Throughout the 1930’s there was one man who stood alone, he repeatedly warned the British Parliament about Germany’s growing military strength, and of course, Adolf Hitler’s National Socialist German Workers Party.
That man was Winston Churchill.
Churchill’s dire warnings were not taken very seriously. In contrast, then British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain pursued a policy of appeasement and compromise even though Hitler already annexed Austria and vowed to invade Czechoslovakia.
Chamberlain reacted to Hitler’s aggression with soft diplomacy; in 1938 they met in Munich with Italian leader Benito Mussolini and French premier Edouard Daladier. Without involving Czechoslovakia in the negotiations, they agreed to cede Northern, Eastern and Western parts of the country to Germany. During the negotiations, Chamberlain drafted a non-aggression pact between Britain and Germany that Hitler signed. Chamberlain returned to Britain victorious, declaring “peace for our time”. Only months later Hitler annexed the rest of Czechoslovakia taking it by military force.
World war two began when Adolf Hitler’s National Socialist Germany decided to invade Poland. Hitler invaded on the first of September 1939 with roughly one and a half million soldiers, two thousand aeroplanes and two and a half thousand tanks; the German war machine decimated Poland.
However, Poland at that time had a guarantee of French and British support should Germany invade. Britain gave Hitler an ultimatum – pull out of Poland, or there would be a declaration of war. Hitler ignored the warning, perhaps knowing that Chamberlain was no wartime leader. Just two days later, Britain and France declared war on Nazi Germany. This was the start of the second world war.
Hitler intended to “Germanise” Poland by replacing Poles with German colonists. Hitler believed that native Poles were racially inferior and set out to destroy their nation, their culture and their pride; he wanted them subjugated and enslaved. People remember the Auschwitz concentration camp for its appalling crimes against Jewish people. What many don’t realise is that non-Jewish Poles constituted the majority of inmates there until March 1942. Between 1939 and 1945, at least 1.5 million Polish citizens were deported to German territory to carry out forced labour. Hundreds of thousands were imprisoned in Nazi concentration camps.
Hitler’s campaigns of invasion, divided, crushed, conquered, subjugated, displaced and enslaved millions of people all across Europe using German military might. The German war machine grew incredibly strong in less than a decade, a period when Churchills repeated warnings were largely ignored. Eight months after the German invasion of Poland Neville Chamberlain was forced to resign, Winston Churchill took his place as a wartime leader.
On the 13th of May 1940, Prime Minister Churchill stood before the House of Commons and said:
“I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears, and sweat.”
For the first year of his Premiership, Britain stood alone against Nazi Germany. Despite this, he promised his countrymen and women and the rest of the world that the British would “never surrender.”
On the 8th of May 1945, Great Britain and the United States celebrated Victory in Europe Day; it was Germany that surrendered, not us British. Every village, town and city the length and breadth of the United Kingdom put out flags and banners, rejoicing in the defeat of the Nazi war machine. Today we mark the 75th anniversary of VE day – or as we all know it – Victory in Europe.
Today we honour all those who fought to prevent the National Socialists of Germany subjugating our people and stealing from us our green and pleasant lands. We honour all those who gave their lives defending our Island and our freedoms, heroes who saved the world from another tyrannical, genocidal socialist.
Lest we forget!