British Newspapers and Adolf Hitler (Commentary)

This commentary is based on the classroom activity: British Newspapers and Adolf Hitler

Q1: Read the introduction and sources 2 and 3. Did all British newspapers oppose Adolf Hitler in the 1930s? How did David Low upset Lord Rothermere?

A1: Adolf Hitler was a popular figure with most of British newspaper owners after he was elected in 1933. All newspaper owners are wealthy people and in the 1930s their main fear was communism. When he gained power in 1933 he banned the German Communist Party (KPD) and the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and imprisoned their leaders. Hitler also banned the right of trade unionists to go on strike.

The main supporter of Hitler was Harold Harmsworth (Lord Rothermere) the owner of the Daily Mail and Evening News. He wrote several articles (see source 2) supporting Hitler as well as Oswald Mosley, the leader of the National Union of Fascists. According to James Pool, the author of Who Financed Hitler: The Secret Funding of Hitler's Rise to Power (1979), Rothermere helped to fund the Nazi Party.

William Maxwell Aitken (Lord Beaverbrook), the owner of Daily Express and the Evening Standard, was also friendly towards Hitler and throughout the 1930s promoted appeasement and praised Neville Chamberlain and the Munich Agreement. Geoffrey Dawson, the editor of The Times was another supporter of the Nazi regime and was a member of the right-wing pro-Hitler group, the Anglo-German Fellowship.

The cartoonist, David Low, was a strong opponent of fascism. He comments in his autobiography (source 3) that in response to the Daily Mail support of Mosley he produced a cartoon with Lord Rothermere wearing a blackshirt. Lord Rothermere was much incensed and complained bitterly. "Dog doesn't eat dog. It isn't done." This meant that newspapers should not attack other newspaper owners.

Q2: Explain the meaning of source 1. It will help you to read David Low's own comments on the cartoon in source 4.

A2: David Low (source 4) explains that the cartoon is an attack on those politicians that did not take action against Hitler when German troops reoccupied the Rhineland demilitarized zone, in breach of the Versailles and Locarno Treaties. Low gives the impression that the other European leaders were frightened of Hitler. They cower in the corner while Hitler says "How much will you give me not to kick your pants for, say, twenty-five years?"

Q3: In source 6 David Low explains the meaning of source 5. Anthony Eden, the British Foreign Secretary, is the man at the bottom of the drawing. How would he have defended his decision not to take action against the "rearming of Germany and the reoccupation of the Rhineland".

A3: Anthony Eden would have argued that he did not take any action against the "rearming of Germany and the reoccupation of the Rhineland" because he was trying to avoid another war against Germany. He might also say that Germany was too harshly treated after the First World War and therefore could understand why Hitler was taking this action.

Q4: Study source 7 and 8. Describe Low's methods of dealing with Hitler and Mussolini.

A4: According to source 8, David Low "quickly realized that to satirize them (Hitler and Mussolini) as tyrants with blood dripping from their fingers, far from embarrassing them, only gratified their vanity". He therefore decided to show them as "clowns". Low points out that Hitler and Mussolini were not attractive men and gave the cartoonist plenty of opportunity for "destructive caricature" (source 7).

Q5: Use the information in sources 12 and 13 to explain the meaning of source 10.

A5: David Low's cartoon is a comment on the invasion of Poland after the signing of the Nazi-Soviet Pact. The cartoon shows Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin congratulating each other over the body of Poland.

Q6: Explain the meaning of source 14.

A6: Source 14 shows the two men with their arms around each other. However, with their other hand they are carrying revolvers. Low is suggesting that their friendship would not last too long. He was right as Hitler ordered the invasion of the Soviet Union in June, 1941.

Q7: Compare the treatment of Joseph Stalin in sources 10, 14 and 15.

A7: In sources 10 and 14 Low provides a very unsympathetic image of Stalin. However, by the time he drew source 15 the Soviet Union had joined forces with Britain and the United States against Germany. As a result Stalin is shown as a warm and friendly figure.

Q8: David Low was disliked by both the German and British governments before the outbreak of the Second World War. Use the information in this unit to explain this statement.

A8: David Low's cartoons were banned in Nazi Germany. Low was told by Lord Beaverbrook (source 9) that he had to be careful when he traveled abroad as he might suffer an "accident". He was also disliked by the British government and Lord Halifax, the Foreign Secretary, complained that his cartoons "were impairing the prime minister's policy of appeasement" (source 11).