Spartacus Blog

British Newspaper Reporting of Appeasement and Nazi Germany

Monday, 14th October 2013

John Simkin

Appeasement provides an interesting way to look at how the subject was reported in British newspapers. The two major press barons, Lord Rothermere (The Daily Mail, The Sunday Dispatch and The Evening News) and Lord Waldorf Astor (The Times and The Observer) were both strong supporters of appeasement and so the public had a very distorted picture of the negotiations. Rothermere and Astor both used their newspapers to provide a positive image of Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany. So much so that their activities were being monitored by MI5. In doing so, they discovered that both men were seen on a regular basis in the company of Princess Stephanie von Hohenlohe, a Nazi spy who had been under observation as a German agent since receiving information from French Intelligence in 1928.

One of the most important journalist in this campaign was George Ward Price. There is virtually nothing available on the web on the activities of Ward Price. I have therefore produced a very detailed page on his reporting. He was the Daily Mail's foreign correspondent. During the 1930s he developed a close relationship with Adolf Hitler. According to the German historian, Hans-Adolf Jacobsen: "The famous special correspondent of the London Daily Mail, Ward Price, was welcomed to interviews in the Reich Chancellery in a more privileged way than all other foreign journalists, particularly when foreign countries had once more been brusqued by a decision of German foreign policy. His paper supported Hitler more strongly and more constantly than any other newspaper outside Germany."

Franklin Reid Gannon, the author of The British Press and Germany (1971), has claimed that Hitler regarded him as "the only foreign journalist who reported him without prejudice". In his autobiography, Extra-Special Correspondent (1957), Ward Price defended himself against the charge he was a fascist by claiming: "I reported Hitler's statements accurately, leaving British newspaper readers to form their own opinions of their worth."

Ward Price was also a intimate associate of Oswald Mosley and a supporter of the National Union of Fascists (BUF). He was also a founding member of the January Club in 1934. The object of the group was to attract Establishment support for the BUF. Members included Robert Forgan, Francis Yeats-Brown, Sir Louis Greig; Lord Erskine and Lord William Montagu-Douglas-Scott.

According to Jim Wilson, the author of Nazi Princess: Hitler, Lord Rothermere and Princess Stephanie Von Hohenlohe (2011):: "George Ward Price, by 1934 had built up a unique rapport with Hitler, was a close friend of Mosley's and a leading figure in the January Club, conceived the idea for Mosley and Rothermere to go into business together by forming a company, in May 1934, called New Epoch Products Ltd. The plan was for the company to manufacture a range of goods, including cigarettes, which would be distributed via the 500 or so Blackshirt chapters that had been formed throughout the country."

When Lord Rothermere, the owner of the The Daily Mail, took Ward Price with him when he met Adolf Hitler for the first time in December 1934. That evening Hitler held his first major dinner party he had given for foreign visitors at his official residence in Berlin since he had taken office. The high-level guests included Joseph Goebbels, Hermann Goering and Joachim von Ribbentrop.

As Richard Griffiths, the author of Fellow Travellers of the Right (1979) has pointed out: "Rothermere visited Hitler on a number of occasions, and corresponded with him. As we have seen, Hitler's first major dinner party for foreigners, on 19th December 1934, had as its guests of honour Rothermere, his son Esmond Harmsworth, and Ward Price, together with Ernest Tennant. Rothermere's subsequent article in the Daily Mail was violently enthusiastic about what Hitler had done for Germany. Hitler wrote a number of important letters to Rothermere in 1933 and 1934, but the most interesting of them, because of its subsequent fate, was the one written on 3 May 1935 in which he advocated Anglo-German understanding as a firm combination for peace. Rothermere circulated this to many politicians, convinced that his personal contact with Hitler had produced a real breakthrough."

