Pretext No. 10 –
for British appeasement of Nazi Germany
Hitler had been in power for not even two months when the establishment was already attempting to downplay the crimes of the regime. On 25 March 1933, the Daily Express ran with the highly misleading headline “Jews Deny Persecution by Nazis – Reward for Proof of Murders,” which quoted statements from two conservative German Jewish unions, the Central Union of Jews and the Union of National German Jews. The paper did not remind readers that these organizations were not only subject to intimidation by Nazi officials but that they represented only a small minority of Germany’s Jewish population.
As for the financial “reward for proof of murders,” it had been offered by a “Hamburg Export firm” which claimed to have suffered from a Jewish boycott of German exports overseas. However, the correspondent had to admit that “the only drawback of the offer is that the name of the firm is not stated.” He also failed to provide any proof that the firm itself, which had been mentioned in a bulletin by the pro-Nazi Telegraphen Union news agency, had, even if it existed at all, any link to the Jewish community in Germany.
Two days later the Daily Express ran an even more disingenuous article on its front page under the headline “US Report on Jews in Germany,” reporting that “the (United States) State Department announces that the official investigation into conditions in Germany indicates that ‘whereas there was for a short time physical mistreatment of Jews, this phase may be considered to have virtually terminated.“ The Scotsman, The Leeds Mercury and the Belfast Newsletter also carried a similar report asserting that “the United States Embassy in Berlin feels that stabilisation has been reached in the field of personal mistreatment, and there are indications that other phases of the situation are improving.” The Leeds Mercury made it a lead front page story under the headline “Official US Report Says the Outrages have Stopped.”
The Daily Telegraph, expressed a similar view in an editorial the same day, commenting that “Jew baiting has been summarily called off,” and added that “even if isolated outrages continue to occur, there is to be no further official connivance or police toleration.” The paper also maintained that reports of “Jewish atrocities” had been “exaggerated as atrocity stories always are” and cautioned against taking any sort of political action. “If the persecution has been damped down,” it reasoned, “wisdom surely counsels the strictest moderation.”
Despite such ill-founded optimism, many in the British establishment must have understood that, in a dictatorial regime, hard evidence of the state’s crimes is always difficult to obtain, especially as to what happens to those who are “disappeared.” By mid March, just six weeks after Hitler had come to power, such incidents had already become tragically commonplace. It was clearly state sponsored violence, but it was ignored by most of the British press, although it was commented on by the heretical Daily Worker, which noted that “desperate anxiety weighs over thousands of people, friends and relatives of men and women who have been seized by Nazi gangs, and of whose whereabouts and fate nothing can be learned.”
The Daily Mirror, which usually took a progressive viewpoint, also acknowledged that the Jews were suffering persecution but it preferred to blame the rank and file rabble in the Nazi party rather than the leadership, assuring its readers on 15 March 1933 that “action to put an end to the persecution of Jews by Nazis in Germany has been taken by the Nazi leaders.” When reports of atrocities nevertheless continued, a Mirror editorial on 22 March still expressed the view that it was merely a matter of controlling the lower ranks of the party, and expressed its hope “that Herr Hitler may learn from Signor Mussolini how to control and discipline his followers.”
Five days later, another Daily Mirror editorial was still lamenting that despite “well meant” assurances from Goebbels, violence against Jews was still continuing. Even now, however the paper adamantly refused to blame the Nazi leadership, asserting instead that “in the wake of every revolution there surges a mass of fellows of the baser sort who use a political upheaval as a fine opportunity of running wild and of working off private hatreds. These hangers-on disgrace and stain any movement to which they attach themselves – no matter what the country involved or the colour (red or black) of their advertised opinions.”
The Manchester Guardian took the same view, contending in an editorial on 13 March, that “when an allowance has been made for party passion and the wish to seek revenge for past humiliations, it cannot be supposed that the majority of Nazis do approve what happens every day,” adding that “this is, it seems, the feeling of the Chancellor himself.” It then quoted the Fuhrer’s recent remark that “conscientious rascals, chiefly Communist provocateurs, have tried to compromise the party by individual actions” and his order that “You men of the Storm Troops must at once stop such creatures and surrender them to the police, no matter who they may be.” The bottom line was would “these ‘creatures’ listen to their leader ?” If not, then would Hitler be able to “discipline the wild men in the Nazi movement ?”
The view of the Church Times was also surprisingly sympathetic towards the regime. It did not attempt to deny persecution of Jews in Germany which it condemned as an “outburst of wickedness.” However it believed “that the physical outrages have been exaggerated” and that it was unruly young zealots rather than the Nazi leadership who were to blame, affirming that “we do not suppose that Herr Hitler approves of the violent assaulting of elderly Jews by young ruffians in brown shirts.” This opinion was also reflected in Lord Hailsham’s strong conviction expressed as Leader of the House of Lords on 30 March, that any representation on behalf of German Jews would be “an unwarrantable interference,” noting that the German government “have not had very long to establish themselves under very remarkable circumstances.”
On Saturday 1 April, the Nazi regime organized its first nationwide boycott of Jewish shops and offices in Germany with the star of David painted in yellow and black on the doors and windows of Jewish owned businesses while pickets of stormtroopers (sturmabteilung; SA) besieged the larger stores with instructions to photograph any boycott breaking customers. Many of the picketing SA carried placards with slogans such as “Germans, defend yourselves, don’t buy from the Jews !” and “The Jews are our misfortune !”
