1940: Hitler's peace terms to Britain

Specifically in May and June 1940, when things were looking particularly bad for the Allies, there was debate in Britain between Churchill and Lord Halifax over whether or not to send peace feelers out through (at the time) neutral Italy. Churchill, though even he had his doubts, eventually won out and the British continued the war.

Apparently even Hitler after the French capitulation was considering making terms in July 1940, although decided not to after returning to Berlin and hearing of what had happened at Mers-el-Kebir that he would be wasting his time proposing peace to Churchill.

Do we have any idea what terms would Hitler have proposed, or accepted, in May, June, July 1940 to reach an armistice with Britain had Halifax won out or the French navy left untouched?

From this site;

On the other hand, Churchill is quoted as saying;

So what would the terms have been, just leave the continent alone or something ‘intolerable’, what or Churchill thought would be dismembering the Royal Navy, a puppet government etc?

Sagte die Spinne zu der Fliege. :rolleyes:

Indeed, Churchill was astute enough to recognize that a Germany that reigned dominant over the entire European continent would be a dire threat to Britain and ultimately bring on its demise. Hitler had a peace treaty and economic ties with Stalin which he prevailed over the Allies to secure and to bring the Soviets into the German fold. There was a huge international struggle between Hitler and the Allies to secure the loyalties of the Soviets and Hitler won. Stalin was Hitler’s ally and it enabled much of his European conquests. Yet in egomaniacal madness Hitler turned on the Soviet Union and attacked them, too.

“Said the spider to the fly”.

You’re welcome.

Pat Buchanan always seems to bang on about “How Britain should have made peace with Uk” and then construct some strawman fantasty how the world would have been better of for it. . Even if you are prepared to abandon all ethical and moral considerations and still make peace with Hitler, you still have to deal with the biggest stumbling block for such a peace.

Simply this. What terms or treaty offer that Hitler made he could possibly be trusted to keep?

He’d already demonstrated repeatedly and would so again that his solemn word and binding obligations were meaningless to him and would be torn up whenether he perceived any advantage in doing so.

How can you make peace with such a man?

Britain should make peace with the UK. To much of their population lives there to do otherwise.

From my understanding Buchanan’s argument is that Britain and France should not have offered a guarantee to Poland over a legitimate German grievance over the Free City of Danzig and the corridor, hacked out of Prussia by Versailles. Though even for the appeasers the line had to be drawn somewhere.

The British appeasers in the war seemed to be of the opinion that if they did start negotiations Hitler’s individual trustworthiness was a side-issue as the Germans would eventually slay their own monster. Hell, even Churchill said that “…if he were told what the terms offered were, he would be prepared to consider them,” which is extraordinary as you’d expect him of all people to tell Hitler to piss of without any consideration. Those minutes also imply that Churchill would accept terms that meant even ceding territory as long as British independence was not question, but thought that was academic as Hitler in triumph was unlikely to offer it (though did offer one last ‘appeal to reason’ to the British in a Reichstag speech in July, but by then Churchill was determined to fight on).

Komm in meinen salon…

Just a slight hijack here:

Neville Chamberlain has gone down in infamy for his “peace in our time” deal with Hitler.

I have been rethinking this and am beginning to think he may have got a bum rap.

Specifically, after he signed the deal, he immediately started the British re-armament program.

This suggests that he knew that war was inevitable, and Britain was in no position to fight any kind of war. So by signing the agreement with Hitler, he was deliberately and consciously buying time to prepare for the inevitable.

So, under the circumstances he was actually making a very astute and beneficial arrangement for the benefit of Britain.

Any thoughts on this?

No, Chamberlain was duped, but so were millions of others. In the 1930s and even during Hitler’s relatively bloodless annexations leading up to the invasion of Poland, Hitler was an unknown quantity and was viewed in many areas – most notably in the United States – as something between a mystery and possibly even someone to be admired. Many US politicians were ambivalent or even favorably inclined toward Hitler, and anti-semitism was fairly rampant. Those were very different times, completely devoid of the perspective that we have today.

Hitler couldn’t make up his mind. Her didn’t want the Empire destroyed, as (in his mind) the US, Japan, and possibly the Soviet Union would benefit from this.

According to Ian Kershaw in his books, Hitler originally scheduled to make a Reichstag speech (directed at the UK) Monday, 8 July. He postponed it three times, finally giving the speech on 19 July. This (again, according to Kershaw) indicates an uncertainty about how to proceed on the issue. (He believed Churchill was still pro-war, and would not respond well to any offers. He hoped others would push Churchill out of power.)

When he finally gave the speech, it was a two and a half hour speech, mostly recounting the course of the war to this point, and the might of Germany. It was only in the last few minutes of the speech did he get to his “offer”: Churchill was a warmonger. A threat that the Empire would be destroyed. A regret for the victims of war. And a final “appeal to reason”. He offered nothing that could have formed a basis of a peace lobby in London to cling to.

