HL Deb 08 March 1944 vol 130 cc1097-134

THE EARL OF MANSFIELD had the following Notice on the Paper: To ask His Majesty's Government, whether when consulting the other Allied Governments about the post-war delimitations of the boundaries of the truncated German Empire, as well as of other countries whose frontiers are likely to require adjustment, they are bearing in mind the vital necessity of avoiding, wherever possible, the leaving of considerable minorities within the political boundaries of States the majority of whose population has a different racial, religious or cultural outlook; and whether to achieve this, they will consider the advisability of proposing that members of such minorities as are likely to be a future menace to the peace of Europe shall be compulsorily transferred to the land of their racial origin; and to move for Papers.

The noble Earl said: My Lords, at the outset I think it is desirable that I should make it clear that nothing in my remarks to-day is in any way concerned with the Jewish problem. That question, important and indeed almost insoluble as it may seem, is one which cannot well be taken at the same time as the other problems to which I wish to direct your Lordships' attention to-day. While dealing generally with certain minority problems, some of which have already arisen and others of which will arise after the war, it is my intention to deal principally with the problems that will arise consequent upon the alterations of the frontiers of Germany as Germany was at the beginning of this war.

Speaking generally, it is doubtful if at the present time there is any more fruitful cause of war than the presence within one State of nationals belonging to another State when the State to which the minority racially belongs has reason to believe, or makes the pretence, that that minority is being ill-treated. We know what great advantages at home and abroad Nazi Ger- many derived from the alleged ill-treatment of the German minority in Poland immediately previous to the outbreak of war and the equally alleged ill-treatment at an earlier date of the Sudeten Germans by the Government of Czechoslovakia. The first thing which I think is quite obvious is that it is undesirable that ever again should large bodies of Germans be permitted to exist as an entity within the boundaries of another State. We do not know, of course, yet what is to be the future of the Third Reich. For my part—perhaps it is rather a King Charles head of mine, but still I will take the risk of that—I have always held, and still hold, that if anything resembling permanent peace is to be achieved in Europe, Germany as it exists to-day must cease to exist as a united empire and should be divided more or less into component parts, not, unfortunately, into the thirty-three States which comprised Germany before the last war, because however politically desirable that might be it would be economically impossible, but into, say, anything from five to eight States, so that we should never again have the danger of a united Germany being a menace to the peace of Europe.

There is no doubt that Germany will be in the first place shorn of the territories which she illegitimately acquired before and during this war, and secondly, probably, of a considerable amount of other territory for various reasons. I suggest that among our peace aims should be the transference—the compulsory transference—of all German citizens from these territories back into the Reich or, as I should prefer, into those various States which should succeed the Reich. It may be argued that to do so would be to create economic chaos in Germany—I use the word "Germany" to cover the territory of Germany whether it be in the future one State or several States—but it has to be borne in mind that the German cry of Lebensraum was purely for political reasons and had no basis in economic fact, as Germany had ample room within her own boundaries for the useful employment of all her citizens had successive German Governments been willing to study the arts of peace instead of those of war.

The first great problem is one which has to be touched on somewhat delicately, but which a sense of justice insists should be dealt with—that is, the question of the western boundaries of Poland. It has been suggested, apparently more or less officially, that Poland shall be recompensed for any changes that may occur on her eastern boundaries by receiving certain German territories to the west and to the north-west of her former boundary. Should this come to pass it is essential in the interests of Poland that the German population presently resident therein should be removed, for the worst enemy of Poland could wish her no more deplorable fate than that she should be faced with not even her former problem of a moderately substantial German minority but a really substantial German minority. Such a solution would be bound to lead to trouble, and probably to war, within a fairly short space of time. Therefore no matter how hard such a solution would seem to be for the German population concerned, that solution will have to be faced.

The mere suggestion of it has already caused a storm in various circles of self-styled advanced thought. One paper of the Left hysterically cried "How could the trade unionists of this country face their brothers at Königsberg after the war if Königsberg were to be transferred either to Polish or Russian suzerainty?" Why anybody in this country should be particularly anxious at the present time to look at their so-called brothers in Königsberg other than along the barrel of a rifle or the lenses of a bomb-sight, is beyond my comprehension, but apparently such people do exist. The same suggestion has caused consternation in the mind of the honourable and gallant Member for Orms-kirk [Commander King-Hall] in another place, and he is now bombarding all persons holding any kind of public position with his views on the subject. It appears to me that the last people who are deserving of any consideration in this matter are the Germans. Whilst we do not wish to inflict cruelty, or indeed unnecessary hardship, upon the people of Germany, they should be considered last; our Allies should be considered a long way before them.

I come now to a point which can be touched upon only lightly. Any territory which it will be advisable to give to Poland can hardly be regarded as a satisfactory recompense for what it is sug- gested that the Poles should give up in the east. The U.S.S.R. has made an offer of peace-terms to Finland which seems both generous and statesmanlike. Is it really unreasonable to suggest that at least the same generosity should be shown to a country which, so far from being at war with Russia, is her Ally? Is it unreasonable to ask that the whole question of Poland's eastern boundary should be, so to speak, put into cold storage until the end of the war, when, in a cooler and more reasoned atmosphere, the question can be discussed, and not on the basis of a plebiscite taken under conditions which can hardy be regarded as satisfactory?

So far as other minorities are concerned, throughout Europe the problem is one of very great difficulty. Some of the troubles which arose after the last war were due to the ill-considered partition of Hungary. Had the various victor nations not persistently refused even to consider the rectification of Hungary's boundaries, it is most unlikely that Hungary to-day would be ranged on the side of Germany, a country for which she has no natural affection. The Treaty of Trianon, however, created very substantial Hungarian minorities in the territories of Hungary's neighbours, and their presence remained a pestilent sore on the body politic of Europe. If some arrangement could be made whereby, partly by rectification of frontiers and partly by transfer of population, these Hungarians could again come under the jurisdiction of their own country, a great deal would have been accomplished towards the avoidance of future trouble in Central Europe. Hungary, after all, has had an existence of a thousand years, and a people with the national consciousness of the Hungarians cannot wisely be ignored as a national entity.

