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Making Friends with Hitler: Lord Londonderry and the Roots of Appeasement (Allen Lane History) [Hardcover]

Ian Kershaw
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Book Description

7 Oct 2004 Allen Lane History
Britain, as the most powerful of the European victors of World War One, had a unique responsibility to maintain the peace in the aftermath of the Treaty of Versailles. The outbreak of a second, even more catastrophic war in 1939 has therefore always raised painful questions about Britain's failure to deal with Nazism. Could some other course of action have destroyed Hitler when he was still weak? In this highly disturbing new book, Ian Kershaw examines this crucial issue. He concentrates on the figure of Lord Londonderry grandee, patriot, cousin of Churchill and the government minister responsible for the RAF at a crucial point in its existence. Londonderry's reaction to the rise of Hitler - to pursue friendship with the Nazis at all costs - raises fundamental questions about Britain's role in the 1930s and whether in practice there was ever any possibility of preventing Hitler's leading Europe once again into war.


Product details

  • Hardcover: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Allen Lane; First Edition edition (7 Oct 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0713997176
  • ISBN-13: 978-0713997170
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 15.4 x 5.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 487,508 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Ian Kershaw was Professor of Modern History at the University of Sheffield from 1989 - 2008, and is one of the world's leading authorities on Hitler. His books include The 'Hitler Myth', his two volume Hitler 1889-1936: Hubris and Hitler 1936-1945: Nemesis, and Fateful Choices. He was knighted in 2002.

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Amazon Review

Author of Making Friends with Hitler, Ian Kershaw’s detailed account of British attitudes towards Nazi Germany and the ultimately futile attempts through appeasement to avoid military confrontation is a thought-provoking analysis of a chapter in history that many would prefer to forget. The central figure in the book, Lord Londonderry, cousin of Winston Churchill, was a member of one of Britain’s grandest and wealthiest aristocratic families, who held high and important office as Secretary of State for Air during the time of Hitler’s rise to power. The man was fabulously well-connected. The King called him ‘Charley’ and members of the Royal family were frequent guests at his London mansion. The political establishment sat regularly at his dinner table and he was on first-name terms with all the major political figures of the day. After being forced out of Government in 1935, Londonderry became a frequent visitor to Germany, met Hitler several times, stayed with Göring at his hunting lodge, and fraternized with Ribbentrop and other prominent Nazis. Instinctively pro-German, Londonderry had unalterable faith, at least until it was far too late, in the idea that war could best be averted by the gaining the friendship of Hitler’s Germany. The Nazi’s for their part conscientiously courted and exploited Londonderry’s good opinion and contacts until it became clear to them that he lacked real influence with policy-makers.

Kershaw’s book is the story of the rise and fall of Londonderry and, more generally, the story of Britain’s road to war. Londonderry was an incurable letter-writer who left a vast correspondence of over 10,000 letters, many of which directly related to Anglo-German relations, and this has enabled Kershaw to write an detailed account of this period in Britain’s history. The first part of the book looks at the range of misconceived and delusional attitudes to be found in Britain regarding Hitler’s intentions and character at the beginning of Nazi rule. We hear of Londonderry’s time as Air Minister in the context of British policies on armament and rearmament in the early 1930’s and his ultimate dismissal from government office in 1935. The heart of the book describes his well-intentioned but naïve career as the gentleman amateur diplomat intent on saving the world from a disastrous European war. Later chapters reveal Londonderry’s ultimate disillusionment with Hitler and the bitterly resentful later years of his life spent campaigning to vindicate his record as Air Minister and fruitlessly trying to shake off his acquired reputation as the most prominent Nazi sympathizer in Britain. In telling the Londonderry story Kershaw answers all the key questions about this period in Britain's history. How and why was it that so many people radically underestimated or misunderstood Hitler’s intentions? Could more have been done to stem the rise of Nazism and destroy Hitler when he was still weak? Was war with Germany avoidable or inevitable under the circumstances? What were the realistic policy options?

