Germany spent the 1930s preparing for war. Britain, on the other hand, spent the 1930s seeking the comforts and pleasures of life. People wanted the easy way of self-indulgence.
Winston Churchill commented on this phenomenon (Martin Gilbert, The Prophet of Truth; emphasis mine throughout):
I must say that I am astounded at the wave of optimism, of confidence, and even of complacency, which has swept over Parliament and over public opinion. There is a veritable tide of feeling that all is well, that everything is being done in the right way, in the right measure, and in the right time.
The Labor Party refused to even support rearmament in spite of Churchill’s warnings. Most people had convinced themselves that there would never be another war after World War i. Nobody who understands human nature could reach such a conclusion. Such naive reasoning always leads into dangerous deception.
Our being deceived before World War ii also reveals a greater potential danger. Many people also thought World War ii was the war to end all wars. Because we don’t understand our evil human nature we are easily deceived, which puts us in much greater danger today. We can ill afford such deception in this age of potential nuclear destruction. (Request our free booklet Human Nature: What Is It?)
Churchill also warned, “We are in the midst of dangers so great and increasing, we are the guardians of causes so precious to the world, that we must, as the Bible says, ‘Lay aside every impediment.’”
Martin Gilbert wrote (ibid.):
On October 3 Churchill was present at the Oxford High School for Boys, for the unveiling of a memorial to T.E. Lawrence [Lawrence of Arabia], who had been killed in a motorcycle accident in May 1935. “All feel the poorer that he has gone from us,” Churchill said. “In these days dangers and difficulties gather upon Britain and her empire, and we are also conscious of a lack of outstanding figures with which to overcome them.”
Lloyd George, one of Britain’s most prominent leaders (prime minister in World War i), praised Hitler as the greatest German leader of the age. This was said in 1935, after Hitler had murdered political opponents and instituted racism. Such statements were criminal—the opposite of what a great leader should have said.
It takes great men to lead us to face huge problems. That is a sobering truth which also escapes us today. Today, as before World War ii, politics and the press often keep outstanding leaders out of office.
Winston Churchill didn’t get a leadership role until AFTER the war began, even though he strongly warned the British people about Hitler and Germany for seven or eight years! He was kept out of office by politicians, educational institutions and the press. Today, nations have nuclear weapons and the power to deliver them in minutes. If we make the same mistake Britain and America made in World War ii, our nations will not survive!
That is why I keep saying we must learn from the horrendous mistakes we made before and during World War ii—or we will wake up too late. And just as Churchill warned Britain before World War ii, we are experiencing the same lack of will against strong dictators today. History warns about this disastrous kind of retreat. Churchill said, “Parliament is dead as mutton.” The leaders and the people had no real sense of the approaching danger of World War ii. They didn’t see the danger, so they didn’t prepare for it. And they drifted into this precarious condition. They were moving “towards some hideous catastrophe.”
Today Britain and America are drifting toward a far more hideous catastrophe! That is why the World War ii lesson is so vital!
If we drifted so recently (World War ii), is it alarmist to think we could do it again? “I feel our country’s safety is fatally imperilled both by its lack of arms and by the government’s attitude towards the Nazi gangsters,” Churchill said. “It is fostering in them the dangerous belief that they need not fear interference by us whatever they do. That can only encourage those savages to acts of aggression and violence of every kind. I have, therefore, chosen to go my own way and to act independently in order to further the safety of our country and of the civilization without which we cannot survive as a nation” (ibid.).
Churchill knew that if Britain fell, Europe would also fall and perhaps the whole of Western civilization, including America. Some people may have forgotten how close we came to destruction in World War ii. It will be to our own deadly peril if we fail to remember.
Neville Chamberlain tried to make friends with Mussolini and Italy. One of Chamberlain’s strongest cabinet members, Anthony Eden, resigned. This was one of Churchill’s blackest moments (ibid.):
I must confess that my heart sank, and for a while the dark waters of despair overwhelmed me. From midnight till dawn I lay in my bed consumed by emotions of sorrow and fear. There seemed one strong young figure standing up against long, dismal, drawling tides of drift and surrender, of wrong measurements and feeble impulses. My conduct of affairs would have been different from his in various ways; but he seemed to me at this moment to embody the life-hope of the British nation, the grand old British race that had done so much for men, and had yet some more to give. Now he was gone. I watched the daylight slowly creep in through the windows, and saw before me in mental gaze the vision of death.