There are some minorities, of course, with whom it is very difficult to deal, and in particular those who are not, strictly speaking, minorities inasmuch as they are not a small section of a larger population contained within a neighbouring State but are themselves a more or less homogenous race, though too small in numbers to be able to run a country under modern economic conditions. For example, there are the Slovaks, and still more the Ruthenes. The only satisfactory solution for them is, of course, some form of federation with neighbouring races. Of such a federation Czechoslovakia was an outstanding example, although there the position was not as satisfactory as it should have been, largely owing to the presence of one of the Hungarian minorities to whom I have just referred. A Czechoslovakia reconstituted without this minority and without the Sudeten Germans would have an infinitely better chance of remaining free in a free Europe. There are minor races—minor in numbers, not in importance—which are comprised within Yugoslavia, the name of which used to be the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes. Their future is not our concern, and we can only offer our gallant Ally, King Peter, our respectful sympathy in the very difficult problems which he has had and will have to face.

Perhaps the most difficult of all minority questions is that between Rumania and Hungary. There my information is that the various groups are so split up, and in many cases so far from their own natural territory that no frontier rectification could by itself in any way solve the problem, and it would be necessary for an exchange of population to be undertaken on a fairly large scale if frontier peace is to be achieved. Unfortunately, the Hungarians and Rumanians cordially detest each other, so that it would be very advantageous if such an exchange could be effected.

The objection may be made to what I am saying that the ideal solution would be not for the lion to lie down with the lamb but for all the leopards to learn to lie down peacefully, one beside the other, in some form of European State under a federal system. However ideal that may be in theory, I believe that it is too remote in practice to be worth considering as an immediate solution. Federation may or may not come in the future, but I do not think that it can be considered practical politics for the whole of Central Europe at the present time. If it were possible to have a renewal in some form of that Danubian Federation which was formerly known as Austria-Hungary, it would be all to the good, but that is, apparently, a solution which is unlikely to be achieved, and therefore something else, at any rate for the moment, must take its place. I submit that one solution—a partial one, it may be, but not the less important for that—is this transference of population which I have already sug- gested. As I have said, the idea that a certain number of those racially akin to oneself are undergoing ill-treatment or injustice at the hands of a foreign Government causes the most bitter feelings in any country—easily the most bitter than can be aroused, and far more bitter than those occasioned by the mere loss of territory.

It is obvious that any solution which tends to make war less probable is one which is worthy of attention for two reasons. The first is that modern war, instead of becoming less savage in its methods, is becoming far more savage; the second is that in considerably less than a generation we have had two world wars. The first shook our civilization, the second has largely destroyed it. Can it therefore be doubted that if a third comes to pass within the lifetime even of our youngest children, civilization as we know it will cease to exist for a prolonged period and that we shall have again a repetition of the dark ages? In these circumstances I think it will be worth the while of the United Nations in conclave to consider the suggestions that I have put forward even if they are not already doing so. It may well be that these suggestions may be found to be impracticable, although I do not myself think that they will. To-day I am not asking the noble Viscount who is to reply for any specific answer, because if a specific answer could be given I should be disappointed. That may seem a paradox but it is not. If any definite answer were given at the present time it would mean that the whole problem was being prejudiced and that would be a fatal error, because no man can say what conditions will be at the end of the war, no one knowing when the war will end. All that I do ask is that, if these problems are not being considered from the angle suggested at the present time, they may be so considered, in the hope that some steps may be taken which will render the recurrence of war less likely, at least for a good long time to come. To-day the world is so interlocked that it is unlikely that any minor war in Europe could spring up which would not turn into a major war, and a major European war is all too likely to develop into another world war, with all the consequences which I have just mentioned. I beg to move for Papers.


My Lords, when my noble friends saw this Motion on the Paper they considered it ill chosen and ill timed, and decided that we had better ignore it. But on thinking it over it seemed that that attitude might be misunderstood, and I would like, if I may, to attempt to make some observations on the Motion and the speech we have heard from the noble Earl. And I must say, having listened carefully to his eloquent speech, I think that the Motion is more mischievous than ever. The noble Earl apparently is quite oblivious of the tremendous practical problem of salvage and life saving which will face the United Nations, indeed all the nations of Europe, when the last shot has been fired. I have had the privilege of discussing this matter with very important European personalities concerned in U.N.R.R.A. and other organizations dealing with the problem which will face us, and with some of the important Americans; also with my right honourable friend Mr. Greenwood, who had to consider the question at the time when he was Minister Without Portfolio, and with my noble friend Lord Addison, who knows it very well, and others; and indeed it is not easy to exaggerate the difficulties of the problem that will face the United Nations in the chaos and disorganization of the famine, starvation and disease which will have to be cleared up. If, on top of this, you are going artificially to create more difficulties by taking people whose ancestors hundreds of years ago lived in another country, uprooting them and their families, liquidating their property, and selling their cattle, and sending them back to what was their country of origin, you are only making more trouble, and in practice you will not be able to look at it.

I am advised that the first great problem in Europe, when we are able to tackle the whole scheme of reconstruction, will be transport. The European transport system already is badly disorganized, with ports bombed and railways damaged, and it will be much more so in the course of the military operations that will take place before the fighting is over. That is the greatest priority of all. It will not be a question of whether a man belongs to this or that racial group in such-and-such an enclave of Europe, but whether he is starving and how he can be kept alive. The second priority will be medical relief, and then you will have to try and get industry and husbandry going again. You may have to send corn and to help in renewing the cattle stock, provide raw material, and so on. The ordinary machinery of life will have to be restored. In addition to that, we are planning on the presumption that the war with Japan will not yet be over, so that we shall have a shipping shortage to add to all these other difficulties. I do not think the noble Earl or those who think with him have considered these questions at all, when they talk glibly of shipping the whole of these three million Germans from East Prussia and sending them to Württemberg and so on. The noble Earl talks about the "compulsory transfer of minorities to the land of their racial origin. "We shall be lucky if we can prevent many hundreds of thousands of innocent people dying of starvation.

Further, frontiers as we at present know them are for some years going to be meaningless terms. The whole idea of laying out new frontiers in this chaotic and anarchic Europe and allowing people to set up new customs barriers is grotesque. You have to treat Europe as a unit and make use of any means to help rescue it from starvation. At this moment we have an awful example before our eyes in liberated Italy. I wish the noble Earl would go to Italy and see the things that my friends write about and tell me about when they come back. The breakdown of the public morale in liberated Italy is terrible. Not only are there hunger and general disorganization, but the Italians, who are always regarded as a civilized people, are now even neglecting their own personal hygiene. Such is the deterioration brought about by the march of events; and that is in liberated Italy. What the conditions are in German-occupied Italy I do not know, but probably they are a great deal worse. In Italy we have only one comparatively limited area of two or three provinces to attempt to relieve.

