Most people in the English speaking world consider Winston Churchill a hero, but the war time British Prime Minister was one of the top mass murderers of the twentieth century. Here are the facts and figures. Mao Zedong’s policies led to the deaths of 60 million Chinese; during World War II Adolf Hitler of Germany gassed six million Jews and killed another five million Slavs and Roma in death camps; (1) Georgia-born Joseph Stalin killed over six million Soviets through purges and famine; Yahya Khan unleashed the Pakistan Army against his own citizens, killing over three million Bengalis in just nine months; and Churchill cheered from the sidelines as his policies killed up to seven million people, mostly Indians but also a lot of Germans and Arabs.
Mao, Hitler, Stalin and Khan were ruthless dictators who barely disguised their murderous streak. But Churchill claimed to be protecting freedom and democracy and yet he denied the same to people under British rule. He held openly racist views of non-English people, and was in favour of the mass slaughter of nations he believed to be coming in the way of the British Empire. Due to his sheer hypocrisy (acting civilised but behaving like a barbarian) the wartime British Prime Minister deserves the top spot in history’s gallery of rogues.
It is because Churchill’s crimes are so huge and his prejudices so extreme that the Anglo-American elites seem to be in a PR tear to spin the Churchill story without any sense of balance or scruples. Churchill had declared that history would judge him fairly because he intended to write it; in other words he presented distorted history. But the British and Americans are also guilty of whitewashing Churchill’s war crimes and writing shameful hagiographies.
The $30 million Anglo-American film titled ‘Darkest Hour’ has bagged the Best Actor Oscar for Gary Oldman’s portrayal of Churchill. It arrives a few months after another UK-US production ‘Dunkirk’ attempted to depict the shameful retreat of 355,000 British Army troops as a major victory. As much as $100 million was poured into the project, indicating how important these wartime tales are to the Anglo-American narrative and to what extent they will go to whitewash their numerous crimes against humanity.
However, the independent social media of the 21st century is helping to unmask Churchill and lay bare his war crimes, racism and genocide.
Butcher of Bengal
A previous India Facts story, on the Bengal Famine, (2) showed how in 1943-44 Churchill deliberately engineered a massive famine in India by siphoning the entire harvest of eastern India to Britain, starving to death approximately four million Indians within the space of just over a year. (Four million is the official British figure; in reality it could cross seven million.) In comparison it took Hitler and his Nazi cohorts 12 years to murder six million Jews. But while the Jewish Holocaust is taught in schoolbooks and has become part of global consciousness, Britain’s much greater crimes are airbrushed from history. Most people in Britain don’t know that their forefathers killed at least 55 million Indians over a nearly 200 year period. Instead in an Orwellian twist, British children are being taught that colonialism was good for the colonised countries. Worse, they claim that the British era was India’s “Golden Age”.
American historian Paul Greenough (3) witnessed the savage repression of Indians during Mohandas Gandhi’s Quit India Movement in 1942. After throwing Gandhi in jail, the British deployed 57 army battalions to put it down, killing more than a thousand people between August and December 1942. According to Greenough, protestors were attacked from the air, sometimes with incendiary bombs.
Greenough wrote: “Collective fines, rewards to informers, machine-gunning of crowds from the air, special detention legislation, arson of Congress supporters’ houses, etc were all employed by the police, army and security forces to discourage mass actions.”
The Indian historian Sumit Sarkar (4) wrote: “As early as August 15, Linlithgow had ordered the use of ‘machine-gunning from air’ against crowds disrupting communications around Patna, and aeroplanes were used also in Bhagalpur and Monghyr in Bihar, Nadia and Tamluk in Bengal, and Talcher in Orissa.”
The British also used rape as a weapon against Indians. Rebels throughout India were concerned about the problem of rape, wrote Greenough. “Similar accounts were published well into 1944, the alleged villains being usually British soldiers, but also, with increasing frequency, Muslim policemen or sepoys” (it should be noted that the underground rebel groups were typically Hindu). Greenough considered whether such atrocities actually occurred or were fabricated to fan the flames of rebellion, but concluded: “In the case of Bengal, there seems little doubt that numerous rapes actually occurred.” (5)
All this was happening under Churchill’s watch.