The only drawback is not with the book itself but rather with Londonderry the man. In short, it’s difficult to care about him, not because he was a Nazi sympathizer, which he was not, but because he appears as a tedious, rather pathetic figure evoking curiosity rather than admiration, contempt, or pity. In the end this is the story of a man unable to adjust easily to the requirements of democratic politics, duped by power politicians, and ultimately brought down by his own aristocratic values. Kershaw has produced another piece of first-class historical scholarship. Thanks to him, Londonderry may regain his place in history. But just not in the way he would have liked. --Larry Brown,/i>

Review

'[an] intelligent, measured, nuanced, well-written and above all superbly objective account' -- Literary Review, September 2004

'a thorough and intelligent account of the complex twists and turns in British attitudes to Hitler's dictatorship'. -- New Statesman, 27th September, 2004

'an erudite, wise and instructive account' -- Telegraph, 23rd October, 2004

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Ian Kershaw's book on 'Lord Londonderry and Britain's Road to War' is an excellent piece on British politics towards Germany right up to 1939. Lord Londonderry is the two-way mirror through which Ian Kershaw tells this story.
Lord Londonderry is one these characters the world could happily do without. He is a rather well-connected aristocrat who makes a stab at playing politics without really understanding what he is up to. Indeed, he seemed to have a habit of being in opposition of British official policy. Whilst serving as Secretary of State for Air from 1931-35 he was strongly in favour of building up a powerful airforce (including bombers), which at that point flew right in the face of pacifism, which was then the predominant force in Britain. He did, however, set up the foundations for the Hurricanes and Spitfires, which became the backbone of British defence during the Battle of Britain. And that is perhaps Londonderry's only positive legacy.
Having been sacked from his job in 1935 he writes (in one of his letters) about being restless and feeling the need to do something outstanding. He subsequently plunges headlong into attempting to bring about an understanding between Germany and Britain in the course of which he establishes his life's legacy of being a super-appeaser towards Nazi Germany.
Whilst some Governments in Europe may have initially favoured Hitler's regime for bringing much needed political stability to Germany, by the mid-1930's it became increasingly clear that Hitler would follow a 'land-grabbing' strategy. The appeasement politics followed by successive British Governments up to 1939 arose out of the necessity of somehow containing Hitler, whilst hiding one's military weaknesses until after they had been resolved.
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Variations on a Londonderry Herr 28 Dec 2004
By Leonard Fleisig TOP 1000 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover
There is no shortage of biographies of "larger than life" giants. Less abundant are the stories of history's lesser players who, when all is said and done, are smaller than life. The much hyphenated Charles Stewart Henry Vane-Tempest-Stewart, the seventh Marquess of Londonderry was one such smaller than life figure. Kershaw, in his "Making Friends With Hitler" has devoted an entire book to Lord Londonderry and has managed to set it out in an informative and entertaining fashion.
Londonderry was not intelligent, perceptive, politically astute, or charismatic. Winston Churchill, a cousin, referred to him as "that half-wit Charlie Londonderry." He was known in the press as the Londonderry Herr due to his pro-German, if not pro-Nazi, proclivities and for his well-known desire to become a private statesman and make friends with Hitler and his ilk in order to keep Britain out of war.
Kershaw uses Londonderry as a vehicle through which to re-examine Britain's relations with Germany from Hitler's accession to power through the commencement of WWII. The simple picture usually painted is one of the British political establishment conducting its ill-thought out policy of appeasement while Churchill stood alone crying in the wilderness. The situation was far more complex than that. Kershaw uses the antics of Lord Londonderry to set out Britain's foreign policy in the context of the day. Kershaw does not 'excuse' Britain's foreign policy makers for the steps that led invariably to war with Hitler. He does, however, provide a detailed description of the many reasons why, by 1936 or so, Britain had no viable option other than to appease Hitler and hope for the best.
Irresolvable conflicts of interest between France and Britain rendered a unified approach to an emerging Germany impossible.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A right little Charlie 3 Oct 2012
By WALSHY
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a rare review of a book which, although now rather long in the tooth (published in 2003) changed the long held - but perhaps less well-informed - views of this reviewer.

The 7th Lord Londonderry was a man widely disliked in our area of the UK (the North East of England) for his family's role as local coal owners, and with everything which went with this role, including the forcible eviction of striking pitmen's families from company houses the Londonderry Collieries rented out.

This heredity dislike was intensified in the 1930's when Lord Londonderry (or Charlie to his friends in the drawing rooms of the stately homes of England) became a seeming fan of Hitler and of the Nazi regime, and this dislike lingered on long after Charlie's death in 1947..

