Churchill favoured executing Hitler - papers


Britain's wartime prime minister Winston Churchill was determined to send Adolf Hitler to the electric chair if he was ever captured, according to new papers released today.

The prime minister also believed that senior Nazis should be summarily executed without the benefit of a trial.

Contemplate that if Hitler falls into our hands we shall certainly put him to death. This man is the mainspring of evil
Former British prime minister Winston Churchill

Churchill's brutal attitude towards his enemies is revealed in newly-published records from meetings of the War Cabinet.

The notes, taken by Deputy Cabinet Secretary Sir Norman Brook in his own style of shorthand, provide the first detailed insight into what was said during debates on crucial issues.

But the new documents show the Cabinet held a series of discussions about how to deal with war criminals between 1942 and 1945.

At one meeting in December 1942, Churchill commented: "Contemplate that if Hitler falls into our hands we shall certainly put him to death. This man is the mainspring of evil."

According to the records, the prime minister even indicated his favoured mode of execution. Capital punishment in Britain at the time involved hanging, but Churchill suggested electrocution equipment could be obtained through the US's Lend-Lease scheme for providing goods to its Allies.

Two-and-a-half years later, the question of whether Nazis deserved their day in court was vexing ministers.

Churchill agreed that a trial for Hitler would be "a farce".

He said: "All sorts of complications ensue as soon as you admit a fair trial." However, within weeks it had become clear that both the US and Russia backed court proceedings.

Churchill proposed that they "negotiate" with figures such as Gestapo head Heinrich Himmler - who had already sought secret peace talks with the British government - and then "bump him off later".

His view was initially backed by Foreign Secretary and fellow Tory Anthony Eden, but Labour ministers Atlee and Morrison eventually won him over by arguing the attacks were an unnecessary diversion. Churchill finally abandoned the plan.

The full documents can be viewed at the National Archives in Kew, west London.