The Nobel Peace Prize for Hitler and Chamberlain

Neville Chamberlain and Adolf Hitler shake hands following their signing of the Munich Agreement

After Neville Chamberlain and Lord Halifax, his Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, surrendered in Munich in 1938, influential voices were heard calling for awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to Chamberlain and Adolf Hitler.

On Jan. 24, 1939, 12 members of the Swedish parliament nominated Chamberlain to the prize. For the signatories, the British prime minister was the leader who “through this dangerous time saved our part of the world from a terrible catastrophe.” This was followed by a letter of support to the Nobel Committee signed by 18 officers of the US Association of Warriors in Chicago stating that Chamberlain was “the most outstanding statesman of this day” who kept the world out of war. 

Support for the nomination poured in from the four corners of the world: Stockholm’s Titningen newspaper wrote that bestowing the Nobel Prize on Chamberlain was warmly supported in all quarters in Sweden and Norway; Le Figaro endorsed the idea and even suggested that a monument should be erected in honour of the “modern saviour of Europe”; and, Mahmoud Pasha, the prime minister of Egypt, wrote that Chamberlain whose name would “go down in history as a statesman who saved civilization from destruction” was an ideal candidate for the prize.

But it fell to a Jew like Gertrude Stein, a Nobel laureate, to spearhead a campaign for the nomination of Hitler for the Peace Prize first in 1934 and again in 1938. She told the New York Times Magazine on May 6, 1934 the following: “I say that Hitler ought to have the peace prize because he is removing all the elements of contest by driving out the Jews and the democratic and Left element, he is driving out everything that conduces to activity. That means peace…By suppressing Jews… he was ending struggle in Germany.” 

Not surprisingly, in 1938 she acted on her beliefs and actually nominated Hitler to the prize. This was disclosed by Gustav Hendikksen, a former member of the Nobel Committee and subsequently professor emeritus of Bible Studies at Sweden’s Uppsala University in 1996. Unlike Stein, E.C.G Brandt, a member of the Swedish parliament, also proposed Hitler for the Nobel Peace Prize but as a farce to protest the nomination of Chamberlain. Stein and the other signatories were not joking. Indeed, while residing in France during the war, Stein came to admire Vichy’s leader Marshal Philippe Petain and actually translated a series of his anti-Semitic speeches and writings into English for the edification of Vichy’s Anglo-Saxon admirers. After the war, when the horrors of the Holocaust became public, she even made a pilgrimage to Hitler’s Berchtesgaden retreat and wanted to take with her an iron radiator as a souvenir to be used as a flower pot. Unfortunately, Stein was neither the first nor the last Jew to worship at the altar of those who wish Jews ill. 

Chamberlain would have received the Nobel Peace Prize had Hitler not betrayed him by gobbling up the rump Czechoslovak state a few months after signing the Munich Agreement. While the British PM thought that with that deal, Czechoslovakia would “find a greater security than she has ever enjoyed in the past,” Hitler told his acolytes: “I shall not occupy Prague for six months or so. I can’t bring myself to do such a thing to the old fellow at the moment.”    

Hitler’s “soft spot” for Chamberlain reminds me of Alice’s Walrus who tricked a bunch of oysters to come with him and his friend, the Carpenter, for a pleasant walk and talk on a briny beach only to feast on them.

“I weep for you,” the Walrus said:

 “I deeply sympathize.”

 With sobs and tears he sorted out

 Those of the largest size,

 Holding his pocket-handkerchief

 Before his streaming eyes.