An article and a television review from the Daily Telegraph ( London), Monday 20 February 2017.
(1) Would the British have collaborated with the Nazis? (Nigel Jones).
(2) SS-GB (BBC; reviewed by Jasper Rees).
Some would have fought to the end like Churchill, but others would have accepted Nazi occupation
A swastika flag flutters over Buckingham Palace . The crash of SS jackboots echoes along Downing Street . Such images will become familiar over the nest few weeks as the BBC screens its adaptation of SS-GB, Len Deighton’s chilling portrayal of Britain under Nazi occupation.
But we don’t really need Deighton’s brilliant novel to tell us what might have happened had the [Second World War] ended differently. We already know.
We know because the Nazis had made meticulous plans for how they would rule a conquered Britain , including a blacklist of hundreds of prominent people who had expressed their dislike of Hitler’s régime and were marked for arrest and execution.
Top place on the blacklist went, of course, to Winston Churchill. He pledged that he and his Cabinet would fight until they lay on the ground choking on their own blood.
But would Britain have resisted to the last? The evidence suggests the response would have been much meeker than Churchill’s growled defiance.
That evidence exists in the archives of Mass Observation, Britain ’s first public opinion organisation, at Sussex University . Respondents often express strong doubts about eventual British victory, and even exhibit a worrying admiration for Nazi “achievements”.
Churchill himself would have died in the last ditch, smoking gun in hand, but some of his colleagues were not made of such stern stuff. Several would have gone, cap in hand, to seek a “reasonable” accommodation with a triumphant Hitler, and would almost certainly have played prominent parts in a Vichy-style puppet government.
Surprisingly, they might not have included the Fascist leader Sir Oswald Mosley. Mosley had taken against Hitler when they met in Berlin in 1936 at his wedding to Diana Mitford and disliked receiving orders from anyone, even Hitler.
The real collaborators would have been led by the Duke of Windsor, the former King Edward VIII. He had often expressed fawning regard for the Nazi régime and even made a shameful pilgrimage to pay court to the Führer at his Bavarian home, the Berghof.
Others included Lord Halifax, the foreign secretary, and even Britain ’s First World War premier, David Lloyd George. He called Hitler a “great man”, and refused to join Churchill’s government because he wanted to play the role of Britain ’s Pétain: an old hero recalled from retirement to lead the country in its hour of defeat.
More dangerous than these vain old men was Halifax ’s deputy at the Foreign Office, Rab Butler, an apostle of appeasement who despised Churchill as a “half-American adventurer” and sought to make treasonable contact with the Nazis, via a Swedish intermediary, to negotiate a peace deal. Another Tory appeaser was former MI6 agent Sam Hoare.
Churchill distrusted all these men and neutralised them. Windsor was sent to the Bahamas , and Halifax and Hoare exiled as ambassadors to the United States and Spain . Butler was consigned to a harmless domestic role in education policy. Mosley and Mitford stayed locked up in Holloway prison until 1943, when the invasion threat had passed.
But how would a Britain run by such traitors, and overseen by the Nazis, have functioned?
Hitler, an admirer of the British Empire , might have given us an easier ride than France, let alone the Slavic Untermenschen in eastern Europe. But the British would have felt the Nazi lash, especially if they showed the slightest dissent.
British Jews would have died in the Holocaust just like their counterparts in the rest of Europe . A British Resistance would have been met with ruthless repression.
In the Channel Islands, given up by Churchill in 1940 as impossible to defend, we see the model for how Nazi rule would have looked in Britain . The bailiffs who ran Jersey and Guernsey were kept in place by the occupiers in return for slavish obedience. Notoriously, they compiled lists of non-islanders, including Jews, some of whom were deported and killed.
The truth is that occupation of Britain would have exposed the best and worst in human nature. Some would have been heroes, risking torture and death to shelter Jews or take armed action against the invader. Some would have collaborated: denouncing neighbours, betraying friends, demeaning themselves in their submission to tyranny. Most of us would have kept our heads down and tried to muddle through, surviving as best we could.
Read more at telegraph.co.uk/opinion