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Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Ralph Miliband and Lord Rothermere

I am afraid that I am partly responsible for The Daily Mail’s outrageous attack on Ralph Miliband on Saturday. The only evidence it provided for its headline: “The man who hated Britain” comes from my webpage on Miliband.

In the article Geoffrey Levy quotes from a diary entry that the 16 year old Ralph Miliband wrote in 1940: "The Englishman is a rabid nationalist. They are perhaps the most nationalist people in the world ... When you hear the English talk of this war you sometimes almost want them to lose it to show them how things are.”

Levy probably got this information from my webpage on Ralph Miliband. (The information originally came Michael Newman's book, Ralph Miliband and the Politics of the New Left). On Saturday, if you typed in “Ralph Miliband” into Google my site came second after the Wikipedia entry. The Wikipedia page did not have this information on Miliband then (it does now but at least it references my web page). The page is no longer second because the first three pages of search-results for “Ralph Miliband” at Google are now full-up of news stories about the man.  

What Levy does not mention is the reason for the diary entry. The Miliband family were Jews living in Belgium who had arrived in May 1940 after fleeing persecution from the Nazis who had recently taken over western Europe. Ralph was shocked by the level of anti-Semitism that existed in England at the time. Ironically, much of this anti-Semitism and dislike of Europeans had come from the propaganda campaign that had taken place in the 1930s. The man behind this campaign was Lord Rothermere, the great-grandfather of the current Lord Rothermere, the owner of The Daily Mail. The current owner of the Daily Mail has an estimated wealth of £1.02 billion but pays no tax in the UK although he seems that his newspaper is very concerned about all those who are taking too much from the “benefit system”.

The original Lord Rothermere was only Harold Harmsworth until 1919 when he was offered the title in return for his newspapers supporting the Conservative Party. The bribe soon paid dividends and in 1924 the Daily Mail published the Zinoviev Letter a few days before the election took place. This resulted in the fall of the first Labour government. According to Christopher Andrew, the author of Secret Service: The Making of the British Intelligence Community (1985), three MI5 officers with links to the Conservative Party, Sidney Reilly, Arthur Maundy Gregory and George Joseph Ball, had forged the letter.

Lord Rotheremere's newspapers continued to increase their circulation. By 1926 the daily sales of the Daily Mail had reached 2,000,000. Rothermere personal wealth was now £25 million and he was estimated to be the third richest man in Britain. Rothermere became increasingly nationalistic in his political views and in 1929 joined with Lord Beaverbrook to form the United Empire Party. Rothermere urged the Conservative Party to remove its leader, Stanley Baldwin, and replace him with Beaverbrook. He also argued for a reform of the House of Lords to make it possible for peers to be elected to the House of Commons. This dispute divided conservative voters and this helped the Labour Party to win the 1929 General Election.

In the General Election in Germany that took place in September 1930, the Nazi Party increased its number of representatives in parliament from 14 to 107. Adolf Hitler was now the leader of the second largest party in Germany. James Pool, the author of Who Financed Hitler: The Secret Funding of Hitler's Rise to Power (1979) points out: "Soon after Adolf Hitler Shortly after the Nazis' sweeping victory in the election of September 14, 1930, Rothermere went to Munich to have a long talk with Hitler, and ten days after the election wrote an article discussing the significance of the National Socialists' triumph. The article drew attention throughout England and the Continent because it urged acceptance of the Nazis as a bulwark against Communism... Rothermere continued to say that if it were not for the Nazis, the Communists might have gained the majority in the Reichstag." According to Louis P. Lochner, Tycoons and Tyrant: German Industry from Hitler to Adenauer (1954) it was rumoured that Rothermere provided funds to Hitler via Ernst Hanfstaengel.


When Hitler became Chancellor on 30th January 1933, Rothermere produced a series of articles acclaiming the new leader of Germany. The most famous of these was on the 10th July when he told readers that he "confidently expected" great things of the Nazi regime. He also criticised other newspapers for "its obsession with Nazi violence and racialism", and assured his readers that any such deeds would be "submerged by the immense benefits that the new regime is already bestowing on Germany."

