The mayor of Hastings toasts Hitler and gives the Nazi salute
Local newspaper attacks ‘snarling’ critics of ‘courteous’ salute.
Shameful moment No. 9
On Saturday 27 August 1938, the mayor of Hastings along with the chief constables of Hastings, Brighton and Hove, was hosting a luncheon party at the newly opened Marine Court Restaurant on the seafront at St. Leonards on Sea. It had been specially laid on, at a cost of some £30 from the budget of Hastings Council, for a delegation of high-profile German visitors including the Nazi mayor of Wuppertal, a large party of police officers from the same city and members of a pro-Nazi group called “the Anglo-German Ring.”
Mayor Ford, standing behind a table decorated with silk union jack and swastika flags, initiated the proceedings by proposing a toast to Hitler which the entire gathering, according to the local paper, “honoured” with a “customary” Nazi salute(15W). This welcoming gesture even received a short mention on page 9 of The Times in its “News in Brief” section, which described the unusual table decoration and noted that “all present” had joined in the salute.
Ford opened the proceedings by offering “a warm welcome to our guests” and observed that “it is perhaps not sufficiently realised how great is the service rendered by one country to another through its police in checking or preventing lawlessness and anarchy.” He then expressed his appreciation of the “efforts of the Anglo-German Ring” to dispel “misunderstandings” and “mischievous rumours” which might otherwise threaten the “solid friendship” between Britain and Nazi Germany which was “based on mutual respect.” The Hastings and St Leonards Observer observed that his speech was met with applause and how “a hearty chorus of ‘sieg heil” from all the members of the German party confirmed the cordiality of the Lord Mayor’s words.”
The event wasn’t thought worthy of significant comment in the national press but subsequent correspondence sent to the local newspaper about the event provoked an angry reaction in an editorial . This was not directed against the Mayor’s Nazi salute but against “snapping and snarling” letters of complaint the Hastings and St Leonards Observer had received “mostly from Socialists and Communists.” It dismissed these as either “ill-considered” or just “mischief making” and declared that “The mayor’s gesture in giving the Nazi salute…. was, in the eyes of all normal people, the only reasonable and courteous thing to do.”
It is interesting to note that on returning to Wuppertal, the German police officers dismally failed to prevent an outbreak of “anarchy and lawlessness,” a supposed role for which the Mayor of Hastings had praised them for. On the nights of the 9 and 10 November, a murderous anti-Jewish pogrom, which soon became known as Kristallnacht ( the night of broken glass ), was provoked by the Nazi party across Germany. Rioters in Wuppertal attacked Jewish shops and businesses and burned the city’s two synagogues to the ground. However, the only action the city’s authorities took was to arrest several Jews and send them to Dachau concentration camp.
1. “News in Brief – Nazi Salute at Hastings,” The Times, 29 August 1938 accessed online in The Times Digital Archive on 18 July 2017
2. “German Police Visit,” the Hastings and St. Leonard’s Observer, 3 September 1938, p6
3. “The Mayor and the Nazi Salute”, the Hastings and St. Leonard’s Observer, 3 September 1938, p7.
4. Information on the destruction and arrests at Wuppertal on 9-10 November 1938 taken from Martin Gilbert (2005), “Kristallnacht, Prelude to Destruction,” Harper, p73 and germansynagogues.com accessed online at http://germansynagogues.com/index.php/synagogues-and-communities?sid=1385:wuppertal-barmen