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British Report on Treatment of German Nationals


The British government published a report in 1939 containing messages from diplomats about conditions in Germany and the treatment of Jews and others. Some of the reports include testimony and eyewitness reports of Nazi persecution of Jews and descriptions of concentration camps by Jews imprisoned in Buchenwald and Dachau. The reports show the British knew a great deal about the mistreatment of Jews, including detailed descriptions of the events on Kristallnacht. They also reveal the attitude of some diplomats toward Jews. Cables also discuss the trial of Martin Niemoeller.

A message dated October 28, 1938, for example, described what happened to a Jewish businessman who was sent to Buchenwald. The businessman was lucky to get out because he said “no Jewish prisoner is ever released unless he can produce evidence that he is able to leave Germany.” He added, “There appears to be no release from this system of deliberate torture of mind and body but death.”

In addition to a descriptions of the events on Kristallnacht, a message was sent from Consul-General Bell to the Reichminister for Justice that said, “the events of the 10th  instant have unmistakably and clearly proven to all the world that a judiciary no longer exists in Germany.”

On December 14, 1938, the Consul-General Frankfurt-on-MainRobert Smallbones, wrote to Sir George Ogilvie-Forbes, Counsellor to the Embassy in Berlin about Kristallnacht:

The explanation of this outbreak of sadistic cruelty may be that sexual perversion, and in particular homo-sexuality, are very prevalent in Germany. It seems to me that mass sexual perversity may offer an explanation for this otherwise inexplicable outbreak. I am persuaded that, if the Government of Germany depended on the suffrage of the people, those in power and responsible for these outrages would be swept away by a storm of indignation if not put up against the wall and shot.

Smallbones argued the information he forwarded should remain:

The facts if broadcast and if not already known would probably rouse world opinion to a higher pitch of indignation. But the rulers of Germany appear at present to be contemptuous of world opinion. The only likely reaction would be to try and ferret out my informants for individual punishment or to inflict collective punishment if they cannot be found. Also, if my name were mentioned it might lead to an incident. It might, however, be useful to bring the facts reported to the confidential notice of those Government which contemplate doing something towards the solution of this problem.

After Kristallnacht, Smallbones was later responsible for formulating a plan that allowed German Jews to immigrate to England.

One other interesting comment appeared in a dispatch from the Consul-General in Cologne, John Bell to Ogilvie-Forbes in which he noted that no attacks had been made to his knowledge on “British subjects of the Jewish race.” Jews, however, are not a race. It was Hitler who saw them as defiling the racial purity of Germany and necessitated their extermination. Bell seemed to understand this as he noted that the Nazi Party had made “such a point of racial purity that the Führer must carry his theories to their logical conclusion.”