On the night of the 10th/11th August 1940 German bombers dropped an unusual load on the people of Britain- propaganda leaflets. These leaflets were entitled ‘A Last Appeal to Reason’ and were a translation of a speech given by the Fuhrer to the Reichstag calling for peace. The speech was printed on a tabloid sized four page newspaper, in a dense piece of text covering all pages:
As ever click these images for larger sized copies if you want to read it in more detail. It is hard to assess the impact of this leaflet- during my research into the leaflet I find myself repeatedly being directed to revisionist history sites telling us that this was a sign of Hitler’s good intentions and that there were numerous plots on the British side to ensure the war continued (these sites often add an anti-Semitic slant to the history as well). I would argue that the leaflet was a pragmatic approach from the Nazis who were planning the invasion of Russia and wished to avoid a battle on two fronts. If the leaflet worked and encouraged peace they could concentrate on the upcoming battle with communist Russia and if not they had not lost anything.
The British response is related by Lee Richards in his book “Whispers of War: Underground Rumour-Mongering in the Second World War”:
Sefton Delmer, the future head and mastermind of British black propaganda, was just about to make his debut broadcast to Germany on the BBC when he heard the Fuhrer’s “last appeal to reason”. Spontaneously, without governmental approval, Dlemer tersely rejected any notion of a compromise peace. “Herr Hitler,” Delmer announced, “you have on occasion in the past consulted me as to the mood of the British public. So permit me to render your Excellency this little service once again tonight. Let me tell you what we here in England think of this appeal of yours to what you are pleased to call out reason and common sense. Herr Fuhrer and Reichskanzler, we hurl it right back at you, right in your evil smelling teeth…” The unofficial rejection upset a few Members of Parliament but Delmer’s attitude was indicative of a new mindset in the country.
John Smith found one of these leaflets and offers the contemporary British perspective from the ordinary man on the leaflets:
A couple of months after the bus incident I was visiting Ramsey, a small village about four miles from Harwich, and found a German leaflet in the Hedgerow, which in all probability had been dropped by a bomber returning from an air raid on London. The leaflet, was double A3 size and had close type on all four sides. It was an excellent piece of crafted propaganda and quite likely had the hand of Josef Goebbels in its preparation and the making of the German case. There were no lies, but the manipulation of the facts stood truth on its head.
Clearly then the leaflet was considered as more of a joke than having any great impact on the British who found them- indeed elaborate newsreel pieces were filmed of people cutting up the leaflets to use as toilet paper! In this photograph a member of the Civil Defence services can be seen reading and laughing at the content of these leaflets:Today these leaflets seem to be quite scarce, with copies only turning up occasionally when they had been saved as a souvenir. I paid a few pence for my copy but I have heard of examples selling for three figure sums!