Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Dreamer and the Thug - Both on the Same Road to Nowhere

1938 - Neville Chamberlain on the way to Munich.
1941 - Rudolf Hess on the way to Scotland.
Both examples of Cervantes' Quixote, in the twentieth century.
I have not yet found a historian to write about these two within the same paragraph. Do please inform me if you have.
Prime Minister Chamberlain, and his predecessor, Stanley Baldwin, both thought that the Empire was not assailable, and both did not contemplate the Hitlerian logic , let alone possibility of Force of Arms to solve any international issue.
So, at Munich, even though Chamberlain thought that Hitler was the essence of repugnance, he signed in along with the Nazi leader and the Fascist dictator, Mussolini, to facilitate and actuate the bloodless taking over of Czechoslovakia, while the President of the Czech state waited in a hall outside of the proceedings.
"Peace For Our Time" was the theme of the day when Chamberlain returned to England, waving the paper to an exultant crowd at the airport, that he and Hitler had signed.
So much for Don Quixote I.
Rudolf Hess, we remember, was second only to Hitler in the early days of Nazism, and languished in the same jail with Hitler while the future dictator dictated his "Mein Kampf" to
him.
After Britain had declared war on Germany, which Hitler did not anticipate, Hess anguished over this unforeseen development. He knew that Hitler did not dislike the British, and the tyrant had felt that it would have been possible to, at least for the foreseeable future, co-exist with England while he occupied the Continent.
In 1941, Hess could no longer contain himself. He felt that he could confront Churchill and work out an agreement with Great Britain and then, in triumph, present it to Hitler.
And so this leading Nazi, never for a moment understanding the deep and abiding hatred Churchill had for Hitler, set off in a small plane (he was a fine pilot) all by himself, for the British Isles, never having told Hitler of this grand plan.
And so, Hess jumped out of his plane and parachuted his way onto a fine Scottish lawn, was detained by the local police, who informed Churchill whom they had in custody. Churchill was incredulous, but did not change his mind about watching a Marx Brothers movie that very same evening.
Can any of us make up better stories?
And there you have the Hero of Cervantes II.

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