Queen’s childhood Nazi salute downplays issue of Hitler’s pre-war popularity

John Wight
John Wight has written for newspapers and websites across the world, including the Independent, Morning Star, Huffington Post, Counterpunch, London Progressive Journal, and Foreign Policy Journal. He is also a regular commentator on RT and BBC Radio. John is currently working on a book exploring the role of the West in the Arab Spring. You can follow him on Twitter @JohnWight1
Britain's Queen Elizabeth © Boris Roessler / Pool
Anger over a British tabloid’s publication of video footage of the country’s 7-year old future Queen performing a Nazi salute deflects from the real issue, which is the level of sympathy and support for Hitler that existed within the British establishment in the 1930s.

A 7-year old child cannot be held responsible for its actions, which is why the attempt by apologists for the Royal Family to suggest it was unfair of the Sun newspaper to go ahead with publication of the video of the future Queen looking at the camera and thrusting her right arm out in a Nazi salute is so weak.

No one in their right mind would attribute any criticism to the Queen over the gesture, given she was just a child at the time. However her mother, known affectionately and revered when she was alive as the Queen Mother, is another matter. In the video she is seen encouraging her daughter to deliver the salute to the camera in the presence of her younger sister, Margaret, and her Uncle, the then Prince of Wales and future King Edward VII, who occupied the throne from January-December 1936 before abdicating over his relationship with the American, Wallis Simpson, a ‘commoner’ and divorcee.

READ MORE: Queen’s Nazi salute video: Calls to open Royal archives

Edward VIII was a full blown Nazi supporter who in 1937 met Hitler and other leading Nazis, such as Josef Goebbels, and came away thoroughly impressed, describing the fascist dictator as, “a charming man.” The extent of his links with Hitler and the Nazis was covered up after the war by Churchill and successive British governments, fearing the harm it would do to the monarchy in a country whose people had suffered the Blitz and had seen thousands of his young men killed and wounded in the war to smash fascism and defeat Hitler, in conjunction with their US and Soviet allies.

The British royals, it should be recalled, were related to the Romanovs, whom the Bolsheviks had executed during the Russian Revolution of 1917. From their standpoint, this left them with an understandable detestation and fear of communism, which in the context of an economic depression that had swept the capitalist world by 1933 had become an increasingly attractive alternative to the status quo for millions of people who’d been plunged into a daily struggle for survival.

The royals were, however, merely the tip of an iceberg of establishment sympathy for the Nazis in Britain prior to the Second World War. It included newspaper barons such as Viscount Rothermere, owner of the Daily Mail, who published headlines such as, ‘Hurrah For The Blackshirts’, across the front page of the paper in the early 1930s in support of Sir Oswald Mosley and his notorious British Union of Fascists movement.

Meanwhile former British Prime Minister Lloyd George returned from a visit to Germany in 1936 and declared that Hitler was “a man of supreme quality.”
Right up until Germany invaded Poland in 1939; the popular establishment view in Britain was that as long as Hitler confined his ambitions to Czechoslovakia, a country shamefully and disgracefully handed over to the fascist dictator with the signing of the Munich Agreement in 1938, he could be a useful counterweight to the Soviet Union.

Evidence of this was provided by Britain’s stance when it came to the Spanish Civil War of 1936-39. Along with France and the United States, the British government followed a policy of non-intervention. It was a policy tantamount to support for General Franco and his ultra-nationalist movement, given the massive aid and support his fascist attack on a democratically-elected Spanish republican government received from Hitler and Mussolini, with only the Soviet government aiding the republican side. For the British ruling class communism was the enemy, a threat to the power, wealth, and privileges they enjoyed, with European fascism widely viewed as a necessary counterweight.

It has to be said though that not all British politicians and establishment figures were soft on fascism because they supported or sympathized with it. Some, such as former Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, a man who occupies a notorious place in history over his part in the aforementioned Munich Agreement, carried deep emotional and psychological scars from the carnage of the First World War, motivating him to do whatever it took, up to and including the appeasement of Hitler’s expansionist ambitions, to prevent a repeat. History shows, of course, that rather than prevent another war appeasement actually ensured it occurred, by encouraging Hitler in his belief that the Western powers did not have the stomach to confront him.

Though much has deservedly been made of Churchill’s role in confronting Hitler, and his prescience in identifying the threat posed by him when many of his political counterparts were committed to appeasement, the primary motive of Britain’s wartime leader was the protection of the British Empire, to which Hitler he believed was a gathering threat. This is ironic given that the fascist dictator had long been an admirer of Britain’s ability to control and exploit such a huge swathe of the globe with so few troops.

In his political testament, Mein Kampf, Hitler asserted that one of the Kaiser’s greatest mistakes had been his enmity towards England and his attempt to match Britain’s naval power in the lead up to the First World War. In a speech he gave to the Reichstag in 1935, outlining a new naval agreement with Britain pledging to limit his navy to 35 percent of Britain’s, Hitler said, “The German government has the straightforward intention to find and maintain a relationship with the British people and state which will prevent for all time a repetition of the only struggle [World War I] there has been between both nations.”

The truth is that Hitler’s objective was to emulate Britain in the forging of his own empire with the colonization of Eastern Europe, whose peoples he viewed as subhuman, exactly as the British imperial elite viewed indigenous peoples of their empire and colonies.

An even more sinister motivation for cordial relations with Britain in Hitler’s mind was his obsession with the politics of race, specifically his perverse and obscurantist belief in the natural supremacy of the Germanic Aryan peoples and their fitness and right to rule the world. He considered the British to be part of this Aryan master race and envisaged Britain becoming a seafaring partner of his Germanic European Reich. What is more, a substantial section of the British elite agreed.

Returning to the controversy over the royals and the future Queen’s Hitler salute in 1933, captured on film, it has been interesting to listen to the voices asserting that nobody had any idea of what Hitler really stood for and intended back then, six years before he invaded Poland and Britain declared war against him. This is a transparently weak defense given that by 1933 Mein Kampf was a bestseller in Germany with its unsavory and ugly views on Europe’s Jewish diaspora, communism, and his clear intention to assert Germany’s ‘rebirth’ by force of arms. Moreover, by 1933 Jews in Germany were already suffering persecution, as were communists, trade unionists, and other groups considered beyond the pale.

The extent of the British sympathy for Hitler and the Nazis is only now coming to light. It is a national scandal that leaves the institution of the British monarchy in a state of disrepute, along with the entire British establishment.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.