There was a surge of violence, arbitrary arrests and vandalism against Jews, their businesses and even their customers. Hundreds of shop windows were smashed in the industrial cities of Dusseldorf and the university city of Gottingen. In Dortmund many Jewish doctors, dentists, lawyers and businessmen were arrested. In Cologne sixty Jewish lawyers were detained. In Nuremberg, customers in Jewish shops found themselves detained as “enemies of the state.” In Leipzig, Ralph Busser, the US Consul, reported “numerous acts of violence” and that Jews were forced to walk through the streets wearing insulting placards. In Berlin, Albion Ross, a correspondent of New York’s Evening Post was viciously beaten after he dared to try to enter a Jewish store on the Rosenthalerstrasse. In Straubing, the corpse of a Jewish shopkeeper abducted by “men in dark uniforms” was found in nearby woods and in Worms a Jew allegedly hung himself while in “protective custody” inside the Town Hall, and a hawker who swore that he’d seen the man lynched, but without being able to provide corroborative evidence, was immediately sentenced to a one year prison sentence at a “special court” in Frankfurt.
Readers of The Times on the following Monday, however, would have been impressed by a much more hopeful picture. The newspaper, either because it didn’t wish to be accused of anti-Nazi propaganda or because it wished to demonstrate its faith in official German sources, declared in its editorial, despite all the evidence to the contrary, that “His (Reich Minister of Propaganda Josef Goebbels’) orders to refrain from personal violence seem to have been obeyed almost everywhere.” Then, when Nazi officials promised not to repeat the boycott, the editor assured readers that in future the campaign against Jews in Germany “will at least not be waged with either the irresponsible brutality that disgraced its earlier phase or with the organised thoroughness of an official campaign.” The implication appeared to be that discrimination from now on would be more acceptable as it would be conducted in a more discreet orderly way.
The Daily Express, also played down the savagery of the Nazi SA militia, failing to report all but one of the serious incidents of violence that day. The newspaper relegated its report of the boycott to page 11, informing its readers that “reports received from all parts of the country today show that everywhere the boycott passed off quietly and in orderly fashion,” except at Kiel “where a Jewish lawyer named Schumm was lynched by an excited crowd.” A similar picture was presented by the Daily Telegraph, which reported that “there was one tragic episode at Kiel, but in the main the day passed off quietly.”
The Daily Mail‘s Berlin correspondent, Rothay Reynolds, reached the same conclusion and praised the regime for its moderation, reporting that “the only incident which marred the order of the boycott was at Kiel,” and that “the success of the boycott, conducted in a way worthy of the German people, was celebrated by a mass meeting at which Dr. Goebbels declared that Jewry had been beaten by public scorn.” However, what the Daily Mail‘s readers did not know was that it was not the journalist but rather the Nazi Party’s own newspaper, Der Angriff, which had stated that “the success of the boycott was conducted in a way worthy of the German people.” It appears that either Lord Rothermere, the proprietor, or W. L Warden, the editor, thought that acknowledging the source of this blatant propaganda would dangerously undermine the public’s confidence in the Nazi regime, so the newspaper’s editorial attributed the view to Reynolds himself.
The pro-Nazi sentiment in the coverage of the boycott was almost universal across the spectrum of press opinion. Even an editorial in the liberal leaning News Chronicle claimed that it was “a great testimony to the discipline of the ‘Brown Army’ (Nazi militia) that the day passed off almost without incident.” Likewise the Scotsman commented that “the Nazi boycott of Jews on Saturday appears to have passed off quietly,” and the Western Morning News claimed that “Saturday’s boycott was carried out with little disorder.”
The Financial Times under the spurious headline “The Position of the Jew in Germany – No Fears of Personal Danger from Official Actions,” reported that “inquiries made by.. (our) Berlin Correspondent reveal that only isolated instances of personal violence have been experienced by Jewish traders in Germany. In those cases where Jews have been molested, it has been due to excessive zeal by subordinates acting without authority.” The correspondent had asked several Jewish businessmen on how threatened they felt by government actions. These were people who would have everything to lose by making the slightest criticism of the regime. Not surprisingly, Dr. Oskar Wassermann, a director of Deutsche Bank, informed the paper that “there was no ground whatever for talk of persecution of the Jews,” and added that “it was a matter of course… that during the political upheaval on an almost unprecedented scale that had taken place in Germany, action by individual persons without authority should occur. But these are negligible by comparison with the events as a whole, and are strongly disapproved by the government authorities.” Likewise, Herr L. M. Ettlinger, a representative of A.G. Geb Schondorff truck manufacturers, assured the paper that “he was convinced that so far as the government was concerned its firm intention was not to permit any persecution of Germans of Jewish faith.”
The report in the Yorkshire Post on the boycott reached similar conclusions. Under a headline of “Quiet Weekend in Germany“, it declared that “the only serious incident was at Kiel, where a Jew, who had been arrested after a shooting affair, was shot dead in a police cell by unknown men.” It then quoted the opinion of “responsible sources” from within Germany who all felt that the persecution was either deserved or exaggerated or both. The Berlin agent of Sidney Whittaker, a Bradford yarn merchant, had informed the paper in a letter that “nothing has happened of a serious nature to any of their (the Jews’) businesses or to their businessmen. If any Jews have been killed then these have been isolated instances, after dark and the communists have been the guilty parties.” Another of its “responsible sources” was the Hamburg agent of James Hare Ltd., a Leeds woolen manufacturers, who claimed that reports of “atrocities and massacres” are “barefaced lies.” He did “admit readily that one or the other Jew who has made himself unpopular while the Socialists were still ruling the country has got a good hiding,” but he continued “I know not one Jew who has been killed or mutilated. If a Jew conforms to the present rules and regulations in the country he can follow his business in the same way as before, and he enjoys the same rights and is protected by the same laws as every Christian.”
