HC Deb 16 November 1954 vol 533 cc214-6
46. Mr. Nally

asked the Prime Minister why His Royal Highness the Duke of Windsor was not informed of the intention to publish letters referring to him in an official volume of German diplomatic documents; and what action it is intended to take in embodying the Duke's denials of the allegations made against him in reprints of the volume.

47. Captain Kerby

asked the Prime Minister why permission was given for the war-time Zech-Burkesroda Reports to the Nazi Ministry of Foreign Affairs to be released for official publication in Britain; what information was given to the Duke of Windsor of the allegations contained in these Nazi Secret Service reports and of the intention of the Foreign Office to release them for publication; and what apology has been made to the Duke, who has now been forced to issue a statement to the effect that the allegations in these reports concerning him are without foundation.

The Prime Minister

The documents of the former German Foreign Ministry are being published under an agreement of June, 1946, between the British and United States Governments, to which the French Government later adhered. As was stated on the 22nd January, 1947, by the hon. Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew), then Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, the selection of the documents for publication was to be entrusted to independent historians of the highest character who would be guided in their task of preparing the material for publication solely by what were called "considerations of scholarship." Actually, the words used in the 1946 agreement were "the highest scholarly objectivity." I have no comment to make on this formula.

In May last, after these three documents had been selected for inclusion in the Eighth Volume of this work, they were brought to my attention. I naturally thought it proper to show them to the Duke of Windsor, and on 25th May I told him that they were to be published in the United States and in this country later this year.

His Royal Highness did not raise any objection. He thought, and I agreed with him, that they could be treated with con- tempt. In fact, they were not noticed by the Press here or in America until nearly three months after their publication. They are of course quite untrue. They may rest in the peculiar domain which this formula describes as "the highest scholarly objectivity."

Mr. Nally

Will the Prime Minister not agree that it was most unfortunate and unfair that the Duke of Windsor should be compelled to issue a personal statement defending himself against charges of the utmost gravity that were embodied in a volume which, irrespective of the agreement to which the Prime Minister referred, was published with the consent of, and under the auspices of, Her Majesty's Government? Will he further say whether he will consider it right to give the name, the nationality and the objectives of the person or persons who were supplying the information to the German Minister at The Hague upon which he based his letters to Berlin, and in the contents of which he obviously believed?

The Prime Minister

I have no knowledge of these details. These documents were captured from the Germans and photographed with great rapidity by the Americans and the British. Quite irrespective of their value, truth or any attempts to find any background behind them, they were handed over to these historians to pick out what they thought was "scholarly objectivity" and publish them. The Stationery Office went through its regular processes, but in this case, by an oversight, it did not circulate review copies as soon as publication was made. Therefore, the matter rested in the hands of the historians and the students of affairs. However, after about three months the error was noticed and the review copies were circulated in the ordinary way. Then, for the first time, what had been known all this time became a matter of public discussion and interest in various sections of the Press.

Captain Kerby

Is my right hon. Friend aware that his reply will cause great satisfaction throughout the country?