Nazis Welcomed in Brighton

 

Sir Cooper Rawson – MP for Brighton.

 

On 21 June 1935 Hove Town Hall also hosted what was then a well publicized, if now forgotten, event, but this time with a Nazi politician and the local MP standing shoulder to shoulder in solidarity.  The building resounded to the sounds of “Deutschland Uber Alles” and “Seig Heils” as “Britons and Germans alike”, attending a reception for First World War veterans, “gave the Nazi salute”. Baron Von Putlitz, Secretary to the German Embassy and Sir Cooper Rawson, the Conservative MP for Brighton and Hove, had just finished speaking of their hope that relations between Britain and Nazi Germany should remain on the best of terms.[1]

By the time of the meeting, Hitler had held absolute power in Germany for over two years. Tens of thousands of Jews, communists, socialists, pacifists, trade unionists, homosexuals and other subversives had been imprisoned in concentration camps while thousands more had been tortured or murdered. So it is not surprising that there was some opposition to the event, but it was limited and the Brighton police quickly dealt with it. According to the Yorkshire Post

“Before the party (of Germans) arrived at Brighton (station) Communistic leaflets criticising the visit were being distributed among the (waiting) crowds. Just before the train arrived police took action. A girl in a red beret and a man who had been distributing the pamphlets were led away.”[2]

The Dundee Courier – 21 June 1935

The remainder of the trip received widespread and supportive coverage in the British press which might have impressed Dr. Goebbels, Hitler’s infamous Minister of Propaganda. Even the distant Dundee Courier, under the headline “Mayor’s Welcome – Nazis and Legionnaires March Side by Side” commented on the amazing scene as “the Germans…..with red and black swastika armlets gave the Nazi salute as they stepped from the train and were hailed with cries of “welcome brother” from their former enemies.”[3]

Note the Swastika armband – The Daily Herald 21 June 1935

The Daily Mirror made no mention of the swastika armlets in its report, but an accompanying photograph showed a German veteran carrying a high pole topped by a pennant swastika flag[4] and similarly the Daily Herald also made no reference to Nazi emblems in its coverage, even though, in the photograph which was published above the article, a swastika armband could be clearly seen on at least one of the veterans.[5]  It seems that even these relatively progressive national newspapers had already accepted that these sinister Nazi symbols deserved  some sort of respect and that any outright criticism would be somehow inappropriate.

Most of the press coverage was strongly sympathetic to the German visitors.  According to a report published in the Hull Daily Mail, the Dundee Evening Telegraph and several other regional newspapers, “Brighton itself quickly took to the visitors and everywhere along the promenade and on the piers the townsfolk and girl holidaymakers gave them a friendly Nazi salute which was smilingly acknowledged.” [6]  The British media also noted the comment of one German veteran on how the British welcome contrasted to his experience in Belgium.  “From the start of the journey,” he recalled, “we have been feted and given messages of greetings to England. Only in Belgium did we have to keep rather quiet, for they did not like us so much.”[7]

The Birmingham Gazette 21 June 1935

In Britain the visitors, received every possible protection from any display of disapproval.  Two locals, who were sitting quietly in the Hove Town Hall Gallery as the German visitors and officials gathered, were immediately asked to leave by the police who, according to the Northern Whig and Belfast Post, were keeping a “close watch upon Communists, who have been distributing propaganda against the German visit to the town” [8]

The Times noted that on departing, Walter Kleinkorres, head of the German veterans delegation, thanked his hosts, declaring that he and his comrades had all been “deeply touched by the hearty welcome and generous hospitality,” and that after expressing his hope that “a warm friendship between Britain and Germany would develop,” he “presented the Mayor with a miniature swastika banner as a souvenir of the visit.”[9]  However, there was even a more surprising expression of thanks, from the Fuhrer himself, evidently delighted at the immense propaganda value of the meeting for the Nazi regime.  Four days after the German veterans had left, he sent a telegram to the Brighton branch of the British legion.

“Thank you very much for your friendly greeting and all the kind thoughts from the English and German ex-service men. It is my heartfelt wish that this reunion of ex-servicemen will bring understanding and peace to the nations of the world.”[10]

Read the next page – “Ten Other Shameful Moments of Establishment Deference”

Read the previous page – “Cameron at Brighton”

 

Footnotes

1. The Scotsman 22 June 1935 p15 and another similar but not identical report on the event in the Aberdeen Press and Journal, 22 June 1935 p7. There was also a report entitled “Peace From The Trenches” in the Daily Mirror, 22 June 1935, p2.

2. “German Ex-Servicemen in England”, the Yorkshire Post, 21 June 1935 p11.

3. Dundee Courier and Advertiser 21 June 1935 p7. An almost identical description was also carried in “German Ex-Servicemen in England”, the Yorkshire Post, 21 June 1935, p11.

4. “German Ex Soldiers Here”, the Daily Mirror, 21 June 1935, p3.

5. “German Ex-Prisoners Come to Brighton,” the Daily Herald, 21 June 1935 p3

6. “German Ex-Prisoners See Brighton Sights”, the Hull Daily Mail, 21 June 1935 p1 and the Dundee Evening Telegraph, 21 June 1935 p8

7. Hartlepool Northern Daily Mail, 21 June 1935, p 12.

8. The Northern Whig and Belfast Post, 22 June 1935 p7.

9. “German Ex Soldiers’ Visit to England,” The Times, 25 June 1935, p16 from The Times Digital Archive, accessed on 17 July 2017.

10. “Hitler Thanks the Legion,” the Daily Express, 26 June 1935 p2 and “Hitler’s Thanks,” The Gloucestershire Citizen, 26 June 1935 p6

 

All text on this website is copyright Alisdare Hickson 2017.   This is  a first draft.