Thursday, September 03, 2009

September 3, 1939: The Conflagration Spreads

The failure of appeasement continues its course. Here is Neville Chamberlain's broadcast announcing Britain and France's declaration of war on Germany on September 3, 1939. This video does not contain the entire broadcast, but the complete text follows.

I am speaking to you from the Cabinet Room at 10, Downing Street. This morning, the British Ambassador in Berlin handed the German Government a final note stating that unless we heard from them by 11 o'clock that they were prepared at once to withdraw their troops from Poland, a state of war would exist between us. I have to tell you now that no such undertaking has been received, and that consequently this country is at war with Germany.

You can imagine what a bitter blow it is to me that all my long struggle to win peace has failed.

Yet I cannot believe that there is anything more or anything different that I could have done and that would have been more successful. Up to the very last, it would have been quite possible to have arranged a peaceful and honorable settlement between Germany and Poland.

But Hitler would not have it. He had evidently made up his mind to attack Poland whatever happened; and although he now says he put forward reasonable proposals which were rejected by the Poles, that is not a true statement. The proposals were never shown to the Poles nor to us; and though they were announced in the German broadcast on Thursday night, Hitler did not wait to hear comments on them, but ordered his troops to cross the Polish frontier next morning.

His action shows convincingly that there is no chance of expecting that this man will ever give up his practice of using force to gain his will. He can only be stopped by force; and we and France are today, in fulfillment of our obligations, going to the aid of Poland, who is so bravely resisting this wicked and unprovoked attack upon her people.

We have a clear conscience. We have done all that any country could do to establish peace, but a situation in which no word given by Germany's ruler could be trusted and no people or country could feel themselves safe had become intolerable. And now that we have resolved to finish it, I know that you will all play your part with calmness and courage.

This is the remaining part of the speech, not heard on this video.

At such a moment as this, the assurances of support that we have received from the Empire are a source of profound encouragement to us.

When I have finished speaking, certain detailed announcements will be made on behalf of the Government. Give them your close attention. The Government have made plans under which it will be possible to carry on the work of the nation in the days of stress and strain that may be ahead. But these plans need your help.

You may be taking part in the Fighting Services or as a Volunteer in one of the branches of Civil Defense. If so, you will report for duty in accordance with the instructions you receive. You may be engaged in work essential to the prosecution of war or to the maintenance of life of the people—in factories, in transport, in public utility concerns or in the supply of other necessaries of life. If so, it is of vital importance that you should carry on with your jobs.

Now may God bless you all and may He defend the right. For it is evil things that we shall be fighting against, brute force, bad faith, injustice, oppression and persecution.

And against them I am certain that the right will prevail.

And in the end, the world would be rid of the Nazi menace. But Poland would only exchange one brutal conqueror for another.

1 comment:

  1. It's not so much "the conflagration spreads": this was the point at which the UK (and those who shared the single nationality of the Dominions, the Indian Empire and Southern Rhodesia) and France signed up for war. "The conflagration spreads" suggests something gradual, or ineluctable: this wasn't. This was a binary decision for war-not-appeasement.