He used “insulting words” outside the hotel where Hitler’s emissary was staying.
Shameful moment No. 3
On Friday 12th May 1933, two days after Hitler’s emissary, Dr Alfred Rosenberg, had placed his swastika wreath at the cenotaph, Charles Heckster, a Rotherhithe clerk, attended Marlborough Street Police Court charged with “using insulting words and behaviour intended to provoke a breach of the peace.” His crime, committed the previous day, was to shout “Down with Hitler” and “Down with the murder gang” outside Claridge’s Hotel in the heart of London’s Mayfair district, where Rosenberg was staying the night before his return to Germany. According to The Times “he refused to go away when requested and was taken into custody.”
Heckster was one of several demonstrators who had arrived outside the hotel just as journalists had been gathering for Rosenberg’s anticipated press conference. They quickly set up a large display of anti-Hitler posters and banners and began to distribute leaflets and chant “Down with the Fascist murderers of German workers” and “Deport Rosenberg.” This quickly attracted a crowd of onlookers on the street and from the balconies of the surrounding buildings.
It’s not clear at exactly what moment Heckster was arrested or why he was singled out from among the chanting activists. One of only a few clues is a photo of him, wearing a suit and tie and with a look of determined defiance, being led away by two police officers. Behind him another demonstrator can be seen holding high a banner with the slogan “Unite Against Fascist Terror”. The following day many newspapers carried reports on the incident, but only one, the Daily Worker, thought it appropriate to quote the protesters’ motives and demands listed in the leaflet that Heckster and others had been distributing.
“The workers of London”, the leaflet explained, “protest against the presence in London of Dr. Rosenberg, the representative of Hitler. We protest against (his) reception by British government officials. His government is stained with the blood of countless German workers. It has suppressed the communist party and the socialist party. Thousands of German workers have been murdered and imprisoned. The freedom of press, of speech, of assembly, of organisation, of the right to strike are now being denied. The Jewish people are being persecuted…. We demand that Rosenberg leaves the country immediately… Long live the international solidarity of the workers.”
The leaflet may have helped win some support among the public, but it also provided evidence for Heckster’s crime of “insulting” the Nazi regime, so it was not surprising when he was found guilty and fined forty shillings even though the court accepted that “Herr Rosenberg…. knew nothing of the disturbance outside” and despite the defendant’s eloquent justification of his actions. “I went there,” he explained, “to protest against the presence in this country of Dr Rosenberg, who represents one of the most inhuman and most bloody, violent and tyrannous governments in Europe today.”
Frederick Mead, the magistrate, made it clear that he considered Heckster’s pretext, that he was merely attempting to prevent far greater crimes by the Nazis, as inconsequential, cutting him short moments after he started his defence with a pointed question “Do you propose to go into this matter at any length, because if so, I shall say it is irrelevant and not hear you ?“ A few minutes later, having deprived Heckster of his only opportunity to fully justify his conduct, Mead preceded to his verdict, declaring that he considered “the place and the time and the manner were all inappropriate for your propaganda, and you must pay forty shillings,” adding that he had taken into account the possibility that the defendant’s conduct might have been of “extreme danger in leading to disorder.”
The forty shilling fine Mead imposed did not deter further protests. The following day, Friday 12th May, a man and a woman booked themselves a table at Claridge’s and after finishing their grapefruit, the man stood up and shouted loudly “Down with Rosenberg and Hitler ! Down with the Fascist Terror !” The hotel’s security dragged him out, but the woman continued to distribute leaflets until she too was forcibly dragged away, several tables being knocked over in the scuffle. The police arrived to find the two subversive infiltrators detained in the manager’s office, but the manager, not wishing to further tarnish the hotel’s revered reputation, explained that Claridge’s did not wish to press charges.
The Daily Telegraph was incensed by this string of affronts to Hitler’s representative and implied that the police should have taken harsher measures, declaring that “there is nothing whatever to be said in excuse for the shape which certain manifestations of disapproval have taken within the last few days,” adding that “brawling of this kind should be summarily put down. It is very un-English. Londoners will angrily disown the discourtesy of those who take upon themselves to speak and act for London. We cannot be proud of these futile ebullitions of bad temper and worse manners.”
Some people, however, were not listening. On Sunday morning, his final day, Dr. Rosenberg suffered yet another unexpected encounter with protesters as he boarded the Harwich boat train on his return to Germany. They dropped anti-nazi leaflets on to his railway carriage from a steel footbridge which spanned the platforms at Liverpool Street Station and “some fell on the footboard of Herr Rosenberg’s compartment.”
