Your Honor, it is my duty to defend Ernst Janning. And yet, Ernst Janning has said he is guilty. … He made a great error in going along with the Nazi movement… But, if he is to be found guilty,… what about the rest of the world? Did it not know the intentions of the Third Reich? … Where is the responsibility of the world leader, Winston Churchill, who said in an open letter to the London Times in 1938, “Were England to suffer national disaster, I should pray to G-d to send a man of the strength of mind and will of an Adolf Hitler!” * Are we now to find Winston Churchill guilty? … No! Germany alone is not guilty.”
– Hans Rolfe, “Judgment at Nuremberg,” 1961
It’s been said of President Franklin Roosevelt that with all his Jewish relationships, he didn’t do enough to stop the Nazis from murdering six million Jews. But the person who had more direct control – and was in a position to facilitate the rescue of European Jewry – was the prime minister of England at the time, Winston Churchill. Portrayed as a great Zionist and friend of the Jews, Churchill often spoke of his personal respect for the Jews and their unique history over the millennia. But actions can be very different from words.
The Balfour Declaration of 1917 was to be the basis for the “reconstitution” of the “national home” of the Jewish people in Palestine. The Palestine Mandate was designated as the “national home” rather than “state” in recognition of the multi-millennial historic connection between the Jewish people and the land.
In his War Memoirs, David Lloyd-George, then-prime minister of England, wrote that in 1916 he met Chaim Weizmann, a leading spokesperson in Britain for organized Zionism. Weizmann “explained his aspirations for repatriation of the Jews to the sacred land they had made famous. As soon as I became Prime Minister I talked the whole matter over with Mr. Balfour, who was then Foreign Secretary.” Any Bible-thumping Christian knew from childhood of the unique historic and religious connection of the Jewish people to the Holy Land.
And so, a short walk down History Lane might serve as an important refresher for understanding Churchill’s complicity and culpability in the Final Solution.
In 1917, the Balfour Declaration proclaimed, “His Majesty’s Government views with favor the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people…” When World War I ended in the defeat of Germany and the Ottoman Empire, 2.2 million square miles of the Ottoman Empire were to be divided by the League of Nations (predecessor to the United Nations) between three Mandates. At the San Remo Conference on April 25, 1920, the victorious powers officially divided the conquered lands and created borders for new territories. The Mandate of Iraq was given in 1921 to Abdul Aziz ibn Saud, which became Saudi Arabia. A second Mandate was given to France for Syria, and the third was the Mandate for Palestine, given to England. The Mandates were voted on and the new borders confirmed by the League in a vote of 51 to zero. The purpose of the Mandate for Palestine was to effectuate the Balfour Declaration. Lord Curzon, then-British Foreign Secretary, called the vote “Israel’s Magna Carta.” The original Mandate for Palestine comprised 48,000 square miles, including land on both the east and west sides of the Jordan River.
Winston Churchill had become Colonial Secretary with control of the Palestine Mandate. Herbert Samuels, a British Jew and reputed Zionist, became High Commissioner of Palestine and Alec Kirkbride became governor of Moab, the land east of the Jordan River. Shortly after Britain took control of the territories, in order to appease the Arabs, on June 3, 1922, Churchill approved re-partitioning 75 percent of the Mandate (36,000 square miles), the land east of the Jordan, in violation of its obligations under the Mandate, and created a new Arab territory called Transjordan, with the declared understanding that the lands east of the Jordan would be for Arab settlement and the lands west of the Jordan, one-half of one percent of all the Ottoman lands, would be for the Jews. This act was called the Churchill White Paper of 1922. Churchill’s first betrayal of his Zionistic eloquent words of January 1921: “If, as may well happen there should be created in our own lifetime, by the banks of the Jordan, a Jewish State under the protection of the British Crown…an event will have occurred in the history of the world which would from every point of view be beneficial; and would be especially in harmony with the truest interests of the British Empire.” (Martin Gilbert, Churchill: A Life, p. 429) “[Colonial Secretary Lord] Milner warned that Churchill had one weakness: he was ‘too apt to make up his mind without sufficient knowledge.’ ” (Ibid., p. 433) The promise and obligations of the British Empire were to be shown as worthless, and deadly for Jews.
