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British Reaction to Allied Declaration on Persecution of the Jews

(December 17, 1942)

LORD ADDISON My Lords, I rise to ask His Majesty’s Government whether they have any statement to make to the House as to the attitude of the Government and their Allies to the persecution of the Jewish race at the hands of the German authorities in the countries at present under Hitlerite control.

THE LORD CHANCELLOR (VISCOUNT SIMON) My Lords, a statement has just been made in the House of Commons on this subject and I am grateful to the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition for providing the opportunity to make an announcement to your Lordships in the same terms. Trustworthy reports have recently reached His Majesty’s Government regarding the barbarous and inhuman treatment to which Jews are being subjected in German-occupied Europe. In particular, we have received a Note on this subject from the Polish Government, which was also communicated to others of the United Nations and has received wide publicity in the Press. His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom have been in consultation with the United States and Soviet Governments and with the other Allied Governments directly concerned, and a Joint Declaration has been agreed between them, which is being published to-day in London, Moscow and Washington and broadcasted throughout the world. The Declaration is as follows:

“The attention of the Governments of Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Greece, Luxemburg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, the United States of America, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and Yugoslavia and of the French National Committee has been drawn to numerous reports from Europe that the German authorities, not content with denying to persons of Jewish race in all the territories over which their barbarous rule 608 has been extended, the most elementary human rights, are now carrying into effect Hitler’s oft-repeated intention to exterminate the Jewish people in Europe. From all the occupied countries Jews are being transported, in conditions of appalling horror and brutality, to Eastern Europe. In Poland, which has been made the principal Nazi slaughter-house, the ghettos established by the German invaders are being systematically emptied of all Jews except a few highly skilled workers required for war industries. None of those taken away are ever heard of again. The able-bodied are slowly worked to death in labour camps. The infirm are left to die of exposure and starvation or are deliberately massacred in mass executions. The number of victims of these bloody cruelties is reckoned in many hundreds of thousands of entirely innocent men, women and children.

“The above-mentioned Governments and the French National Committee condemn in the strongest possible terms this bestial policy of cold-blooded extermination. They declare that such events can only strengthen the resolve of all freedom-loving peoples to overthrow the barbarous Hitlerite tyranny. They re-affirm their solemn resolution to ensure that those responsible for these crimes shall not escape retribution, and to press on with the necessary practical measures to this end.”

LORD ADDISON My Lords, in common I suppose with every other member of your Lordships’ House, I received some day ago the official report from the Polish Government representative in London and read it. A more awful exposure of horrors, I imagine, has never been issued by any Government in the history of the world. It is to me and my friends a source of infinite satisfaction that this momentous Declaration has been made. It will, I am sure, resound throughout the world. Save to those who are the immediate or likely victims of these cruelties it will bring infinite relief. In stating one’s complete satisfaction at the energy and attention which must have preceded the preparation of this statement to which so many great Governments are parties, one can only express the hope that the practical measures indicated in the concluding sentence will be proceeded 609 with, as they surely will be, with the utmost vigour and undiminished resolution. If ever, in the history of the world, there was a crime for which the obliteration of those responsible was merited, surely it is to be found in this series of crimes. I am glad to hear of the immense, moving satisfaction with which this Declaration was received a short time ago in the other House.

VISCOUNT SAMUEL My Lords, my noble friend the Marquess of Crewe, who would have been in his place at this moment had he not been unavoidably detained elsewhere, has asked me to express, in the name of the noble Lords sitting on these Benches, our full concurrence in and our gratitude for the action of His Majesty’s Government in participating in the Declaration which has just been read, relating to one of the greatest calamities that has ever befallen a section of mankind. This is not an occasion on which we are expressing sorrow and sympathy to sufferers from some terrible catastrophe, due, unavoidably, to flood or earthquake, or some other convulsion of Nature. These dreadful events are an outcome of quite deliberate, planned, conscious cruelty of human beings. The only events even remotely parallel to this were the Armenian massacres of fifty years ago, at the order of the Sultan Abdul Hamid, which were also carried into effect largely under the cloak of deportation. They aroused the outspoken indignation of the whole of civilized mankind, and they were one of the causes of the downfall of the Turkish Empire. So these events, on a far vaster scale, will help to bring about the destruction of the Hitlerite dictatorship, which is already plunging to its doom.

Perhaps I may be allowed, as being myself a member of the Jewish community, to express on behalf of the Jews of this country and throughout the world, gratitude to His Majesty’s Government and to the United Nations for the action that they are taking. The Declaration ends with a promise of full retribution, and that is just, and right, and necessary. But in the minds of jews throughout the world, and in the minds of very many others of all creeds and in all countries, there arises the question whether some positive action cannot still be taken for the rescue of these unhappy victims, and particularly of the children. I know how 610 great the difficulties are, but still there are some neutral countries rising as islands of freedom in a submerged Europe, and it is possible that, with their co-operation, some measures of rescue might be effected. Will His Majesty’s Government, will the United Nations, listening to the cries of a people in agony, bring them some succour?