He seemed unaware of several instances of antisemitic killings which were even acknowledged in the German press. In the previous few days these had included a Jewish trader in Koenigsberg who was beaten by SA thugs and had pepper rubbed into his wounds and later died from a broken skull and blood poisoning, as well as a young East European Jew who, according to an official police report, had recklessly thrown himself from an upper window of the Braun Haus, the Nazi headquarters in Munich. There were also at least three other instances of murderous savagery during the previous fortnight, which though reported in Germany, seem only to have received any mention in Britain in the Daily Worker, under the headline “More Jews murdered by Nazis.”
The British press continued to either downplay or justify the attacks. On 12 May the Daily Express carried a letter on its editorial page from a Cambridge University student reassuring readers of the paper that “I have just spent a month in a large German industrial town and discipline was excellent. I did not see a single case of cruelty or unfair persecution,” and he added that “the treatment meted out to the Germans by Polish Jews is far worse than that suffered by Jews in Germany.”
Less than three weeks later, on 29 May, the Yorkshire Post, while not seeking to entirely absolve the Nazi leadership for all responsibility for the savage antisemitism, argued in its editorial that the anti-Jewish violence and extreme racism of new Nazi laws had to be understood sympathetically in view of the political context and as an inevitable price of the “achievements” of the regime.
“There has been a real revolution – and revolution, while it does not excuse outrages, at least helps to explain them… Hitler has taken away from Germans their sense of humiliation and restored their self-respect. That was from every point of view a desirable achievement, even if the means thereto, including the frantic extreme racial nationalism, have appeared often deplorable.”
A similar view was stated on 10 July 1933, if with less equivocation, by Lord Rothermere, owner of the Daily Mail, who reminded the paper’s one and a half million readers that “the minor misdeeds of individual Nazis will be submerged by the immense benefits that the new regime is already bestowing upon Germany.” Just six months into the new regime, these “minor misdeeds” already included the nation wide boycott of Jewish businesses and shops, hundreds of extra judicial murders of political opponents, communists and Jews on the streets, news laws excluding Jews from the civil service and the armed forces, the mass burning of tens of thousands of books by Jews, pacifists and liberal intellectuals and the execution of four Jewish inmates inside the newly opened Dachau concentration camp.
The following month a journalist from The Times was able to visit one such concentration camp but while acknowledging the “military discipline” and “dire misfortune” of the inmates, the report was far from being an unequivocally damning indictment of the Nazi regime, stressing that some camps were “more severe than others,” that “much depends on the governor,” that this particular governor, who personally escorted the journalist around the camp, “seemed genuinely proud,” and that the “straw palliasses seemed clean and there was adequate provision for washing.”
He then claimed that “there is no desire to keep men for more than a few months if they become good Nazis” and that “the regaining of a man’s freedom depends to a large extent on his change of heart,” and continued by repeating, without questioning, the governor’s assertion that there were only three prisoners in solitary confinement. He hadn’t been able to see those cells because it would have required “a special order from headquarters in Berlin” and he commented, as if in mitigation, that “it was explained that two of them had been in direct communication with Moscow, and the third had attempted to escape.”
A year later the Conservative MP, Lieutenant Colonel Sir Thomas Moore, and Vice-Admiral Sir Barry Domvile, KBE, were invited to tour the camp. They failed to notice that the prisoners they were shown were actually camp guards in disguise. Sir Barry noted in his diary that both of them had thought the camp was in good order and comfortable despite its inmates, “the dregs of humanity” (precisely the same phrase was later used by Heinrich Himmler when referring to Dachau’s victims) including “one room full of buggers.” They left with souvenirs, wooden beer mugs made by the real inmates.
It was not just conservative MPs and Press barons who too willingly placed their faith in official sources and often downplayed the suffering of the victims, especially the Jews, at the hands of the Nazis. It was also true at the more liberal progressive end of the spectrum of establishment thinking. An interesting case in point was a talk by H.G.Wells at a luncheon at Grosvenor House on 21 September 1933 given in honour of the writer’s sixty seventh birthday. Wells had been described by the Labour politician Herbert Morrison, only a few months earlier, as “a sort of liberal Bolshevist.” At the luncheon meeting, Lord Horder introduced him as “the greatest creative mind of his age,” although only a few moments later Wells flippantly acknowledged Morrison’s mockery by referring to himself as a “pampered writer of radical ideas.”
His subject for the day was the “epidemic of intolerance in many regions of the world, and with especial reference to the situation in Germany.” Not surprisingly, he was highly critical of the Nazi regime and especially the burning of books, which he felt was “the rebellion of the clumsy lout against civilisation,” but he was also optimistic that “in the end tolerance would win, and books with their wisdom prevail.” However he appeared unsympathetic to what he seemed to think were exaggerated claims of Jewish persecution in Germany and he appealed to his audience not to “let the advertising and monopolising energy” of some Jews, a “viciously and incredibly nationalistic race, blind us to the reality of what is happening in Germany,” adding that “the German affair is not a pogrom. The Jews make the most noise, but it is not only the Jews who suffer. There are all sorts of other elements in the German situation.”