Lord Rothermere and George Ward Price also gave full support to Oswald Mosley and the National Union of Fascists. George Ward Price wrote about anti-fascist demonstrators at a meeting of the National Union of Fascists on 8th June, 1934: "If the Blackshirts movement had any need of justification, the Red Hooligans who savagely and systematically tried to wreck Sir Oswald Mosley's huge and magnificently successful meeting at Olympia last night would have supplied it. They got what they deserved. Olympia has been the scene of many assemblies and many great fights, but never had it offered the spectacle of so many fights mixed up with a meeting."

George Ward Price, Lord Rothermere and Princess Stephanie von Hohenlohe were invited to spend time with Hitler at his holiday retreat, The Eagle's Nest, in the mountains above Berchtesgaden. Also invited was Joseph Goebbels. He wrote in his diary: "Rothermere pays me great compliments... Enquires in detail about German press policy. Strongly anti-Jewish. The princess is very pushy. After lunch we retire for a chat. Question of Spain comes up. Führer won't tolerate a hot-bed of communism in Europe any longer. Is ready to prevent any more pro-Republican volunteers from going there. His proposal on controls seem to astonish Rothermere. German prestige is thus restored. Franco will win anyway... Rothermere believes British government also pro-Franco."

Adolf Hitler was kept informed about what British newspapers were saying about him. He was usually very pleased by what appeared in The Daily Mail. On 20th May 1937 he wrote to Lord Rothermere: "Your leading articles published within the last few weeks, which I read with great interest, contain everything that corresponds to my own thoughts as well." Hitler told George Ward Price: "He (Lord Rothermere) is the only Englishman who sees clearly the magnitude of this Bolshevist danger. His paper is doing an immense amount of good."

In 1937 George Ward Price published his book, I Know These Dictators. It was full of praise of Hitler: "Behind the forceful character which he displays in public he had a human, pleasant personality... He had the artistic, visionary tendencies of the South German type... and there was a strong strain of sadness and tenderness in his disposition... Hitler had... a fondness for children and dogs... His personality and prestige were so strong that without any effort on his part, he is surrounded by much awe on the part of his entourage... Hitler is a widely read man... familiar with the works of the leading German philosophers who had mastered the history, geography and social and economic conditions of the chief European countries."

Ward Price defended Hitler's treatment of Jews, trade unionists and socialists in Nazi Germany: "To law-abiding citizens the Nazi Government brought public order, political peace, better living-conditions, and the promise, some fulfilled, to make Germany once more a great nation... Upon the people who opposed, or looked like opposing, its plans, it laid a heavy hand... The jockey who pats his horse in the paddock may lash him in a hard finish. The rulers of Germany were stern because they believed the fate of their country was at stake. If they failed, the gates would be open wide to Bolshevism - the same bloodthirsty Bolshevism which had ravaged and liquidated in Russia, tortured and massacred in Hungary.... The tolerant attitude of the average Anglo-Saxon... toward Jews, Communists, and those deluded intellectuals indulgently termed 'parlour-Bolshevists' appears in Nazi eyes as stupid apathy in the presence of real danger."

According to Richard Griffiths, the author of Fellow Travellers of the Right (1979): "Rothermere and Ward Price, then, used the Daily Mail, up to 1938, as an instrument of Nazi propaganda. As Franklin Gannon points out, there was little news coverage of Germany in that paper (compared with the extensive coverage in other papers), and opinions on Germany were expressed mainly through editorials and reports of Ward Price's interviews. As the thirties wore on, the paper's main concern turned gradually from positive praise of Nazism to a concern to avoid Continental obligations."

After the Second World War Ward Price attempted to cover-up his support of Adolf Hitler. In direct contradiction to his earlier comments, in his book, Extra-Special Correspondent (1957) he wrote: "The many meetings that I had with Hitler... always filled me with astonishment that a man of his neurotic character and limited perceptions should be able to maintain personal domination over a race possessing such varied and conspicuous qualities as the Germans... I was surprised... to see the deference displayed towards him by so many Germans who were his superiors in education, intellect and experience."

Students could be given the quotations from I Know These Dictators (1937) and Extra-Special Correspondent (1957) and asked to explain the different interpretations.

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