HC Deb 20 July 1944 vol 402 cc471-80

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—[Captain McEwen.]

Captain Cunningham-Reid (St. Marylebone)

I intended to raise on this Adjournment questions concerning the flying bomb, but I am now, with the permission of Mr. Speaker, raising the question of retribution. The reason for my change I hope to deal with a little later.

As the war comes to its climax, and the enemy commits even fouler atrocities, the question of retribution has become one of major concern. The Government find it difficult to make any detailed pronouncement on this subject, because they have to reconcile their policy, if any, with the policies of the United States and of Russia. But that is no reason why back benchers should not express their views, and express the views of what they consider to be the majority of their constituents. The nation was deeply moved by the horrors of the annihilation of the whole village of Lidice in Czechoslovakia, by the torturing of simple peasants and their children in Russia, and by the extermination, in gas chambers, of thousands of Hungarian Jews. But all this took place so far away from England that there was an air of unreality about it all, and there were even some who felt that these stories might be exaggerated.

Recently, however, what others have had to suffer has been brought more home to us because the incidents have been nearer to our homes. Only the other day and, comparatively speaking, only a few miles away from London Bridge, the Germans massacred every inhabitant of the French village of Oradour-sur-Glane. The men were shot in batches of 20, and women and children were blown up and then burned to death in the church. Elsewhere, a French butcher, for being patriotic, was spiked through the throat on his own meathook, while he was alive. Fifty Royal Air Force prisoners of war were cold-bloodedly put to death, and the day before yesterday we heard of another 33 prisoners being killed by these fiends. I think that brings the total of our prisoners who have been murdered by the Germans up to 152.

But what brought many people to what I might term a final sense of reality was this indiscriminate robot bombing, the mutilation of old and young folk on our very doorsteps, so to speak. I warrant that there are fewer people to-day who cherish kind and forgiving thoughts to the German people or claim that after the war we should merely educate them to be good children and not do it again. I regret though that there remain a number of sentimental idealists who still complacently think that we can prevent the Hun from starting another war by leaving Germany intact except for the fact that we shall be policing it awhile with a mixed force from the main victorious Powers. Such people utterly refuse to be realists and to contemplate what would happen under such a policy when the Isolationists in America prevail and insist that the American contribution to the forces of occupation should pull out of European commitments, as occurred soon after the last war, and when we have a left wing Government controlled by sloppy idealists.

Mr. Tinker (Leigh)

What is meant by that? A Labour Government would be left wing but it would not be governed by sloppy idealists.

Captain Cunningham-Reid

I am not referring to any Government that the hon. Member is likely to be in. One can well understand the kind of sentiments which will be put forward, and which I do not anticipate from quite a number of my friends on the present Socialist Benches. I refer to the type of persons that will bleat that we ought to "live and let live," that there ought to be good will towards all men, and that we should give our brothers, the Germans, a chance. If people such as that rule us out comes the British share of the international police force, when only Russia will remain. If Russia finally goes out from such a force, there is nothing to stop the Germans start- ing to organise again for the next war, or alternatively—and you can take your choice—if Russia remains on her own, by then Germany will for certain have gone Communistic and will sooner or later be absorbed by Russia. For by that time the two countries will have converged on approximately the same ideology and the process of assimilation will have been smoothed because, as most Members are aware, Russia has been making unceasing radio and leaflet overtures to the German people for a long time past. The reaction in Germany to such constant overtures to the German people is bound to be that there is hope and some future for them from the East as compared with what they can expect from the West, whence there only blows a chilly reminder of unconditional surrender, and all that Goebbels has told them that implies.

So much for the prospects of an international police force. What then remains to prevent Germany from starting a sixth major war within 100 years? There is a suggestion to divide up Germany into States. What a childish solution! Imagine for a moment if the Germans had been successful in this war and they had decided to divide up this country. Suppose they divided the British Isles into East Anglia, the West Country and so on. We know that it would only be a matter of time before we got together again under the same Government. That is exactly what would happen in Germany if we attempted to divide it up into States.

To my mind there is only one practical solution. The growing temper of this country and the driving course of events in Europe are more and more going to impress this solution on the world. Do what we like, the Russians have made clear to everybody what they intend to have as frontiers after the war. They have been quite open in saying that they intend to have back their old frontiers. The old frontiers that existed before the last war took up practically the whole of what we knew as Poland. When it has been asked, "What's to happen to Poland?" they have replied that Poland must move West, that a part of Germany can become Poland. They have gone so far as to suggest that the new Polish boundary should be up to the Oder river at the least. This possibility is evidently recognised by the Prime Minister—it might have been the Foreign Secretary—when replying to a Question concerning the scope of the Atlantic Charter, for he said that frontiers were not inviolate. We know that Denmark is to be rewarded for the gallant stand she has put up against tremendous odds by having returned to her the State of Schleswig-Holstein, which used to be in Denmark's possession. It has also been officially announced that Austria will no longer be a part of Germany but is to become an entity on her own again. It has been made clear by our leaders that the frontier of France must, for security purposes, be the Rhine. The net result, whether hon. Members like it or not, is that only about half of what was Germany will remain. It will be a trunk with its limbs dismembered; an area seething with longing for revenge even greater, if possible, than would be engendered in a bellicose and hating race which has lost two world wars in 30 years; an area which, sooner or later, will become an inflamed organising centre for a repetition of the atrocities that Europe is experiencing now but 100 times worse.

