HL Deb 04 October 1939 vol 114 cc1290-4

4.38 p.m.

LORD NEWTON had given Notice that he would ask His Majesty's Government if any steps have been taken to acquaint the German public with the charges against prominent Nazi leaders with re- gard to the investment of their funds in foreign countries; and move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, I am not quite certain whether any announcement has been made on this particular point, but I have no scruples in asking the question now because, from the point of view of propaganda, I think it is a remarkably important one. I endeavoured to raise this question about ten days ago, and I was told, not for the first time in my experience, that it would be inopportune to do so because they were awaiting further details of a documentary nature. Well, at one time I was interested in propaganda myself. During the former war I was in fact for a time in charge of Foreign Office propaganda, and one lesson I learned was—I may be mistaken, but certainly my impression was—that unless you are prepared to take certain risks you are not likely to do much good. I hope I have as much regard for truth as anybody else who has ever been concerned with propaganda, but it seems to me that the circumstances are peculiar. It seems to me that if you are satisfied the substance of charges which are made are correct then you are justified in going ahead and leaving the details to look after themselves later on.

Here is a case in point. I cannot imagine any better subject for propaganda, and I regret very much that there should have been any delay in dealing with it. Everybody knows the charges that have been made and which have appeared in the Daily Telegraph and the Daily Telegraph appears to be the only organ which realises the importance of the question. Now these charges are of two kinds. The first is an allegation that the Nazi leaders, who I believe are idolised by their fellow-countrymen, have amassed large fortunes by means which we know nothing about, and the other charge is that the fortunes which they are alleged to have made have been invested in America and other foreign countries. Now the first charge requires no proof at all. We know well enough that the leaders who are mentioned in the statement are men who are now enjoying very considerable fortune, and, if I am not mistaken, there are certain members of this House who are in a position to speak on and give evidence with regard to the luxury in which those leaders live. I observed with interest the other day that before the British Ambassador left he was entertained by General Goering who, with that vulgar ostentation one would expect from him, showed him his artistic treasures which I believe belonged, until a short time ago, to various museums in Berlin. Whether or not they have now acquired a permanent residence in General Goering's house, I do not know, but it is quite immaterial.

Anyhow, it is quite obvious that these men live as if they were extremely opulent. That is a fact which cannot be denied. But the really important question is what have they done with the money, if they really have made the money, and there is every reason to suppose that they have. I cannot conceive anybody who has made money, whether by legal or illicit methods, in Germany, investing it in Germany. Germany is the last country in the world where anybody would be likely to do anything of the kind because in all probability, as far as I can see, in five or six months time Germany will become Bolshevist and money there will be no good to anyone at all. There can be no object in making a fortune and keeping it in Germany. Obviously the only thing to do, if anyone has any money, is to get it out of the country. Any such operation, as all of us know who have been in Germany, is one of very great difficulty. It is difficult to get out as much as ten marks. Therefore if these people have really been able to get money out of Germany and deposit it in America and other countries, they have shown very considerable astuteness. The only one of them, as far as I know, who has made any attempt to rebut the charge, is Dr. Goebbels, and what does his refutation amount to? He says, if anyone can discover his money he is prepared to give part of it to him as a reward. That is not a denial that money is invested abroad, and fortifies me in the belief that the charges made are perfectly true.

One of the objects of propaganda is to promote, if you can, despondency in the enemy country. I can conceive few things more likely to create despondency than to learn that trusted leaders have been amassing large fortunes and depositing the proceeds in foreign countries, whilst all the time they have been prosecuting their fellow countrymen for per- petrating this particular crime. I do not think I am exaggerating when I say that there must be thousands of Germans who have been ruined and imprisoned, and I believe in some cases have been executed, while those responsible for that have actually perpetrated the same crime themselves. I really do not think you can have a better object lesson to disillusion the German people. If the Ministry of Information, or whichever Department is responsible—I am not quite clear upon that—is capable of making this information known to the German people by means of leaflets or in any other way, I believe it would be doing an inestimable service. I firmly believe that statements of this character, which I believe to be founded on truth, will have a far greater effect than all the elaborate political leaflets and treatises upon which we are spending our money at the present moment.

4.45 p.m.


My Lords, I need scarcely say that the Ministry of Information is fully alive to the propaganda value of this interesting intelligence regarding these German leaders and their fortunes. A leaflet was produced in the Department setting out the statements which have appeared in the American newspapers and incorporating extracts from well-known United States newspapers. These leaflets have been distributed over a large part of Germany from the air and I have made arrangements for a copy to be sent to the noble Lord. Therefore he will realise that what he desires has been done already. The leaflets set out what the American newspapers said upon the subject in full detail. They have been distributed on German soil and I hope the leaflets have reached their destination in many instances. I may add, also, that these allegations against Nazi leaders have been widely reported in American and French as well as British newspapers, and that they have been fully and frequently reported by the B.B.C. in their news bulletins. I am informed that recently in the foreign broadcast the half-hour programme in German was devoted to these charges as detailed by Mr. Knickerbocker, the well-known American newspaper correspondent. I think, therefore, it may be claimed that we have extracted from this matter all its propaganda value.


My Lords, I desire to thank the noble and learned Lord, the Minister of Information, for his statement and I ask leave to withdraw my Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.