British Diplomat Tried to Broker Nazi Peace Deal, Archives Reveal | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 31.08.2008
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British Diplomat Tried to Broker Nazi Peace Deal, Archives Reveal

An amateur British diplomat apparently tried to arrange a secret peace deal with the Nazis, according to newly released archive material. His plan was that the Nazis would get Europe and Britain would take the world.

Josef Stalin, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Winston Churchill

Had Bryans' idea gained support, things would have turned out much differently

James Lonsdale-Bryans, a well-educated fascist sympathizer and novice politician, traveled to Italy in the first months of World War II to negotiate a deal with the German ambassador in Rome, Ulrich von Hassell, revealed the archives from Britain's Foreign Office.

Previously classified files concerning Londsdale-Bryans' actions were released on Sunday, Aug. 31, as part of the Freedom of Information Act.

"Bryans' idea is that the world ought to be divided into two parts, that Germany should be given a free hand in Europe and that the British Empire should run the rest of the world," read a file from the archive.

The newly released documents indicate that, following his visit to Italy, Londsdale-Bryans took his plan to then Foreign Secretary Lord Edward Halifax. He apparently also attempted to contact top US officials, including Dwight D. Eisenhower, who was Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe during the war, and even high-ranking Nazi leaders.

"There is no doubt that Bryans with or without the authority of Lord Halifax endeavored to go to Germany to contact (German Foreign Minister) Ribbentrop and if possible Hitler himself," showed one file.

Keeping it under wraps

He soon became an embarrassment to the British Foreign Office, which feared he would take his story to the press.

One letter from the Foreign Office suggests Bryans was only spared jail in order to avoid publicizing his unpopular plan:

"Although there seems to be a good deal to be said for locking him up to prevent him airing his views to all and sundry, I understand that if this is done it will inevitably involve his bringing up the question of his contacts with the Foreign Office and the facilities that afforded him to go to Italy," it read.

The political climate drastically changed in 1940, however, when Germany invaded France and a policy of appeasement became less popular. Winston Churchill replaced Neville Chamberlain as prime minister and Halifax was sent to Washington as Britain's ambassador to the US.

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