Even as Nazi crimes continued, there were many Nazi apologists in the British establishment who continued to either downplay or deny the facts. Stanley Ratcliff, the President of the National Union of Farmers declared in June 1934 that the Jews in Germany were “treated as well as any other people so long as they behaved themselves”. In August, R Motson-Thomson, son of the Mayor of Louth, who was holidaying in Germany, wrote a lengthy article for the Lincolnshire Standard entitled “Contentment in Germany” in which he asserted that “there are still many Jews in Germany plying their trades and following their professions peacefully and without danger. I was told by our guide in Frankfurt that all the lawyers there were Jews, and Hitler turned out 50 per cent of them and gave the posts to Christians, so now there are 50 per cent Jews and 50 per cent Christians which, to my mind, seems only fair.”
This fanciful propaganda of Frankfurt as a utopia of equal opportunity went entirely unchallenged. Nowhere in Germany had Jews held a monopoly in the legal profession. In early 1933, on Hitler’s coming to power, in the two largest states, Prussia and Bavaria, Jewish lawyers had constituted 28.5% and 17.8% of the total. Even among these a significant number had renounced their Jewish faith and of the remainder, while they represented many different political opinions, almost all would have never called themselves “Jewish lawyers,” but rather they were German lawyers who happened to be Jews. However, from April 1933, only those Jewish lawyers who had been admitted prior to 1914 or who had served on the front line during the First World War, were allowed to continue working.
All the younger Jewish lawyers and all the Jewish women lawyers were dismissed. Even those who were able to continue working, faced severe discrimination and economic hardship. A report in 1934 by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency on the situation facing Jewish lawyers in Frankfurt described how “many Jewish lawyers, deprived of their functions as notaries, unable to represent ‘Aryans” as counsel, and in some cases entirely excluded from appearance in court, are enduring a life of absolute penury… (and) can scarcely keep their families from starving. No amount of capacity or legal knowledge will help them. They are reduced to pariahs in their profession.”
Although some courageous Jewish and leftist activists were still reporting the chilling reality of Jewish persecution in Nazi Germany, many British business visitors, academics and holidaymakers continued to disparage these accounts. In October, Kent businessman William Valon gave a lecture at Sevenoaks on his “Impressions of Germany” and, according to a report in the Kent and Sussex Courier, he informed his audience that with regards to Jewish persecution “there was one bad day but it was a proved fact that only three Jews were killed. Considering that six Nazis were killed things were balanced,” and he added that “the biggest feeling today against the Jews was not in the big towns, but in the villages, which had been treated badly by the Jewish moneylenders.” Neither the journalist nor anyone in the audience challenged these views. Ironically, Valon was one of several local businessmen who, after the war, displayed a plaque on his business premises declaring that “above this roof the Battle of Britain was fought and won,” with no mention of his earlier sympathetic stance towards Nazi crimes.
A similar willingness to collude with German propaganda was still evident in a Derby businessman’s interview in 1937 in the city’s Evening Telegraph. Under the title “Hitler loved by Most Germans. Happier People” he recalls his impressions of a concentration camp near Berlin (probably the notorious Sachsenhausen) which he and a party of other inquisitive visitors were able to visit “through the endeavours of the British Ambassador”. He reported that “Living conditions were good” and that “The men did a variety of craft work.” This is not the same conclusion as that of concentration camps survivors and historians. Doris Bergen, professor of holocaust studies at the University of Toronto, in “The Holocaust: A New History” observes that “from the start the camps were brutal places with terrible conditions for inmates. Torture, beatings and deprivation where the order of the day.”
A similar blinkered refusal to describe the reality of the situation in Germany was evident in an article by the Berlin correspondent of the Daily Express entitled “The Truth about Berlin,” in which he recounted how he had watched a storm troop officer and a Jew chatting together as if they were “the best of friends” and another storm trooper carefully walk round young Jewish children playing in the street. Others, like the travel writer and journalist Sir John Foster Fraser, did report the Jewish persecution but refused to blame it on Hitler. Sir John observed in May 1934 that “my belief is that Herr Hitler has been striving for months to damp down any extension of the anti-Jewish campaign. I learn from those near him that not once since he became chancellor (in January 1933) has he uttered a word against the Jews.”
There was also that summer a comforting reassurance on life in Germany from one of Britain’s leading travel businesses, Thomas Cook and Son took out a large display advertisement in The Times on 1 August 1934 announcing that “everyone is talking about Germany today – speculating, wondering and in many cases exaggerating. Too many people confuse political upheavals with interference to the normal life of the community, and would doubtless be pleasantly surprised to find that life in Berlin is as peaceful and pleasant as it is in London.” The same day as the advert was published 46 Berliners were sent to Bernau concentration camp merely for marking the twentieth anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War by distributing pacifist leaflets in the city. Thomas Cook, however, had to play down the regime’s brutal repression through its propaganda of a “peaceful and pleasant” Berlin if it was to continue to profit from one of its most important holiday markets.
Surprisingly, even church officials, who had no obvious profit motive, continued to find excuses for Nazi crimes. Returning from a visit to Germany in July 1935, the Reverend M. Yate Allen, a Yorkshire vicar, attributed the Nazi campaign of persecution to “irrepressible young men,” telling the Nottingham Journal that “these things are not done by the government, but they cannot stop it.” Moreover, he felt the level of oppression had been exaggerated, informing another regional newspaper, the Sheffield Daily Independent, that “Jewish propaganda in American papers is doing a good deal to fan the flames,” and, based on what he’d seen in “some parts of Bavaria,” Jews were “living quite happily and comfortably and carrying on their businesses normally and without interference.”