But infinitely more damning, as the Arabs continued to riot in Palestine from 1929 to 1930 and again from 1936 to 1939, Churchill sat in the opposition in the government of Neville Chamberlain – and 1938 became the pivotal year for European Jewry. The Evian Conference in France (July 6 through July 15, 1938) had been convened in order to find safe haven for Jews to leave Europe, but the prophecy of Parshat Ki Tavo proved painfully too accurate:
And among those nations you will not be tranquil; …there Hashem will give you a trembling heart… you will be frightened night and day, and you will not be sure of your livelihood. … Hashem will return you to Egypt in ships… And there you will offer yourselves for sale to your enemies as slaves and maidservants—but there will be no buyer! (Deut. 28:65-68)
Evian confirmed that no countries were willing to open their doors to Jews seeking refuge, including America. Rabbi Steven Wise, spokesman for American Jewish Congress and close confidant of Roosevelt, made up excuses for the administration’s restrictionist policies. The American Jewish Committee was also silent even though Sam Rosenman, Judge Joseph Proskauer and other AJC leaders were very close to Roosevelt. The only person who ultimately responded to the Evian hypocrisy was Adolph Hitler. His first response, Kristallnacht, was followed by a speech to the Reichstag on January 30, 1939: “It is a shameful example to observe today how the entire democratic world dissolves in tears of pity [for the Jews] but then, in spite of its obvious duty to help, closes its heart to the poor, tortured people.” The Nazi publication Der Weltkampf echoed Hitler’s theme: “We are saying openly that we do not want the Jews, while the democracies [including the U.S.] keep on claiming that they are willing to receive them—and then leave them out in the cold.” (Rafael Medoff, The Deafening Silence, p. 59)
While Rep. Will Rogers and Sen. Guy Gillette, two non-Jews, introduced resolutions in the House and Senate urging “the creation by the President of a commission of diplomatic, economic and military experts to formulate and effectuate a plan of immediate action to save the surviving Jewish people of Europe,” Rabbi Steven Wise and Rep. Sol Bloom, the Jewish chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, fought against the creation of this special committee, prompting Rep. Herman D. Eberharter to say the following to pro-resolution witness Herbert Moore during the hearings:
You ought to be able to appreciate that if these [Jewish] groups cannot agree themselves, it must be a very difficult question for a committee like this in a Congress to pass such an important resolution. If these groups are fighting among themselves as to the wisdom of this thing…if these groups, the Jewish people themselves, and those interested in their fate in Europe cannot agree as to the wisdom of this, your position is not very sound. (Ibid., p. 131-3)
“Two Jews, three opinions” — not so funny after all! Returning from his meeting with Hitler on September 30, 1938, Neville Chamberlain made his historic statement of “peace in our time” based on a worthless piece of paper. Realizing a political opportunity, Churchill stated: “The words were hardly out of [Chamberlain’s] mouth before Nazi atrocities were upon the Jewish population, resounding throughout the civilized world.” (Martin Gilbert, Exile and Return, p. 211) Yet, from the other side of his mouth, “Churchill proposed limiting Jewish immigration [to Palestine], conceding that too many European Jews had immigrated and thus unnecessarily aggravated the…Arabs.” (Michael Makovsky, Churchill’s Promised Land, p. 163)
And so, in May 1939, with the well-known problem of European Jewry seeking countries of refuge, England issued its White Paper on Palestine limiting Jewish immigration to 75,000 per year for five more years, after which time there would be no further immigration “unless the Arabs of Palestine are prepared to acquiesce in it.”
In effect, the White Paper thwarted efforts to establish a safe haven for Jews fleeing Europe and tried to preclude a Jewish majority from materializing in Palestine. … Even the Permanent Mandates Commission of the League of Nations determined that the White Paper contradicted the League mandate under which Britain had legal authority to rule Palestine. (Ibid., p. 164)
Enraged, Churchill delivered a speech in the House of Commons denouncing the White Paper as “another aspect of the government’s appeasement policy that proclaimed British betrayal. Is our condition so parlous and our state so poor that we must, in our weakness, make this sacrifice of our declared purpose?” He asserted that enemies would think, “This is another Munich.” (Ibid., p. 165)
Churchill railed against the 1939 White Paper—but he was not yet prime minister. Never let a good crisis go to waste. Less than a year after his impassioned speech in the House of Commons, on May 10, 1940, Churchill became prime minister. And on June 1, 1940, the Enigma machine began decoding the German transmissions. Just gotta love German documental efficiency.
News of the massacres began trickling out in July 1941 in some New York Yiddish dailies and spread to the major news outlets. Churchill quickly recognized the uniqueness of the Nazis’ murder of the Jews, based on signal intelligence reports, which he had devoured for years. In August and September 1941, Churchill received from Bletchley Park, the British government’s code-breaking center, twenty- five summaries of decrypted signals from the non-Nazi German police force…. Churchill apparently asked specifically for the Ordnungspolizei’s execution reports to Berlin and circled the number of Jews murdered. … Churchill seemed to make his first public allusion to the growing mass murder of Jews in a broadcast to the nation on August 24, 1941, upon returning from a meeting with Roosevelt, where they signed the Atlantic Charter, a statement of war principles. Discussing Hitler’s onslaught, Churchill declared, “As his armies advance, whole districts are being exterminated. Scores of thousands—literally scores of thousands—of executions in cold blood are being perpetrated by the German police-troops… ” He added starkly, “We are in the presence of a crime without a name.“ (Ibid., pp. 176-7)
Churchill had supposedly been enraged by Britain’s betrayal of its obligations under the Balfour Declaration and Palestine Mandate, yet he was instrumental in the creation of Transjordan. From May 10, 1940 to June 26, 1945, as prime minister, Churchill was briefed daily on the escalating number of Jews murdered each day and did nothing to revoke the 1939 White Paper and open the gates of Palestine for their rescue. A.J. Heschel said, “Indifference to evil is worse than evil itself. Some are guilty, all are responsible.” Churchill’s specious actions constitute a conspiracy of complicity, rendering him an accessory to murder!
Shabbat Shalom, 11/13/15 Jack “Yehoshua” Berger [Back issues are archived at The Times of Israel.com]
* Confirmed by Martin Gilbert, Churchill: A Life, p. 580