Churchill believed that Britain’s great empire, built over centuries, could be destroyed suddenly. He was in deep sorrow, fear and despair as he watched his beloved nation drift toward disaster. But that was a mild crisis compared to the one we face today. We first must experience some of Churchill’s sorrow and fear to be motivated to change. There is hope only if we face reality and have the vision of what is on the horizon.
Most people today believe that when Germany seized Austria, only 25-35 percent of the Austrians supported Hitler. “Within 24 hours of the German invasion of Austria, all the brutal apparatus of Nazi tyranny was put into effect. Throughout Sunday, March 13 , and in the days and weeks that followed, all those suspected of hostility to the new order were arrested and sent to concentration camps. Many hundreds were shot. Others, fearful of Nazi terror, committed suicide” (ibid.).
The weak-willed media continued to deceive the people, even after Austria was conquered, aiding Hitler more than many of his own soldiers!
Our media today should have learned a powerful lesson from that history. Instead they are far more weak-willed and deceived today! Martin Gilbert wrote:
The division of opinion was exacerbated by the attitude of the press [even as Hitler kept gobbling up Europe]. The Times in particular urged the Czechs to make concessions to Germany, and argued that it was Czech obstinacy that was the main obstacle to a peaceful settlement. Yet even the factual reports in the Times did not give a true picture of the nature of Nazi rule. On March 18 Churchill was sent a firsthand account of events in Vienna since the German occupation from a young acquaintance, David Hindley-Smith, who had been angered by reports in the Times that Hitler had received an enthusiastic welcome from an overwhelming majority of Austrians. …
“Is our system of government adapted to the present fierce, swift movement of events? Twenty-two gentlemen of blameless party character sitting round an overcrowded table, each having a voice—is that a system which can reach decisions from week to week and cope with the problems descending upon us and with the men at the head of the dictator states? [He was wondering if a democracy was adequate in times of war. He was making a case for stronger rule from the top.] It broke down hopelessly in the war [World War i].
“But is this peace in which we are living? Is it not war without cannon firing? Is it not war of a decisive character, where victories are gained and territories conquered, and where ascendancy and dominance are established over large populations with extraordinary rapidity?”
Churchill went on to warn of the dangers of allowing any momentary easing of tension to lead to complacency. “After a boa constrictor has devoured its prey,” he said, “it often has a considerable digestive spell.” There had been a pause after each German move—after the revelation that a secret air force had been set up, after the proclamation of conscription, and again after the militarization of the Rhineland. He went on:
“Now, after Austria has been struck down, we are all disturbed and alarmed, but in a little while there may be another pause. There may not, we cannot tell. But if there is a pause, then people will be saying, ‘See how the alarmists have been confuted; Europe has calmed down, it has all blown over, and the war scare has passed away.’ The prime minister will perhaps repeat what he said a few weeks ago, that the tension in Europe is greatly relaxed. The Times will write a leading article to say how silly people look who, on the morrow of the Austrian incorporation, raised a clamor for exceptional action in foreign policy and home defense, and how wise the government were not to let themselves be carried away by this passing incident.”
The Times was considered by many to be the greatest newspaper in the world. It had thundered many accurate warnings in the past to build its reputation. It was recognized as the voice of the British government. Now, it had descended to this: rebuking the Czechs as being “obstinate,” since they would not voluntarily give a large portion of their country to the vile Nazis! It labeled the Czechs as the obstacle to peace—not Hitler! How could a revered institution pollute the truth so badly? And its reports grotesquely distorted Austria’s image in a dangerous way. It was a powerful support to Hitler’s people-enslaving and people-destroying war machine! Its own weakness and fear stained its reputation for years to come. Much of its reporting in the 1930s was a crime against humanity!
Because they were consumed with fear, the truth was cast aside. Such powerful institutions must be held more accountable. And we trust them at our own peril!
Has the media learned from their shameful mistakes of the 1930s?
The press deceived themselves about what was really happening. But not Churchill. He kept writing and speaking against this tragedy.
Most of the newspapers which had printed his speeches and articles stopped doing so. Even the people, on average, were more inclined to agree with Winston Churchill than the press.