The only way to prevent this menace to peace is once and for all to do away with such a hub of friction and trouble. Germany must be completely divided up between the countries that surround her. Such a procedure would remove the complications and precariousness of an international police force, with the attendant possibility that the Isolationists in America and a weak Government over here will recall their forces of occupation. Under the solution that I am advocating, it will not matter if the march of time dims our memories and produces leniency, for the responsibility of what to do with Germany will then be out of our hands. The countries around that part of the world which was Germany, would not give up in a hurry territory which had been German, and that had been ceded to them by peace treaty.

Mr. Bartle Bull (Enfield)

Is the hon. and gallant Member quite certain that these countries would accept these parts of Germany?

Hon. Members


Captain Cunningham-Reid

Yes, I think a number of countries would do so. For example, Holland is far too small in Europe and would, I believe, welcome more territory.

Mr. Bull

France, I agree, but what about the others?

Captain Cunningham-Reid

I said Holland. Belgium could do with more, and the territory of Czechoslovakia could, with advantage, be increased.

Earl Winterton (Horsham and Worthing)

Might I interrupt the hon. and gallant Member, in order to strengthen his argument? Is it not a fact that a great deal of modern Germany is country which has been stolen from other countries in the past; and is it not certain that those countries are going to get it back, whether the Socialist Party like it or not?

Captain Cunningham-Reid

That is perfectly true. I would like to answer more questions, but I do not think I shall have sufficient time. I merely want to emphasise the point that the countries that had had parts of Germany added to them by Treaty would not be likely to give them up without a fight; and who is going to precipitate a war again, especially on behalf of a Germany? If, for example, the once-upon-a-time Germans, in that part of Germany which had been ceded to Poland, tried to start trouble, with underground organising and such like, the Poles no doubt would know how to deal with them. Nothing less than the extinction of Germany as a nation will prevent her nationals getting together again and organising another war. To the non-realists in our midst this solution may sound drastic, but it is no good being anything less than drastic with Huns; and be it on the Huns' own heads, for, by their loathsome actions, they have forfeited all rights to nationhood.

By all means take reprisals by death of 100,000 war criminals, if you can catch them, but do not lose sight of the fact that that will spur the remainder on to fresh efforts for revenge, if they have a country of their own from which to organise. We may catch a few of the guilty ones and put them to death, and I hope we do, but there is every chance, one way and another, that the majority of those incriminated will wriggle out somehow, some of them to other countries, while many will disguise their identity with forged official papers and birth certificates and become good Germans over night. They may not even need to resort to such devices, being confident that muddles, international disagreements or just the plain lapse of time, will look after them.

Unless we are careful, after this war there will be as much retribution as there was after the last war, about our hanging the Kaiser, and so on. The only certain retribution is, after the war, to make all able-bodied Germans sweat and toil for years to build up those parts of the world that they have demolished, and for there no longer to be a German nation. The latter retribution also happens to be the only likely means of preventing the Germans, from within their own country, and under their own Government, some time getting together again to plan and eventually carry out another agonising period for mankind.

Mr. Austin Hopkinson (Mossley)

On a point of Order. As this is apparently a Debate on the subject of retribution, should we be in Order, in a subsequent Debate, in raising the question of retribution for anything other than the war crimes of Germans?

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Major Milner)

There will not be time to raise anything else,. I am afraid.

Mr. Ivor Thomas (Keighley)

Is not the hon. and gallant Member a sloppy sentimentalist, shrinking from the logic of his own argument, which should be to exterminate the whole German race?

Earl Winterton

The Russians will do that before the war is over.

Captain Cunningham-Reid

The alternative solution of what to do with the Germans is, of course, "Leave it to the Russians." In the meantime, I thought I had made it quite clear that I am all for exterminating as many war criminals as possible if you can catch them.