Rothermere now began a campaign in favour of the Nazi Party. The Daily Mail criticized "the old women of both sexes" who filled British newspapers with rabid reports of Nazi "excesses." Instead, the newspaper claimed, Hitler had saved Germany from "Israelites of international attachments" and the "minor misdeeds of individual Nazis will be submerged by the immense benefits that the new regime is already bestowing upon Germany."

Rothermere also had several meetings with Adolf Hitler and argued that the Nazi leader desired peace. In one article written in March, 1934 he called for Hitler to be given back land in Africa that had been taken as a result of the Versailles Treaty. Hitler acknowledged this help by writing to Rothermere: "I should like to express the appreciation of countless Germans, who regard me as their spokesman, for the wise and beneficial public support which you have given to a policy that we all hope will contribute to the enduring pacification of Europe. Just as we are fanatically determined to defend ourselves against attack, so do we reject the idea of taking the initiative in bringing about a war. I am convinced that no one who fought in the front trenches during the world war, no matter in what European country, desires another conflict."

As Richard Griffiths, the author of Fellow Travellers of the Right (1979) has pointed out: "Rothermere visited Hitler on a number of occasions, and corresponded with him. As we have seen, Hitler's first major dinner party for foreigners, on 19th December 1934, had as its guests of honour Rothermere, his son Esmond Harmsworth, and Ward Price, together with Ernest Tennant. Rothermere's subsequent article in the Daily Mail was violently enthusiastic about what Hitler had done for Germany. Hitler wrote a number of important letters to Rothermere in 1933 and 1934, but the most interesting of them, because of its subsequent fate, was the one written on 3 May 1935 in which he advocated Anglo-German understanding as a firm combination for peace. Rothermere circulated this to many politicians, convinced that his personal contact with Hitler had produced a real breakthrough."

Lord Rothermere also gave full support to Oswald Mosley and the National Union of Fascists. He wrote an article, Hurrah for the Blackshirts, on 22nd January, 1934, in which he praised Mosley for his "sound, commonsense, Conservative doctrine". Rothermere added: "Timid alarmists all this week have been whimpering that the rapid growth in numbers of the British Blackshirts is preparing the way for a system of rulership by means of steel whips and concentration camps. Very few of these panic-mongers have any personal knowledge of the countries that are already under Blackshirt government. The notion that a permanent reign of terror exists there has been evolved entirely from their own morbid imaginations, fed by sensational propaganda from opponents of the party now in power. As a purely British organization, the Blackshirts will respect those principles of tolerance which are traditional in British politics. They have no prejudice either of class or race. Their recruits are drawn from all social grades and every political party. Young men may join the British Union of Fascists by writing to the Headquarters, King's Road, Chelsea, London, S.W."

The Daily Mail continued to give its support to the fascists. George Ward Price wrote about anti-fascist demonstrators at a meeting of the National Union of Fascists on 8th June, 1934: "If the Blackshirts movement had any need of justification, the Red Hooligans who savagely and systematically tried to wreck Sir Oswald Mosley's huge and magnificently successful meeting at Olympia last night would have supplied it. They got what they deserved. Olympia has been the scene of many assemblies and many great fights, but never had it offered the spectacle of so many fights mixed up with a meeting."

In July, 1934 Lord Rothermere suddenly withdrew his support for Oswald Mosley. The historian, James Pool, argues: "The rumour on Fleet Street was that the Daily Mail's Jewish advertisers had threatened to place their ads in a different paper if Rothermere continued the pro-fascist campaign." Pool points out that sometime after this, Rothermere met with Hitler at the Berghof and told how the "Jews cut off his complete revenue from advertising" and compelled him to "toe the line." Hitler later recalled Rothermere telling him that it was "quite impossible at short notice to take any effective countermeasures."

