Showing posts from November, 2018

Eighty years ago, a maverick Duchess takes on the government, a failed general strike rings the death knell of the Front Populaire and some Nazi advice on humour

The Duchess of Atholl applied for the Chiltern Hundreds and announced she would fight an immediate by-election in Kinross and West Perth, which she had represented as Unionist M.P. since 1923, standing as an independent. She had resigned in protest at the government’s foreign policy. She was something of a maverick having enthusiastically supported the Spanish Republicans unlike almost all government MPs. She had published a book defending the Republic, earning her the nickname of the "Red Duchess."  The opposition parties did not field candidates leaving the by-election as a straight race between the Duchess and the official government candidate on the question of appeasement. The scene was set for what was later described as the dirtiest by-election ever fought. France’s Front Populaire which had been leading an ever-more shadowy existence was finally dealt a death blow. In protest against worsening labour conditions, the Communist CGT union called a general str

Eighty years ago: Nazis follow mob violence against Jews with legal expropriation and Chamberlain looks forward to basking in French adulation whilst a railwayman pre-empts the PM unwittingly

The Nazi regime ground the Jewish community into financial abjection by fulfilling its pledge to make the Jews pay for the damage caused in the Kristallnacht pogrom. 20% of all assets owned by Jews above a modest threshold were to be appropriated by the state. Any insurance payments received for damage were to paid over to the tax authorities although, in a remarkable concession to even-handedness, this amount could be set against the new levy. Neville Chamberlain and Foreign Secretary Lord Halifax visited Paris. Like practically every single such contact between the British and French governments nothing wothy of mention was achieved but the fiction of a close alliance was maintained. Privately Chamberlain also felt that it gave the population of the French capital a valuable opportunity to express their thanks to him for having brought permanent peace to Europe at the Munich conference: "to pour[..] out their pent up feelings of gratitude and affection." A dele

Eighty years ago, the massive Crystal Night pogrom is not allowed to interfere with appeasement

As the remaining Jews in Germany had feared, retribution for the attack on von Rath in Paris came soon and it was terrible. Orchestrated by propaganda minister Josef Goebbels, Reichskristallnacht (Crystal night) was one of the largest pogroms ever unleashed. Synagogues were burnt and Jewish owned shops were vandalized throughout the Reich. Dozens were killed and hundreds were arrested. It was followed by legislation that in practice stripped Jews of everything that they owned. The US was the only country to make any noticeable protest, withdrawing its ambassador “for consultations.” Neville Chamberlain complained privately that the atrocity might hamper his policy of appeasement and moaned that he might be forced to have to come close to criticizing Germany in public. Mussolini finally reaped the harvest of Chamberlain’s policy of appeasement. The Anglo-Italian agreements signed at Easter finally came into effect as the withdrawal of some Italian troops from Spain triggere

Eighty year ago a shooting in Paris sets the scene for horrors in Germany

Nazi Germany expelled with extreme brutality the 20,000 Polish Jews that it could find in the country. The son of one of these called Grynspan shot the German Ambassador to France von Rath, injuring him severely. Those Jews still in Germany knew that revenge would be exacted, and probably terrible revenge. The German press was dominated by news of the attack and one newspaper Der Angriff   blamed Winston Churchill. The Battle of the Ebro was approaching its climax after months of attrition fighting. The Republican forces were now squeezed into their positions on the right bank of the river by steady Nationalist counter-attacks. In a last-ditch attempt to rescue the position the Republicans launched a probe across the Lerida river but the Nationalists did not rise to the bait. The tide of US politics appeared as though it might be turning. The mid-term elections showed a clear shift towards the Republicans after eight years in which the Democrats had seemed to carry all