The irony was that while India was being bled dry by the war effort and Indian civilians were subjected to brutal violence, near three million Indian soldiers were fighting on the side of British against the Germans and Japanese in several theatres of World War II. India helped Britain not just with men but also with vast qualities of steel, ammunition, weapons and food supplies. The Indian private donors raised 15 squadrons (200 aircraft) for the Royal Air Force, plus they gave four million pound sterling in cash for bombers for the RAF. (6) In this backdrop, the British (and Churchill) were supremely ungrateful.
The reason why Germany’s war crimes are depicted through the magnifying glass while British genocides are airbrushed is that the Germans lost World War II whereas the “British donkey” (to use Churchill’s own words) piggybacked to glory on American and Russian shoulders. Doing very little actual fighting – because they lacked both firepower and courage – the British were only able to firebomb German cities whose airspace had been 100 per cent sanitised by the US Army air force. As the co-winners, the British wrote history that glorified their military gains and in the process Churchill’s genocides were conveniently ignored. In rare cases when mention of his war crimes became unavoidable, they were deemed necessary in the larger context of a global war.
According to UK journalist Daniel Knowles, the British national view of Churchill is defined by just a few years of his career – his premiership from 1940 to 1945. “His finest hours aside, Winston Churchill was hardly a paragon of progressive thought. He believed that women shouldn’t vote – telling the House of Commons that they are ‘well represented by their fathers, brothers, and husbands’. He was fiercely opposed to self-determination for the people of the Empire, advocating the use of poisoned gas against ‘uncivilised tribes’ in Mesopotamia in 1919. In 1947, on the eve of Indian independence, he had to be tricked into a bar by two Conservative MPs so as not to embarrass himself during the debate. Even his distrust of Hitler was probably motivated mostly by a hatred of Germans….” (7)
Churchill’s patina of statesmanship is at long last coming off. The fact is he was possessed by a pathological hatred of all people who were not of English origin. He reserved his worst for Hindu Indians, whom he said were a “beastly race with a beastly religion”, but he was an equal opportunity genocide maniac as he wanted to wipe out Germans, Italians, Russians and Arabs from the face of the earth.
On May 8, 1945, as people everywhere celebrated the end of World War II, one gloomy figure was planning to start World War III. The ink had barely dried on Germany’s surrender document when British Prime Minister Winston Churchill asked his War Cabinet to draw up a plan to invade the Russia. (8)
Churchill assured the shocked British generals that the invasion would be led by the United States and supported by the defeated German Army. In Winston’s War, Max Hastings writes Churchill’s stance against the Russians hardened after he came to know about the success of the American atomic bomb programme. According to Alan Brooke, Britain’s Chief of Army Staff, Churchill told him at the Potsdam Conference in July 1945: “We can tell the Russians if they insist on doing this or that, well we can just blot out Moscow, then Stalingrad, then Kiev, then Sevastopol.”
Asked to prepare for war just days after the end of the bloodiest conflict in modern history, the British generals thought the Prime Minister had really lost it. The generals drew up a plan, appropriately code named Operation Unthinkable. The war cabinet stated that the Russians might attempt to attack the British Isles after they had reached the Atlantic, by cutting sea communications, invasion, air attack, and rocket or other new methods. “The Russians are likely to make full use of new weapons, such as the rocket and pilotless aircraft…. We must expect a far heavier scale of attack than the Germans were able to develop (such as the V-2 rocket),” the report said.
Confronted with the reality that Britain was a pygmy before the Russian giant, Churchill backed off and Unthinkable remained just that.
Churchill’s impotent rage continued even after he was ousted from the Prime Minister’s office. According to FBI records, in 1947, Churchill urged an American senator named Styles Bridges to back a preemptive and devastating attack on Russia. “He pointed out that if an atomic bomb could be dropped on the Kremlin wiping it out, it would be a very easy problem to handle the balance of Russia, which would be without direction,” Bridges told the FBI. (9)
His personal physician recalled that Churchill advocated a nuclear knockout blow against the Soviets during a conversation in 1946. “We ought not to wait until Russia is ready,” Churchill said. “America knows that fifty-two percent of Russia’s motor industry is in Moscow and could be wiped out by a single bomb. It might mean wiping out three million people, but they (the Soviets) would think nothing of that.” Winston paused and smiled as he thought of this grotesque. “They think more of erasing an historical building like the Kremlin,” he added.
