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Speech by Winston Churchill - Zürich - 19 September 1946


Dr Issing in a speech in December 1995 said of Winston Churchill's speech in Zürich on 19 September 1946 which 'remains a path-breaking statement of this vision of a politically unified Europe.. As this speech has been much misquoted and misinterpreted, members may like to see the attached full text as reported in The Times the following day.

It will be noted that Winston Churchill did not infer that Britain should be part of a United States of Europe. He proposed a United States of Europe based on a partnership between France and Germany.

His words were:

* 'The first step in the recreation of the European family must be a partnership between France and Germany. In this way only can France recover the moral and cultural leadership of Europe. There can be no revival of Europe without a spiritually great France and a spiritually great Germany.'

* 'In all this urgent work France and Germany must take the lead together. Great Britain, the British Commonwealth of Nations, mighty America, and, I trust, Soviet Russia -for then, indeed, all would be well - must be the friends and sponsors of the new Europe and must champion its right to live.'

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Extract from The Times, Friday, 20 September 1946



Mr Churchill said:

Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, - I am honoured to-day by being received in your ancient university and by the address which has been given to me and which I greatly value. I wish to speak to you to-day about the tragedy of Europe, this noble Continent, comprising on the whole the fairest and the most cultivated regions of the earth enjoying a temperate and equable climate, the home of all the great parent races of the western world, the foundation of Christian faith and Christian ethics.

It is the origin of most of the culture, arts, philosophy, and science both of ancient and modern times. If Europe were once united in the sharing of its common inheritance there would be no limit to the happiness, the prosperity, and the glory which its 300,000,000 or 400,000,000 people would enjoy.

Yet it is from Europe that have sprung that series of frightful nationalistic quarrels, originated by the Teutonic nations in their rise to power, which we have seen in this twentieth century and even in our own lifetime wreck the peace and mar the prospects of all mankind.

And what is this plight to which Europe has been reduced? Some of the smaller States have indeed made a good recovery, but over wide areas are a vast quivering mass of tormented, hungry, careworn, and bewildered human beings, who wait at the ruins of their cities and their homes and scan the dark horizons for the approach of some new form of tyranny or terror.


Among the victors there is a ballet of voices, among the vanquished the sullen silence of despair. That is all that Europeans, grouped in so many ancient states and nations, and that is all that the Germanic races have got by tearing each other to pieces and spreading havoc far and wide. Indeed, but for the fact that the great republic across the Atlantic Ocean at length realised that the ruin or enslavement of Europe would involve her own fate as well, and stretched out hands of succour and guidance; but for that, the Dark Ages would have returned in their cruelty and -squalor. They may still return.

Yet all the while there is a remedy which, if it were generally and spontaneously adopted by the great majority of people in many lands, would as if by a miracle transform the whole scene and would in a few years make all Europe, or the greater part of it, as free and as happy as Switzerland is to-day.

What is this sovereign remedy? It is to recreate the European fabric, or as much of it at we can, and to provide it with a structure under which it can dwell in peace, in safety, and in freedom. We must build a kind of United States of Europe. In this way only will hundreds of millions of toilers be able to regain the simple joys and hopes which make life worth living. The process is simple. All that is needed is the resolve of hundreds of millions of men and women to do right instead of wrong and to gain as their reward blessing instead of cursing.

Much work has been done upon this task by the exertions of the pan-European union which owes so much to and which commanded the services of the famous French patriot and statesman Aristide Briand. There is also that immense body which brought into being amidst high hopes after the first world war - the League of Nations. The league did not fail because of its principles or conceptions. It faded because those principles were deserted by those States which had brought it into being, because the Governments of those States feared to face the facts and act while time remained. This disaster must not be repeated. There is therefore much knowledge and material with which to build, and also bitter, dearly bought experience to spur.

I was very glad to read in the newspapers a few days ago that my friend President Truman had expressed his interest and sympathy with this great design.

