank spot - more verging on disdain - for other Europeans who ultimately took him by surprise when they said "Hey! We're here and we object!" But his education had begun much too late...
Hussein's ignorance, more than anything else, consumed him in the end. Because he trusted the Americans too much - way too much. And didn't see they were playing him for an American puppet all the way to the bank.
A grinning Donald Rumsfeld, an emissary from President Ronald Reagan himself, and his cronies from the oil lobby, eagerly shook his hand, and gave him millions to buy weapons and gas, to go after those Iranians whom the Americans hated with xenophobic passion. Hussein loved being a friend of the Americans, and obliged. He saw the Americans as fellow tribesmen in an alliance to go after the evil Iranians. The love affair produced a million dead during the war with Iran in the 1980s.
There is a growing body of very credible evidence that the love affair - like so many - was betrayed with duplicity, in the end, this one in Kuwait.
Hussein, it will someday be confirmed absolutely, was encouraged, secretly, by high level American consular officials, that their government supported his invasion of Kuwait.
Hussein, as ignorant men do, trusted powerful friends - foreign friends - way too much. But then the Americans had been good allies, providing war materiel of all kinds in the war against the Iranians; he thought it was just a continuation of the old friendship. And they had obligingly looked the other way when he used American funding and technology to purchase guns and gas to go after those meddling Kurds...
And let's not forget that Bomber Harris of World War II infamy got his start in rhe Royal Air Force, in the 1920s and 30s right here in Iraq, using time-delayed bombs and poison gas to wipe out unruly Iraqui tribesmen. So Saddam saw nothing wrong in being a copycat murderer.
And now not a peep from Rummy and his pals... And all completely in character for the US: after all Americans had the longest winning streak of invading countries and killing locals in modern history, all without consequence to them. Those are good friends to have, and copy...
So Hussein invaded his tiny nearby neighbour, which he claimed was a traditional part of Iraq's original territory.
But the ignorant peasant from Tikrit was falling into a devious American trap. His invasion of Kuwait, carried out in good faith with American tacit - if secret - agreement, gave the Cheney Gang - Bush is their figure head - just what they wanted - a palatable reason to send a huge military presence of American gunmen into the area, as Phase I, of the American Occupation of the Iraqui oilfields: the Gulf War of 1991.
Phase II started with the Invasion of Iraq in 2003 following the magic discovery of Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq, a country which was actually so inept militarily that Hussein's Air Force couldn't even get a single plane into the air to defend their country, let alone launch a missile of any kind anywhere, when the Americans invaded his homeland.
The lying by the Cheney/Bush Gang, to the American people, was second only to the lying they did to jump start the peasant from Tikrit on his Lebensraum adventure in Kuwait.
Like Hitler before him, Hussein thought he had approval to go get what was rightfully his by History's right.
His last thoughts on the gallows must have been, "How could this happen. I shook Dick Rumsfeld's hand. Is an American handshake worth nothing? They told me to do this. What kind of friendship is that. No Sunni would ever do that to a friend; no Muslim; no Arab! What kind of people are these Americans? Have they no values of any kind? Just greed for our oil?"
It was a good question... It has a simple answer...
Did You Know?
That Halliburton, the oilfields company of which Vice-President Cheney was a recent CEO, has received billions of dollars of contracts from the US Government in Iraq.
|Did You Know?
That another Cheney pal, and former senior executive of Halliburton was given the Walter Reed hospital administration contract of some $120 million, and immediately started cutting costs to increase profits... And the rest they say is...
Above, the room where the Agreement was signed is behind the three windows over the balcony. Only the mounting holes for the Nazi eagle remain in the modern view of a building now used as a music school.
Left the room with its massive fire place in front of which the world leaders had their picture taken.
Below, the room and fireplace as it appeared when Hitler used it, and today, set up as a recital room for students. The lamp remains the original that overheard the hubbub around the leaders in 1938.
The leaders at the far end of the room, posed in front of the fireplace. None look very happy, unlike modern photo ops where everyone is always smiling. Did anyone get what they wanted? From left to right, Chamberlain, Daladier, Hitler, and Mussolini, whose newly discovered diaries maintain, never wanted war of any kind, anywhere. Certainly not in Europe among white nations. But he was more than eager to use modern weapons to attack Black tribesmen wielding spears in Africa (Libya - 1928; Ethiopia - 1935, where he authorized the use of poison gas. Hey don't be harsh with him; at the very same time, the same members of the Royal Air Force, who would deliberately bomb hundreds of thousands of German women and children to dust, in World War II, were practicing up by using poison gas against those pesky insurgent Kurdish tribesmen in Iraq, a newly acquired (1920) British "colony."
Below, an overall view of the Konigsplatz in the 1930s, with the Fuhrerbau in the back left, and the modern view left. Both large buildings remain.The small temples in the middle housed the tombs of 16 Nazis who died in the shoot-out with the Bavarian police in the 1920s.
They were torn down in 1947, by the American army; only shrubs and foundations remain, left, beside a building where the deaths of millions of people, worldwide, was sealed by ineffectual and limited politicians on both sides.
Copyright Goldi Productions Ltd. 1996-1999-2005