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The Daily Telegraph

September 24, 2000

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GoebbelsHitler 'worried by extremist views of Goebbels', claimed British official

By Chris Hastings and David Bamber

THE ideological rantings of Joseph Goebbels, the Nazi propaganda minister, were so extreme that even Adolf Hitler claimed to be frightened by them, according to secret documents obtained by The Telegraph.

The papers show that the Führer was worried that the "excessive zeal" of some of his deputies, and Goebbels in particular, was getting out of proportion and undermining Germany's national interests.

HendersonHitler's concerns were relayed in a letter written by Sir Robert Vansittart, the permanent under secretary at the Foreign Office to Sir Russell Scott, a senior official in the Home Office. In the letter, dated September 25, 1937, Sir Robert related details of a conversation between Sir Neville Henderson, Britain's ambassador to Berlin (right), and Baron von Neurath, the German foreign minister.

He wrote:

"Henderson adds, 'There are signs that Hitler himself is beginning to feel himself hampered by the excessive zeal of some of his deputies. Baron von Neurath told me that the Chancellor recently asked him whether a good man could be found to explain to the world the true aims of and constitution of Nazism. According to von Neurath, this inquiry had struck him as a criticism of Goebbel's [sic] capacity for antagonising foreign public opinion."

In 1937 Goebbels had established himself as a flag-waver for the Nazi cause and in particular its rabid anti-Semitism. He had recently organised an exhibition of "degenerate art" to highlight the work of such "undesirable" artists as Picasso and been the main instigator of the regime's policy of book burning. It was assumed at the time that the policies were carried out with the full knowledge and backing of Hitler.

The documents reveal however that Hitler was so worried about the impact that Goebbels's actions were having on public opinion, particularly abroad, that he went behind his back and organised his own secret goodwill mission to London. Hitler dispatched Wilhelm Bohle, an influential Yorkshire-born member of the Nazi Party then living in Berlin, to London for secret talks with Winston Churchill.

Sir Robert wrote: "Bohle told Henderson he was coming to London early in October to lecture about Nazi organisations abroad, and that he had arranged to have a man-to-man talk with Winston Churchill. Bohle's forthcoming visit gave Henderson a similar impression, as being undertaken at Hitler's orders, and Bohle's language to me was one of the most moderate and reasonable nature." At the time, Hitler was desperate to win favour with Britain. German armies were preparing to invade Austria. Hitler could not afford to alarm any other European powers.

The papers will be seized upon by those historians on the far Right who have struggled to prove that Hitler was not the dominant force behind Nazi ideology. Others, however, will use them to contrast the cunning of the Nazis with the naivety of British officials, in particular Sir Nevile who was an "appeaser" regarded as a useful tool by the Nazis.

Andrew Roberts, the historian and a recognized authority on the Nazi regime, said: "This is a classic example of the Nazis playing 'good cop, bad cop'. They often tried to paint Hitler as a moderate and other members of his entourage such as Goebbels as extreme. At the time this was written they were trying to lull the pro-appeasement Neville Chamberlain government into believing that Goering was also a moderate.

"It is a classic totalitarian tactic, Stalin was always made out to be a moderate holding back more extreme colleagues. I don't think this was the sort of document that Goebbels would have been aware of, so it is unlikely Hitler was letting this be known in order to rein him in."

Charlie Chaplin, in his 1940 film The Great Dictator, portrayed Hitler as a bumbling figure who was led astray by his zealous propaganda minister Herr Garbage, who was obviously based on Goebbels. Both Sir Robert and Sir Russell died in 1960.

Website note: One wonders if Sir Charles Gray, the Judge who was scathing in his Judgment about David Irving's claim that Hitler was less extreme than Goebbels in the Jewish problem, will now see the light.

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