While the subject of appeasement in the thirties has been analyzed over and over again (though popular mythology seems to be impervious to historical arguments) less has been written about the appeasement of Stalin in the years 1943 - 45. As it happens, I came across a few details concerning the treatment of Poland in Norman Rose's biography of Harold Nicolson.

Nicolson's political career was chequered, to put it mildly, and there is something to Rose's theory that he had been "persuaded - some would say, blackmailed - to leave a profession for which he was eminently suited", diplomacy, and found himself entering another, politicws, "for which he was patently ill-suited". Nevertheless, he did have a part to play in the tragicomedy of Parliamentary activity before and during the Second World War.

Having been one of the prominent anti-appeasers in the late thirties, he seems to have finished the war by becoming one of the most prominent pro-appeasers of Stalin. He was overwhelmed by the Yalta Agreement, thinking that the Western allies had brought off a tremendous coup and he spoke in the debate on February 28, 1945:

Ever since the war, Harold assured the House, Stalin had demonstrated 'that he is about the most reliable man in Europe'. These sentiments, to a later generation alarming in their naivety, were soon to change as the harsher realities of the Cold War se tin. But for the time being Harold was in good company. On returning from Yalta, Churchill reported to his Cabinet. He felt convinced that Stalin 'meant well to the world and to Poland', and 'he had confidence' in him: Stalin 'had kepthis word with the utmost loyalty'. (Hugh Dalton who was present at the cabinet meeting, put it more dramatically. He reported Chuchcill as saying, 'Poor Neville Chamberlain believed he could trust Hitler. He was wrong. But I don't think I'm wrong about Stalin.')

Given Hugh Dalton's views of the Soviet Union and refusal even in the thirties to look at what had been happening in that country, one must assume that this statement, which Rose found in Dalton's unpublished diaries, met with his approval. There is also some support for this extraordinary boast in the wartime diaries of Sir John Colville.

The Commons voted overwhelmingly in favour of the policy: 396 to 25 and Churchill congratulated Nicolson for bringing some of the doubters over by his speech. It would appear that some of the "Munichites" spoke against though, given the numbers, not that many voted against.


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