George Bernard Shaw's Letter to the Editor, May 1945
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In Respect of the Irish Prime Minister's Condolences on the News of Adolf Hitler's Death
When Shaw's pamphlet "Common Sense About the War" appeared in late 1914, some three and one-half months after the war had started, it raised an angry tempest in Britannia. Although it only stated (what after the war was well-nigh universally conceded to be true) that Germany was no more to blame for the war than were Britain and her allies, "G.B.S. became intensly unpopular [in Great Britain]. His plays were no longer performed. His appearance at any public function caused the instant departure of many of those present. Some of his friends disowned him."
About thirty years and six months later, when Shaw is almost 89 years old, he publicly expresses views just as outrageous to the prevailing orthodoxy. His letter to The Times, London, appears ten days after the Second World War officially ends in Europe. These views are considered so shocking even today that, when, five or six years ago I searched in the several biographies of Shaws that I could find in a university library, r discovered no author who mentions the letter. The inspiration for it is the report that the Irish Prime Minister, Eamon de Valera, has visited the German Minister, at Dublin, to convey his condolences on the news of Adolf Hitler's death. This is Shaw's letter, published May 18, 1945, The Times, London, page 5, under the title "Eire and Hitler."
The letter reminds me of the words that Shaw fortune years earlier, in his play John Bull's Other Island, Act II, put into the mouth of his character Peter Keegan: "My way of joking is to tell the truth. It's the funniest joke in the world."
|||The New Statesman, supplement, Nov. 14, 1914. Also printed, in three installments, The New York Times, 1914, Section 5, on Nov. 15, pp. 1-3; Nov. 22, pp. 1 & 2; and Nov. 29, pp. 1 and 2.|
|||St. John Ervine, Bernard Shaw: His Life, Work, and Friends (London: Constable & Co., 1956), p. 464.|
|||The New York Times prints this letter, May 19, 1945, p. 6, under the title "Shaw Hails de Valera for Mourning Hitler; Sees Dublin as Haven if Fuhrer Is Alive"; but the Associated Press news story omits part of one sentence and the whole of another, without troubling to inform the reader; and changes punctuation, capitalization, and paragraphing.|
|||A. MacDermott, Commander, Royal Navy, whose letter, defending de Valera's act, appears in The Times, London, May 15, 1945, p. 5.|
|||Pamela Hinkson, London, whose letter, protesting de Valera's act, appears the same day and page as Commander MacDermott's. She identifies herself in the letter as Irish.|
Additional information about this document
|Title:||George Bernard Shaw's Letter to the Editor, May 1945, Historical News and Comment|
|Sources:||The Journal of Historical Review, vol. 8, no. 4 (winter 1988), pp. 509-511|
|First posted on CODOH:||Nov. 10, 2012, 6 p.m.|