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Sunday, January 01, 2006

Churchill, Gandhi, de Gaulle and Hitler: tough war liberalism

WINSTON Churchill was in favour of letting Mahatma Gandhi die if he went on hunger strike while interned during World War II, say documents published yesterday.The prime minister believed the Indian spiritual leader should be treated like any other prisoner if he stopped eating.
Churchill's combative views were reported in declassified records from meetings of the War Cabinet, which also showed he was prepared to have French resistance leader General Charles de Gaulle arrested if he tried to leave Britain.
The hero of Britain in her "darkest hours" was also determined to have German leader Adolf Hitler executed if he were captured.
Eventually, in regard to Gandhi, ministers decided in January 1943 that, although they could not publicly give in to a hunger strike, they would be willing to release him on compassionate grounds if he was likely to die, say notes, taken by deputy cabinet secretary Sir Norman Brook.
However, the animosity between the Churchill and de Gaulle, both revered in their homelands as heroes of the war, was evident when he describes the French resistance leader as having "insensate ambition". De Gaulle was also a barrier to "trustworthy" relations between the countries.
When de Gaulle complained that he was being treated as a prisoner of war, Churchill's response was that the Frenchman must be told "bluntly" to do as he was told and should be arrested if necessary.
At a December 1942 Cabinet meeting Churchill noted: "Contemplate that if Hitler falls into our hands we shall certainly put him to death," read Sir Norman's notes. "This man is the mainspring of evil."

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