03 January 2008

William Joyce

Sixty two years ago today, the Brits executed William Joyce for treason. This is a bit of history now largely forgotten, but Lord Haw-Haw was once as famous a radio personality as, say, Tokyo Rose.

At his trial, Joyce had sought to argue that he hadn't committed treason against the crowmn because he had never been a subject of the crown. He was born in New York City in 1906, and his father was a naturalized US citizen.

The family soon moved to Ireland, and Joyce went off to university in England in 1921, and stayed. He became a fascist in 1932, and deputy leader of the British Union of Fascists two years later.

In August 1939, shortly before war was declared between Germany and the UK, Joyce left the latter to live amongst fellow true believers in Nazi Germany. To get the passport necessary for this move, Joyce falsely claimed Brit nationality.

Let's skip past the radio broadcasts themselves. We should mention that Joyce became a naturalized German citizen in September 1940. The now-infamous Haw-Haw was captured by British soldiers while trying to sneak across the northern border of Germany into Denmark, in May 1945.

At his trial, the prosecution had to rely entirely on events between the outbreak of war and September 1940. After that, the defendant had aligned his citizenship with his ideology. But even before that ... whose citizen or subject was he? As I noted above, he raised his trump card at trial -- one can't betray a loyalty one never owed. He was never a subject, thus he wasn't a traitor.

"Ah," the prosecution replied, "but you pretended to be one, to get your passport."

The prosecution said that the possession of a passport entitles the possessor to the protection of the sovereign by whom it was issued as he passes through various ports. Thus, Joyce in accepting such a passport had placed himself in the debt of the crown, and was guilty of treason against said crown for his subsequent broadcasts.

It was on that basis that he was hanged on January 3, 1946, after giving a final defiant speech about how the Jews "caused this last war," and he was sorry for the "sons of Britain who have died" without knowing that.

Its a pathetic story of delusion but Joyce got the ending he probably wanted. He got he chance to say his last words on the gallows and to feel martyred as the executioner slipped the rope around his neck.

What if his defense had prevailed? would he have rather have lived on in obscurity as the fellow who used to be Lord Haw-Haw?


Anonymous said...

To the best of my limited knowledge William Joyce's Alias was Lord Haw-Haw. Not (as you said during your artical) Lord Hee-Haw.

Christopher said...


Oops. You're right of course. Thanks for the correction. I'll make the change at once.

Knowledge is warranted belief -- it is the body of belief that we build up because, while living in this world, we've developed good reasons for believing it. What we know, then, is what works -- and it is, necessarily, what has worked for us, each of us individually, as a first approximation. For my other blog, on the struggles for control in the corporate suites, see www.proxypartisans.blogspot.com.