Why did Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah Aga Khan III support negotiating peace with Hitler and the Nazis?
Aga Khan III has provided a full and context-laden explanation of his attempts to make peace treaties with Hitler and Nazi Germany in his Memoirs. In the 1930s, the Allies and the rest of the world had NO IDEA about Nazi concentration camps. Nazi propaganda kept the Holocaust hidden from the world until the early 1940s -- around 1942 at earliest and this was still classified at that time. In the 1930s, no one outside Nazi Germany knew about the Holocausts or the camps.
Aga Khan III in his Memoirs describes the international political situation in the 1930s when he was a Delegate and later President of the League of Nations (1937-39):
" From 1933 on Hitler merely shouted what his democratic and nonrevolutionary predecessors had often said before, not in shy whispers, but in ordinary conversational tones. There was nothing particularly new in the substance of his demands; what was novel was the arrogant, aggressive and violent way in which he made them. His claims were as vague and as menacingly undefined as theirs had been, but he also made certain quite specific pronouncements. The last thing he wanted, he said, was another war. He would shed no more German blood. The German people had not recovered from the appalling bloodshed from the First World War. Such claims as he made, he said, were humble and reasonable. As I have said, in the autumn of 1937 I myself went to Berlin and saw him, not at the suggestion of the British Foreign Office, but with their full knowledge of what I was doing. By this time he had a fairly detailed list of demands: that an Austro German Anschluss should be permitted, if a plebiscite of the Austrian people showed a majority to be in favor of such a union; that the relations between the Czechs and the German-speaking community in the Sudetenland should be similar to those between Great Britain and the Irish Free State; and that Germany should have the right to a colonial empire, if not in the same territories as before, then in their equivalent elsewhere. He held that Germany had a moral claim to Tanganyika because African soldiers had fought valiantly on the German side, and therefore German rule must have been popular with them. He made no threat of going to war on this issue. "
Aga Khan III below talks about why he supported the Appeasement Policy of the Munich Accords of September 1938 which let Germany annex certain lands in exchange for a lasting peace. Almost all of Europe supported the Munich Accords and the appeasement of Germany, and celebrated it because it averted another war soon after World War I.
"There has of late been a curious shift of emphasis among those who defend Munich. It is fashionable to argue (as a correspondence in The Daily Telegraph in the summer of 1953 demonstrated) that Munich was justified, not on moral grounds, but on military grounds, as a strategic and logistic necessity imposed by Britain's weakness on land and sea and most of all in the air. This, I think, can be summed up as the "Munich-bought-much-needed-
Whatever the subconscious background to my conscious thought then, I had no doubt where I stood. At Geoffrey Dawson's invitation I wrote a Times leader-page article in unstinted praise of the agreement with which Mr. Chamberlain returned -- in triumph and to a rapturous welcome, let it be remembered from his last visit to Germany. I stand before history therefore as a strong, avowed supporter of Munich. And now, all these years later, after all the violent and troublous happenings since then, I say without hesitation that I thank God that we did not go to war in 1938. Apart altogether from any highly debatable question of military preparedness or the lack of it, if Great Britain had gone to war in 1938, the doubt about the moral justification of the decision would have remained forever, and doubt would have bred moral uncertainty about the conduct and the conclusion of the war. In the perspective of history Britain would be seen to have gone to war, not on a clear-cut, honorable and utterly unavoidable issue, but in order to maintain the status quo and to prevent a plebiscite by which a regional racial majority might seek to be united with their brothers by blood, language and culture."
Then Aga Khan III explains that Hitler's actions after Munich - invading Czechoslovakia - exposed Hitler's evil intentions publicly and basically created the public and explicit case for the Allies to declare war against the Nazis on clear moral grounds:
"Hitherto Hitler had -- whatever methods he had used to attain his ends -- based his claims on the principle of self determination as laid down in the peace treaties and in the constitution of the League of Nations. In the spring of 1939, however, he ripped off the veil of respectability. His forces entered what remained of Czechoslovakia, and the country was termed a "protectorate" of the Reich. Baron von Neuradt -- a survivor from the pre-Nazi era -- was sent to Prague as Protector to rule a country which had indeed been annexed and totally subjugated. This destroyed in a single stroke the whole moral basis of Germany's case before history, and it united in a common resolution many who, in 1937-1938, had held very different views. There was now no doubt; there were no questionings. It was perfectly obvious to everyone -- even to those who a year before had been the stoutest supporters of Munich -- that Hitler's war in 1939 was a deliberate act of aggression. However, it was not only Hitler's war. The terrible fact is that it was the German people's war. This time the allocation of blame is correct. In the vast majority the German people were with Hitler in his attempt either to impose his "New Order," which was to last for a thousand years or to bring all European civilization crashing down in ruin with him in a final Wagnerian climax."