With regard to the general proposition of the transfer of populations, this is in practice a most difficult thing to bring about. Of course the leading case is the exchange of populations between the two wars, between the Greeks and the Turks. That was carried out under most favourable circumstances. It was a voluntary exchange. Both Governments were helped by the other nations concerned, by the League of Nations. They were given financial help and the transfer was carried out in an orderly way. But it led to terrible hardship and suffering. You cannot uproot families who live for centuries in a certain part of Macedonia and ship them off to Asia Minor, or vice versa, without causing distress and suffering of all kinds. Another example of a population temporarily transferred was the population of the Saar. At the time the conditions appeared quite favourable and it was felt that at the end of the period, when the plebiscite was held, the inhabitants of the Saar would opt for France In practice, despite every good intention of the French, they voted almost solidly to go back to Germany. When we are talking about these different minorities and their ill treatment, according to Lord Mansfield's ideas—although I do not for a moment suggest this solution—it ought to apply to one of the sore spots of Europe with which we are familiar—Northern Ireland. What would he or his friends say if it were suggested as a solution of the difficulties in Ireland, that the whole of the Protestants in the Six Counties should be shipped back to the countries of their racial origin, back to Scotland and England? What would be said if that were the suggested solution? That is just as logical as what the noble Earl has argued with regard to East Prussia, Pomerania, Silesia, or the Balkan countries. One has only to state the case to show how impracticable it would be.

Thirdly, this Motion and the speech which we heard will—unintentionally, no doubt—be grist to Dr. Goebbels's mill. For the last two years or so there has been in Germany an exceedingly clever, subtle, unceasing, and extremely powerful propaganda, and I am sorry to say a successful propaganda, to instil into the German mind the idea that the Atlantic Charter is not to apply to the Germans and that the German race is to be exterminated. That is going on all the time, day and night, all round the clock, by every means, by an extremely efficient propaganda machine in Germany, asserting that the Allies intend to destroy Germany, to break her up, to dismember her, to enslave the German people, and so on. This idea of the noble Earl, (and also, I am sorry to say, of the Vansittart campaign), lends itself to misrepresentation by the Goebbels propaganda machine.

The aims of the Government and certainly of my Party have been declared quite openly and clearly, and we have never departed from them. We are fighting for what? To destroy the Nazi Party and system. That is the object of this war. We are not fighting the Germans as such, we are fighting to destroy the Nazi Party and system. Surely a prime military objective is to encourage the German people—we hope as soon as possible—to help us to do that. If we render them so desperate, and play into the hands of the Goebbels propaganda machine so frequently, that they fight to the last ditch and the last man, what will be the result? First, it will increase our own casualties. Secondly, it will prolong the fighting and so add to the miseries of occupied Europe. The situation in that respect may be past salvation if it goes on much longer. That is one of the reasons why I have prayed and argued for a short war; I see no merits in a long war. Thirdly, it will delay our great onslaught on the equally dangerous and malignant Japanese. A more sensible policy and a different emphasis in no way weakens our determination to punish war criminals—there is no difference between Parties on that—and to disarm, and keep disarmed, Germany. That is more important than playing with the mosaic of cultural and racial minorities in Europe—to disarm Germany and keep her disarmed, and see that she does not regain her military strength.

In August, 1940, the Prime Minister promised to the people of Europe in these words "the certainty that the shattering of Nazi power will bring to them all immediate food, freedom and peace." If we had carried on on those lines with our political warfare I believe it would have been far better. It may be said that the problem of racial minorities and racial conflicts will remain. That will be the argument—that you can disarm Germany but you will still have the problem of the Sudeten Germans, the Volksdeutsch in the Balkans, and so. These problems need not remain. The noble Earl mentioned Yugoslavia. That is the great example in Europe of a real mosaic of different, religious, cultural, and racial groups. There are thirteen separate racial groups in Yugoslavia, I believe, with perhaps seven major ones. It was hoped when Yugoslavia was created that these would be merged and would live happily together as the Swiss have done under their federal system. That hope failed for various reasons, one of which was Serb over-centralization. But the Yugoslavian racial problem is settling itself now in front of our eyes. This is partly due to German atrocities, which have united the people of these different racial, economic, and cultural stocks, and partly owing to the very wise, statesmanlike policy of the National Liberation Committee and Marshal Tito.

I agree with the noble Earl in hoping that King Peter will presently play the part he ought to play and put himself at the head of the people who are doing the fighting. In the National Liberation Committee in Yugoslavia there are diverse elements—Moslem Turks, very tough and what I may call a reactionary, religious and racial minority in the Balkans; Macedonians, the most troublesome people in the past; and even the German Volksdeutsch have joined the banners of the Partisan Army and are fighting against the Germans now with great success. There are other diverse elements as well; in the part of the country that is being liberated, as well as Serbs and Croats, the two principal races, there are influential representatives of all the principal minorities. There you have federalism working as it was intended to work when Yugoslavia was first established after the last war. It has been brought about by the pressure of events, including German atrocities, which have a very unifying effect. The truth is that as this war progresses we can see in front of our eyes many of the old racial cleavages yielding to the far greater issue of Fascism against Anti-Fascism. As I listened to the noble Earl's speech I was not quite certain in which camp he had his foot. It is on this issue that the war is really being fought.


My Lords, I do not intend to follow the noble Earl who put forward this Motion on questions such as the future boundaries of Germany and Poland. These are much better for the time being left in abeyance to be settled later; but I do feel that the noble Lord who has just sat down took a rather short-term view of the problem of minorities. I want to deal with that problem, the problem of minorities, and only that. The Motion speaks of "racial, religious, or cultural minorities." Frankly I do not quite know what a cultural minority is. Perhaps I and many of your Lordships belong to a cultural minority. We probably prefer classical music to "swing". We are in a minority if we do. Again, we are in a majority sometimes because we may prefer Jane Austen's works to those of James Joyce. The truth is that most of us—and it is true of people in all countries—sometimes belong to a cultural minority and sometimes to a cultural majority. I do not think that cultural tendencies can really be a danger to the peace of Europe. Therefore I would like to put cultural minorities on one side.

