THE CHAMBERLAIN-HITLER DEAL by Clement Libovitz, Edmonton, Alberta.,
Les Editions Duval Inc.
REVIEWED BY F.H. KNELMAN, Ph. D..
Dr. Leibovitz's book is a remarkable historical analysis of the real origins of World War II, all the more remarkable by virtue of the author's chosen field in the physical sciences. This latter aspect stirred a responsive chord because it corresponds to this reviewer's own search to build bridges between "the two cultures". But this is not the only sympathetic chord of response, for this reviewer also found himself on a voyage of discovery insofar as his own personal history had interacted so powerfully with the historical events assessed in this book. In a very general way we understood the hidden history that led to World War II, almost as it was happening, but our understanding was a pale reflection of the whole complex picture which Professor Leibovitz has illuminated with impressive skills of analysis, supported by the fundamental ethos of the scientific approach of understanding, i.e. by the reluctant removal of the numerous layers of doubt to reveal the core of the truth.
In the first sweep of speed-reading this voluminous text, we were overwhelmed by its high factual deensity. The sources were encyclopedic, ranging through diaries, memoirs, letters, newspapers, books, articles, and biographies. Dr. Leibovitz develops and then substantiates the fact that the "gift" that Sir Neville Chamberlain, the then Prime Minister of Britain, gave Adolf Hitler, Chancellor of Germany, on that fateful day in Munich, September 30, 1938, was nothing less than a "free hand" and, even more, encouragement to begin a series of aggressive acts that ended in World War II. The basic content of this "free hand" policy was to direct and redirect Hitler's military's expansion to Eastern Europe and, particularly, against "the menace" of Bolshevism in the Soviet Union. In effect, then, what has been called appeasement or rapprochement, was in fact overt encouragement to destroy the Soviet Union and divide the spheres of influence of Germany and Britain, i.e., to give Germany a free hand in Central and Eastern Europe in the naive hope that Britain, who had ruled the waves for her whole imperial history, would be granted a Western sanctuary, possibly including France and Belgium. Moreover, this was more than mere conspiracy of the like-minded, but involved prior intentionality.
Given the incredible significance of the Russian Revolution, the rise of Hitler and Mussolini, the Spanish Civil War, the Holocaust, the Second World War, capped by Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Dr. Leibovitz reveals the linkages and dynamics of these interrelated events which inevitably laid the groundwork for the next 44 years of the Cold War, with its terrible social and environmental costs, a debt that is too large for payment by current generations. But focussing on the Second World War alone, the single greatest war in history, the misguided yet deliberate policy of the "free hand" was a primary cause of the devastating event. The "free hand" then evolved into the policy of containment, into the obscene nuclear arms race, based as much on mutually assured delusions as mutually assured destructions (MAD), in which the world itself became a pawn.
Dr. Leibovitz's analytical skills are nothing less than remarkable in their capacity to weave the various threads of history into a powerful pattern of historical dynamics. Moreover, we are presented with a dominant continuum that links Munich to Hiroshima and Nagasaki, a continuum that now includes Granada, Panama and the Gulf War. The true face of appeasement was containment, a role the US inherited from Britain. The "steel curtain" of containment was based on the fear that the "virus" of communism would infect the body politic of the West. The beginning was best expressed by Sir Neville Chamberlain as an "Anglo-German understanding" for "the two pillars of European peeace and buttresses against Communism" (Sept. 13, 1938, in a letter to King George VI).
We must confess that limitation of space, let alone time, make it impossible to do justice to the total analysis of Clement Leibovitz, who was able to trace all the threads of this complex pattern of historical events. To accomplish this mammoth task of research, Professor Leibovitz analyzes the history of Western intervention in the Russian revolution, which undoubtly contributed to Stalin's policies. We tend to forget that Hitler's "final solution" was practiced earlier by the White rulers of the Ukraine under the infamous General Denitzen, with the massacre of three million Jews in the period from 1919 to 1920. Organized terror in the revolution was in fact the program of the Provisional Government. In fact General Gregori Semenov not only murdered thousands of Russians but also Americans, and yet this known criminal was actively supported by the West, and he was eventually given sanctuary in the US., in 1922, entering through the port of Vancouver, BC.!
What Professor Leibovitz's scrupulous research reveals is that the policy of the "free hand" derives naturally from the collective mindset of the pillars of the British establishment, concerned above all of what they considered the pre-eminent threat to the security of their entrenched privilege and power. Forever fearful of the revolt of the masses, which they viewed as "mob rule" by an inferior class, the establishment would never permit them to aspire to anything beyond the intrinsic unworthiness of their lot. In summary, the "red menace" involved a fundamental threat to the most sacred tenets of capitalism and colonialism. It threatened the absolute sanctity of private property and the holy right to exploit labour and insure profit. It threatened an established social order with a vision of a new social system in which workers were empowered and capitalism was replaced by communism.
