Labour and Hitler

No this post is not going to see Godwin’s Law cited. It is about a fascinating article in the Manawatu Standard:

Though it has been commonly assumed that New Zealand vocally opposed the Nazi expansion and urged Britain to confront Hitler’s regime, two historians are arguing this is not true.

New Zealand continued to push for negotiations with Hitler even as Britain declared war, while still honouring a trade agreement made with Germany in 1937, they say.

We were still trading with Hitler? We signed a trade agreement with him in 1937?

Massey University head of history, philosophy and classics James Watson said he and New Zealand Defence Force historian John Crawford began their research after discovering discrepancies in the history books.

They stumbled across correspondence between key New Zealand ministers in 1939, pushing for continued negotiations. …

New Zealand was behind Britain initially, when British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain went to negotiate with Hitler and signed the Munich peace agreement in 1938.

But after Hitler dishonoured the agreement and invaded Poland, Britain was talking war while New Zealand continued to push for peace negotiations.

Finally, in 1940, New Zealand and Australia sent telegrams to Britain saying they would follow her “to the end”, in whatever decision was made.

So even after Hitler invaded Poland, the Government thought negotiations were the way to go – despite Hitler having broken every previous agreement?

Meanwhile, New Zealand was continuing trade with Germany under a special agreement they had signed in 1937, Dr Watson said.

“I often wondered whether any New Zealander who encountered a German soldier in Greece ever reflected that the uniforms worn by Germans were made from New Zealand wool.”

I wonder when trading stopped?

When Peter Fraser became Prime Minister in 1940, he took a staunch anti-Hitler position.

Dr Watson thinks this might be why the period beforehand has been glossed over by historians.

An historical bias towards Labour could also be the reason, he said.

The research will be published in the British Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History later this year.

I look forward to reading the full research. Thank God for historians.

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