Finest Hour 161, Winter 2013-14
Dr. Thijs Gras in Amsterdam is editing war memoirs of a Dutch ambulance driver, who mentions a 1941 speech in which Churchill speaks of “Quislings.” Translating the Dutch, the driver recalls a Churchill speech: “the day will dawn on which the crazy attempt to settle a Prussian supremacy based on racial hatred, armoured vehicles, secret police, alien tyrants and even more despicable Quislings, will dissolve like a bad dream.” Dr. Gras wishes the exact wording, and asks how a Dutch ambulance driver might have heard Churchill’s words.
The lines came in Churchill’s broadcast “To the Polish People” on 3 May 1941. From Churchill, The Unrelenting Struggle (London: Cassell, 1942), pages 103-04:
It is to you Poles, in Poland, who bear the full brunt of the Nazi oppression—at once pitiless and venal—that the hearts of the British and American Democracies go out in a full and generous tide. We send you our message of hope and encouragement tonight, knowing that the Poles will never despair, and that the soul of Poland will remain unconquerable.
This war against the mechanized barbarians, who, slave-hearted themselves, are fitted only to carry their curse to others—this war will be long and hard. But the end is sure; the end will reward all toil, all disappointments, all suffering in those who faithfully serve the cause of European and world freedom. A day will dawn, perhaps sooner than we now have a right to hope, when the insane attempt to found a Prussian domination on racial hatred, on the armoured vehicle, on the secret police, on the alien overseer, and on still more filthy Quislings, will pass like a monstrous dream. And in that morning of hope and freedom not only the embattled and at last well-armed Democracies, but all that is noble and fearless in the New World as well as in the Old, will salute the rise of Poland to be a nation once again.
The Dutch ambulance driver might have heard this speech over the wireless. Churchill directed broadcasts to the French, Polish and Italian people, but since they were beamed over the BBC World Service, they would have been heard in Holland as well as, or perhaps better than, in Poland.
The driver also might have read the speech in the paperback collection of Churchill’s War Speeches (including the 3 May 1941 speech) which was published in Dutch as well as English by Cassell in London. The Dutch edition, Winston Churchills Oorlogsredevoeringen, was actually published first, in 1945. Thus it was the first world edition of this particular title, which was not published in English until 1946.
Vidkun Quisling (1887–1945), a Norwegian army officer and fascist politician, was Minister-President of occupied Norway in 1942–45 and was executed for treason at the end of the war. He actually was awarded a CBE (1929, revoked 1940) for his earlier aid to British interests in Russia. Churchill made his name famous as a synonym for “traitor.”
Churchill was very familiar with the slogan, “a nation once again,” the motto of the Irish Nationalists. In 1921, WSC had helped to write the treaty which established the Irish Free State, although it was spurned by one prominent Irish leader, Eamonn de Valera. On 8 December 1941, in an attempt to woo Ireland to join the Allies, he telegraphed de Valera: ”Now is your chance. Now or never. A nation once again.” De Valera did not reply, saying that Churchill must have been drunk. Of course he was quite sober. It was typical of Churchill’s quixotic nature and generosity—and his memory for a good phrase.