At a much higher level within the Church of England, the same view was also being expressed as late as June 1937, by Dr. Arthur Headlam, Bishop of Gloucester. His strong sympathy for the Nazi regime appears to have been a product of the prevailing establishment contempt for democracy and fear of socialism. His chaplain Edward Prichard later remembered that “he did not think much of our democratic age and treated my very timid socialism as a bit of adolescence.” When one day Prichard quoted from a 1669 charter by Massachusetts Bay witch-hunting puritans seeking to impose a rigid theocracy which declared that “democracy is amongst civil nations accounted the worst of all forms of government,” the bishop quipped, only half in jest, “it seems that those misguided people were not always wrong.”
So it was no surprise that the bishop reasoned in his preface to a “Survey on the Affairs of the Continental Churches,” that “we should judge National Socialism not by the foolish utterances of the more extreme members of the party, but by the more sympathetic accounts given us by writers such as Dr. Fabricius,” adding that “if we take a movement at its best we help it to attain that best.” He neglected to point out that Dr. Cajus Fabricius, a professor of systematic theology at Breslau, was himself an ardent anti-Semite. Even the professor’s views were later considered too moderate by the Nazi regime and in 1940 an order was issued for his arrest and detention in a concentration camp, rescinded only due to his advanced blindness. Probably the only reason that the Nazis had allowed him to continue his work earlier, was that his argument that National Socialism shared much in common with Christianity was a useful propaganda tool to win political support for the regime, within and outside Germany.
Neither the British press nor the establishment had any interest in challenging the many misleading accounts, whether by sympathetic church officials, business men or foreign correspondents. As late as September 1938, the Reverend Harold Nye, writing in the Fascist newspaper Action, could still claim that “anybody who can liken Hitler’s treatment of the Jews to the dreadful horrors that have blackened the Bolshevik regime must be gravely mentally deficient.” However, similar opinions were also still being expressed that same year in the mainstream press. The Daily Mirror‘s renowned and relatively left wing commentator, William Conner, writing in April 1938 under his pseudonym Cassandra, claimed that the human cost of the Nazi “revolution” was relatively insignificant. “The change that Hitler wrought,” he declared, “has, compared with other great revolutions, been a bloodless one. Alongside the French Revolution it looks like a Sunday School treat.” Even at the time it was a dubious and disingenuous comparison. True, the French Revolution could claim over 16,000 executions and up to 23,000 extra judicial killings and deaths in prison during the Reign of Terror in 1793-4, but the Nazi regime, even during its first five years, was no “Sunday School treat.”
By the end of 1937 two large concentration camps at Sachsenhausen and Buchenwald had been established, surrounded by live electric wires and machine gun towers, as well as numerous other institutions of detention and persecution separate to those of the existing prisons. Many thousands of Jews, communists and other “subversives” and “undesirables” had already died at the hands of Nazi thugs within concentration camps, other prisons and on the streets. Within the following eight years, the death toll of the Nazi holocaust against Jews, gypsies, homosexuals, the mentally and physically handicapped and Russian and Ukrainian civilians and others would exceeded 15 million.
The claim was also disingenuous because at least the French Revolution established the principle of the right of all people to equality before the law. Article six of the 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen affirming that the law
“must be the same for all, whether it protects or punishes. All citizens, being equal in its eyes, shall be equally eligible to all high offices, public positions and employments, according to their ability, and without other distinction than that of their virtues and talents.”
By the spring of 1938, many of the professions in Nazi Germany were already impossible for Jews as Nazi propaganda began to depict them as sub human vermin. Jewish doctors could no longer practice, Jewish students were being denied entrance to German universities and Jewish children were being expelled from German and Austrian schools. on 10 April 1938, three weeks after the Germans annexed Austria and the same day that the Daily Mirror’s William Conner had compared the Nazi revolution to a “Sunday school treat”, Hans Reichenfeld, a fifteen year old Austrian Jew, reflected on the huge changes taking place at his school once classes restarted.
“On the first day back at school there was a celebration for the “aryan” students. Afterwards the provisional director of the institute, the gym teacher Schmidt, held a marvelous speech for the Jews at the Academic High School in which he rambled on about Jewish World Bolshevism and explained that we were now a guest population and should behave as such.”
The next month the “guests” were expelled. Fortunately Hans’ father, as a hard working physician, had sufficient funds to arrange for his family to emigrate to England, but while this meant freedom from overt persecution and what would otherwise have been an almost certain death sentence, Hans and his father were looked on suspiciously as German speaking aliens. Despite the fact that they were persecuted Jews, at the outbreak of war Hans and his father were interned on the Isle of Wight.
Even as late as March 1939, just six months prior to the outbreak of war, the British press was still downplaying the true extent of the danger posed by the Nazi regime to Germany’s Jewish population. At two separate speeches, on 5 March at Frankfurt and on 12 March at Munich, Dr Robert Ley, head of the Deutsche Arbeitsfront (DAF, the German Labour Front), threatened that the Nazi regime would “eradicate” all Jews from the world. The Daily Mirror gave the issue more prominence than most newspapers. Although it didn’t refer to Ley’s earlier diatribe against Jews at Frankfurt, it did report his second warning at Munich, which it alluded to on its front page under a headline “Give US Room Or – New Nazi Threat.” However, the reader had to turn to page 32 to learn anything about what the threat was. “If the Jews cheat us,” Ley had warned an audience of ten thousand Nazis at Munich, “we shall eradicate every Jew in the world. There will be no compromise. We must solve this disproportion of land and people in our time. We cannot leave the solution to the next generation.”