That the British establishment should have added a vein of racism which struck a sympathetic chord with the architects of the Holocaust is not surprising. This is made explicit in various documents sprinkled thoughout this impressive book. Thus a leading British diplomat wrote that if "these two leading white races were to exterminate each other in war, Bolshevism would be the only gainer thereby," or, as the British Ambassador to Germany, Sir Neville Henderson, said, in reporting a conversation he had with Von Ribbentrop, "I would view with dismay another defeat of Germany which would merely serve the purposes of inferior races" (p. 283). At a gathering of a group of Lords of the Realm, who were openly sympathetic to Hitler, the Duke of Westminster read a document "opposing bloodletting between the two races which are the most akin and most disciplined in the world" (p. 496). There is evidence that Chamberlain sympathised with these views while recognizing that he could not make this public. Thus the "free hand" of Munich was a class agreement, a race agreement, and fundamentally an anticommunist agreement.
What emerges from Dr Leibovitz's account of the deal, which lead to war in that time, is that the set of precursor events from 1917 to 1939 inevitably led to that end. And beyond this, a distinct period in history which began with the Russian Revolution of 1917, and ended some 74 years later, with the demise of the Soviet Union, had its fulcrum in Munich. Appeasement began even earlier, with the invasion of Abyssinia by fascist Italy in 1935, and the direct intervention by Italy and Germany in the Spanish Civil War of 1936-37. The policy of appeasement was, in fact, the freedom handed out to Hitler as a direct overt choice of fascism over communism. It permitted Hitler to violate the Treaty of Versailles by rearming and to violate the Locarno Treaty by remilitarizing the Rhineland. It sanctioned "Anschluss", the annexation of Austria and the dismemberment of Czechoslovakia by first occupying the Sudetenland and then invading the Czechs on March 15, 1939, just six months after Munich.
It consistently rejected ouvertures and direct proposals by the Soviet Union to act against Germany's aggression and create a Soviet-Allied alliance, a common front against Hitler. It permitted consistent violations of the Covenant of the League of Nations, abandoning the first brave attempt at collective security. It did all of this in the full knowledge of the most organized and violent repression of the human rights in history. On September 1, Germany invaded Poland and the period known as the "phony war" began, merely another form of the "free hand" and the hope that Hitler would destroy the Soviet Union. All too late, the world recognized that Hitler's plans were to ultimately dominate the world, not merely Europe. The direct cost was the Holocaust and the incredible ravages of World War II. Yet, ironically, Hitler's racism led him to reject nuclear science, which the Nazis termed "Jewish Physics".
The end of this event, or at least of the stage that ended with Allied- Soviet victory over Hitler, was virtually opposite to the original intention of Chamberlain's "free hand" policy. The heroic resistance of the Soviet people and their arms, supported by the resistance movements all over Europe, made a major contribution, although the US entry in the war was decisive. There is no denying history. It was the resistance of the left, whether in Yugoslavia or generally in Eastern Europe, that helped to change the course of the war. Moreover, the unthinkable occurred with the Soviet Union, not Germany, consolidating power in Eastern Europe and emerging as the second power in the world. And that "free hand" that was planned to destroy Bolshevism also led to the Battle of Britain, yet another significant error of its policy. The end of the war in Europe and North Africa joined quickly with the defeat of Japan. There is considerable evidence that the use of the atom bomb on Japan was not necessary for allied victory, but was designed to halt the influence of the Soviet Union in that theater. It was also a case of violent technological imperialism. The scientists with their "Faustian bargains" let the nuclear genie out of the bottle, lending a new soliloquy for our smal planet "to be or not to be." The consequence was the most socially and environmentally distorting period the world has ever known, the Cold War.
The end of World War II and the advent of the nuclear age also spelled the end of empire for Britain and the colonial stage of imperialism. The result was the emergence of the neo-imperialism of the accompanying globalization of both markets and intervention, through technological outreach. It was the US that took up the mantle of Chamberlain, culminating in the reign of error of Ronald Reagan, who identified the Soviet Empire as an "evil empire". The policy remained intact, only the script and the actors were new.
In conclusion, we are recommending this book unreservedly to all students of history, professional or amateur, who wish to understand what happened in Munich in 1939 and how it shaped the things to come. Dr. Leibovitz's book is a masterpiece of meticulous scholarship and, beyond this a major contribution to our understanding of how individuals and their social environment interact to create the dynamics of history.