The demonstrators were quickly led away by the police who remained vigilant until the very moment the train pulled away. According to the Daily Mirror, “a sergeant was stationed at the door of (Rosenberg’s) compartment until the time of the train’s departure and other officers kept a rapidly increasing crowd from getting too near. As the train began to move amid a chorus of “Auf Wiedersehen” from the Germans on the platform, several men shouted ‘Down with Hitler; down with the murderer.’ Herr Rosenberg, who looked rather pale, leaned back in his seat and waved farewell to his compatriots”.
The Scotsman voiced its regret that “his (Herr Rosenberg’s) departure should have been made the occasion for a further display of rudeness.” The Yorkshire Post also published an editorial deploring the “discourtesy” shown to Hitler’s emissary, declaring that “the uproar at Liverpool Street Station yesterday is most regrettable, because it is a breach of international courtesy….We have to remember that he is (Hitler’s) diplomatic representative.”
Rosenberg in secret talks with the Chairman of the oil giant Royal Dutch Shell.
Although Rosenberg’s visit provoked popular, if “discourteous,” resentment, which was duly denounced by the British press, it seems to have achieved one vital objective for the Nazi regime. Several newspapers had made a passing reference to Herr Rosenberg spending a “weekend in the country” with friends. The most important of these “friends” was Sir Henri Deterding, Chairman of the Royal Dutch Shell Group, who’s palatial country residence was at Buckhurst Park near Windsor.
Sir Henri was variously referred to in the press as “the oil king,” “the Napoleon of oil” and “the most powerful man in the world.” As Chairman of Royal Dutch Shell he controlled vast oil interests around the world and between 1918 and 1920 he got his hands briefly on the Russian oil fields at Baku, Grosny and Maikop in the Caucasus before they were seized by the Red Army and nationalized by the communist regime. His subsequent demands for compensation were rejected and “thus began,” to quote from Sir Henri’s obituary in the Sunday Pictorial, “the international war between Deterding and the Russians.”
From 1920 onward he devoted much of his time and his enormous financial resources to attempting to bring down the Soviet regime and considered Germany as a key ally in that struggle. Evidence from a 1930 German court case against two Georgians for counterfeiting Soviet bank notes, suggests that as early as 1926 Deterding had held a meeting with Godfrey Lampton, British under secretary of state for foreign affairs and other key figures with a view to financing a nationalist movement in the Ukraine and Georgia backed with German volunteers and military instructors, who were to receive part of their reward in land in the “reclaimed” territories.
Later, during the run up to the July and November 1932 election campaigns in Weimar Germany, which saw spectacular Nazi successes, several historians suspect, based on American consular reports and allegations in the Dutch press and by Sir Henri’s biographer Glyn Roberts, that the Napoleon of oil may have made vast loans to Hitler. Possibly as much as £30 million or even £55 million. In return Deterding presumably hoped to protect Shell’s dominant position in the German oil supply market, guarantee the company’s substantial investments in the country, prop up a regime which he believed would deal effectively with any communist threat and even regain his former oil holdings in the Caucasus should Germany, as Hitler had long promised, embark on a victorious military campaign against Soviet Russia.
It also seems that, subsequent to his meeting with Rosenberg, Sir Henri arranged for Shell to supply Germany with oil on easy credit terms. The Board of Shell even agreed to allow the Nazi regime to postpone cash payments for oil indefinitely. This astonishing concession, though a big risk, seemed to make business sense, because the oil giant believed that the huge Nazi rearmament programme and the drive to motorize transport would lead to a huge rise in the demand for petroleum and promised potentially huge rewards for any company closely allied with the regime.
According to a New York Times report in 1934, Deterding was soon offering more help, including the establishment of oil supply dumps for Germany’s army and air force at strategic points across the country and help in financing Germany’s road construction programme. Then the following year he agreed for Shell to finance a 25 per cent stake in IG Farben’s Deutsche Gasolin AG to allow the regime to develop its own synthetic oil supplies and thereby escape its strategically dangerous reliance on imports of foreign oil. So while German consumption of mineral oils increased by 93 per cent between 1933 and 139, the proportion which had to be imported fell from 75 per cent in 1933 to less than 50 per cent by 1939.
Sir Henri eventually resigned as chairman in 1936, a post he’d held for 36 years, but he remained on the board of directors and continued to use his huge financial wealth and influence to support Hitler’s regime; even moving the same year to take up permanent residence, except for holidays in Switzerland, in a villa in Mecklenburg, north of Berlin. When, in December, a the shortage of food imports within Nazi Germany was threatening to destabilize Hitler’s regime, Deterding donated £1.1 million of his own wealth to buying up the agricultural surplus in Holland to sell in Germany and then handed over the proceeds of the sale to the Nazi run “winter aid” organization. However the actual amount of the aid was undoubtedly far greater since, besides his own donation, he solicited financial support from many of his business contacts. Over that winter, he succeeded in supplying the Third Reich with vast quantities of agricultural produce, including millions of tons of bacon, in some seven thousand railways wagons.