The Times also reported the second of the minister’s two speeches, but only on page 13, under the astonishingly unobtrusive headline of “Dr. Ley on German Aims.” The article began by explaining that “urgent claims for an increase of German territory were put forward today in speeches made at the annual conference of the Upper Bavarian branches of the Nazi party,” but only when the reader had reached the fourth paragraph was Ley’s threat of a holocaust against the world’s Jewish population mentioned. The Yorkshire Post used the equally low-key headline of “German Demand For Colonies” and relegated the story to the bottom of page 9, revealing the horrific nature of Ley’s “or else” warning only in the article’s sixth paragraph.
Many regional newspapers, including the Scotsman, the Birmingham Gazette, the Nottingham Evening Post, the Sheffield Evening Post and the Dundee Courier, reported his Munich speech without even mentioning his genocide threat against Jews. The Scotsman, under the headline “Dr. Ley on ‘If we are Cheated,'” quoted him as asserting darkly and somewhat obscurely that “if we are cheated, then the tearing up of the Treaty of Versailles and the breaking of the chains of our brothers in Austria and the Sudetenland will be child’s play compared to what we shall do then.” More bizarrely, the Daily Record reported on just one point made in his lecture on its “This Morning’s Gossip” page, commenting that “Germans, according to Dr. Ley, need more ‘living space.’ At present the poor fellows hardly have room to shoot their necks out.” However, like many other newspapers, neither the Scotsman nor the Daily Record made reference to his explicit threat to eradicate all Jews. In the case of the Scotsman, possibly this was because it was it had already made a brief reference to a similar, if less unequivocal, warning by Dr Ley at Frankfurt a week earlier. This had been reported on page 12 of the newspaper under the headline “Smoking and Drinking: Abstention Campaign in Germany.” Readers who continued to the last paragraph were informed that
“Referring to the Jewish question, Dr. Ley said that the fight against the Jews was not yet ended. It could only be ended when all the Jews throughout the world had been exterminated, for otherwise the Jews might defeat the Germans.”
At least, on this occasion, the Scotsman had mentioned Dr. Ley’s terrifying warning, though it didn’t give it the coverage it deserved. Ley’s statement was an unequivocal and barbaric commitment to the complete eradication of the world’s Jewish population. It represented a complete rejection of what were deemed to be the British values of tolerance and equality under the law and presaged an unprecedented holocaust that would necessitate the murder of millions. Surely, this deserved a front page scarehead ? Or at least something better than a short final paragraph of an article buried in the mid pages ?
More shocking, however, was that several national and regional newspapers were only interested in reporting the minister’s suggestion of a possible war against alcohol and tobacco. The Daily Herald, under the headline “Beer Substitute For Germans,” announced that “Dr Ley, head of the German Labour Front, told the Frankfurt Health Congress yesterday that he intends soon to submit a plan for producing a “worthy” substitute (to beer),” while the Yorkshire Post and its sister paper the Yorkshire Evening Post both carried similar reports under the headings “Substitute for Beer” and “Two Pleasures Nazis must Give Up.” Possibly the strangest reactions were in the Daily Record and the Liverpool Echo both of which published poems on Dr. Ley’s alcohol proposals. In the Daily Record the poem began
The Nazi Chieftain Dr. Ley, Informed the Reich the other day, That for the efficiency it's clear, The Tueton must forget his beer,
While the Liverpool Echo‘s poem spotlit a similar theme
There are erzatz German butters, And the beef they eat tastes queer, But is there, someone mutters, Any substitute for beer.
Other regional papers, including the Sheffield Daily Telegraph and the Leeds Mercury, reported the lecture with a relatively more restrained gravity, promoting the story to their front pages under the headers “Artificial Beer for Germans” and “Substitute for Beer.” However, none of these newspapers made any reference to the minister’s announcement that his government was now dedicated to killing the world’s Jews. A noteworthy exception was the Daily Express which reported Dr. Ley’s Frankfurt am Main speech under the commendably more forthright headline of “Nazi Chief Says Wipe Out Jews,” but only at the bottom of page 17. Its front page carried what the editor thought was a far more important story – “Hitler Gave Her Chocolates for Dancing at His Party,” above a photograph of a smiling nineteen year old cabaret artiste, Miriam Verne. She had been one of “600 artists from the films, theatres and opera” who attended the event at the Reich Chancellery, after which the Fuhrer had presented her with a “a box of chocolates and a gold Swastika.”
Possibly more shameful than this warped sense of priorities was what was considered sufficiently newsworthy for the editorials. The Sheffield Evening Telegraph, the Yorkshire Evening Post and the Daily Mirror all decided that only Dr. Ley’s comments on the possibility of introducing a substitute for beer was worthy of comment. The editor of the Evening Telegraph under the heading, “Not Tee-totalitarian,” noted that “Germans who have come to London on holiday have often told me that for all their totalitarian powers the Hitlerites would never dream of trying to impose anything as dictatorial as the British licensing system and closing hours,” adding that “it would be a big blow to tradition if Dr. Ley’s campaign succeeded.”
The Yorkshire Evening Post, in its editorial, commended the Nazi regime for showing “courage in attacking habits of pleasure so typical in Germany as smoking and beer drinking.” The Daily Mirror, however, was more concerned by Dr. Ley’s attack on alcohol consumption and under the headline du jour “Teetotalitarians” denounced the “strong flavour of puritan extremism about the idea,” reminding its readers, that “as Marie Lloyd used to say ‘a little of what you fancy does you good.'” None of these editorials bothered to make even a passing reference to Dr. Ley’s disclosure of the regime’s commitment to genocide.
