British archives hiding royal family’s links to anti-Semitism in 1930s, says historian

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JP O’Malley writes in the Times of Israel:

LONDON — In April 1945, code-breakers at Bletchley Park, England, intercepted the following telegram from Adolf Hitler, who was then under siege in his bunker in Berlin: “The Führer attaches importance to the President of the Red Cross, the Duke of Coburg, on no account falling into enemy hands.”

Karina Urbach, a German historian, believes that whatever information Hitler shared with Carl Edward, the Duke of Coburg — who was a grandson of Queen Victoria, and a close blood relative to the current British monarchy — it was damning enough to warrant an assassination request. Coburg, though, would manage to escape such a drastic fate and eventually died in 1954 of natural causes, aged 69.

Urbach has recently published “Go Betweens For Hitler,” a book that explores how members of the aristocratic class across Europe worked as secret negotiators for Hitler during the interwar years.

The go-betweens were unofficial, invisible actors who secretly delivered messages between heads of state to ensure that off-the-record conversations could happen at the highest levels in the murky world of international relations.

While research hitherto has focused on the support German aristocrats secretly provided Hitler within Germany, Urbach’s book discusses an additional, international dimension to this secret diplomatic back channel, most notably from members of the British royal family.

A row of newspapers on display including a paper with a photo of Britain's Queen Elizabeth as a child giving a Nazi salute, in a shop, in London, Saturday July 18, 2015. (AP Photo/Tim Ireland)

A row of newspapers on display including a paper with a photo of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth as a child giving a Nazi salute, in a shop, in London, Saturday July 18, 2015. (AP Photo/Tim Ireland)

This flirting with Nazism on the part of the royal family caused a media storm Saturday as Britain’s The Sun published a cover story with the headline “Their Royal Heilnesses.” The newspaper’s front page photo showed the seven-year-old future Queen Elizabeth II performing a Nazi salute in a hitherto-secret 1933 family video.

In the 17-second video from which the still was taken, young Elizabeth is seen playing with her corgi, dancing, and also raising her right arm three times, alongside her mother, Queen Elizabeth, sister Princess Margaret, and uncle Edward VIII. Buckingham Palace announced Sunday an investigation into how the video was procured by The Sun.

The Sun’s publication has caused immense debate in the UK. Are the pictures an outrageous invasion of privacy, or a timely reminder, in the words of one commentator, that Edward VIII, briefly Britain’s king, dabbled with fascism?

Is it possible that certain British historians have consistently tried to play down anti-Semitism in the British royal family during the 1930s?

“Edward VIII was particularly attracted to the Nazis because of their social ideas,” says Urbach, an assertion that contrasts with that of the British historian Philip Ziegler. In 2012, Ziegle published a biography of Edward VIII, who was king for six months in 1936 only to voluntarily abdicate so he could marry an American divorcee. Ziegler has written that Edward VIII was only “mildly anti-Semitic.”

In her book, much of Urbach’s narrative focuses on royal relative Carl Edward and his loyalty to the Nazi movement for nearly two decades. It would appear his ties to Hitler helped to create a widespread culture of anti-Semitism among the British monarchy.

“Carl Edward’s British network was very useful for Hitler,” the German historian explains from an University of London office in the Institute of Historical Research, where she is currently a senior fellow.

“Hitler was an Anglophile, and his dream [during the early 1930s] was to have an alliance with Britain,” says Urbach.

German historian Karina Urbach says the British royals are covering up an anti-Semitic past. (courtesy)

German historian Karina Urbach says the British royals are covering up an anti-Semitic past. (courtesy)

“Hitler needed people who had access to the elite in Britain. Carl Edward was therefore ideal. He was born in Britain, and he was related to Queen Mary, who was very pro-German. She invited Carl Edward several times to England and had a correspondence with him that has mysteriously vanished,” says Urbach.

“The Royal Archives in Britain are hindering research on this subject,” she alleges.

Urbach believes letters the British monarchy is presently holding back from the public would potentially shed far more light on details about Coburg’s relationship with Hitler. Unfortunately, though, they are still under strict censorship. Or, she believes, they may have been destroyed.

“After 1945, and the de-Nazification trials, [German aristocrats] burned a lot,” says Urbach.

Gleaning more information on how members of the British Monarchy empathized with and supported the Nazi regime during the 1930s is today almost impossible, says Urbach, because the Royal Archives at Windsor have a strict embargo on royal correspondence for the interwar years.

The Duke and Duchess of Windsor meet Adolf Hitler, 1937 (Wikipedia)

The Duke and Duchess of Windsor meet Adolf Hitler, 1937 (Wikipedia)

It’s hardly surprising. During the 1920s and 30s, under the influence of conversations they had with their German relatives, many British royals became deeply embroiled in Fascist ideas, even flirting with Nazi ideology. Although Nazism clearly waged an ideological war on the upper classes, it did not, unlike Bolshevism, threaten to dispossess private property from aristocrats.

While publicly, Hitler may have mocked members of the aristocracy as degenerates, privately he knew how useful a group of socially well-connected individuals could be in the poker game of international diplomacy.

Continue reading here.

3 Responses

  1. An excellent book on this subject:
    The German Isle. Nazi Perceptions of Britain.
    Gerwin Strobl. Published 2000 by CUP.
    It is available on Amazon: there is only one comment.
    I bought the book when it first came out when it was much
    cheaper than today.

  2. If Her Majesty wants to make amends for this past folly, there is a very simple thing that she can do: she can, firmly and persistently, request – nay, demand – that she be permitted to undertake a State visit to Israel, touring not only sites particularly significant to Christians, but sites particularly significant to Jews. And to lay a wreath at the grave of that British Friend of Zion, Col William Paterson, who headed the Jewish Legion during WWI. It needs to happen. It *ought* to happen.

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