There is no reason why a regional organisation of Europe Should in any way conflict with the world organisation of the United Nations. On the contrary, I believe that the larger synthesis can only survive if it is founded upon broad natural groupings. There is already a natural grouping in the western hemisphere. We British have our own commonwealth of nations. These do not weaken, on the contrary they strengthen, the world organisation. They are in fact its main support.

And why should there not be a European group, which could give a sense of enlarged patriotism and common citizenship to the distracted peoples of this mighty continent? And why should it not take its rightful place with other great groupings and help to shape the honourable destiny of man?


In order that this may be accomplished there must be an act of faith in which the millions of families, speaking many languages, must consciously take part.

We all know that the two world wars through which we have passed arose out of the vain passion of the newly united Germany to play a dominating part in the world. In this last struggle crimes and massacres have been committed for which there is no parallel since the invasion of the Mongols during the thirteenth century, no equal at any in human history. The guilty must be punished. Germany must be deprived of the power to rearm and make another aggressive war.

But when all this has been done, as it will be done. as it is being done then there must be an end to retribution. There must be what Mr Gladstone many years ago, called the ' blessed act of oblivion.' We must all turn our backs upon the horrors of the past and we must look to the future. We cannot afford to must look forward across the years that are to come, hatreds and revenges which have sprung from the injuries of the past. If Europe is to be saved from infinite misery and indeed from final doom, there must be this act of faith in the European family this 'act of oblivion against all crimes and follies of the past. Can these peoples of Europe rise to the heights of the soul and of the instinct and spirit of man? If they could, the wrongs and injuries which have been indicted would have been washed away on all sides by the miseries which have been endured. Is there any need for further floods of agony? Is the only lesson of history to be that mankind is unteachable? Let there be justice, mercy, and freedom. The peoples have only to will it and all will achieve their hearts' desire.

I am now going to say something that will astonish you. The first step in the recreation of the European family must be a partnership between France and Germany. In this way only can France recover the moral and cultural leadership of Europe. There can be no revival of Europe without a spiritually great France and a spiritually great Germany.

The structure of the United States of Europe will be such as to make the material strength of a single State less important. Small nations will count as much as large ones and gain their honour by a contribution to the common cause. The ancient states and principalities of Germany, freely joined for mutual convenience in a federal system, might take their individual places among the United States of Europe.


I shall not try to make a detailed programme. There are hundreds of millions of people who want to be happy and free, prosperous and safe, who wish to enjoy the four freedoms of which the great President Roosevelt spoke, and live in accordance with the principles embodied in the Atlantic Charter.

If this is their wish, if it is the wish of Europeans from many lands, they have only to say so and means can certainly be found and the machinery erected to carry that wish to full fruition.

But I must give you warning. Time may be short. At present there is a breathing space. The cannons have ceased firing. The fighting has stopped, but the dangers have not stopped. If we are to form a United States of Europe, or whatever name it may take, we must begin now.

In these present days we dwell strangely and precariously under the shield, and I will even say protection, of the atomic bomb. The atomic bomb is still only in the hands of a State and nation which we know, will never use it except in the cause of right and freedom, but it may well be that in a few years this awful agency of destruction will be widespread and that the catastrophe following from its use by several warring nations will not only bring to an end all that we call civilisation but may possibly disintegrate the globe itself.

I must now sum-up the propositions which are before you.

Our constant aim must be to build and fortify the strength of the United Nations organisation. Under and within that world concept we must recreate the European family in a regional structure called - it may be - the United States of Europe and the first practical step will be to form a Council of Europe.

If at first all the States of Europe are not willing or able to join a union we must nevertheless proceed to assemble and combine those who will and those who can.

The salvation of the common people of every race and of every land from war and servitude must be established on solid foundations, and must be created by the readiness of all men and women to die rather than to submit to tyranny.

In all this urgent work France and Germany must take the lead together. Great Britain, the British Commonwealth of Nations, mighty America, and, I trust. Soviet Russia- - for then, indeed, all would be well - must be the friends and sponsors of the new Europe and must champion its right to live.

Therefore I say to you: ' Let Europe arise.' - Reuter

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Last update: 25 March 1999

© Copyright Anthony Cowgill and Andrew Cowgill, 1999

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