Reactions to Revelations Regarding the Extermination of the Jews of Eastern Europe
REACTIONS TO THE UNITED NATIONS DECLARATION OF DECEMBER 17, 1942, REVEALING IN THE HOUSE OF PARLIAMENT INFORMATION ON THE EXTERMINATION OF THE JEWS OF EASTERN EUROPE
From the diary of Sir Henry ("Chips") Channon, Conservative MP for Southend West:
An extraordinary assembly today in the august Mother of Parliaments. It was sublime. [Foreign Secretary] Anthony [Eden] read out a statement regarding the extermination of the Jews in East Europe, whereupon Jimmy de Rothschild [Liberal MP for the Isle of Ely] rose, and with immense dignity, and his voice vibrating with emotion, spoke for five minutes in moving tones on the plight of these peoples. There were tears in his eyes, and I feared that he might break down; the House caught his spirit and was deeply moved. Somebody suggested that we stand in silence to pay our respects to those suffering peoples, and the House as a whole rose and stood for a few frozen seconds. It was a fine moment, and my back tingled.
From: Bernard Wasserstein, "Britain and the Jews of Europe 1939-1945," Institute of Jewish Affairs, 1979, p. 173.
An article by Rabbi Dr. Schonfeld, founder and head of the Chief Rabbis Religious Emergency Council - Jewish Periodicals, January 21, 1943:
" I cannot refrain from drawing the attention of the community to a deplorable situation.
At the last meeting of the Deputies it was admitted that little practical progress had been achieved in steps or rescue for the tens of thousands of our brethren who are daily being slaughtered in Central Europe. And a month had elapsed since the United Nations' declaration.
In face of such a calamitous situation, together with a few leading Churchmen and Parliamentarians, I undertook to rouse and organize wide support for a Motion to be tabled in both Houses of Parliament, asking His Majesty's Government to make a declaration on the following lines:
That in the view of the massacres and starvation of Jews and others in enemy and enemy-occupied countries, this House asks H.M. Government, following the United Nations' Declaration read to both Houses of Parliament on the 17th December, 1942, and in consultation with the Dominion Governments and the Government of India, to declare its readiness to find temporary refuge in its own territories or in territories under its control for endangered persons who are able to leave those countries; to appeal to the Governments of countries bordering on enemy and enemy-occupied countries to allow temporary asylum and transit facilities for such persons; to offer to those Governments, so far as practicable, such help as may be needed to facilitate their cooperation; and to invite the other Allied Governments to consider similar action.
Support for the Motion was widespread. Within ten days, two Archbishops, eight Peers, four Bishops, and 48 members of all Parties had signed notice of meeting to consider the Motion.
This effort was met by a persistent attempt on the part of P.B. and some of his colleagues to sabotage the entire move. Without even full knowledge of the details, he and his collaborators asked members of the House to desist from supporting the new effort [ ] To do nothing themselves and to prevent others from doing is strange statesmanship.
Notwithstanding all the opposition, the Episcopate of England and Wale has supported the Motion. The Parliamentary meeting will be held, and we hope the Motion will receive the widest possible support. But the efforts of some communal Jewish leaders to stop it have left an unfortunate impression. More than one M.P. has expressed a feeling of becoming wearied of trying to help the victims in face of such sectarian Jewish opposition.
From: Rabbi Dr. Solomon Schonfeld, Message to Jewry, Dr. Schonfeld Silver Jubilee Committee, 1958, pp. 161-162.
J.D. Greenway (Foreign Office) to Office of High Commissioner of South Africa. October, 1943:
[The Foreign Office continues to] hold the view that it is desirable as a general practice to regard Jews primarily as being nationals of the countries to which they belong, and not to treat them as a separate category. The Allied declaration of 17 December 1942 about German crimes against the Jews in Europe was to some extent an exception to this general practice, which we felt to be justified by the special circumstances.
From: Bernard Wasserstein, "Britain and the Jews of Europe 1939-1945," Institute of Jewish Affairs, 1979, pp. 181-182.
Source: Yad Vashem