The Leeds Mercury, under the headline “Friend of the New Reich,” noted that Sir Henri “has long been regarded as one of the leading friends of the new Germany” and The Times quoted from a letter from Sir Henri explaining his motives for his enormous generosity to the Nazi regime, which he claimed where based on the belief that the likely alternative to Hitler was Bolshevism. Such an outcome, he argued, would “only result in larger unemployment and misery,” and he warned that “the main object of the communists is to permit as little cooperation between the nations as possible, because only then will their destructive principles succeed.” There was however a “remedy” which was “the further cooperation of these powers” against “infectious communism.”
When Sir Henri died suddenly two years later at the age of seventy two, The Times obituary noted that “in the last few years he spent much of his time in Germany where he showed himself to be in sympathy with the German government’s attitudes towards the communists.” His biographer Glyn Roberts concurred, commenting that “he behaved as one who saw in the strengthening of the destructive and aggressive forces in Hitler’s Third Reich, the salvation of the world.”
Deterding had tried to keep his meeting with Rosenberg in May 1933 a secret. When two newspapers, Reynolds Illustrated News and the Evening Standard each published a short paragraph stating that Rosenberg had visited Deterding at Buckhurst Park, his secretary adamantly denied any such meeting claiming that Sir Henri was not even in England. However according to the Daily Worker, an enterprising journalist quickly discovered the truth, by ringing Sir Henri’s butler and catching him off guard. Assuming a German accent he asked if he could talk with Hitler’s envoy urgently, only to be informed that “Herr Rosenberg was out for a drive in the car.” Then when the journalist asked to speak with Deterding, the butler responded “I’m sorry, Sir Henri is out in the car too. They went out driving together.” So there is some evidence to suggest that the two did meet although assuming they did, we do not know what they discussed. We do know, however, that subsequently Sir Henri did everything he could to use his vast financial resources and contacts in order to both underpin the fragile economy of the Nazi regime and provide the essential oil necessary for Hitler’s war machine.
What of Rosenberg’s legacy ? Twelve years after condemning the “discourtesy” shown to Hitler’s emissary, the Yorkshire Post, on 30 August 1945, was to describe Rosenberg, under a front page headline “War Criminals Named,” as “former Gauleiter of Poland and Nazi philosopher number one”, reminding readers in an editorial that he was one of the “notorious” names on the list of suspected Nazi war criminals and that it was the duty of the international court at Nuremberg to send out a warning to, “wicked and ruthless men” that “the principle that crimes does not pay must become law not only in the everyday life but also in inter-state relations”. It did not of course refer to its earlier editorial in 1933 condemning disrespectful protests against Hitler’s “diplomatic representative”.
After his visit in May 1933, Rosenberg never returned to Britain again. The following year he was appointed cultural leader of Nazi Germany and continued to propagate extreme anti-Semite and anti-Christian propaganda, even suggesting in 1942 that the bible be removed from all churches and replaced by Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” (“My Struggle”) and that the Christian Cross be swapped for the swastika. His most enduring notoriety will probably be his role as one of the architects of Hitler’s Final Solution – Germany’s industrial killing of Europe’s Jewish population during the Second World War. At a press conference in November 1941 he chillingly declared that “six million Jews still live in the East and this question can only be solved by a biological extermination of the whole of Jewry in Europe.” Justice did not finally catch up with him until 1946 when, despite his desperate protestations of ignorance of the Jewish genocide, he was convicted at the Nuremberg trials for war crimes and crimes against humanity. He was executed on the morning of 16 October 1946.
1. “Herr Rosenberg’s Visit – Demonstrator Fined,” The Times, 13 May 1933 p9, Accessed on The Times Digital Archive, 17 July 2017.
2. Photo on the front page of the Daily Worker, 13 May 1933.
3. “Workers Tell Rosenberg to Go Back,” the Daily Worker, 12 May 1933, p1
4. “Nazi Wreath Snatched from Cenotaph”, the Dundee Courier and Advertiser, 12 May 1933, p3.
5. “Demonstrator Fined”, the Aberdeen Press and Journal, 13 May 1933 p7, “Debutantes in a Scene”, the Daily Mirror, 13 May 1933 p7
6. “Most Bloody Government Today”, the Daily Worker, 13 May 1933 p1.
7. “Herr Rosenberg’s Visit – Demonstrator Fined,” The Times, 13 May 1933 p9 accessed in The Times Digital Archive 17 July 2017.
8. “Protest in London Restaurant”, the Daily Worker, 13 May 1933 p1.
