Page last updated at 01:20 GMT, Sunday, 1 January 2006

Churchill wanted Hitler executed

Winston Churchill
Churchill thought a trial for Hitler would be a farce

Winston Churchill would have sought Adolf Hitler's execution by electric chair, newly released papers show.

Britain's war-time leader also believed top Nazis should be summarily executed without being tried, the papers reveal.

Churchill described the Nazi leader as "the mainspring of evil", adding that he deserved the instrument used "for gangsters" - the electric chair.

The revelations come in the first detailed records of World War II Cabinet meetings to be published.

Whatever the disadvantages of letting him out, his death in detention would be worse
Lord Halifax on Gandhi

Notes made by Deputy Cabinet Secretary Sir Norman Brook show the content of Cabinet talks on how to deal with war criminals between 1942 and 1945.

"Contemplate that if Hitler falls into our hands we shall certainly put him to death," Churchill noted at a Cabinet meeting in December 1942.

Sir Norman's notes show future Labour prime minister Clement Atlee badgering Churchill to moderate his views.

In April 1945, then Home Secretary Herbert Morrison argued that a "mock trial" of Nazi leaders would be "objectionable".

Instead he said it would be "better to declare that we shall put them to death".

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

But within weeks it became clear that both the US and Russia backed court proceedings.

The documents also reveal intense debate in 1942 over possible British reprisals for Nazi atrocities in Czechoslovakia.

'Insensate ambition'

On 15 June, Churchill suggested that British bombers wipe out three German villages for every one Czech settlement destroyed.

The newly published Cabinet papers also confirm the famous animosity between the British prime minister and General Charles de Gaulle of France.

Churchill condemns the Frenchman's "insensate ambition" and describes him as a barrier to "trustworthy" relations between the two countries.

General de Gaulle fled to Britain after France fell to the Nazis in 1940.

Churchill's feelings towards another leader, Gandhi, are also detailed in the newly de-classified documents.

They show he and many other British officials initially took a hardline stance to the prospect of a hunger strike during the detention of India's spiritual leader.

Hunger strike?

The colony's Viceroy, Lord Linlithgow, sent ministers a telegram saying he was "strongly in favour of letting Gandhi starve to death".

But senior figures feared the repercussions would be too great and the former Foreign Secretary Lord Halifax told the Cabinet the day after Gandhi was arrested: "Whatever the disadvantages of letting him out, his death in detention would be worse."

He suggested Gandhi be released on compassionate grounds if he was likely to die because of a hunger strike.

But Churchill argued he should be kept in custody and allowed to "do as he likes".

Gandhi was eventually freed in 1944, because of fears his general ill health could lead to his death.

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