Another prominent Briton visits Hitler at Berchtesgaden

The British government’s attempt to present Lord Halifax’s visit to Germany as an “unofficial” exercise began to look exceedingly threadbare when Halifax travelled on from Berlin to see the Führer at his mountain retreat at Berchtesgaden. Ostensibly Halifax had gone to Berlin to attend the International Hunting Exhibition but travelling the extra 700km or so to Bavaria made plain his journey’s true purpose. Halifax long afterwards claimed to have mistaken Hitler for a footman when he first saw him but there is no sign that he treated him with anything less than the deference due to a head of state at the time. The talks did not produce any immediately practical results, but Halifax did refer to the possibility of boundary changes in eastern Europe, a tacit signal to Hitler that Britain had no objection in principle to revision of the Versailles settlement.

Official statements that Maxim Litvinov the Soviet Foreign Minister was a “great and worthy” champion of the regime dampened speculation as to his future. These had been prompted by his rapid and unheralded departure from the token and ineffectual Brussels conference on the Japanese invasion of China combined with the extension of Stalin’s purges to senior diplomats from military officers and Party functionaries. Litvinov who remained in office for another couple of years proved to be one of the few old Bolsheviks who survived Stalin’s suspicions and jealousy during the great purges although there is some suspicion that his death in 1951 was not natural.

The weakness of British aviation policy was cruelly exposed when Parliamentary pressure forced the government to open an inquiry by Lord Cadman into civil aviation. Anomalously the Air Ministry was responsible for both civil and military and was not felt to be doing particularly well on either score. It was accused of neglecting commercial aviation because it was more of a service ministry for the RAF. Britain’s leading airline, Imperial Airways, was an unhappy blend of a private company under state control, unsure whether it was a commercial business of a national flag carrier. Its aircraft were old and unsuitable.


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