Seán Lester & the Nazis

Published in 20th-century / Contemporary History, Issue 4 (Jul/Aug 2009), Letters, The Emergency, Volume 17

Sir,

—Paul McNamara’s excellent article on Seán Lester (HI 17.3, May/June 2009) shows us how weakness in the face of totalitarianism can lead to greater disaster. The article reminded me of Hubert Butler’s essay on resistance leader and Nobel laureate Carl von Ossietzky. Butler noted the brave and principled campaign that Ossietzky led against Hitler, and how he and his 42,000 supporters were eliminated before World War II began. Butler wrote:
‘All over Europe millions of intelligent people believed that Hitler could be “handled” . . . one must recall that while Ossietzky was in Sonnenburg [prison], the British ambassador was shooting elk with General Goring, and Ribbontrop was an honoured guest with Lord Londonderry in County Down’ (The Children of Drancy (Lilliput Press, 1988), p. 185).
It is heartening that so many principled people knew with certainty that despots cannot be appeased, but depressing that these principled voices were largely ignored anyway.

Seán Lester & the Nazis—Yours etc.,
ELEANOR BURGESS
Essex

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