According to Hastings, in a memorandum to the war cabinet in November 1942 about policy towards Italy, he wrote: “All the industrial centres should be attacked in intense fashion, every effort being made to terrorise the population.”
Around the same time, he pushed for the firebombing of German population centres such as Dresden, Leipzig and Chemnitz which killed 200,000 civilians in 1945. It was the only way the British were able to announce they were in the war.
Earlier, the Prime Minister had declared: “I do not want suggestions as to how we can disable the economy and the machinery of war, what I want are suggestions as to how we can roast the German refugees on their escape from Breslau.”
In Dresden he got his wish. Those who perished in the centre of the city could not be traced, as the temperature in the area reached 1600 degree Centigrade. Dresden’s citizens barely had time to reach their shelters and many who sought refuge underground suffocated as oxygen was pulled from the air to feed the flames. Others perished in a blast of white heat strong enough to melt human flesh.
Many Brits argue that it was payback for German attacks, but Hitler never wanted to attack British cities because he was a firm believer in the unity of the so-called Aryan race and he greatly admired the British as they belonged to the same racial stock as the Germans. He had fervent hopes that the Germans and British would jointly rule the world as the “Master Race”.
Records show that the first intentional “area bombing” of civilians in the Second World War took place at Monchengladbach on May 11, 1940 at Churchill’s orders (the day after he became prime minister), and four months before the Luftwaffe began its Blitz of British cities. (10)
Instead of being charged with being responsible for ordering one of the most horrific war crimes of recent history, in which hundreds of thousands of civilians died screaming in his firestorms, Churchill emerged from the war as a hero.
Not content with such genocide, in 1944, Churchill okayed a “cataclysmic plan” to convert Germany into a “country primarily agricultural and pastoral in its character”. The Morgenthau Plan if implemented would have starved 10 million Germans to death in the first year alone. US President Franklin Roosevelt said Churchill was “bought off” after the Americans agreed to offer Britain $6.5 billion in Lend Lease. After Churchill lost the election, the new Labour government rejected the plan.
Attitudes towards race
Many of the views Churchill held were virtually borrowed from the Nazi playbook.
Addressing the Peel Commission (1937) on the rights of Palestinians, Churchill said: “I do not agree that the dog in a manger has the final right to the manger even though he may have lain there for a very long time. I do not admit that right. I do not admit for instance, that a great wrong has been done to the Red Indians of America or the black people of Australia. I do not admit that a wrong has been done to these people by the fact that a stronger race, a higher-grade race, a more worldly wise race to put it that way, has come in and taken their place.”
In Kenya, 150000 members of the rebellious Kikuyu tribe were forced into detention camps during Churchill’s postwar premiership, when Britain began its brutal campaign to suppress the “Mau Mau” uprising. About 11,000 Kenyans were killed and 81,000 detained. Suspected Mau Mau insurgents were subject to electric shock, whippings, burning and mutilation in order to crush the local drive for independence. Among them was former US president Barack Obama’s grandfather, who was tortured for two years.
Churchill’s war time speeches in which he promised to fight the Germans in the cities, beaches and hills was all bluster. The British did nothing when Germany invaded Austria, Czechoslovakia and then Poland. These countries were sacrificed because the British did not have the courage to fight the Germans one-on-one in important theatres.
John T. Correll writes in Air Force Magazine (11) that “the popular impression that he was also a gifted military strategist was mistaken”. When the Americans were planning the critical invasion of Normandy, Churchill tried everything to persuade them to abandon the plan and instead came up with his harebrained scheme to attack German bases in the Mediterranean such as the island of Rhodes. However, the US Army Chief of Staff George C. Marshall retorted (to the horror of British onlookers): “Not one American soldier is going to die on that goddamned beach.”
Churchill made several tactical blunders which could have snowballed into strategic disasters had the Americans not been around. Ignoring American advice and that of his own generals, he went ahead anyway and invaded Rhodes. “This action became the inspiration for The Guns of Navarone, but unlike the book and film, was a disaster for the British, who were repulsed with substantial casualties.”
