by Sam Fowles
History is power. Control of history means control of the political battleground. If we remembered how often the powerful have betrayed the principles for which they claim to stand, we may be less inclined to meekly accede to their wishes.
I’m sure the young Princess Elizabeth had no idea what she was doing when she performed the Nazi salute but members of her family (and other leading Establishment figures) did. As a nation, we suffer from collective amnesia concerning the rise of Hitler. In some cases we have even used pop culture to re-write history. In “The Kings Speech” the royal family are depicted voicing their concern to Timothy Spall’s Churchill in the early thirties. Something that, all reliable accounts suggest, absolutely did not happen.
History isn’t inevitable. We are not swept along on an unstoppable tide of events. History is determined by the actions of individuals. The depression, German politics, the repercussions of the Versailles Treaty all played a part in the rise of Hitler. But so did the contribution if the British Establishment. The European elites supported Hitler because they saw him as a better alternative than a left wing party. In the UK Conservative MPs organised in groups like the January Club to promote Hitler’s politics in the UK (even after Kristallnacht). After Germany invaded Czechoslovakia the Bank of England facilitated the transfer of its sovereign wealth fund to the Nazis. The Royal family’s censors prevented plays criticising Hitler from showing on the London stage as late as 1939.
One of the most significant supporters of Nazism was Prince Edward, later the Duke of Windsor, who appears in the footage released by the Sun. Recent evidence suggests that Edward passed information to Nazi agents including the suggestion that London should be bombed. He did this while a serving officer in the Grenadier Guards. He was assisted by other aristocrats such as the Countess of Athlone. Yet Edward was never court martialled. He was never tried for treason. Would an ordinary citizen, perhaps one of the many killed by the bombing that Edward supported, have received the same leniency?