And Ian Kershaw shows just how Charles Stewart Henry Vane-Tempest-Stewart, the 7th Marquess of Londonderry became besotted by the Nazis. Londonderry, as befitted a man of his aristocratic breeding and of his dodgy experience as a Durham mine owner, was deeply suspicious of all and any left-wing politics. He believed Britain should befriend Hitler's Germany to stop communism creeping out of Russia and infecting Europe. To this end, Londonderry visited Germany in December 1935 and February 1936. He went stag-hunting with Hermann Goering (Goering bagged a bison) and stayed for a week at Goering's luxurious mountain retreat before going on to the Winter Olympics. During his stay, he had a two-hour audience with Hitler, whom he found "forthcoming and agreeable". Indeed, in a speech in Durham in March 1936, Londonderry described the Fuhrer as "a kindly man with a receding chin and an impressive face".
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Amazon.com: 4.3 out of 5 stars  18 reviews
35 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Variations on a Londonderry Herr 28 Dec 2004
By Leonard Fleisig - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
There are no shortage of biographies of people who are "larger than life". Less abundant are the stories of history's lesser players who, when all is said and done, are smaller than life. The much hyphenated Charles Stewart Henry Vane-Tempest-Stewart, the seventh Marquess of Londonderry was one such smaller than life figure. Kershaw, in his "Making Friends With Hitler" has devoted an entire book to Lord Londonderry and has managed to set it out in an informative and entertaining fashion.

Londonderry was not intelligent, perceptive, politically astute, or charismatic. Winston Churchill, a cousin, referred to him as "that half-wit Charlie Londonderry." He was known in the press as the Londonderry Herr due to his pro-German, if not pro-Nazi, proclivities and for his well-known desire to become a private statesman and make friends with Hitler and his ilk in order to keep Britain out of war.

Kershaw uses Londonderry as a vehicle through which to re-examine Britain's relations with Germany from Hitler's accession to power through the commencement of WWII. The simple picture usually painted is one of the British political establishment conducting its ill-thought out policy of appeasement while Churchill stood alone crying in the wilderness. The situation was far more complex than that. Kershaw uses the antics of Lord Londonderry to set out Britain's foreign policy in the context of the day. Kershaw does not `excuse' Britain's foreign policy makers for the steps that led invariably to war with Hitler. He does, however, provide a detailed description of the many reasons why, by 1936 or so, Britain had no viable option other than to appease Hitler and hope for the best.

Irresolvable conflicts of interest between France and Britain rendered a unified approach to an emerging Germany impossible. France's primary interest in the years after WWI was in its own security. The idea of making concessions from the admittedly ill-conceived Treaty of Versailles did not find fertile ground in France, particularly those that involved disarmament. Britain's goal was multilateral disarmament. Disarmament was almost universally supported in Britain by all political parties. Popular support for disarmament was fueled by revulsion towards the horrors and carnage of WWI. Political support for disarmament was fueled by a worldwide depression that made cutbacks in military spending both politically expedient and economically wise.

There was a strong feeling in Britain that German antipathy to the Versailles Treaty was understandable. British government suggestions with regard to revisions to Versailles were inextricably linked, however, to disarmament proposals. France opposed any such linkage and stalemates ensued. Hitler played this difference in national aspirations like a maestro. He managed to rearm, re-occupy the Rhineland, eviscerate the Versailles Treaty, and then annex Austria while France and England failed to craft a unified, coherent, response.

Londonderry played an interesting role in Britain's relations with Germany. A descendant of Lord Castlereagh, the architect of the settlement at the Congress of Vienna, Londonderry inherited incredible wealth. Londonderry believed that he was born to rule and lacked nothing but talent. His wealth and connections led to his appointment as secretary of state for air in 1931 by Ramsay MacDonald. Londonderry was a strong proponent of the air force and promoted the development of Hurricanes and Spitfire, the aircraft that later served Britain well in the Battle of Britain. He was pro-German and anti-French by inclination but believed that this friendship should be backed by a strong military. This was not an irrational position and if Londonderry had stuck to this position he legacy may have been considerably stronger.

However, he was an inept administrator and subject to embarrassing mistakes. During a period in which pacifism was a strong political force his speech supporting the use of bombers as a means of policing the Empire (including, ironically the British controlled oil-fields in Iraq) caused a great deal of embarrassment for the British government. Londonderry was sacked by Stanley Baldwin after he succeed MacDonald as Prime Minister. Devastated, Londonderry embarked on well-publicized private campaign to save Britain from the professionals in the foreign office. Critically, he forgot his earlier argument that military strength should form the underpinning of Britain's relationship with Germany, and assiduously sought out the friendship of the Nazi leadership. Even absent a strong military, Londonderry believed he could charm Hitler into good relations.