All that the porcine-looking Prime Minister wanted was to secure Britain’s colonies which were threatening to break away. “The British wanted to restore and protect the pre-war empire, including the routes through Gibraltar and Suez to their colonies and possessions in Africa and Asia. The Americans regarded the Mediterranean and Middle East as a distraction from the main task of taking on the Germans. They were not interested in preservation of the British Empire.”
In May 1940, a week after he became Prime Minister, Churchill disclosed to his son Randolph his plan to win the war. “I shall drag the United States in,” he said. Without the Americans, Britain would have been squashed like a cockroach by the Germans.
Honouring vile humans
Now that Churchill’s war crimes, his racism and his pro-Aryan beliefs are all spilling out in the open, it is becoming rather difficult to separate the British premier from the likes of Mao, Hitler, Stalin and Yahya Khan. His Anglo-American defence team is, therefore, excusing their hero with the line that Churchill was a personality of his times.
However, such an argument is flawed – if we excuse everyone from the past because they were people of their times, then pretty much anyone can be excused. Wasn’t Hitler a man of his time, considering all the eugenic studies that were being conducted in the name of science in leading American and European universities at the time?
There were other personalities who were men of their time who did not behave like a murderous maniac. Take Mark Twain. He grew up among people who were mostly racist. Yet he condemned slavery, racism, anti-Semitism and colonialism. Now consider that Twain’s contemporary was Kipling, who was a rabid racist and arch colonialist. So you cannot give anyone a get-out-jail-free card by saying he was a man of his time. Compassion, respect for foreign cultures and peaceful co-existence are all universal virtues and you cannot say that one period had it less or more than another era. It is individuals and nations that deviate from the civilised norm. How come Indians don’t have a record of genocide in their over 5,000 year recorded history?
The Anglo-American glorification of this monster must end. Any way you spin his story, there will be a special place in hell for Winston Churchill.
- New York Times, http://www.nybooks.com/articles/2011/03/10/hitler-vs-stalin-who-killed-more/
- Remembering India’s Forgotten Holocaust, http://indiafacts.org/remembering-forgotten-holocaust-india/
- Paul Greenough, Political Mobilisation and the Underground Literature of the Quit India Movement 1942-1944
- Sumit Sarkar, Modern India 1885-1947
- Sarmila Bose, Al Jazeera, https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2013/01/201311612953916662.html
- Combat Lore: Indian Air Force 1930-1945
- Daniel Knowles, The Telegraph, ‘Time to scotch the myth of Winston Churchill’s infallibility’
- Operation Unthinkable, https://www.scribd.com/document/112671003/Operation-Unthinkable
- Thomas Maier, International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, https://www.icij.org/blog/2014/10/churchill-urged-us-wipe-out-moscow-bomb/
- Air Force Magazine, http://www.airforcemag.com/MagazineArchive/Pages/2013/January%202013/0113churchill.aspx
Featured Image: BBC
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Rakesh is a globally cited defence analyst. His work has been published by the Centre for Land Warfare Studies, New Delhi; Russia Beyond, Moscow; Hindustan Times, New Delhi; Business Today, New Delhi; Financial Express, New Delhi; BusinessWorld Magazine, New Delhi; Swarajya Magazine, Bangalore; Foundation Institute for Eastern Studies, Warsaw; Research Institute for European and American Studies, Greece, among others.
As well as having contributed for a research paper for the US Air Force, he has been cited by leading organisations, including the US Army War College, Pennsylvania; US Naval PG School, California; Johns Hopkins SAIS, Washington DC; Centre for Air Power Studies, New Delhi; Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Washington DC; Rutgers University, New Jersey; Institute of International and Strategic Relations, Paris; Institute for Strategic, Political, Security and Economic Consultancy, Berlin; Siberian Federal University, Krasnoyarsk; Institute for Defense Analyses, Virginia; International Center for Not-for-Profit Law, Washington DC; Stimson Centre, Washington DC; Foreign Policy Research Institute, Philadelphia; Center for Strategic & International Studies, Washington DC; and BBC.
His articles have been quoted extensively by national and international defence journals and in books on diplomacy, counter terrorism, warfare, and development of the global south.