Churchill was great enough to rise above the media, educational institutions and politics. Do we have any such leaders today?
Churchill kept encouraging America to support the defense of Europe. “America’s attitude is vital to morale,” Colville noted in his diary, “but America is the slowest to act of all the democracies” (ibid.).
Even some of America’s news networks were against Edward R. Murrow’s strong cbs broadcasts condemning Hitler. They feared that America’s neutrality would be compromised.
But neutral is a heinous word under those conditions! Being neutral between Hitler’s Nazis and Britain was a shameful evil. And when would we have stopped being neutral if Japan hadn’t bombed us into the war at Pearl Harbor?
Our press often fails to make strong judgments against evil deeds committed today. They too often behave as though God and the devil should have equal time. This lack of judgment and courage allows the political leaders and their “spin doctors” to play the press like a fiddle. They are used and abused by politicians. As a result, many people become confused and deceived.
America should be ashamed of this history, before and during World War ii. Not just in words. A radical lesson must be learned, or we are destined to repeat the history—which will mean a deadly calamity!
Many authorities say World Wars i and ii were the greatest tragedies of our century. I disagree. The worst catastrophe is that we failed to learn a lesson from Churchill’s warning! That means we have retained our deadly capacity for deception into the nuclear age. That is why we are destined to experience a nuclear holocaust unless we wake up!
“What price have we all to pay for this?” Churchill asked. “No one can compute it. Small countries in Europe will take their cue to move to the side of power and resolution” (ibid.). Other nations did move closer to Hitler because of his power and strong will. At the same time, they were turning away from Britain because of its weak will.
That is exactly what is happening today with the U.S. Though we have a greater military than any nation on Earth, we lack the will to use it. That is a major reason why other nations hate us and fail to support our policies.
“So they go on in strange paradox,” Churchill continued, “decided only to be undecided, resolved to be irresolute, adamant for drift, solid for fluidity, all powerful to be impotent. So we go on preparing more months and years—precious, perhaps vital, to the greatness of Britain—for the locusts to eat” (ibid.). America shared that deadly pacifism.
Winston Churchill’s own Conservative Party was turning against him. “The House of Commons listened to him with what he later described as ‘a patient air of skepticism.’ There were frequent, angry interruptions, and his criticisms of Chamberlain were widely resented by his fellow Conservative mps. Bitterly he told them: ‘You are casting away real and important means of security and survival for vain shadows and for ease’” (ibid.).
The people wanted to continue in a peace-time atmosphere. Churchill tried to get them into an emergency posture, in tune with what Hitler was doing. Churchill served as an outstanding watchman for the whole Western world. But it hated the messenger and rejected the message!
The people wanted to believe they were living in ordinary times (ibid.):
On June 8  Brigadier-General Edmonds, his former literary assistant, wrote from the Historical Section of the Committee of Imperial Defense: “Providence looks after us and confounds our enemies, but expects ‘works’ as well as faith. To ensure peace we must be strong.” But many people took it for granted that Britain was already strong, and even the News of the World, which had on May 1 published Churchill’s major warning, began to assure its readers that all was well .
Even those who published Churchill’s major warning didn’t believe him! It’s as if they were in a coma of deception! Those institutions that should have helped Churchill, worked against him. As Churchill said, this helped the people continue “living in a ‘fool’s paradise.’” Gilbert continued:
On June 24 George Harrap published the selection of the speeches which Churchill had made on defense and foreign affairs in the 10 years since 1928. Entitled Arms and the Covenant, the volume had been both suggested and edited by Randolph, and was welcomed by his friends. … The South African writer Sarah Gertrude Millin, whom Churchill had met during her visit to England that summer, wrote on 15 Dec., 1938, “The book reads like a toll and knell of doom. All that heartens me is that you yourself, as I saw, have still more heart than any other person I have met in England.”
This book helped those who would listen to see how accurate Churchill’s prophecies and warnings were! Anybody who sought the truth could find it. But the people didn’t want to hear the truth. That was at the heart of the problem. The people wanted to hear “smooth things” and “deceits” (Isaiah 30:10). They wanted to be deceived! That is the biggest challenge each one of us must always face: Do we really want to hear the truth?
Sometimes hearing truth can be the most painful experience of our lives. It often means ripping wrong ideas from our proud minds. But the truth sets us free and greatly enriches our lives.