If the successive governments of MacDonald, Baldwin, and then Chamberlain can be thought of as proponents of appeasement, the forces of Londonderry and many of his well-born peers can be thought of as proponents of `appeasement-plus'. In essence, MacDonald, Baldwin, and then Chamberlain took something of a middle road. It is clear from the source material used by Kershaw that at least from 1935 or 1936 the British government had few delusions about Hitler's intentions. However, they were constrained severely by their low level of military preparedness and a general unwillingness of the British population to take any steps to confront Hitler that might bring the parties to war.

Kershaw does an admirable job in exploring the social,political, and economic forces that helped shape 'appeasement'. Kershaw points out that critical decisions concerning disarmament and the economic pressures that resulted in dramatic reductions in military spending up through 1936 or 1937 rendered a forceful response to Hitler (in the absence of concord with France) little more than a bluff. Kershaw also shows that the British government(s) was buffeted not only by Churchill but also by Londonderry and those fellow travelers who felt that Hitler was something of an anti-Bolshevik savior.

Making Friends with Hitler is an academic piece of writing and is meticulously annotated and footnoted. However, the writing style is fluid and unpretentious. It can be enjoyed by a reader seeking a popular history as much as by someone with an academic interest.
23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Time Not Very Familiar 5 Nov 2004
By John Matlock - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
We live in a time where Hitler is considered the ultimate evil. (Perhaps he was, but there are certainly other candidates, Stalin, several of the African leaders, but I digress.) But before the war, a time of depression, it must have seemed that democracy was in trouble. In the United States this was the time of the peak of communist ferver, and Charles Lindberg flirted with admiration of the Nazi's. (You may want to look at Philip Roth's new novel, The Plot Against America.)

In England, Lord Londonderry became a member of the cabinet as Secretary of State for Air - just when the RAF was grasping for new equipment powerful enough to take on Germany's. At the same time, he became friends with Herr Hitler.

This was a time when appeasement was the order of the day to avoid a war at nearly any cost. This was a time when the 'final solution' was inconceivable. But life then was not just the desire to avoid war, even if the flower of a whole generation had been wasted in the first World War. This is the first book I've seen that goes into depth as to what was happening during this fateful time. Combine this fascinating story with an excellent writing style and you get quite a book.
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Anglo-German Fellowship" 11 Oct 2005
By Ronald H. Clark - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Ian Kershaw continues to add to his list of extraordinarily valuable books on Nazi-era Germany in this volume focusing on Lord Londonderry's activities prior to the World War II. Londonderry (ironically, a cousin of Churchill) took the lead in attempting to improve relations between Britain and Hitler's Germany and, thereby, head off war. By focusing on Londonderry (1878-1949), the reader can come to understand the various reasons why appeasement appealed to so many British politicans and the general public.

Of course, the interesting question is why did Londonderry so embrace the German point of view that he ended up publicly disgraced? Certainly some personal motives played a role, most directly his desire for vindication after being removed from the Cabinet as Air Minister (not to mention his failure to be named Viceroy for India) and generally being humiliated for his visits to Germany (Goering in particular), return visits from Nazi luminaries like Foreign Minister von Ribbentrop, and very public pro-German activities and writings. Kershaw suggests that like many in his aristocratic class, facing increased dimnishment of their wealth and power, Hitler was seen as a helpful bulwark against "Bolshevism" and domestic socialist movements. In exchange for a free hand in Europe, Hitler would protect the prerogatives of the 0.1% of the population that owned 1/3 of Britain's wealth.

Kershaw argues that Hitler was quite masterful in his manipulation of British public opinion--and one can hardly disagree. He also successfully exploited a split in the positions of France and Britain. Through Kershaw's skillful analysis, the genesis and appeal of the appeasement movement become evident. It is no wonder that Chamberlin fell into the trap. For Londonderry and this group, the agreement at Munich was a triumph, because it avoided war and insured a valid sphere of control for Germany. It took both "Krystalnacht" and Hitler's blatant invasion of the remainder of Czechoslovakia before Londonderry began to get the picture. Perhaps the rapid slide downward of the aristocracy after the war is, in part, attributable to the fact that many members shared Londonderry's perspective--and the rest of British society knew it.