Lord Rothermere continued to support Hitler but tried to keep it secret from the general public. It later emerged that Rothermere was paying a retainer of £5,000 per year (£200,000 in today's money) to Princess Stephanie von Hohenlohe, a close confidante of Adolf Hitler, Hermann Goering, Heinrich Himmler and Joachim von Ribbentrop. According to The Daily Telegraph: "In 1933, the year that Hitler gained power, MI6 circulated a report stating that the French secret service had discovered documents in the princess's flat in Paris ordering her to persuade Rothermere to campaign for the return to Germany of territory ceded to Poland at the end of First World War. She was to receive £300,000 – equal to £13 million today if she succeeded."

Jim Wilson, the author of Nazi Princess: Hitler, Lord Rothermere and Princess Stefanie Von Hohenlohe (2011) has argued: "After arriving in London in 1932, she moved in the most exclusive circles, arranging the visit of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor to Nazi Germany in 1937, and being involved in diplomatic intrigue between Lord Halifax and the Nazis in 1938." By 1938 MI6, was becoming very concerned about her activities. A report said: "She is frequently summoned by the Fuhrer who appreciates her intelligence and good advice. She is perhaps the only woman who can exercise any influence on him."

Rothermere and his newspapers supported Neville Chamberlain and his policy of appeasement. When Hitler marched into Czechoslovakia in March 1938 he sent a telegram to Adolf Hitler saying: "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."

MI6 continued to investigate Stephanie von Hohenlohe. In March 1939 the MI6 passport control officer at Victoria Station arrested her Hungarian lawyer, Erno Wittman. The arresting officer reported what he discovered that Wittman was carrying: "This was astonishing; it appeared to be copies of documents and letters which passed between Lord Rothermere, Lady Snowden, Princess Stephanie, Herr Hitler and others. In the main, the letters referred to the possible restoration of the throne in Hungary and shed a good deal of light on the character and activities of the princess." It was decided to pass on this information to MI5. Amongst the documents were several letters from Lord Rothermere to Adolf Hitler. This included a "a very indiscreet letter to the Fuhrer congratulating him on his walk into Prague". The letter urged Hitler to follow up his coup with the invasion of Romania.

On 24th September 1939 Lord Rothermere had his close colleague and "ghost", Collin Brooks, draft a letter to Neville Chamberlain urging the futility of trying to save Poland and warning that "whether victorious or not, Britain will emerge from such a conflict with her social and economic fabric destroyed", which could mean "a revolution of the Left in these islands, which might be more deadly than the war itself". According to Rothermere's biographer, D. George Boyce: "But the letter was never sent (despite Rothermere's fear that Britain was ‘finished’), because of the ‘national mood and temper’, a nice example of the would-be opinion leader and press baron being led by the public itself."

On the outbreak of the war, Stephanie von Hohenlohe, fearing that she would be arrested, fled to San Francisco. Tipped off by MI6, the FBI put her under surveillance. A memo to President Franklin D. Roosevelt described her as a spy "more dangerous than ten thousand men".

Lord Rothermere decided to move to Bermuda during the Blitz where he died on 26th November 1940.

Much of this information became available in 2005 when MI5 and MI6 released their files on Lord Rothermere. However, the press largely decided to ignore it. According to Alastair Campbell, journalists and politicians are frightened of upsetting the current Lord Rothermere in case he uses the Daily Mail against them. It is time we stood up to these vicious bullies.

I therefore ask you to pass on this message to friends. It would also help if you “liked” my page on Lord Rothermere and Ralph Miliband and shared that with your friends. Or you could retweet my tweets on the subject.





5 comments:

lunnunis said...

Thank you, highly informative and will be shared.

Guy Walters said...

You misrepresent the line in Lochner's Tycoons and Tyrant.

The actual text reads:

"While I was AP correspondent in Berlin it was further rumoured that Lord Rothermere helped Hitler's foreign press chief, Ernst F.S. ("Putzi") Hanfstaengl, financially, apparently to build up his public relations section. But here, again, proof is lacking."

There is no mention of 'providing funds to Hitler', and indeed, as Lochner was careful to write, there is no evidence for what was a rumour.

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