BBC Home
Explore the BBC
17 December  
Search ON THIS DAY by date
Go back one day Go forward one day  
Front Page |  Years |  Themes |  Witness
About This Site | Text Only
1942: Britain condemns massacre of Jews
The British Foreign Secretary, Anthony Eden, has told the House of Commons about mass executions of Jews by Germans in occupied Europe.

Mr Eden also read out a United Nations declaration condemning "this bestial policy".

He said news of German atrocities sent in by the Polish Government and widely reported in the press this month would only serve to strengthen allied determination to fight Nazism and punish all those responsible.

After his announcement the House rose and held a one-minute silence in sympathy for the victims.

A family moved in next door but they had no furniture and put newspaper up at the window. They were Polish Jews who had come from their homeland in a hurry.
Mr Eden described how the German authorities, who have already stripped the Jews of their basic human rights, were now carrying out "Hitler's oft repeated intention to exterminate the Jewish people in Europe".

He described how hundreds of thousands of men, women and children were being transported from all German-occupied territory "in conditions of appalling horror and brutality" to Eastern Europe.

In Poland, Jewish ghettoes were being "systematically emptied" except for the able-bodied who were being sent to labour camps.

"None of those taken away are ever heard of again," he said.

Those who are sick or injured are left to die of exposure or starvation or killed in mass executions.

The House then heard him read out a declaration made by the governments of Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Greece, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, the United States, the UK, the USSR, Yugoslavia and the French National Committee.

It condemned "in the strongest possible terms this bestial policy of cold-blooded extermination" and made a "solemn resolution to ensure that those responsible for these crimes shall not escape retribution".

He said the United Nations would try to give asylum to as many refugees as possible but that there were "immense geographical difficulties" as well as security procedures to overcome.

James A De Rothschild, Labour MP for the Isle of Ely, made an emotional speech on behalf of British Jewry thanking Mr Eden and the United Nations for their declaration.

He said there were many first-generation Jews living in England who believed they had had a lucky escape from the concentration camps.

Four days ago, synagogues all over Britain held a day of mourning as a mark of concern for the massacre of the Jews in Nazi-occupied Europe.

The Chief Rabbi Dr J H Hertz called on all Jews to commemorate "the numberless victims of the Satanic carnage".

The Archbishop of Canterbury has also expressed his outrage in a letter to The Times earlier this month condemning "a horror beyond what imagination can grasp".

 E-mail this story to a friend

Athony Eden
Foreign Minister Anthony Eden attacked the "bestial policy" of persecuting Jews

In Context
From 1933 when Hitler came to power, German Jews were deprived of civil rights, persecuted, physically attacked, imprisoned, and murdered.

As Germany took over Europe many more thousands were shot in Russia and other Eastern European countries, by mobile killing squads or Einsatzgruppen.

In January 1942 leading SS leader Reinhard Heydrich announced to the Wannsee conference plans for the so-called "final solution to the Jewish problem", a systematic massacre designed to create a "Jew-free" Reich.

Jews were transported to concentration camps, slave-labour camps and extermination camps. There they were herded into gas chambers and their bodies burned in crematoria.

By the end of the war in 1945, more than six million Jews had been murdered in those countries occupied by the Nazis.

Three million of them were from Poland. Other minorities such as gypsies, political and religious opponents, the handicapped, and homosexuals were also killed.

Nazi war criminals were tried at Nuremberg and 12 men were sentenced to death in 1946.

Some of those involved in the Holocaust managed to escape - most notably Adolf Eichmann, once chief of the Gestapo's "Jewish section". He was abducted by Israeli agents in Argentina, tried and hanged in Israel in 1962.

The name "United Nations" was coined by US President Franklin D Roosevelt in the Declaration by United Nations on 1 January 1942 when representatives of 26 nations pledged to continue fighting together against the Axis Powers.

But the United Nations was not officially founded until 24 October 1945.

Stories From 17 Dec

Search ON THIS DAY by date
Go back one day Go forward one day  

^^ back to top
Front Page |  Years |  Themes |  Witness
©MMVIII | News Sources | Privacy & Cookies Policy