The UK announced it’s rejection within the hour.

Hitler assumed that the UK still clung to hopes that the US and/or the Soviet Union would enter the war against Germany. (Hitler had no illusions about Stalin being a temporary ally. He assumed that Stalin was “flirting with Britain” to keep her in the war, and tie down Germnay, while the USSR exploited the situation to further it’s own expansionist policies.)

Eventually, according to Kershaw, he decides to attack the USSR (something he had always wanted to do anyways), and, necessarily opening a two front war (even though this was something he repeatedly warned his Generals not to do), in order to remove a pillar of hope out from under Churchills war and diplomatic strategy.

IMO: It seems to me that Hitler didn’t have an answer, a plan, or any idea of an what kind of offer to bring about some kind of Armistice in the second half of 1940. Any actual concessions militarily, or diplomatically, on the part of Germany must have seemed out of the question. Anything that made Germany seem weak, or the Furher not in control of the situation, was out of the question, as it may endanger Hitlers/Nazi power in Germany, at least in Hitlers mind.

I read a gushing biography on Churchill once that (indirectly) said the same thing. Chamberlain knew that there was no domestic resolve for immediate military action and the nation’s military was drawn down to peacetime levels in both manpower and equipment. For instance, the air force was largely a bomber wing and the fighters that would defend London in a few years were started in production after Chamberlain’s meeting. An immediate military response or saber-rattling towards Hitler would have likely proven disastrous because Britain didn’t really have the military in place yet to back it up.

Remember, in 1940 Hitler still thought he could successfully destroy Britain’s air defence and invade.

There were basically two phases in Hitler’s foreign policy. The first was when he was saying all he wanted was to bring German lands back into Germany. Places like the Saar and the Rhineland, Austria, Memel, Danzig, and the Sudentenland. All of these places had ethnically German majorities who were saying they wanted to be part of Germany. (A lot of this pan-Germanism was manufactured by Germany but it did exist.)

So the British government could tell itself that Germany’s goals were actually relatively reasonable. They wanted these lands to be part of Germany and the people living in these lands wanted to be part of Germany. So at Munich, Chamberlain supported the idea of the Sudentenland being given to Germany. This took place in October of 1938 and the British could tell themselves that Germany now had everything it wanted.

And then in March of 1939, Germany invaded and occupied the rest of Czechoslovakia. This was a stunning blow to the British government. There was no claim that the Czechs wanted to be part of Germany and the occupation had local support. This was openly a military conquest. This invasion showed that Germany was not going to stop at some reasonable limit that other nations might agree to; they were going to conquer as much land as they could. It was this event that made the British government feel war was inevitable.

But rearmament didn’t begin after Munich or after the invasion of Czechoslovakia. It had begun back in 1934 and continued through the decade. The British military was rearming through Chamberlain’s administration so there was no turning point.

Another false impression is that Britain “betrayed” Czechoslovakia at Munich. But the reality is Britain had never made any promises to Czechoslovakia. There was never an alliance between Britain and Czechoslovakia. (France and the Soviet Union, on the other hand, did have an alliance with Czechoslovakia which they both ignored.)

Little Nemo is correct, although while factually Britain was rearming in a fashion it was in no way a rearmament with an intention to protect Britain’s interests. Chamberlain certainly only ever saw it as a means of placating the worst of the anti-appeasing critics, and he had no intention of speeding up the pace. I have some figures somewhere of how the material buildup of the British military was largely of a technical nature (better weapons and equipment, not more), rather than a recognition of a foreign threat to be addressed.

Chamberlain especially disliked the principle of rearmament as something that was bad for the economy as it interfered with the supply of consumer goods, and he resisted until quite late any government intervention in production or ordering.

And he was considering breaking with Poland and recognising German actions right up to the moment of the British declaration of war, when a Cabinet revolt forced him to drop it.

Most of Hitlers Generals were against the idea, and only a few were optimistic. Hitler himself never fully trusted his Generals, too, so there is that.

But I pointed out his three weeks of dithering (up until 19 July) on a deciding on what kind of peace offer he was going to announce. To me, that indicates he didn’t have a plan.

I think he must have expected the UK to agree to terms once France was beaten, and when they didn’t, he didn’t know what to do.

Indeed, after canceling Sea Lion in mid September, he never came back seriously to the idea of an invasion, or otherwise forcing some kind of surrender or armistice before taking on the USSR.

A lot of the problem was that the British military could form a consensus on what the most critical need was. The Army said that they needed to be stronger in order to defend European countries against German aggression - Germany wouldn’t be deterred by anything except troops on the ground. The Royal Navy said that the first consideration had to be the defense of Britain itself and that required ships around the home islands - all other military needs would have to wait until the Navy had secured the home country. And the RAF said that technology had moved on and the next war would be fought with air attacks - so the military needed more planes rather than more ships or soldiers.

So it wasn’t just an issue of whether to rearm but of how to rearm.