Autumn and war advance

August 31, 2009 at 7:00 pm (history, Rosie B, war)

I’ve been reading the brilliant Orwell Diaries website, which puts up pages from Orwell’s diaries of 70 years ago day by day.  It is now 31 August 1939 and war is imminent. The British government has passed the Emergency Powers Act.:-

Emergency Powers Act passed evidently without much trouble. Contains clauses allowing preventive arrest, search without warrant & trial in camera. But not industrial conscription as yet. [Wireless 6 pm]

It is just after the signing of the Russo-German pact, as Orwell calls the Treaty of Non-Aggression between the Third German Reich and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.

Moscow airport was decorated with swastikas for Ribbentrop’s arrival. M. Guardian adds that they were screened so as to hide them from the rest of Moscow. Manchester Guardian

These menacing national and world events are juxtaposed against his observations of his garden and the natural world:-

Blackberries are ripening in this district. Finches beginning to flock. Very heavy mists in the early mornings.

Autumn and war advance together.

Orwell seemed to read about half a dozen newspapers every day, from the Daily Telegraph to the Daily Worker, and pages from those papers are included on the site.  He was also a great collector of pamphlets.  

E’s [Orwell’s wife Eileen] report of speeches in Hyde Park suggests that Communist Party are taking more left wing line but not anxious to thrash out questions of Russo-German pact.

There have been other entries of going to hear what the speakers in Hyde Park were talking about for a running update of the views and feelings of fringe parties, at a time when they were far more significant than they are now. The equivalent these days would be to read partisan political blogs, and for pamphlets we have reports like those put out by Quillam  or the Centre for Social Cohesion or whatever that are uploaded as PDFs for us to print out.


  1. Jim Denham said,

    Wonderful stuff! Thanks Rosie.

    Norman Davies had an interesting piece in Saturday’s ‘Independent’, on the invasion of Poland and the present attempts by Putin and his henchmen to claim that Poland and Britain were mainly responsible for the war and that Hitler’s demands on Poland in 1939 were “moderate” and “justified” !

    The Davies article:

    • Rosie said,

      An interesting and rather depressing article.

      But even today, few people realise that the losses in Belarus, the Baltic states and Ukraine, which bore the brunt of the Nazi onslaught, were greater than those in Russia.

      That statement is echoed here:-

      The geographic, moral, and political center of the Europe of mass killing is the Europe of the East, above all Belarus, Ukraine, Poland, and the Baltic States, lands that were subject to sustained policies of atrocity by both [Soviet and Nazi] regimes. The peoples of Ukraine and Belarus, Jews above all but not only, suffered the most, since these lands were both part of the Soviet Union during the terrible 1930s and subject to the worst of the German repressions in the 1940s. If Europe was, as Mark Mazower put it, a dark continent, Ukraine and Belarus were the heart of darkness.

  2. Babs said,

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