[Caption: This picture was given to Canadian prime minister William lyon r_end"> by Adolf Hitler with the inscription, "In friendly recollection of the visit on June 29, 1937."]

Mackenzie King departed from Canada on April, 1937 on a European tour of great importance. His agenda primarily included three stops: the coronation of King George VI, the commonwealth prime ministers' conference, and a side trip to Berlin.

Britain's foreign policy, in the face of aggressive German initiatives, had been fastened to the fate of Poland. During debate on defence estimates just months earlier, King had reassured the House that Canada's decision would be Canada's alone. However, the prime minister told British leaders that Canadians would not hesitate in supporting British response to German aggression. This private reassurance was repeated to Adolf Hitler when King travelled to Berlin.

King was no stranger to the German capital having spent a winter there during his student days. His birthplace had been Berlin, Canada (now Kitchener) which he represented in the House of Commons for two years. Prior to meeting Hitler, King wrote in his diary, "I know the best sides of the German people. If I were talking to Hitler, I could reassure him what was costing him friends was the fear he was creating against other countries." The Canadian prime minister may as well have discussed peace with a birch tree.

When Parliament reconvened in February, there was surprisingly no mention of the visit with Hitler in the Throne Speech. Tentatively, and consistent with the complex dynamics of tinderbox international affairs and domestic pressures of the impending conflict, members brought the visit to the forefront in the House. The first mention of the meeting in Hansard was from Percy John Rowe on Feb. 10, in his reply to the Throne Speech:

Percy Rowe (Athabaska): Mr. Speaker, I wish to commend warmly the action of the prime minister in going to Berlin last year. I covet for Canadian leadership in the direction of instituting measures which will reduce the cause of the friction, fear, animosity and antagonism which exist between ourselves and that great nation that has established itself as one of the foremost among the peoples of the world in science and art and culture. Anything that can be done to break down prejudices, to assure these people that we do not desire their harm, is all to the good.

Two days later, King fielded a question from Thomas Church, the member from Broadview. On whose invitation did King visit Hitler and had the government of Great Britain been consulted?

Mackenzie King, prime minister (Prince Albert): It had been my intention to pay a visit to Germany at the conclusion of the Assembly of the league of Nations in the autumn of 1936. This, however, did not prove possible at that time. Following the Imperial Conference of 1937, I was able to carry out the deferred visit. As I have already indicated in public statements, the purpose of the visit was to obtain at first hand, as intimate a knowledge of conditions in Europe as the time at my disposal permitted. After leaving Great Britain, I paid brief visits to France and Belgium as well as to Germany. The British government were fully aware of the intention to pay the visit to Berlin, which occurred on June 27th to 30th inclusive. The interchange of views and information which took place was of a nature which it is not the practice to disclose.

The next day, Bennett rose and admonished King for not condemning the German leadership.

The Right Honorable Richard Bennett (Calgary West): The right honorable gentleman spoke of the dangers that threaten the body politic from communism, on the one hand, and from fascism on the other. My recollection is that he found the chief fascist in the world, Herr Hitler, a most entertaining person and a man who is doing great work. You cannot have it both ways. You cannot have it, as a distinguished guest, that he is a very great man, and at the same time try to arouse the fears of the public with respect to him. After all, it was not necessary for the right honorable gentleman to travel all the way to Germany to see what he regards as a dictator because I recall that during the election in 1935 he pointed to me sitting opposite as a combination of Hitler and Mussolini.

Some honorable member: Stalin too.

Mr. Bennett: I guess they had him in it, too. So it should not have been necessary after the election to ascertain where fascism might be found. Then when we speak of dictators ...

Agnes MacPhail (Grey Bruce): A little louder!

Mr. Bennett: The voice of the dictator is becoming louder every day, and I think there will be no difficulty in hearing it if the honorable member listens with care.

King's foreign visit faded quickly into the background of Canadian history. Eighteen months later, when British, French and Canadian declarations of war were signed against Germany, Hitler was the world's most hated man.