Then I come to religious minorities. There again I do not believe religious minorities, as such, are a menace to European tranquillity, and I am fortified in that by my friend Sir Geoffrey Knox, in a book which I am sure the noble Lord has read. It is called The last Peace and the Next. There he says that in the case of religious minorities he has known of no case where the privileges granted by treaty to such minorities were abused. I do not think "privileges" is the right word. It ought to be guarantees. Those guarantees are of fairly ancient origin. They started, I think, at the Congress of Berlin in 1878. That Congress laid down that in Rumania, in Serbia, in Turkey, and also in Bulgaria, there should be religious toleration. That principle was extended by treaties signed in 1919 with Poland and Czechoslovakia and various other countries and we were one of the signatories. By them religious minorities were given complete freedom to exercise their religion. It was further laid down that they should, in comparison with the majority, have full enjoyment of their religious and educational facilities—that is to say, there were to be no disabilities. I do not intend to enter into that aspect of minority treaties to-day because I rather expect I shall be forced, at a later stage, to call your Lordships' special attention to various points in those treaties. What I want to emphasize now is that I do not think religious minorities, as such, can be a danger to future peace.

If thus we eliminate cultural and religious minorities we are left with racial minorities, and it is those minorities which I think that the noble Earl had mainly in mind when he made his speech. Quite frankly I think he has got a fairly good case about them. The situation in Central Europe and in South-Eastern Europe is extremely confused and complicated. I do not pretend to try to deal with it as a whole. I am going to limit my remarks to German minorities. Let us consider for one moment what was the origin of these minorities. Most of them—I do not say all—were German colonists pushed forward really as an advance guard of the German Drang nach Osten and to promote German Kultur. Curiously enough, you will find that the greater number of them are not linked up territorially with Germany. They were what one might call, perhaps, political hedgehogs. It is curious that very little individual emigration took place in the sense which we would understand to-day. It was mass emigration and not individual emigration.

I know that at the end of the last war this problem of Germans separated by considerable distances from their Motherland caused very great difficulty to those who had to draw up the boundaries of the various European States. I am only going to speak of one instance which I know best, that of Upper Silesia. Your Lordships are probably aware that a plebiscite was taken in Upper Silesia and it was found that, although there was a German majority in that province, there were a very large number of Poles who inhabited it. The problem of Upper Silesia was referred to the Supreme Council. They failed to settle it because the French and British Governments took entirely divergent views. They agreed on one thing: that the problem was so difficult that it had better be referred to the League of Nations. It did go to the League, and the Council of the League came to the conclusion that in view of the very large number of Poles it would only be equitable that the province should be divided proportionately according to the number of Poles and the number of Germans living in it.

They then told the experts to draw up a boundary line. The experts set to work. What did they find? They found that a large mass of Poles lived in the territories adjoining Germany and a very large mass of Germans lived in the territories to the east. They did not know what to do, so they asked for instructions, and a Committee which the Council set up to help them decided that the matter should be pursued on the following lines. The partition which had been arranged should continue, and as many Germans should be included in the German sphere and as many Poles in the Polish sphere as possible. But even then there was a large mass of Germans left under what was to be Polish territory and a considerable number of Poles left in the German sphere. So they decided that the boundary should be such that the nationals of the two countries would be forced, for economic reasons, to live in peace and amity. The boundary was therefore drawn, not in conformity with the natural features of the territory, but on a line which ran through towns, through villages, through houses and actually through coal mines. What was the object of doing that? The object was to try by economic means to force the Germans and Poles to work together and thus to drown their natural animosities.

If your Lordships will permit me, I am going to digress for one moment to tell you a little story about certain negotiations that took place. When we were dealing with this country we came to a small strip about which the experts said there were no valid reasons why it should go to Germany or why it should go to Poland. To whom ought it to go? I put the question to Lord Balfour, who was then the British representative on the Council. He thought for a moment, and then he said: "Well, as conditions are equal, ought we not to favour our friends rather than our enemies?" I thought that rhetorical question by Lord Balfour asserted a very important principle which we ought to bear in mind in the future, one which it seems to me we have sometimes, perhaps too often, forgotten in the past.

To revert to my main argument, the tragedy was that in spite of these economic measures which the Council took they failed to reconcile Germans in the Polish sphere to their destiny and to make them loyal citizens. The usual sequence happened which happened not only in Upper Silesia but also, I am afraid, in the case of nearly all the German minorities. When Germany was weak, the minorities lay low and professed loyalty. When Germany got stronger, the complaints of the minorities got stronger and louder. When Hitler had come into power the minorities gradually threw off the mask, and ultimately they became the fervent supporters and adherents of a Greater Germany with which they wished to be united. It is true that there were certain loyal exceptions who did their best to prevent this happening, but by terroristic means and other methods they were unfortunately rendered completely impotent. With a record like that before us I do feel that when peace is being made no Government ought to be compelled to accept the continuance in their country of racial minorities who are likely to develop subversive tendencies. We must think of the future peace and prosperity of Europe. I therefore hope that the Governments of the countries concerned will be allowed to decide for themselves whether they desire total transference to their racial land of these minorities, or partial transference, or whether, as I think will sometimes be the case, they are content that the minorities should continue within their own boundaries.

I quite realize that these proposals will be the subject of violent criticism. Some of it has already been mentioned by the noble Lord who has just spoken. The reason for that is that it will add to the total sum of human misery which is already very great. I admit that at the outset of any such arrangement there will be considerable unhappiness, but I think we have to take a longer view than that. In any case, there has got to be a most enormous resettlement of all the populations of Europe, and I would ask whether it is really likely that a German minority is going to live happily in that strong and reconstructed Poland, that independent Poland, which we all hope to see created. I do not think, however, that a Government is likely to wish for the complete transfer of a minority if by doing so it is likely to destroy its own economic life. I quite agree with the noble Lord that a great difficulty is going to be transport. That is a problem with which we shall be faced, but I sincerely hope there will be some method of overcoming it. I hope, too, that when the Governments take their decision they will bear in mind that according to the Moscow Declaration an international authority for the preservation of peace is going to be established. This authority when established is certainly likely to exercise a pacifying in- fluence. Perhaps therefore the Governments, when that authority is established, may be able—I hope they will be able—to avoid extreme measures which otherwise they might feel it necessary to take in order to arrive at their own security in future.

I have only spoken of German minorities. There are many others scattered about Europe, and certainly their future is going to provide a great test of the ability of those who are called upon to make peace. The reason I have not dealt with them is that I do not believe they are going to be a menace to the future of Europe or likely to cause war. I am afraid the German minorities, left as they are, may be that. It is for that reason that I trust His Majesty's Government may be able to give some reassurance to the noble Earl who put forward this Motion.