Hitler soon demanded that the Sudetenland of Czechoslovakia be given to Germany. He said it was because many Germans lived there. But most of the Germans there did not want his rule!
Here is a shocking statement made public long after the war: “Unknown to anyone outside his secret circle, Hitler was already contemplating a dramatic outcome. ‘I will decide to take action against Czechoslovakia,’ he had informed General Keitel on June 18, ‘only if I am firmly convinced, as in the case of the demilitarized zone and the entry into Austria, that France will not march, and that therefore England will not intervene’” (ibid.).
Hitler was going to take action only if he was firmly convinced that France and Britain would not intervene!
This statement greatly exposes the mind of a tyrant, which America and Britain generally refuse to understand. It is not complicated. It’s very simple. But it also reveals a lot about our nations. It clearly shows that we are weak and fearful nations when facing tyrannical dictators.
It was vastly different in much of America’s history. Theodore Roosevelt, for example, never backed down from a tyrant!
There is a very strong and clear message in all this: Tyrants always prey on weakness. All they ever understand and respect is superior force.
Why can’t our well-educated people understand this? Because they reason out of vanity, weakness and fear. That means your greatest enemy is yourself! Until we face our own weaknesses and fears, we are condemned to repeat our past mistakes.
Germany started and lost World War i. The Allied powers imposed upon the Germans the Treaty of Versailles, which prohibited them from entering into a demilitarized zone in their own nation. In the 1930s Germany broke that treaty in every way. It took military control of the demilitarized area. The world watched and did nothing, fearful that opposing the Germans would lead to war. Then when Hitler seized Austria in 1938, again the world watched and did nothing. People feared it would cause a war if they stood up to the Nazis.
Hitler marched into those areas because he saw how weak Britain, France and America were. The same evaluation was being used with Czechoslovakia. (Request our free book The United States and Britain in Prophecy.)
Now we can better see why Churchill called World War ii “the unnecessary war.” He believed it could have been prevented if the democracies of Europe had stood up to Hitler in the beginning.
Churchill was the only British leader the Germans feared. That fact alone should have gotten him into the British Cabinet. Instead, it was the main reason he was kept out! Gilbert continued
On August 7 the British military attaché in Berlin, Colonel Mason-Macfarlane, reported secretly to the Foreign Office that Hitler had already decided to attack Czechoslovakia in September, whatever agreement Benes [the Czech leader] might reach with the Sudetens. Six days later the Conservative mp Charles Taylor, who had been traveling in Germany, informed the Foreign Office of massive German troop movements between Nuremberg and the Czech frontier. That same day Churchill wrote to Lloyd George: “Everything is overshadowed by the impending trial of willpower which is developing in Europe. I think we shall have to choose in the next few weeks between war and shame, and I have very little doubt what the decision will be.”
As the German troop movements grew, with over 1½ million men under arms, Hitler announced that he was holding the usual peace-time maneuvers. His announcement was widely accepted by the British and French public, for, as Orme Sargent noted in a Foreign Office minute on August 15, the French press had probably received the same “hint” as the British “to write down the German mobilization as much as possible so as not to create a sudden panic.” Churchill, however, in an article in the Daily Telegraph on August 18, warned that “if the optimists were proved wrong,” the governments who shared their views would find themselves “at an enormous disadvantage in the opening stages of a world war.” His article continued: “It would be only common prudence for other countries besides Germany to have these same kind of maneuvers at the same time and to place their precautionary forces in such a position that, should the optimists be wrong, they would not be completely ruined.”
What logical and practical advice. But it was rejected. Of course, the democracies ended up getting war—and shame!
Churchill thought America would come in sooner than it did in World War i. “The feeling in the United States against Germany is now far stronger than it was even in 1914,” he said. “In fact, there never has been in time of peace so fierce a feeling against any European country. It seems to me very likely that the United States would not wait so long this time before coming in themselves” (ibid.). Sadly, Churchill was wrong and the U.S. waited a long time before entering, just as it did in World War i.
Like Britain, it wasn’t until the Japanese shattered America’s illusions of security at Pearl Harbor that it decided to enter the war!
Today, the peoples of America and Britain refuse to learn this powerful lesson: While illusions of security feel good for a time, they are always shattered by the jackboot of reality! •