August 14, 2016

Finest Hour 173, Summer 2016

Page 50

Seventy years ago at Zurich University Winston Churchill delivered one of his most important post-war speeches (see pages 7, 31, and 41). Although given the somber title “The Tragedy of Europe,” Churchill’s remarks set out a plan for rebuilding the war-torn continent. Proposing “a kind of United States of Europe,” Churchill acknowledged that he might “astonish” his audience when he insisted, “The first step in the re-creation of the European family must be a partnership between France and Germany.” He ended his remarks with the exhortation, “And therefore I say to you, let Europe arise!” Or did he?

The short answer is yes. The speech was recorded, and the closing statement can be clearly heard ( The university placed two commemorative plaques to mark the occasion, one in English and one in German, each including the famous final phrase. Yet the published versions of Churchill’s speech do not include it at all.

The speech first appeared in the 1948 collection The Sinews of Peace, edited by Randolph Churchill and published in the UK by Cassell. The last line, however, is missing. Nor can it be found in other editions, including the Complete Speeches edited by Robert Rhodes James published in 1974. To find any written record of the remark in the Churchill papers, one must go to the source. And there lies a mystery as well.

The Churchill Archives Centre has three typed copies of the speech. The speaking notes that Churchill actually used (see, below left) contain a handwritten insertion by Churchill himself about “Soviet Russia” but nothing at all about “let Europe arise!” The other two texts, which Archives Director Allen Packwood believes to be corrected versions produced by Churchill’s staff after delivery to record what was in fact said, do not include the last line in type. To these copies (see one example,  below right) the closing words have been added in handwriting by someone other than Churchill.

The most likely explanation is that Churchill improvised his uplifting conclusion “let Europe arise!” and that Randolph Churchill worked from the original speech notes, which did not include the statement, rather than from the corrected texts. Subsequent editors followed his lead.

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