I want in conclusion to make this short explanation. As I said, it had been my original intention to raise to-day one or two matters concerning flying bombs. I was prevented, and I want to make it quite clear, as there seems to be some doubt about this, that I was not prevented by any occupant of that Chair. I believe the Government are making a grave mistake in stifling all open Debate on this subject that so intimately concerns the public. Excluding the public to this extent could well spread apprehension, and the public is made all the more anxious by hearing that there are only to be secret meetings of M.P.'s. This might lead people to surmise that as public debate has been barred, gloomy prospects will be divulged at these secret meetings. [An HON. MEMBER: "Nonsense."] There are certain aspects of the flying bomb on which public discussion would in no way run counter to public security, and would be of intense interest to the public and might well allay many misgivings and perplexities.

As to my proposed remarks concerning flying bombs, I was careful to submit in advance to the Home Office a list of the questions I wanted to raise on the flying bomb, and I indicated that I would not mention any of those which the Home Office considered prejudicial to security. I think, if I may say so, I showed commendable prudence, but even though I left it to the Home Office to choose their own ground, they refused to allow me any questioning of any of their actions. In conclusion, I desire publicly to protest against this high-handed infringement of the rights of Members which in this case has deprived me of the opportunity of voicing even one point of view that is exercising the public mind concerning flying bombs, and of receiving just one answer that might have encouraged London's splendid spirit.

The Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. George Hall)

The hon. and gallant Member has left me a very few minutes in which to reply to a very wide Debate, about which we have had little notice—not that I complain very much about that, because I understand why the hon. and gallant Member changed from the subject which he had intended to deal with, to the variety of subjects which he has touched upon during his speech. I cannot commit the Government, in a few minutes, to divide up Germany, to hand portions over to Poland and portions to Denmark, and, indeed, to commit them to an agreement that all the male population of Germany should be transferred into other countries, whether those countries would take them or not.

All that I can say on this question of retribution, which I understood the hon. and gallant Member was going to raise, is that the Government, with their Allies, have determined their policy. In respect of criminals responsible for what has happened during the war, for atrocities the like of which the world has never seen, in magnitude or in cruelty, the Government's policy is well known. A War Crimes Commission has been set up. That Commission will see that there will not be the same excuse for not taking action as there was at the end of the last war. Then, no action could be taken until the Peace Treaty was signed. By that time it was too late. A provision has been made that, as soon as the surrender terms are agreed upon, and the enemy surrenders, action will be taken against the criminals. That is as far as I can go. I cannot commit the Government to do one tithe of what the hon. and gallant Member suggested that they should do, and, indeed, the Government themselves could not do it, until they had consulted, not only with the Dominions, but with their Allies. I should like the hon. and gallant Member, in view of his reference to "the sloppy left-wing Government," which he says is liable to take office in this country——

Mr. Bull


Mr. Hall

It is the hon. and gallant Member's suggestion. I should like him to read some of the publications which have been issued by the Labour Party. If he will take the trouble to read it, I will send him the Labour Party's programme.

Earl Winterton

Were these publications issued before the war? I hope that my right hon. Friend will forget what the Labour Party said before the war on the subject of Germany.

Mr. Hall

No, they have been issued during the war. I will send my right hon. Friend a copy as well, if he desires to have it.

Captain Cunningham-Reid

Why does the right hon. Gentleman think that I was particularly referring to the Labour Party? It might be a conglomeration of Common Wealth and all sorts.

Mr. Hall

There is only one party in this country which is likely to be the Government of this country: that is the Labour Party, and the Labour Party is rather selective as to whom it will take in.

Earl Winterton

With one minute to go, I should like to thank my right hon. Friend, on behalf, I am sure, of the whole House, for the speech he has made. That speech exactly expresses the situation. He could not, as he said, commit the Government, and I do not think the hon. and gallant Gentleman asked him to do so, on this particular policy. But I was glad to hear that he did not commit the Government to the rejection of this proposal, and I myself believe that a great deal of what the hon. and gallant Gentleman said would constitute the exact terms put forward by the Soviet Government, by Denmark, by Holland, and by Free France.

Mr. G. Strauss (Lambeth, North)

In the half-minute that remains, may I express in a few words the strong disagreement, which I think is felt by nine-tenths of the Members of this House, and certainly by all Members of this party, with the extraordinary, nonsensical, and dangerous sentiments put forward by the hon. and gallant Member for St. Marylebone (Captain Cunningham-Reid)? The views put forward by the Soviet Government have been in exactly the opposite direction. The Soviet Government have talked about the existence of a German State, which is exactly the opposite of what the hon. and gallant Member said. It strikes me as extraordinary that a member of the Conservative Party should speak in that way, of breaking up Germany——

Major Sir Derrick Gunston (Thornbury)

He is not a member of the Conservative Party. Withdraw.

Mr. Strauss

An ex-member—a member during the pre-war period. He was a leading member of the Conservative Party, who were backing the Fascist leaders——

Hon. Members


It being the hour appointed for the Adjournment of the House, Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER adjourned the House, without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order.

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