As is to be expected, superb research and invaluable notes are part of the package. Like all of Kershaw's volumes, it is well written and easy even for us Yanks to follow as he maneuvers through the ins and out of British politics of the 1930's. The bottom line: the whole appeasement movement (which in hindsight seems somewhat inexplicable) becomes quite understandable after reading this book. That is its greatest contribution.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Appeasement in Context 18 Mar 2005
By R. Hardy - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Monty Python had a sketch of a contest to find the greatest British upper-class twit of the year. Any such competition was a redundancy, for it should have been retired upon the death of Charles Stewart Henry Vane-Tempest-Stewart, the 7th Marquess of Londonderry. He had more than enough trappings of his descent from one of Britain's grandest families, he was a pillar of the Conservative Party, the King called him "Charley," his house in London was the center for grand parties, he was cousin to Winston Churchill, and he was appointed Air Minister in 1931. However, he was instinctively pro-German. In _Making Friends with Hitler: Lord Londonderry, The Nazis, and the Road to War_ (The Penguin Press), Ian Kershaw writes that Londonderry, "having attracted much obloquy in his lifetime, has passed into near historical oblivion." This is, of course, because Londonderry was a minor character and favored the wrong policy until World War II started. Kershaw, who has written a well-regarded and massive biography of Hitler, has turned to the topic of an infamous but minor character from the years when the rest of Europe was trying to understand Hitler and what to do with him. An objection could be made that Londonderry simply was not worth a biography of this length, depth, and obviously careful research, but Kershaw draws a full picture of the times and demonstrates that we see Londonderry as out of step only through hindsight; for years he represented a view held by many Britons, including members of the peerage. He was wrong, and was a silly little man, but his views were not a complete anomaly, and Kershaw's useful biography is fine at describing the confusion of the years before the war.

Like aristocrats of the time, Londonderry felt himself entitled to political power, and to his credit he had an eagerness to serve. He was a pilot, and was glad to be appointed Air Minister in 1931. He was not enough of a fighter, however, to muster financial resources for his ministry, and was sacked in 1935. Still, he insisted on having a role to play afterwards, as an activist private citizen. Unfortunately, he was impressed by the strides Mussolini was making in Italy and was even more impressed by how Hitler had achieved and held power. He went on to hobnob with Goering, Hess, and Hitler, and had Ribbentrop come to a hunting party at his place near Ulster. He wrote a book in 1938, _Ourselves and Germany_, which he hoped would influence the opinions of the British public and politicians, but he mailed it out also to his German pals. The one he sent to Hitler, he inscribed: "To the Fuhrer with my best wishes and my earnest hopes for a better and lasting understanding between our two countries." Eventually, when they realized that Londonderry really had no power, the Nazis stopped writing him back. Kershaw bends over backward to be fair to this gullible and flawed subject. He was no Nazi. He had the garden-variety anti-Semitic prejudice that was endemic to Britain's conservatives and aristocrats, but he was baffled by the Nazis making race a central part of their creed, and he knew that the brutal treatment of Jews could do nothing to help the German cause and his own. There were fascists like Oswald Mosley within Britain, but Londonderry had nothing to do with them. Kershaw writes that he was an anachronism, that even in dealing with Nazis, Londonderry was so idealistic as to presume that politics "were determined by goodwill, moral objectives, the gentleman's code of honour, the preservation of legal order".

Hitler's appetite for conquest eventually made clear, however, even to Londonderry that Hitler did not want peace. Once the war began, Londonderry showed impeccable patriotism, although he never stopped trying to vindicate himself as one whose views, if they had been followed, would have prevented the war. He had little insight about why he became a political pariah. It was even rumored that the government of Churchill (who at one point referred to his cousin as "that half-wit Charlie Londonderry") had locked him up for the duration of the war, a rumor that made Londonderry furious. Londonderry died in 1949, realizing that "I had backed the wrong horse," but also sure that he would be fully vindicated, even if the vindication was posthumous. There is little vindication in this volume. Kershaw does show that Londonderry's views drew from what was conventional political wisdom, and the details here put them in a useful and illuminating context.
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Lord Londonderry's Follies 29 Sep 2005
By Joel Porte - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
An intrinsically important and engaging subject treated by Ian Kershaw

in quirky prose and in a numbingly repetitious fashion. Historians,

of course, do a lot of research but they don't have to stuff it all into

one book. A terser narrative perhaps one half the size would have

done the trick beautifully. I read the whole thing but some of it

(especially the overly-detailed figures on Britain's preparations for

airwar under Londonderry's ministry in the '30's) was a slog.

Also, my hardcover edition was full of typos.
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