Here we have Britain's ambassador to Germany writing in 1933 that Britain needs to take Hitler seriously but not literally–for if it took him literally it would have no logical choice but ‘to adopt the policy of a “preventive” war’. Food for thought for modern times: Trump, Bolsonaro, Modhi, and Johnson need definitely to be taken literally, and it is only acceptable to not take them seriously if you are dead certain not only of their incompetence but of their inability to pass the baton to anyone both competent and ruthless:
Eric Phipps: Diary https://github.com/braddelong/public-files/blob/master/readings/book-phipps-diary.pdf 1933-11-21: ‘In contemplating the present situation arising out of an electoral campaign waged against a practically non-existent adversary and conducted with propaganda methods of unexampled violence and mendacity, one is tempted to put certain far-reaching questions regarding the future of the Hitler movement and the future policy of Hitler. It has been asked, for instance, whether the movement is not a convenient screen behind which the old Prussian Nationalism is weaving its dark web. This may well be, but if so the screen itself is singularly inefficacious and fails to conceal the fact that the youth of Germany is being reared in a purely militarist spirit...
...When I told the Chancellor that militarism seemed to me to be the Leitmotiv of this country, whereas elsewhere it was merely an incident, that a spark might suffice to kindle the militarist spirit into a war-like flame, I might have added that the above-mentioned campaign of lies, depicting Germany as the one innocent lamb among a pack of wolves, was not calculated to inculcate in German youth that spirit of peace and understanding advocated so inappropriately and so loudly after Germany’s banging of the Geneva door.
As regards Hitler, I doubt whether he himself realises how far he is at pre- sent the author of Mein Kampf, the full-blown blood-and-thunder book as originally published in Germany, that is to say, and not the recent pale abridged and bowdlerised edition which has been published by his direction and translated into English.
Who can tell how far that Hitler resembles the present German Chancellor who has been making the welkin ring with shouts of peace? In some respects it is certain that he remains true to type for he has not varied over the Jewish question or Austria since writing the book; but it would be too simple and even perhaps dangerous to assume that he maintains intact all the views held and expressed with such incredible violence in a work written in a Bavarian prison 10 years ago, though, of course, those views cannot be left out of consideration in any endeavour to gauge the Chancellor’s intentions on any given subject. His hatred of France, Germany’s deadliest enemy, for instance, is written in flaming letters, and certainly seems difficult to reconcile with his recent attempts to wheedle her into a tête-à-tête conversation.
Again, the recent no-force agreement with Poland is undoubtedly regarded by my French colleague as an attempt to drive a wedge between that country and France. Yet, though this may have entered into Hitler’s calculations, the fact of German-Polish apaisement should nevertheless facilitate France and Germany. In this connection General von Blomberg’s remarks to me are of interest.
To revert to Hitler: we cannot regard him solely as the author of Mein Kampf for in such case we should logically be bound to adopt the policy of a “preventive” war, nor can we afford to ignore him. Would it not therefore be advisable soon to try to bind that damnably dynamic man? To bind him, that is, by an agreement bearing his signature freely and proudly given? By some odd kink in his mental make-up he might even feel impelled to honour it. His signature under even a not altogether satisfactory agreement, only partially agreeable to Great Britain and France and not too distasteful to Italy might prevent for a time any further German shots among the International ducks.
His signature, moreover, would bind all Germany like no other Germans in all her past. Years might then pass and even Hitler might grow old, and reason might come to this side and fear leave it. New problems would present them- selves and old problems, including disarmament, might perhaps have solved themselves through the mere passage of time, and without those Hurculean and hitherto vain efforts to satisfy German “honour” and allay French fear…