Gallipoli was Churchill's fault

Winston Churchill, "a racist"?

"Churchill was a hero"

Prime Minister Boris Johnson described the fact that the statue of London's Mayor Sadiq Khan was hidden behind a wooden crate shortly afterwards "for protection" as "absurd and shameful." He jumped at Churchill: "He was a hero."

But not always. The person of Winston Churchill combines many facets, which are often contradicting and difficult to unite into a coherent overall picture. He was often in political sideline, in the 1930s for example because of his attitude towards India. While the opinion prevailed even among conservatives that the pearl of the British colonial empire could not be denied independence in the long run, Churchill - as always - made no murderous pit out of his heart: "The Indians are hideous people with a hideous religion." Only through British rule, the subcontinent could be held together and ruled.

An elephant should trample Gandhi

Churchill regarded the Indian freedom fighter Mahatma Gandhi with particular hatred, whom he called, among other things, “an incitatory lawyer of average talent who is now portraying himself as a fakir”. Not only did he seem in no way averse to getting through one of Gandhi's hunger strikes to the fatal end: He even made the “suggestion” that one should “put Gandhi hand and foot shackled in front of the gates of Delhi, with a giant elephant with the British governor can trample on him in the saddle. "

This expressed not only deep personal dislike, but also an attitude of condescension and contempt towards a people. That was also reflected in deeds. As Minister of War, Churchill was ultimately responsible for the Amritsar massacre in 1919, in which 400 unarmed demonstrators were slaughtered for days and which is now seen as a beacon for the independence of the subcontinent. Churchill condemned "the monstrous event", but at the same time "all his efforts were aimed at not blaming the British Empire", according to the historian Kim Wagner.

Churchill's refusal to send urgently needed food during the famine in Bengal in 1943 is equally unforgettable in India to this day. Any help there is in vain, since "the Indians multiply like rabbits", said the prime minister, and added: "If the situation is really that bad, how is it that Gandhi is still alive?"

The famine killed three to four million people. Food would have been available, but it did not go to the troops wrestling with the Germans, Japanese and their allies, but to storage facilities. More than 2.5 million Indians fought on the side of the Allies against National Socialism, Fascism and Japan's imperialism. Historian Shrabani Basu writes: "There are two sides to Churchill, and we must know its darkest hour as well as its brightest."

The ardent belief in Empire was followed by the young Churchill, who joined the army at the age of 21 to take part in “happy little wars against barbaric peoples”. In what is now Pakistan, he convinced himself that it was okay to take land from the locals "because they have a strong indigenous tendency to kill." In Sudan he boasted of killing “three savages” with his own hands, and during the Boer War in South Africa he advocated the establishment of concentration camps. At the same time he reported in letters to his home: "I have a lot of fun galloping around here."

Churchill, so much has been said, believed in a hierarchy of races. He admired Jews ("the most impressive and outstanding race that has ever appeared on earth") and despised Arabs ("the wild hordes of Islam"). He was a clear supporter of colonialism: "I in no way recognize that an injustice has been done to the Indians or the blacks in that a stronger and higher-quality race came and took their place."

Lots of mistakes, but he recognized Hitler

Unsurprisingly, he was able to gain a lot from eugenics and advocated compulsory sterilization in order to “protect livelier and higher quality stocks”.

Churchill's catastrophic wrong decisions are undisputed. He is considered to be primarily responsible for the defeat at the Battle of Gallipoli in 1915/1916, one of the most humiliating in British history. As Minister of the Interior, he used the army and police against insurgent Irish and striking miners. As finance minister, he ruined the economy by returning to gold backing. He admired the young Mussolini, was on the wrong side in the dispute over the abdication of King Edward VIII. But he recognized, and earlier than others, the danger that Hitler posed: “If Hitler marched into Hell, I would be in the House of Commons make a laudatory remark about the devil. "

Like no one else, he was able to sweep his people away with inspiring speeches: "I have nothing to offer except blood, hardship, tears and sweat," he said in his first speech as Prime Minister on May 13, 1940.

Johnson, who has written Churchill as a role model and a book about him, defends him: “He held views that are unacceptable to us today, but: We cannot rewrite our history or pretend we had another. "

The historical context

So was Churchill just a child of his time? Historian Andrew Roberts, also author of a book on Churchill and Admirers, says: “It is absurd to take historical figures out of historical context and expect them to have contemporary views. The reputation of people is destroyed because they held opinions that were shared by the vast majority in their day. "

Churchill's statue stands on the square in front of Parliament, along with those of Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela. They are all part of British history for which the writer L. P. Hartley coined the great word: “The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there. "


Winston Churchill (1874 to 1965) is rightly considered the most important British politician of the 20th century. He served as prime minister from 1940 to 1945 and from 1951 to 1955, and gained eternal fame primarily through his leadership in World War II. He previously held many other political and military positions.

He had nobles politically active ancestors, his mother was a millionaire's daughter from the USA. He became an army officer and war correspondent, for example in Cuba, India and Sudan, where he rode at Omdurman in one of the last great cavalry attacks in 1898. In 1901 he moved into the House of Commons, where he was to rule for more than 60 years. His senior posts prior to premier included that of First Lord of the Admiralty, Minister of the Interior, and Minister of Finance. In the meantime Churchill served as an infantry officer at the front in Belgium and France in 1915/1916.