The SDP, the Labour Party and the Foreign Office : a study of exile politics in London 1939-45
After Hitler invaded France in 1940, the leadership of the German Social Democratic party, the SPD, decided to accept an official invitation from the British Labour party and come to England. In 1941 London became the recognised seat of the Executive, where there was also a rank and file membership. At first the SPD leaders were given considerable moral and financial support and they believed they would be able to aid the Allied war effort and influence British thinking on Germany. They also applied themselves to the construction of new policies to ensure the survival of the party and to enable it to direct German affairs if and when Hitler had been defeated. By 1942, however, the SPD's work was not meeting with success. The Labour party began to adopt a hostile attitude towards it and, in marked contrast to its earlier practice, the Foreign Office no longer collaborated with German political exiles. The final challenge to the SPD came in 1943 from the German Communists who wished to create a unified Socialist party after Hitler. Faced with political extinction in London, the SPD nevertheless managed to survive. Although it was seriously weakened by 1945, it was strong enough to offer the young Federal Republic loyal support. The failure to cooperate successfully with British authorities during its exile, however, created many difficulties for post-war European Social Democracy. A number of problems are explored in this thesis. They include the wisdom of both Foreign Office and Labour party policy towards the SPD and the people of Germany during the Second World War. Serious confusion was caused by first maintaining and then abandoning the distinction between Nazis and Germans. The nature of exile as a specific form of political activity is also examined especially in the light of the determination of the exiled leaders to return to Germany and achieve power there. Finally, some wider conclusions are drawn about the SPD, its survival in the War and its historical continuity.