My Lords, I find myself in a considerable measure of agreement with the speech that has just been made, though there are one or two points on which I should not quite follow what my noble friend has said. With regard to the Motion on the Paper and the speech with which it was introduced, perhaps I may be forgiven for saying that I was a little startled by the speech because I had read the Motion as merely dealing with minorities whereas the speech was quite as much devoted to the question of territorial rearrangements in Europe. That is a much more complicated and much more difficult matter. I hope personally that we shall be very careful indeed in what we say on that subject, for I confess myself in this matter a disciple of the Prime Minister when he said that all territorial questions would be much better left over as far as possible until the war is ended.

As to the specific question of minorities, I understand the mover of this Motion to desire to reconstitute Europe as far as possible (he recognized of course the difficulty of the operation) into a number of States completely unified as far as possible racially, in matters of religion and culturally—I share my noble friend Lord Perth's difficulty in knowing exactly what is meant by "culturally"—with as little difference of opinion on any of these matters as possible. I think if you look round the world it is quite evident that mere difference on religious matters, for instance, does not necessarily involve any break in national unity, still less any desire to destroy or upset international stability. We have in this country a great number of religious minorities. I do not think they have for many years—I will not say never—been a source of any kind of difficulty or anxiety to those charged with the duty of preserving peace at home and abroad. It is the same with the racial minorities. We have received and assimilated, to our great advantage, a large number of racial minorities. The classical example is that of the Huguenots, who came over after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes. I do not think that they ever caused any serious difficulty here apart from a certain amount of economic difficulty when they first arrived; and they have become some of the most loyal and most efficient subjects of His Majesty, and have been nothing but an advantage to us. As for the cultural minorities, I am not sure enough that I know exactly what the noble Earl intended by that term to say anything about it.

I venture very respectfully to submit that the test is really that laid down in the Atlantic Charter. The question is whether the minorities, religious and racial, and the majorities are content to live together under the sovereignty under which they exist. It is their agreement and their attitude of mind which matter. In some cases their attitude of mind is embittered by differences of religion or differences of race, but not in all. There are some States made up of people with the widest differences. The most striking case is that of the Republic of Switzerland, where there are three races and more than three religions in a small country whose people live together in the greatest harmony and never have the slightest difficulty with one another, at any rate nowadays, whatever may have been the case in the past. I think, therefore, that we must not exaggerate this difficulty of minorities. No doubt Hitler used the wholly false allegations which he and his friends made about the treatment of the German minorities in the Sudeten province of Czechoslovakia to justify his aggressive policy, but it really had not anything to do with it. That policy depended on quite other considerations, and on the broad theory that the Germans, as a superior race, were entitled to dominate Europe. That was the fundamental conception which he had, and he used these and other excuses for the action which he took. I do not believe that there is the slightest ground for saying that the treatment of the German minority in the Sudeten province had any appreciable force in producing the action of the Germans which led to this war. The truth is that the difficulties have always been difficulties of politics and difficulties due to the desire of some German minorities—not all—to be more loyal to a State outside their boundaries than to the State in which they live.

Having said that, I do not wish to deny that, in cases where there are minorities with these desires, a considerable degree of unrest is caused in the locality, and is apt to spread to the rest of Europe, and indeed, as we see now, unhappily, to the rest of the world. I quite agree, therefore, that to get rid not of the minorities but of the discontent which some minorities feel is a very important object which statesmanship should pursue. It has pursued it. This is by no means a new question, as your Lordships are very well aware. Something has been said about the Treaty of Berlin of 1878, and reference has been made to the provision that, wherever a country obtained a considerable accession to its territorial limits, that should be on condition that it treated the minorities with absolute fairness and impartiality, and in fact as well as it treated other parts of its population. That provision, which is expressed in quite general terms in the Treaty of 1878, was the foundation of the Treaties agreed to in 1919, which affected several countries, and also of the subsequent international policy which tried to extend the principle of favourable minority treatment to other countries as opportunity served.

I know that there are a great many people who think that these so-called Minority Treaties were ineffective and did no good, but I am not myself of that opinion. I think that they did a great deal of good, but they did not do everything. A certain amount of discontent was still left; as time went on, the different countries became less and less willing to put the Minority Treaties into force; and we were faced with the difficulty of what to do with countries which would not carry out their treaty obligations. Even so, I think that on balance good and not harm was done. I quite recognize the difficulty of the position, but I hope that something of the same kind will find its way into any final settlement at which we arrive after this war. There will have to be certain differences. The Treaties of 1919 really created different classes of States, some of which were bound by treaty to behave impartially and justly towards their minorities while others had no such obligations. That caused, as my noble friend Lord Perth will remember, very grave discontent, on the ground that there was not fair treatment for the different States. That will have to be put right in some way if we are to preserve the treaty rights of minorities.

All that, however, will seem to my noble friend Lord Mansfield a very minor remedy, and will not at all satisfy him. His mind moves in a very much larger orbit than is contained in the provisions which I have tried to describe. He wants, as I have said, a complete reconstruction racially of Europe and a complete unification of the racial, religious and cultural conditions of every State and of the population of every State. I am afraid that I regard that as a quite impracticable proposal, and I think that it would cause immense suffering. I think that my noble friend underrates the suffering which is caused by the uprooting of populations and their transfer elsewhere. Something has been said of what was done in the case of Turkey and Greece, where something like a million people were removed from Asia Minor and settled in Greece. It was done at immense expense, and with great ability and great devotion by the Greeks. They spent large sums of money and were helped by other nations to find the money in order to settle the people of their own blood in their own country. But some observers at any rate, quite impartial British observers, reported that the suffering involved, even in that case, where the thing was done as well as it could be done, was tremendous.


It was a great success.


So it was, but with great suffering also. They did succeed in re-establishing the Greeks, but I rather doubt whether the success was equal at the other end and whether the Turks did not really lose a great deal more than they gained. That is almost the only case, so far as I know, where the forcible transfer of great populations has been accomplished with real success, and even there, as I say, it caused great suffering. I do hot deny that there must be cases, after this war, in which it would be impossible to leave populations under the same sovereignty as that which they lived under before the war. Something has been said about the Sudeten province. I cannot doubt that the restored Government of Czechoslovakia will desire to get rid of some at any rate of the German population in the Sudeten province, who showed themselves thoroughly disloyal to the Government of the Republic, and were one of the causes—one of the excuses at any rate—of the great misfortunes that have happened to that country. They will have to be removed, I have no doubt. There are many other cases of the same kind, unhappily, that have occurred in Europe. The people who have been guilty of such conduct, I entirely agree, must be removed, and this must cause a great deal of difficulty. The practical difficulties will be very great, but I feel sure that the Governments concerned will insist on transfers of that kind. All I venture to plead—and that is where I do not agree with this Motion at all—is that that must be left to the Governments concerned. Czechoslovakia will have to settle what she will do with the people within her borders, and I think it would be a most disastrous thing if anything like pressure were employed, or advice were given to her, as to what she should do with the populations which will come under her rule. I feel very certain that any attempt of that kind will do nothing but harm, and will cause far greater suffering than it will relieve and much danger to the peace of Europe.