9. “Futile Discourtesy,” the Daily Telegraph, 13 May 1933 p12.
10. “Hitler Envoy in Station Scene”, the Daily Mirror, 15 May 1933 p1 and “Herr Rosenberg Leaves”, the Belfast Newsletter, 15 May 1933 p7
11. “Hitler Envoy in Station Scene”, the Daily Mirror, 15 May 1933 p1 and “Hostility to Nazi Envoy – Scene at Railway Station”, the Western Morning News and Daily Gazette, 15 May 1933 p7.
12. “Swastika Over Europe”, The Scotsman, 15 May 1933 p8
13. “Hitler’s ‘Hold Up'”, the Yorkshire Evening Post, 15 May 1933 p6
14. See for instance “Dr Rosenberg’s Visit,” the Yorkshire Evening Post,” 8 May 1933 p8 and “Dr Rosenberg in London,” the Dundee Evening Telegraph, 8 May 1933 p4.
15. See for instance “£65,000,000 Oil King is Dead,” the Sunday Express, 5 February 1939 p1 and “Sir H. Deterding, Oil King, is Dead,” the Sunday Pictorial, 5 February 1939 p1.
16. See for instance “Deterding The Bank Clerk Became Napoleon of Oil,” the Sunday Express, 5 February 1939 p15 and “Sir Henry Deterding – Death of The Napoleon of Oil,” the Western Morning News and Daily Gazette, 6 February 1939 p7
17. See for instance “Sir H Deterding, Oil King, is Dead,” the Sunday Pictorial, 5 February 1939 p1.
18. Glyn Roberts (1975) “The Most Powerful Man in The World: The Life of Sir Henri Deterding,” Hyperion Press, Westport, Connecticut.
19. “Sir H. Deterding, Oil King, is Dead,” the Sunday Pictorial, 5 February 1939 p1
20. Story originally reported in the Vossiche Zeitung and reported in “Plan to Destroy Bolshevism,” the Hartlepool Northern Daily Mail, 5 February 103- p8.
21. Glyn Roberts (1975) “The Most Powerful Man in The World: The Life of Sir Henri Deterding,” Hyperion Press, Westport, Connecticut p322 and James E Pool and Suzanne Pool (1978) “Who Financed Hitler ?” MacDonald and Janes, p322-323. Also reports from the American consul in Hamburg on 21 August 1934 and 15 February 1935 quoted in Neil Forbes (2000), “Doing Business with the Nazis: Britain’s Economic and Financial Relations with Germany, 1931-1939,” Frank Crass Publishers, p149-150.
22. Neil Forbes (2000), “Doing Business with the Nazis: Britain’s Economic and Financial Relations with Germany, 1931-1939,” Frank Cass Publishers, p150-1.
23. New York Times referenced in “Deterding Aiding Nazi Army,” the Daily Worker, 3 November 1934 p2.
24. Neil Forbes (2000) “Doing Business with the Nazis: Britain’s Economic and Financial Relations with Germany, 1931-39,” Frank Cass Publishers, p150-151.
25. Our Own Correspondent, “Dutch Help for Germany,” The Times, 30 December 1936, p9 accessed from The Times Digital Archive on 15 July 2017 and “£1,100,000 Gift to Germany,” The Scotsman, 29 December 1936 p9 and “Gift for Hungry Germans,” the Northern Whig and Belfast Post, 29 December 1936 p9.
26. “Friend of the New Reich,” the Leeds Mercury, 29 December 1936, p1
27. Our Own Correspondent, “Dutch Help for Germany,” The Times, 30 December 1936, p9 accessed from The Times Digital Archive on 15 July 2017.
28. “Obituary: Sir Henri Deterding,” The Times, 6 February 1939 p14
29. Glyn Roberts (1975) “The Most Powerful Man in the World: The Life of Sir Henri Deterding,” Hyperion Press, Westport, Connecticut p322.
30. Ibid p319.
31. “Deterding Aiding Nazi Army,” the Daily Worker, 3 November 1934 p2
32. “War Criminals Named”, the Yorkshire Post, 30 August 1945 p1 and “Trying the War Criminals”, the Yorkshire Post, 30 August 1945 p2. In its page two editorial the Yorkshire Post quoted extensively from a book by Dr. Manfred Lachs entitled “War Crimes: An Attempt to Define the Issues”.
33. Albert R. Chandler (1945), “Rosenberg’s Nazi Myth“, Ithaca, New York p 123 and William L. Shirer (1960), “The Rise and Fall of The Third Reich“, Secker and Warburg, London p240.
34. Peter Longerich (2010), “Holocaust: The Nazi Persecution and Murder of the Jews“, Oxford University Press, p 289.