Neville Chamberlain received a Blüthner as reward for ‘peace for our time’

In a report on a new piece being written around political catch-phrases, the BBC’s Today programme discovered a concert grand that had been given to Neville Chamberlain after he returned from Munich on September 30, 1938, waving the piece of paper that sold the Czechs to Hitler.

 

Chamberlain_Peace-for-our-time_1938

 

The gift came from the manufacturer Julius Blüthner ‘on behalf of the German people’, in gratitude for the British PM’s efforts to avert war.

The gift appears to have been made public at the time since there are (we see) a number of letters in the Chamberlain correspondence files at the University of Birmingham that question his propriety in accepting it. But the rules were more relaxed in those days and the piano remains, according to the BBC, in the possession of Chamberlain’s granddaughter.

There was nothing corrupt about the gift, which appears to have been personal and heartfelt. Blüthner’s busiess had receced under Hitler while his arch-rival Carl Bechstein, a a Nazi supporter from the early 1920s, prospered. Blüthner’s hope for peace may have contained a forlorn wish that the Munich Agreement had been a setback for Hitler.

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  • According to Helga Kassimoff as reported by The Atlantic Times, Rudolf Blüthner-Haessler, head of Blüthner since 1932, offered to package and transport to port at his company’s expense a considerable number of Blüthner pianos owned by German Jews who were forced to leave Germany.

    If averred, this subtle act of dissent would have been a very generous gesture on Blüthner’s part, and not without serious political risks, including the possible accusation of “Entziehung deutschen Volksvermögens”, as valuables in Jewish ownership were liable to be confiscated or “aryanised” with little or no compensation.
    This would set the gift to Chamberlain in a more balanced perspective.

  • Glad you spotted this. It was just something we stumbled upon when looking at David’s new work. I think it might have been better if we had separated it out and told the full story at a later date. Ann’s story of growing up under the cloud of her father’s legacy is very moving. She was showered with christening gifts from across Europe. Chamberlain’s role in the origins of CBSO, her love of music and the strange neglect of the piano until very recently – there’s a lot more to this little story. The above information about Bluthner just adds another fascinating layer.

  • Poor Neville! Of course, he knew very well there was to be no “peace in our time.” That was for public consumption; but he also knew Britain desperately needed to buy time to re-arm and get ready.

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