I do hope that whatever we do we are going to avoid all sympathy with, and all actions depending on, the doctrines which have been put forward in Germany recently, these racial doctrines. They are really pernicious, there is really nothing to say for them, and even if there was an element of truth in them, they have caused infinitely more suffering than they have cured. I hope that whatever we do we shall say that the great thing really is to promote the happiness and peacefulness of the world. If you can persuade all the people now in the territories of a given country to live really peaceably and loyally as citizens of that country, that is the best thing that can happen. The example of Switzerland and the example of this country show how it can be done. If it can be done you not only get a perfectly peaceful solution of your difficulty, but you get a great increase in. the power and vigour of the country that absorbs this new blood and these new interests. It is an illusion to suppose that there is really anything advantageous in having the whole population of a country made according to rule, all disciplined by a Government at the top, all thinking exactly what the Government at the top directs. All that is quite foreign to human nature, and most pernicious. What you really want is variety, energy, initiative, All those things are promoted by differences, of race, and even differences of religion, provided always that the peoples affected by these differences have the fundamental desire to live together and work together for the common advantage of all.

I feel that in this matter, as in so many others, we have a tremendous series of choices before us. We shall have to take the lead. Let us say so quite boldly. I am searching for a word which will not seem too arrogant to use, but we shall have to take the lead in matters of plain fair play and justice, and on the example we give very much will depend in the future of the peoples of Europe, and indeed of the world. Therefore I plead very earnestly with the Government that, whatever view they may take on this and that detail of the minority question, they will recollect that the essential thing is not to follow some theory about racialism, or anything of that kind, but to do that which will be just and fair to all the peoples concerned, and which will cause an improvement, and not a lowering, of the standards of morality and justice in the world. That is the principle which I hope they will go upon; and I believe, with my noble friend Lord Perth, that in order to get the true impartiality of atmosphere in dealing with these questions, you must resort to some form of international authority.

I quite agreed with the noble Earl, Lord Mansfield, in one point if not perhaps in all, and that was when he said that the matter must not be hurried. that it was a very difficult matter and we must not rush it. I entirely agree with that. Premature decisions as to boundaries, or even as to the principles of minority treatment, may easily do a. great deal of harm. In this case I am satisfied we must show great caution. We must not attempt premature efforts which will ultimately do harm and not good. That is why I should personally prefer to see your international authority to deal with this and very many other matters set up as soon as possible. And then I should say to the international authority: "The principles are those which were laid down in the Atlantic Charter and the Moscow Declaration. It is your business to carry out those principles after full inquiry and full consideration, and to do so in such a way as will promote peace in the world."


My Lords, the noble Earl, Lord Mansfield, has raised an extraordinarily important question, and everyone must agree with him in the object he places before us in connexion with his proposal—namely, the ensuring of permanent peace and the necessity of reaping the utmost fruit of total victory. But it seems to me that he talks somewhat airily of the plan that he suggests for effecting this object. He talks as if the movement of populations was a thing you can undertake without excessive difficulty. In order to judge of his plan it is fortunate we have experience to go upon. Hitler has set a frightful example of the movement of populations by force, but it is for us to consider what precedent there is of orderly transportation.

A word or two more than has been said may be relevant on the precedents. There is chiefly the Greco-Turkish migration. There is also the Greco-Bulgarian migration following upon the Treaty of Neuilly, which indicated that a voluntary system of exchange between the two Governments was desirable. That Treaty established an exchange system with international representatives. The League took part, and it operated from 1922 to 1930. The two Governments were in agreement, and therefore conditions were greatly aided, but such was the objection of the persons concerned—mainly peasants—to leaving their homes that coercion was required on a very large scale. Both peasants and townsmen had to be forcibly evicted. The Government carrying out the eviction was naturally, in the nature of things, an alien Government to the persons evicted. To ensure fairness in such an action a most elaborate machinery is required for the valuation of the goods that the person is leaving behind and of the property he is unable to take with him. Consideration for the victim is naturally not easy to exercise especially on the part of a Government which is already hampered by extreme impoverishment. The result in this case was that eviction was often as painful as evictions of which we heard nearer home.

When the people arrived in their new quarters they were generally in for a miserable time. Houses often were not ready, land was not equipped, marshes had been imperfectly reclaimed in order to provide land for them. The League machinery was busy for years with malaria and the resulting mortality. Transportation at the best proved to be inhumane in the extreme. We are concerned with that particular aspect because, after all, we are condemning the enemy very largely on the grounds of the inhumanity that he represents. Sir John Hope Simpson, who was the British leader of this business, used remarkable words. Although of course he was concerned to show that the thing was a success on the whole, he said that it involved an appalling amount of misery and hardship. That was a very striking declaration, coming from him.

Allusion has been made to the still larger exchange of population between the Greeks and the Turks. That was effected under the most favourable conditions possible. It gained from the great prestige of Dr. Nansen who fathered the whole thing. The Governments were agreed, the population was extremely suitable, very hardy, very frugal, and the cost was almost incredibly low for the actual settlement on new agricultural holdings. When I think of what it costs in this country, it is hardly believable that this movement, including new housing and stocking in due time—for it took time—was as low as £80 per family settled. The result, as has been said, was politically very satisfactory. A homogeneous population resulted. In 1920, before the operation began, Greece was as to 80 per cent, composed of Greeks, and in 1928 it had become 93 per cent. Greek. Turks in Greece had been in 1920 13.9 per cent, of the population, and in 1928 they had fallen to 1.6 per cent. It was indeed a gigantic work. There had been 1,250,000 Greeks in Turkey and they practically all moved. They had lived until 1923 on American charity, and then the League came in because of the possibility of American aid ceasing. The League was active. It facilitated loans which led to the actual subscription of all but £10,000,000 in the case of the Greco-Turkish migration and over £2,000,000 in the case of the Greco-Bulgarian transfer. Some 650,000 more people were settled and 2,000 agricultural colonies formed for them.