THE LORD BISHOP OF LONDON My Lords, in a matter which so deeply touches all Christian sentiment, it is right, I think, that a word should be spoken from these Benches. Unfortunately, the most reverend Primate, the Archbishop of Canterbury, is unable to be present today, but I think that in the few observations I make I shall be rightly interpreting his mind, and that I may be taken as speaking on his behalf as well as my own. In the first place, I would say how deeply on these Benches, and in the name of Christian sentiment, we welcome the Declaration which has just been read. It was only a week ago that the most reverend Prelate, the Archbishop of York, in this House, made a brief but very moving appeal for just such a statement as this, which should declare the abhorrence of the United Nations for the deliberate massacre of a whole people and should declare that retribution would be exacted. This Declaration which has now been read speaks for all the Allied Nations. It is profoundly solemn both in its recital of brutalities and in the resolve with which it ends, and it sets against a diabolical evil a measured, solemn resolve of just judgment and retribution.

If I might, I would add only three small footnotes to the Declaration. First, I think it would be a satisfaction to the Archbishop of York and others if it was quite clear that that retribution would be exacted, not only from those who devise and order these proceedings, but also, in due degree of responsibility, from those who, apparently without protest, carry out, “joyfully and gladly,” as the Archbishop said, the orders which are given to them. This is not a matter regarding which anyone can shelter himself behind the orders of superior authority. These deeds are so repugnant to the laws of God and to every human instinct of decency that whoever takes a share in them must receive due retribution for them.

611 My second footnote is in support of what the noble Viscount has just said. We are all conscious of a horrible sense of impotence; and this great and magnificent and moving Declaration, satisfying though it is, does not remove that sense of our impotence now to bring help to those who suffer. I hope it may be quite clear that we and our Allies still offer, and offer freely and gladly, asylum to all who can escape and remove themselves from the clutches of this Nazi terror. I know that there are immense difficulties, administrative and other, in the way, but this is an occasion on which any difficulties and any arguments must give way to the plain call of common humanity.

The third footnote which I would venture to add is this. The noble Viscount said that there are neutral countries. Yes, indeed; and they should be encouraged in every possible way to be an asylum and refuge and sanctuary too; but we must not ask them to bear all the hard consequences and expenses of being such an asylum. It would be an encouragement to them and to the world if the Allied Nations were able to say to the neutral nations: “For all those of the Jewish race whom you receive from this tyranny, we undertake to take our share in the cost of their maintainance now, and, when the war is over and resettlement is possible, in placing them elsewhere in a permanent and abiding home.”

VISCOUNT CECIL OF CHELWOOD My Lords, I trust that your Lordships will allow me to add one word, to say how very heartily I agree with everything said by those who have spoken on this matter, and to express on behalf of myself and, I believe, on behalf of every thinking man in the country, our deep appreciation of and gratitude for what has been done. I trust very earnestly that the suggestions made by the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, and by the right reverend Prelate as to the attempt to rescue possible future victims of this horrible crime will be considered. And I very strongly concur in what fell from the right reverend Prelate, that from henceforth at any rate no excuse can be urged by any person, soldier or civilian, for taking part in these outrages. They have 612 had now, in the most formal and solemn way, notice that the United Nations regard these actions as horrible and bloodthirsty crimes, and that they will be punished accordingly.

VISCOUNT MAUGHAM My Lords, as one who, I am afraid, occupied a good deal of your Lordships’ time only a few weeks ago by a Motion which dealt with this very matter, I should like to say that I am heartily in accord with the principles involved in the Declaration, and also with the speeches which have been made in support of it.

LORD ROCHESTER My Lords, I trust that you will permit me in one sentence to associate myself and, I believe, the vast body of Free Churchmen throughout the country, with the words of the Declaration, and also with the speeches which have followed it, and especially, if I may, with the words that fell from the right reverend Prelate. I believe that I am speaking for the vast body of Free Churchmen when I say that we desire to be associated with all that has been said in your Lordships’ House to-day.

THE JOINT PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY OF THE MINISTRY OF AGRICULTURE AND FISHERIES (THE DUKE OF NORFOLK) My Lords, in spite of my position in the Government, owing to the absence of my noble relative, Viscount FitzAlan of Derwent, I feel that I should be wrong if I did not take this opportunity of saying, on behalf of all the Catholics in this country, that we associate ourselves most thoroughly with the Declaration.


Source: UK Parliament