Lord Rothermere, Daily Mail and Adolf Hitler (Commentary)

This commentary is based on the classroom activity: Lord Rothermere, Daily Mail and Adolf Hitler

Q1: In 1924 David Low began portraying Lord Rothermere and Lord Beaverbrook as "two mischievous conspirators" (see source 1). He added that "various incidents and accidents turned up by grinning fate in succeeding months tended to support and confirm the lightsome fancy". Read Rothermere's biography and explain what he did in October 1924 that upset Low?

A1: In October, 1924, MI5 sent a letter signed by Grigory Zinoviev, chairman of the Comintern in the Soviet Union, and Arthur McManus, the British representative on the committee. In the letter British communists were urged to promote revolution through acts of sedition. Four days before the 1924 General Election Rothermere decided publish in the Daily Mail what became known as the Zinoviev Letter. The letter was a forgery and contributed to the defeat of Ramsay MacDonald and the Labour Party. The cartoonist, David Low, believed that the letter was part of a Tory plot that included Lord Rothermere.

Q2: Read the introduction and then explain why FBI agents were monitoring the actions of Princess Stephanie von Hohenlohe and Lord Rothermere?

A2: The FBI as well as the British and French intelligence services, were keeping a close watch on German agents. By 1927 the FBI had identified Princess Stephanie as a probable spy. They therefore were very interested in the people she was meeting. When she became Lord Rothermere's mistress, he also was monitored.

Q3: Study sources 4, 5, 8 and 18. Describe the views of Lord Rothermere.

A3: Lord Rothermere believed that the success of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party in the 1930 election represented "the rebirth of Germany as a nation" (source 4).

On 10th July, 1933, after Hitler had gained power in Germany, Rothermere accused those who criticised the new government as being pro-Soviet. He denied that "Nazi atrocities" were taking place and described them as "a few isolated acts of violence". Rothermere believed that Hitler was right to deal with the problem of the country falling "under the control of its alien elements". He goes on to point out: "In the last days of the pre-Hitler regime there were twenty times as many Jewish Government officials in Germany as had existed before the war. Israelites of international attachments were insinuating themselves into key positions in the German administrative machine" (source 5).

Lord Rothermere supported the fascists in Germany, Italy and Spain. He also supported Oswald Mosley and the National Union of Fascists in Britain. He used the Daily Mail to try to recruit new members to the BUF. This included details of how to join the party (source 8).

In the telegram Lord Rothermere sent to Adolf Hitler on 1st October, 1938 (source 18), he congratulated him about the successful invasion of Czechoslovakia and the occupation of the Sudetenland.

Q4: Read sources 3 and 14. How do these authors explain the views of Lord Rothermere.

A4: James Pool (source 3) argues that Lord Rothermere supported Hitler because Nazi Germany provided a "bulwark against Communism".

Lawrence James (source 14) agrees with Pool about Rothermere's anti-Communism but believes his anti-Semitism was also important: "Lord Rothermere was part of a group that saw an immensely powerful union between Communism and the Jewish people as a world conspiracy that could be thwarted only by Fascism". James points out that "anti-Semitism permeated the upper classes between the wars".

Q5: How does source 10 explain the changes that David Low made to source 9?

A5: David Low worked for the Evening Standard. The newspaper was owned by Lord Beaverbrook, a close friend and business partner of Lord Rothermere, and refused to allow the original cartoon to be published. At the time, Rothermere controlled forty-nine per cent of the shares of the newspaper. Low was forced to make the nanny unrecgnisable as Rothermere and had to change the name on her dress from the Daily Mail to the Daily Shirt.

Q6: What did Adolf Hitler (source 6) and Joseph Goebbels (source 16) think of Lord Rothermere?

A6: Adolf Hitler was very grateful for Lord Rothermere's help in promoting his ideas in his newspapers. He says in source 6: "I should like to express the appreciation of countless Germans, who regard me as their spokesman, for the wise and beneficial support which you have given to a policy that we all hope will contribute to the final liberation of Europe".

Joseph Goebbels met Lord Rothermere on several occasions in the 1930s. In his diary (source 16) he recorded that Rothermere was "strongly anti-Jewish". Goebbels also appreciated Rothermere's "great compliments".

Q7: According to source 17, why did The Daily Mail stop supporting Oswald Mosley and the National Union of Fascists.

A7: In his book, Who Financed Hitler: The Secret Funding of Hitler's Rise to Power (1979) James Pool that the rumour on "Fleet Street was that the Daily Mail 's Jewish advertisers had threatened to place their adds in a different paper if Rothermere continued the pro-fascist campaign."

This rumour was confirmed in 2007 by Paul Briscoe, in his biography, My Friend the Enemy: An English Boy in Nazi Germany. He tells the story of his mother Norah Briscoe, who worked for the PR department of Unilever . One of the tasks she was given was to collect all references to Sir Oswald Mosley, the leader of the National Union of Fascists, that had appeared in all the newspapers owned by Lord Rothermere. She later learned that the cuttings had been requested by some Jewish directors of Unilever.

As a result of this investigation "Jewish directors of Unilever... decided to present Harmsworth's owner, Lord Rothermere, with an ultimatum: if he did not stop backing Mosley, they and their friends would stop placing advertisements in his papers. Rothermere gave in." However, as Briscoe pointed out, her investigation involved her "reading almost everything favourable that had been written recently about Mosley and his Blackshirts. What she read, she liked." Norah handed in her notice at Unilever and decided to become a pro-fascist freelance journalist.

Q8: Why is it only since 2005 that we have known the full story of Lord Rothermere's relationship with Adolf Hitler? It will help you to read sources 19, 22 and 23.

A8: As explained in answer to Q1, the intelligence services were keeping a close watch on Lord Rothermere. In March 1939 the MI6 passport control officer at Victoria Station arrested Princess Stephanie's Hungarian lawyer, Erno Wittman. The arresting officer reported what he discovered that Wittman was carrying "copies of documents and letters which passed between Lord Rothermere, Lady Snowden, Princess Stephanie, Herr Hitler and others".

These documents were released in 2005 and therefore historians have been able to obtain a more accurate picture of the relationship between Hitler and Rothermere. Fearing that he might be arrested for treason Rothermere fled to Bermuda where he died on 26th November 1940. For more details of Hitler supporters in the establishment see the Right Club.