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1. “Jews Deny Persecution By Nazis,” the Daily Express, 25 March 1933 p9 and regarding the pro-Nazi attitude of the Telegraphen Union see Bernhard Fulda (2009) “Press and Politics in the Weimar Republic,” Oxford University Press, p146
2. “US Report on Jews in Germany,” the Daily Express, 27 March 1933 p1
3. “Official U.S. Report says the Outrages have Stopped,” the Leeds Mercury, 27 March 1933 p1, “No Protest to Berlin,” The Scotsman, 27 March 1933 p9 and “Treatment of Jews under Hitler,” the Belfast Newsletter, 27 March 1933 p7
4. “Jews in Germany,” the Daily Telegraph, 27 March 1933 p10
5. “Jews Are Fleeing From Germany,” the Daily Worker, 15 March 1933 p5
6. “Nazi Raiders Punished,” the Daily Mirror, 15 March 1933 p17 and “What Herr Hitler Has To Say,” Editorial in the Daily Mirror, 22 March 1933 p11
7. “‘No Persecution,'” the Daily Mirror, 27 March 1933 p11
8. “The Secret Terror,” the Manchester Guardian, 13 March 1933 p8
9. “Summary,” the Church Times, 31 March 1933 p379 and Lord Hailsham quoted in “Position of Jews in Germany,” the Yorkshire Post, 31 March 1933 p7
10. See David Cesarani (2017) “The Final Solution: The Fate of The Jews 1933-49,” Pan Books, London, p46-47 and Stephen H. Norwood, “Germany Reverts to the Dark Ages: Nazi Clarity and Grassroots American Protest 1933-34,” excerpt from his book, “The Third Reich in the Ivory Tower,” accessed online at http://assets.cambridge.org/97805217/62434/excerpt/9780521762434_excerpt.htm and also “Jew Baiters Ready For Fresh Action,” the Daily Mirror, 3 April 1933, p1.
11. See David Cesarani (2017) “The Final Solution: The Fate of The Jews 1933-49,” Pan Books, London, p46 and “Boycott of Jews in Germany,” The Belfast Newsletter, 3 April 1933, p7
12.”According to Plan ?” The Times, 3 April 1933 p15 accessed online in The Times Digital Archive on 20 July 2017.
13. “Herr Hitler’s Problem,” The Times, 5 April 1933 p15 accessed online in The Times Digital Archive on 20 July 2017.
14. “Kiel Mob Lynch a Jew,” the Daily Express, 3 April 1933 p11
15. “Germany’s One Day Boycott,” the Daily Telegraph, 3 April 1933 p10
16. “Boycott of German Jews,” The Daily Mail, 3 April 1933 p14
17. Rothay Reynolds (1939), “When Freedom Shrieked,” Victor Gollancz Ltd., p213
18. Editorial in the News Chronicle, 5 April 1933 quoted in Andrew Sharf (1964), “The British Press and Jews Under Nazi Rule,” Oxford University Press, p75
19. “The Nazi Boycott,” The Scotsman, 3 April 1933 p8
20. “Boycott Renewal Unlikely,” The Western Morning News and Daily Gazette, 3 April 1933 p5
21. “The Position of the Jew in Germany – No Fears of Personal Danger from Official Actions,” The Financial Times, 1 April 1933, p9
22. “Quiet Weekend in Germany,” the Yorkshire Post, 3 April 1933 p9
23. “Russia Blamed – Views in Letters From Germany,” the Yorkshire Post, 3 April 1933, p9
24. “Russia Blamed – Views in Letters From Germany,” the Yorkshire Post, 3 April 1933 p9
25. “More Jews Murdered by Nazis,” the Daily Worker 3 April 1933 p5
26. E.J.E. Law, student at St. Catherine’s College, Cambridge, Letter to the Daily Express, 12 May 1933 p12
27. “Germany and Her Neighbours,” Editorial, the Yorkshire Post, 29 May 1933 p8
28. Lord Rothermere, Editorial in the Daily Mail, 10 July 1933, p10 and for the murders at Dachau see Timothy W. Ryback, “The First Killings of the Holocaust,” 3 January 2012 accessed online at http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/04/opinion/the-first-killings-of-the-holocaust.html A timeline of some of the key events and Nazi crimes of 1933 is given by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum online at https://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10007499
29. “Nazi Camp for Unbelievers,” The Times, 26 August 1933 p7
30. Sir Barry’s Domvile’s Diary, 7-14 August 1935 Dom 52 quoted in Julia Boyd (2017), “Travellers in the Third Reich,” Elliott and Thompson Limited, London, p181 and Heinrich Himmler quoted in Christopher Dillon (2015), “Dachau and the SS: Schooling in Violence,” Oxford University Press, Oxford p143
31. “Attack on Labour,” The Edinburgh Evening News, 2 August 1932, p3
32. Lord Horder cited in “The Revolt of a Lout,” The Scotsman, 22 September 1933 p13 and the quote of H.G. Wells from “Nazi Regime in Pillory,” the Aberdeen Press and Journal, 22 September 1933 p7
33. “Nazi Regime in Pillory,” the Aberdeen Press and Journal, 22 September 1933, p7
34. “The London Letter,” the Aberdeen Press and Journal, 22 September 1933 p6
35. “Hitler ‘Clumsy Lout’ Says H.G. Wells,” the Leeds Mercury, 22 September 1933 p5
36. “A Happy Healthy Race”, the Essex Chronicle, 8 June 1934, p6.
37. “Contentment in Germany Now,” the Lincolnshire Standard and Boston Guardian, 11 August 1934, p5
38. See “Lawyers Without Rights: Jewish Lawyers in Germany under the Third Reich” at http://www.lawyerswithoutrights.com/Exhibition/index.html pages 1-3.
