What would have made Great Britain sue for peace or accept peace in WW2 before Germany invaded Russia? What kind of agreement would have had to been reached? Would GB accept nothing less than complete and unconditional surrender from Germany? Or would they allowed Germany to take all of the disputed lands between France and Germany as well as keeping occupied Poland to end the war in exchange for the release of most of France back to their own rule? Is the only way that GB would had sued for peace be if the home islands were completely occupied? Or even then, would they had continued to fight from its oversea dominions?
Consideration was made by the British government of negotiating an end to the war in late 1940 and early 1941. The most likely grounds for a settlement would have been a recognition by both sides of the current situation; Britain would have acceded to the German conquests, Germany would not have made any claims on British territory.
The main factor keeping Britain in the war during this period was Churchill. A different politician, such as Halifax, might have decided to seek an armistice. And there is evidence that even Churchill, while planning to keep fighting, had considered the possibility of an armistice.
I can’t foresee any circumstances under which Churchill would accept, tacitly or otherwise, an ongoing Nazi occupation of Western Europe. He’d have to know that Hitler’s military would only get stronger, over time, and sooner or later would attack Britain. He’d seen how untrustworthy Hitler was, and how any armistice or treaty would be abided by Germany not a moment longer than it would be in Germany’s self-perceived interests to do so.
The other side of the coin is that Hitler wouldn’t have wanted to let Britain remain unconquered, just across the English Channel from occupied France, where it could in time (as it eventually did) serve as the springboard for an invasion.
I don’t doubt that Churchill considered an armistice, just as any capable statesman considers all his options, but he quickly - and correctly - rejected it as unrealistic and contrary to the United Kingdom’s national interests, to say nothing of morally wrong.
Without Lend-Lease I am not sure Great Britain would have had any other choice than to seek a negotiated settlement with Germany. Being an island nation protected Great Britain but it is also a liability and without the massive support sent by the US I do not see how the Brits could have avoided being starved out by Hitler. Faced with that very real possibility Churchill may have decided he had no other choice no matter how distasteful he found it.
I don’t think there was ever a realistic chance that Hitler could have (or wanted to) mount an invasion of England (tentative plans for Operatioin Sea Lion notwithstanding).
There WAS a chance that SOME British Prime Minister besides Churchill would have decided “There’s no hope for saving Poland (which was ostensibly the reason we went to war in the first place), there’s no real likelihood of our pushing Hitler out of any European territory he’s taken… maybe the best thing is just to cut our losses. We’ll recognize that Hitler’s control of Europe is, for now, a fait accompli, and he’ll promise to leave our Empire intact.”
Even Churchill probably considered this option, before finally concluding that Hitler had to be stopped, even if stopping him would ultimately mean the end of the Empire.
I’m looking at a book that says Horace Wilson, head of the British Civil Service, approached Franz Wohltat (a German finance ministry official) at a conference in London in July, 1939. According to Wohltat, Wilson offered/implied that the U.K. would lend Germany one billion pounds on favorable terms in order to fund disarmament if Germany would back down from its hostile stance toward Poland. Wohlstat didn’t have authority to make such a deal (the story goes), and nothing ever came of it (it seems in any event that the plans for the invasion of Poland were already a done deal by then). Cite: Illustrated Encyclopedia of World War II, vol. 4, pp. 432-34.
I think it’s difficult to make a statement like “The English would never have made peace with Hitler” without the presumption that history would turn out as it did. It seemed extremely unlikely in 1940 that the UK would survive as a fully independent entity, much less be able to achieve unconditional surrender. IIRC, the reason Htler invaded Russia was to take away the last hope that the English had for help in the war. Once Russia was knocked out (as it had been 25 years previously), England would have no choice but to come to terms with Germany.
On the other hand, the UK refused to sue for peace with the last dictator who dominated Europe and invaded Russia. Sometimes the mistake is assuming nations will be rational actors.
Actually the reverse is more likely true.
Hitler was prone to bouts of anglophilia and not adverse to the idea of a strong Britain. Britain could rule the waves as long as Germany got to rule Europe.
To his mind, the two nations had more in common than the rest of Europe. If world power had to be shared with someone, then better the Brits (with their Germanic heritage and mutual love for kicking seven shades of shit out of the French) than anyone else.
In fact you can argue that Hitler’s initial lack of dislike for the British was ultimately his undoing. Arguably Germany pulled its punches early on, in order to ensure that the British weren’t completely destroyed on the continent (Dunkirk being an example of this). Of course by the time Hitler realised that Churchill could not be brought to the negotiating table, and that public opinion was not sufficiently pro-peace to necessitate a change of government or government policy, it was too late. Britain had been given the small amount of breathing room it had needed to survive and regroup.
I’ve always felt it interesting that whilst Chamberlain’s misreading of Hitler and Germany is well known, Hitler’s own misjudgement of Churchill and Britain is less so. I don’t think Hitler ever quite realised the role Britain’s peculiar culture and history played in its politics at the time.
Sure, from an economic, military and political perspective it would have made sense for Britain to come to terms, but it would also have meant conceding that Britain was no longer the historic power she once was, and could no longer play the Policeman of Europe and maintainer of the status quo.
Whilst most of those in the political establishment knew this had to come to pass sooner or later, they were reluctant to see it end now. Churchill’s genius was in persuading them to admit that if it had to go, better to gamble everything on offering that role to Britain’s prodigal son, the USA, than letting Germany take it by force.
Meanwhile the british national obsession with fair play and the love of an underdog helped to ensure that pressure by the public on the government to make peace never reached massive levels. By the time the public really started to experience the nasty side of warfare, the window of opportunity for peace had long since passed.
Yup. Hitler had certainly convinced himself that if he could humble Russia, then Britain would follow.
Actually, however, from the British perspective Hitler’s invasion of Russia was a godsend. Don’t forget that technically Russia and Germany were allies (or at least not enemies) up until 1941 courtesy of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. Stalin had no intention of attacking Germany, and refused to believe that Germany would attack him - despite the best efforts of both British and Russian intelligence to convince him otherwise.
As long as Russia stayed stubbornly neutral, Britain faced the whole of Germany’s forces alone. If Germany invaded Russia, then suddenly that pressure would be relieved, at the very least giving more time (and justification) to Churchill’s efforts to get the US involved.
Germany invaded Russia because this one one of the main goals of the Nazis. Leibensraum would be provided by removing the Slavs from the fertile areas of Eastern Europe and replacing them with good Aryans.
From the German point of view, at least in the first couple of years in WW2, France was a satisfying bit of revenge for Versailles as well as removal of a possible danger in their rear, Britain was a regretable accident (who would have expected them to go to war over a scrap of paper?), and the Benelux countries, Scandinavia, etc. were incidental tidying up around the edges. I have always felt that the German military excellence in actual combat during WW2 was (luckily for us) balanced by their surprising incompetance at the strategic level.