Politically, the position has been greatly improved, everyone agrees, but, as my noble friend Lord Cecil of Chelwood said, at a very terrible cost. On that point there is very remarkable evidence to be quoted. Lord Curzon—not, I suppose, the most sentimental or emotional of men—was concerned in the business at the Lausanne Conference in 1923. He used these astonishing words. He said, "It is a thoroughly bad and vicious solution for which the world will pay a heavy penalty for a hundred years to come." If he thought that of the most manageable case of transportation, what would he think of transportation of far more highly developed populations, with not even an exchange of population to palliate the vicious features of the event?

Not to burden your Lordships with more on these Near Eastern precedents, what light do they throw on the plan before us? It seems to me to assume annexation of German territory on a considerable scale. Naturally there will be adjustments on borders, as there were at the end of the last war, but we are apparently assuming something very broad. It raises the much bigger question of the wisdom of annexation itself on a large scale and it raises the bearing of the Atlantic Charter. But that subject, I take it, deserves a separate debate and is not relevant to the particular proposal which Lord Mansfield has made. That in the main no doubt has in view the question of Poland. The population of East Prussia is 2,200,000 and other countries discussed in connexion with this proposal would bring the total population probably between Germany and Poland up to 8,000,000. They talk also of Pomerania, of Silesia, and of course of Danzig, and if you add the 3,000,000 or more Germans of the Sudetenland the population may come to 11,000,000. That mass, it is assumed, would be thrown into Germany at a time of great disorder. The Greek affair was a big thing but this would be on a scale perhaps ten times larger than that. These people would be pushed in no doubt without undue delay, and if there is to be also at the same time very considerable disorder in Germany, the position of those British officers of Amgot, or it may be of some more permanent force of occupation, who will be in charge, will not be very enviable. We are told that the economic reconstruction of Germany is to be desired, and we are told to foster recovery. Surely an economic upset of that kind in Germany would work in the opposite direction and it would not be an easy job for our officials and others responsible for carrying out the avowed policy.

Then my noble friend Lord Strabolgi said there would be the question of the physical transport of the people at that time. That would surely be of equal urgency for the movement of the populations who have been atrociously transferred by Germany to other countries. It is estimated this may mean 15,000,000.




Possibly more than 15,000,000, I do not know. It may be 20,000,000. In any case the question of transport involved in this proposal cannot be ignored. It is very attractive, especially to those of us who know something of Eastern Europe, to think of a more consolidated, homogeneous population and of clean frontiers, but it cannot be denied that the objections to this proposal are very great. As I said, there is no element of exchange to give a sort of justification for it. There are no Poles to speak of in Germany with whom to exchange. Again, would it not be a bad start for Poland to begin, by treading on the principle of nationality and of national autonomy? The case for Poland itself is based on the claims of nationalism and we should all foe sorry to see the Poles begin with any sort of minor imperialistic action. That is to be avoided, if possible. The principle of democracy would come off rather badly under this plan.

Again, supposing the virulence of nationalism across Eastern Europe should die down. It may die down. Indeed it is already giving way to other idealisms, and another ideology may take its place. If that happened then all this gigantic suffering would have been in vain. We must of course work with those great Allies with whom we are fighting the war. But on these points I do see already that in America protests are being voiced in the Press against this very proposal and I doubt whether it would go through without very much difficulty. Would it not be a kind of defeatism to accept the impossibility of bringing about some happier order in Europe, some better relations than have existed between these intermixed nationalities? We surely must not abandon that hope. Again I am sure that British reputation would be in some danger if we, on whom the action itself would not fall, should seem by the advice of others to favour a work of this very objectionable kind. Above all, would transportation be a factor for peace? I was very interested to hear Lord Mansfield say that it would, but it cannot be doubted that the policy would furnish, after a. period of years, perhaps, just the sort of material which would help aggressive leaders to bring about another war.


My Lords, I have not always found myself in complete agreement with the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, but I must say I had very considerable sympathy this afternoon with the opening words of the speech he addressed to your Lordships. I could not help feeling a regret, and I think it is a regret shared by many of your Lordships, that the noble Earl, Lord Mansfield, should have thought fit at the present juncture to table a Motion on the extremely difficult and delicate subject of the future of minorities. A thirst for information is in itself an excellent thing, but surely it should be allied with discretion, and I cannot feel that the existing conditions of the day properly admit of a free and full discussion in public session of the details of this inevitably delicate subject, especially if we are dealing with the future on which the noble Earl himself, I think a little rashly, intruded.

There is always a danger that a debate of this character in war-time may be on the whole of more value to our enemies than it is to our friends. I only hope that will not be so to-day. In any case, I think it has led to two remarkable and extremely valuable contributions, out of the fruits of their past experience, from the noble Earl, Lord Perth, and my noble relative Lord Cecil of Chelwood, two of the greatest experts that exist in this country on this, as I have said, particularly difficult and complex subject. I felt that their speeches underlined the complexity of the issues with which the Governments concerned will have to deal when the time for making peace comes. In the circumstances in which we are placed, I am quite certain your Lordships' House will not expect from me, on behalf of the Government, a very detailed declaration of Government policy. That would certainly be quite impossible. The most I can do is to indicate to your Lordships some of the main -considerations which I would suggest must be in the minds of the Governments—and it must be remembered that we are only one of those Governments and therefore cannot make a unilateral declaration on this most thorny aspect of the peace settlement.

The problem of minorities is, of course, only one aspect of the situation which will face the victorious Powers when Germany is finally driven to surrender. They will be faced with a continent in which many millions of people, far outnumbering all the national minorities, have been torn from their homes, in circumstances often of great barbarity, to work in the factories and on the fields of Germany and her satellite accomplices. The repatriation of these exiles will constitute, as I think the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, said, a gigantic problem of organization, transport, supplies and rehabilitation. Many will have no homes to which to return, and over large regions in Europe economic life will have been so dislocated by the demands of Germany's total warfare that a fresh start will have to be made. And even this leaves out of account the numbers of men in the Allied fighting forces, the prisoners of war, the refugees, and the unhappy inmates of the concentration camps in enemy controlled countries. It must be remembered too that German minorities are not the only, or even the principal ones which have, in the past, threatened the peace of Europe. In passing, I would say that I accept the limitation placed on the word minority by the noble Earl, Lord Perth. I, like him, do not quite understand what a cultural minority is. I would not go so far as he did when he spoke about religious minorities, because my short experience has been that the religious and racial character of minorities is often so inextricably intermingled that a religious minority is probably also a racial minority. I quite agree with him that there is nothing new about minority problems. I think he said the problem went back to the beginning of the nineteenth century.




