How Winston Churchill's Love of Jews Helped Him Foresee the Nazi Threat

By Klein, Philip | Examiner (Washington, D.C.), The, February 7, 2019 | Go to article overview

How Winston Churchill's Love of Jews Helped Him Foresee the Nazi Threat


Klein, Philip, Examiner (Washington, D.C.), The


“Why is your chief so violent about the Jews?” Winston Churchill asked a Nazi publicist, who at a Munich hotel in 1932 had offered to arrange a meeting with Adolf Hitler that never ended up happening.

As a soldier, journalist, and politician, Churchill enjoyed an extraordinary career so long that it saw him participate in Britain’s last cavalry charge as well as the development of the first atomic bomb. But more than anything, Churchill is known for his prescient warnings during the 1930s about the threat posed by Adolf Hitler, and for his subsequent leadership in rallying his nation to fight on against the Nazi menace even when they were all alone.

In an excellent new single-volume biography Churchill: Walking With Destiny, historian Andrew Roberts argues that it was Churchill’s lifelong admiration for the Jewish people, a rarity for somebody of his social class at that time, that actually helped him foresee the threat posed by Hitler when his colleagues could not.

A son of a cabinet minister and grandson of a duke, Churchill was raised with an aristocratic sensibility even though he held no title. Yet he never inherited what Roberts describes as “the clubland anti-Semitism that was a social glue” for Victorian-era elites. Instead, “he was a life-long philio-Semite.”

Churchill was initially influenced by his father’s friendships with many prominent Jews. This connection to the Jewish community was also fostered over about 25 years of representing a constituency in the House of Commons with a relatively high concentration of Jews. But his sentiments could not be explained purely through electoral calculations.

“Bravo Zola!” Churchill wrote in a private letter to his mother in 1898, a reference to Emile Zola, the French author who exposed the anti-Semitic conspiracy known as the Dreyfus affair that framed a Jewish military officer for spilling secrets.

Throughout his political career, Churchill was an advocate for Jews, in ways that put him at odds with most of his colleagues. Early on, he opposed a bill that restricted immigration to Britain of Jewish victims of pogroms in czarist Russia. Later, he would argue passionately for Zionism.

Churchill backed the Balfour Declaration in 1917 that supported the establishment of a Jewish national home. In a 1920 essay, he envisioned a Jewish state “which might comprise three or four millions of Jews” and predicted it would “from every point of view, be beneficial. …

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