HC Deb 23 September 1948 vol 456 cc1070-3
33. Mr. Paget

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he has any statement to make with regard to the case of Dr. Dering.

43. Mr. Piratin

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department on what grounds Dr. Wladislaw Dering has been released from British custody; and why, in view of the fact that he is on the list of war criminals in Czechoslovakia, Poland and France, he has not been handed over to one of those countries for proper trial.

63. Mr. Platts-Mills

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department why Dr. Wladislaw Dering was released from custody after His Majesty's Government had previously declared themselves satisfied that a prima facie case had been established against this man that as an assistant Medical Officer in charge of the Oswiecim concentration camp, he was responsible for the segregation and collection of Allied personnel for destruction in the gas chambers, and that in addition he participated in experiments on living human beings.

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Ede)

The mutual agreement between the Governments of the United Nations to which His Majesty's Government became a party in March, 1945, provided for the surrender of persons found in their respective territories for trial as war criminals whenever a prima facie case should be established. When information was received of the allegations made against Dr. Dering, he was detained in custody with a view to his deportation should such a case be established. From the information available in May last, it appeared that a prima facie case had been made out, but, subsequently, it was found that evidence which had been relied upon was based on mistaken identity, and, after a further review of all the available information, the Government were unable to hold that there was sufficient evidence to support a prima facie case. In these circumstances the deportation of Dr. Dering for trial could not be justified. The foreign Governments were so informed, and Dr. Dering was released from custody.

Mr. Paget

Is it the fact that the Polish Government were asked to submit evidence, that they did submit an affidavit by a man who deposed that Dering had actually committed an atrocity on him, that Dering's extradition was actually ordered, and that then, on representations, the man who had signed that affidavit was brought over here and said that Dering was not the man at all, and had committed no atrocity? In these circumstances, will the Home Secretary undertake that, in future, there will be no extraditions without the man to be extradited being confronted with the person who is said to give evidence against him?

Mr. Ede

I took the very greatest possible care with this case. I submitted the evidence to two eminent lawyers who are Members of this House. They differed in the first place—[Laughter.]—it is no doubt very amusing to the House, but it is very embarrassing to a layman who has to make up his mind when two men, for whose legal opinions he has a great respect, differ. Then further evidence was submitted which included a statement by a particular man—the first time that such a statement had been made—that he, in fact, had been castrated by this particular doctor. On that, I was advised that a prima facie case had been made out. The representatives of Dr. Dering then placed further evidence in front of me, and, on that, I determined to see if I could get the man who had made this definite statement into this country so that his evidence could be tested. He came, and an identification parade was arranged, and he asserted that the person who operated on him was not on the parade. His evidence was then heard by the chief magistrate for the Metropolis, and I was advised on that that no prima facie case had been established by this particular witness. I think that in a very difficult case I did my utmost to secure that British standards of justice should be applied.

Mr. Oliver Stanley

Could I ask a question on one other point? Is it a fact that in this case this man was taken into custody on the allegation being made and not on the production of a prima facie case? Is it the practice, and will it be the practice in future, to take a person into custody on the mere statement that an allegation has been made? Would it not be better to wait until a prima facie case is made out?

Mr. Ede

No, Sir. The arrangement made between the foreign Governments was that where these allegations were made the persons would be detained so that if a prima facie case was established they could be handed over. We were gravely handicapped in this case by the length of time which was taken by the foreign Governments in producing the evidence on which they were going finally to ask for the extradition to take place.

Mr. Piratin

Is the Home Secretary suggesting that the man who has been held in custody in this country for all this time is not Dr. Dering? If that is the case, then, of course, the whole suggestion falls to the ground, but is that the case? Is it not the fact that this man is Dr. Dering; is he not the man who was a surgeon at Oswiecim Camp, and is there not abundant evidence against him in addition to this particular case?

Mr. Ede

I have no doubt that the man in question was Dr. Dering. There were statements made at second hand that this man had performed these operations. The only case where a man came forward and said, "This is the man and if I am confronted with him I can recognise him" was the case to which I have alluded. In that case, when the man saw a line of men he asserted that Dering was not there, and later when Dering was the only man in the court he asserted that he was not the man who had operated on him.

Mr. Ivor Thomas

Is my right hon. Friend aware that those of us who saw him in connection with this case were most impressed by the meticulous care and impartiality which he showed?

Mr. Henry Strauss

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that those who have studied this question realise the difficulty he had, and think that in the care which he has taken he has acted in the very best traditions of his Department? Having said that, may I also ask him whether he is aware that there is widespread agreement with the view expressed in the first supplementary of the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget)?

Mr. Ede

These matters give me the greatest concern, and I can assure the House that if there should be another case I shall act with the most scrupulous care and I shall have learned something from this case.