HC Deb 25 July 1922 vol 157 cc199-201
46. Sir J. BUTCHER

asked the Prime Minister whether his attention has been called to the fact that only four out of the seven German war criminals, whose names were submitted by the British Government for trial at Leipzig, were brought to trial; that one of these men, Commander Karl Neumann, was proved to have deliberately torpedoed and sunk the British hospital ship "Dover Castle," carrying wounded British soldiers, but was acquitted on the pretext that he acted under superior orders; that three others were convicted of acts of extreme brutality against British prisoners and were sentenced to only 10 months' or six months' imprisonment; and that Lieutenant Dittmar and Lieutenant Boldst were proved to have murdered some of the survivors of the torpedoed British hospital ship "Llandovery Castle," and were sentenced to only four years' imprisonment; whether any of these convicted criminals have since escaped from their German prisons; and whether, in view of these facts, he will urge on the Supreme Council the necessity of trying, in accordance with the Treaty of Versailles, the numerous other German war criminals?

50. Sir W. DAVISON

asked the Prime Minister whether the Government are now satisfied as to the inadequacy of the sentences inflicted by the German Courts on the German war criminals specially selected for trial to ascertain whether adequate justice would be meted out by the German authorities in respect of the crimes perpetrated by Germans during the War in connection wills the sinking of hospital ships and otherwise; and whether a demand will now be made for the surrender of the other war criminals, hitherto untried, to the Allies, so that their cases may be tried before an international court and adequate sentences inflicted on all persons found guilty of the crimes charged against them?

Mr. CHAMBERLAIN (Leader of the House)

The facts as to the number of war criminals tried on the British list, and the results of the trials, are set out in the White Paper presented to this House on the 8th August, 1921. Lieutenants Boldst and Dittmar escaped from their German prisons, and very strong protests have been made by the British Government to the German Government upon this most regrettable and disquieting result. The whole question of the trials of war criminals under the Articles of the Treaty of Versailles is awaiting consideration by the Supreme Council and it would be premature, to make any statement until the completion of the discussions which are now in progress between the Allied Governments.


Does the right non. Gentleman realise the disastrous results that would follow if immunity is given to these German War criminals, against whom there is evidence of the most atrocious crimes?


Has the Leader of the House considered that the forthcoming marriage of the Kaiser of Germany is regarded as sufficient punishment?

Viscount CURZON

Will the right hon. Gentleman urge upon the Supreme Council the advisability of investigating whether some people implicated in the escape of these Hun officers are the same-group who are responsible for the murder of Herr Rathenau?


I should have thought that was a matter for the German Government rather that: for ourselves. It is sufficient for the Allies to consider their own, without taking into account any additional cases which tie German Government may have against these men. I would ask the House to excuse me from making a statement about the attitude of the British Government on matters which must come before the Supreme Council and which are the subject of consideration between the Allied Governments.


Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether the British Government are satisfied with what most of us think are very inadequate sentences? Surely he can say whether or not the Government are satisfied.


I see no public advantage to be gained by a statement on that subject.


In view of the fact that this matter has been hanging fire, without anything effective being done since the Treaty of Versailles, will the right hon. Gentleman bring the matter before the Supreme Council and urge upon them the necessity of dealing with the matter?