39. “Jews of Frankfurt,” Jewish Telegraphic Agency, 19 December 1934 accessed on 5 August 2017 online at http://www.jta.org/1934/12/19/archive/the-jews-of-frankfurt
40. “Impressions of Germany,” the Kent and Sussex Courier, 26 October 1934 p14 and “The Post War Plaque Thief,” This is Kent, 6 February 2009 accessed online at http://www.kentlive.news/post-war-plaque-thief/story-12010986-detail/story.html
41. “Hitler Loved by Most Germans. Happier People”, the Derby Evening Telegraph, 16 November 1937, p10.
42. Doris Bergen (2008), “The Holocaust: A New History“, Tempus, London p117
43. Selkirk Panton, “The Truth About Berlin”, the Daily Express, 25 August 1933, p8
44. Sir John Foster Fraser, “German Jew Baiting is Growing Again”, the Aberdeen Press and Journal, 31 May 1934, p6
45, “Germany’s News,” Thomas Cook and Sons Ltd. display advertisement in The Times, 1 August 1934 p17.
46, “German Workmen Executed,” The Times, 2 August 1933 p10
47. “Warm Tribute to Hitler – Light on Persecution of Jews,” the Nottingham Journal, 30 July 1935 p7
48. “Vicar Impressed by Germans’ Loyalty – Blames Jews,” the Sheffield Daily Independent, 30 July 1935 p4
49. Edward C. Prichard (1990), “Arthur Cayley Headlam: A Life,” Churchman Publishing, Worthing and Folkestone, p3 and pp57-58
50. “Church and State in Germany: Bishop of Gloucester’s Comments,” the Gloucestershire Echo, 11 June 1937 p5
51. John S. Conway (2001), “The Nazi Persecution of the Churches, 1933-45,” Regent College Publishing, Vancouver.
52. “Pilgrims Of Hate – The Unbalanced Mind Of The Rabid Red,” Action No 134, 10 September 1938 p5
53. William Conner (writing as Cassandra), “So You Want To Be A Nazi ?” the Daily Mirror, 7 April 1938 p16
54. Hugh Gough (2010) “The Terror in the French Revolution,” Palrave Macmillan, p109 and Marisa Linton, “Robespierre and the Terror,” History Today, Vol 56, Issue 8, August 2006 accessed online at http://www.historytoday.com/marisa-linton/robespierre-and-terror and
55. Cahal Milmo “Has Holocaust History just been Rewritten ?” The Independent, 3 March 2013 18:15 GMT accessed online at http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/has-holocaust-history-just-been-rewritten-astonishing-new-research-shows-nazi-camp-network-targeting-8518407.html
56. Jeremy D. Popkin (2016) “A Short History of the French Revolution,” Routledge, p35
57. See for instance historian Saul Friedlander’s description of the exhibition of “The Eternal Jew” at Munich’s Deutsches Museum which opened on 8 November 1937. Saul Friedlander (1997) “Nazi Germany and the Jews: Volume 1 The Years of Persecution, 1933-1939,” Orion Books, London, p253
58. Blair Crawford “Interned Austrian became pioneer in geriatric psychiatry,” The Ottawa Citizen, 11 April 2016 accessed online at https://www.pressreader.com/canada/ottawa-citizen/20160411/281629599429284
59. “Give US Room Or – New Nazi Threat,” the Daily Mirror, 13 March 1939 p1 and “Nazi Leader’s Colonies Or,” the Daily Mirror, 13 March 1939 p32
60 From Our Own Correspondent, “Hooked Claws of the Swastika – Dr. Ley on German Aims,” The Times, 13 March 1939, p13 accessed online in The Times Digital Archive on 22 July 2017.
61. “German Demand For Colonies,” the Yorkshire Post, 13 March 1939 p9.
62. “Demand For Colonies,” The Scotsman, 13 March 1939 p12, “Style Cramped,” The Daily Record, 14 March 1939 p9, “Dr Ley on the Colonial Issue,” the Birmingham Gazette, 13 March 1939 p1, “German Demand for Colonies Renewed,” the Nottingham Evening Post, 13 March 1939 p5, “We Want Peace But,” the Sheffield Evening Post, 13 March 1939 p1 and “The Ascetic Nazi,” the Dundee Courier, 7 March 1939 p6
63. “Smoking and Drinking: Abstention Campaign in Germany,” The Scotsman, 6 March 1939 p12
64. “Beer Substitute for Germans,” The Daily Herald, 7 March 1939 p9, “Substitute for Beer,” The Yorkshire Post, 7 March 1939 p10, “Two Pleasures Nazis Must Give Up,” The Yorkshire Evening Post, 6 March 1939 p9, Harold S. Stewart (Gangrel), “Bats in the Belfry,” The Daily Record and Mail 8 March 1939 p15, A.M.Laing “Dr Ley’s New Beer,” The Liverpool Echo, 8 March 1939 p8, “Artificial Beer for Germans,” The Sheffield Daily Telegraph, 7 March 1939 p1 and “Substitute for Beer,” The Leeds Mercury,” 7 March 1939 p1
65. “Hitler Gave her Chocolates for Dancing at his Party,” the Daily Express, 6 March 1939 p1 and “Nazi Chief Says Wipe Out Jews,” the Daily Express, 6 March 1939 p17
66. “Not Tee-totalitarian,” The Sheffield Evening Telegraph, 8 March 1939 p6
67. “Ersatz Pleasures,” The Yorkshire Evening Post, 7 March 1939 p6 and “Teetotalitarians,” The Daily Mirror, 7 March 1939 p13