I would have gone much further back and said it has always existed. It was present, for instance, when the children of Israel passed through the Red Sea, and when by the waters of Babylon they sat down and wept, and in one way or another it has been going on ever since. It is one of the oldest problems in the world. But the problem, as we know it, of the national minority, which I may perhaps, for this purpose, be allowed to define as a group of citizens cherishing aspirations which conflict with those of the majority of the State in which they live—this problem, in its modern form, dates certainly not earlier than the Middle Ages. It has steadily accelerated and increased ever since. As a result of the Napoleonic Wars, Germany began to cast loose from the Holy Roman Empire. Towards the beginning of the nineteenth century the germs of separatism were injected into the body of the Ottoman Empire. And finally, as a consequence of the war of 1914–1918, Austro-Hungary—the residuary legatee of the medieval system—broke up into a number of separate States, each with its fringe or enclave of minorities, the backwash, as it were, of the many successive tides of European history.

Meanwhile the idea of government with the consent of the governed had been making progress; and the joint operation of both conceptions—of government by consent and of the nation-state—was designated as a major international interest by President Wilson's famous word "self-determination." Thus it came about that minority problems received in 1919 much more attention than they had received in any previous political settle- ments. When the opportunity of drawing new frontiers was presented, care was taken to exclude as far as possible an alien population from the newly delimited areas. It was on account of such decisions that the territorial settlements of Versailles, St. Germain, Neuilly, Trianon and Lausanne were perhaps from this point of view the fairest ever drawn up by nations after a European war. The problem of minorities, however, inevitably remained, in spite of all efforts to solve it, and with the problem remained the dilemma—how to satisfy at once the instincts of the nation-state and the principle of government by consent.

The immediate answer given to that problem (on its permanent solution I shall have something to say later) may be read in the long and complicated story of the Minority Treaties which followed the last war. With them my noble friend Lord Perth and I myself are only too painfully familiar. The noble Viscount, Lord Cecil, said that on the whole the Minority Treaties, had been worth while. I think perhaps they were worth while as an experiment; but they certainly were not a success. As all of us who have had any experience on this question know, the protection of a minority, whether by international supervision or municipal law, by unilateral arrangement or by bilateral agreement, is a task of the utmost difficulty and complexity. Your Lordships will not expect me, I am sure, to embark on the very detailed discussion of these matters, but I can assure you that the lessons to be derived from the working of the treaties I have mentioned are being very carefully studied by His Majesty's Government and will certainly be taken into account by those responsible for the final settlement. We certainly must not make the same mistakes that undoubtedly were made last time.

I come now to the Motion of the noble Earl, Lord Mansfield, which concerns what I may term the opposite extreme in the treatment of minorities to the policy of protection—the elimination, in fact, of the minority as a distinctive part of the State. Precedents are not lacking for the transfer of populations, though in its brutality the most recent example, that of Germany's deportation of peoples in overrun territories, is not one which we should any of us desire to follow. It may be of interest, in this connexion, to recall the words spoken by Hitler on October 6, 1939. He said: The whole East and South-East of Europe is filled with splinters of German nationality which cannot be maintained. … It is therefore one of the tasks of a far-seeing order of European life to carry out resettlements in this area so as to remove at least one of the sources of conflict in Europe. The meaning attached by Hitler to the word "resettlement" we all now have reason to know. It was nothing less than the conquest by force of arms, and subsequent occupation by German settlers, of the territory of his neighbours, into which the spearheads of his Nazi controlled minorities had already plunged. But for the recognition by the person most qualified to judge, Hitler himself, of the danger to European peace represented by these minorities, we may be to some extent grateful. His words will not be forgotten when the time comes, and still less likely to be forgotten are the actions which followed.

It may possibly be that in certain cases—and I emphasize the words "in certain cases"—no other solution than that of transfer will eventually be found possible by the United Nations, if the peace of Europe is to be secured. If, for instance, on other grounds the frontiers of a State have to be drawn in such a way as to include a minority, hating and hated by its fellow-citizens and liable to persecution by them, and obviously out to promote civil and political disharmony in the State in which it lives, the case for an outright transfer is certainly one for very serious consideration, as the noble Earls, Lord Mansfield and Lord Perth, have said. In my view, however, we should be under no illusions. Such a solution in itself is no panacea for the troubles of Europe. Even in the limited spheres in which it operates, grave difficulties are likely to be encountered. I am very far from saying that they are insuperable, but the fact should be faced that they exist.

First of all, there is the difficulty of securing a stable settlement. Any peace settlement has to balance the claims of the Power in whose favour the frontier is altered against the danger of leaving the Power who loses by the alteration with a grievance which will threaten future peace. I do not think that this danger should be over-emphasized, but it is one which must not be entirely ignored. Then there are the difficulties which arise from the character of the populations concerned. On the whole, rural populations are in themselves the easiest to move, for the very obvious reason that the problems of agriculture do not, broadly speaking, differ fundamentally from one area to another. On the other hand, rural populations are at the same time far the most conservative and deeply-rooted populations which exist. Highly-skilled workers, professional men, technicians and so on are, on the other hand, the most difficult to spare, if a territory is not to be faced with an immediate problem of dislocation and unemployment; yet it is precisely these classes of people who might be expected to have the least reluctance to leave, and whose expulsion for political reasons might be the most desirable. I quote that merely to show how very complex this problem is.

Politically speaking, the ultimate results of such transfers might well be beneficial, but they would certainly, as Lord Strabolgi has said, involve short-term economic difficulties of a most formidable kind, entailing, in particular, serious though temporary setbacks in production, which would require, in all probability, liberal assistance from outside for their successful solution. All this, moreover, must be set against the background, as I mentioned earlier, of a disorganized and impoverished Europe, whose speedy return to prosperity is of the utmost urgency if worse is not to befall us. Last, but not least, there is the suffering of the people concerned themselves. It is very easy in the consideration of political issues and of abstract economic statistics to forget the human factor involved, and the multitudinous ties of sentiment and association which make up the fabric of human society.

This aspect which has been mentioned in this debate is not, I can assure the House, forgotten by His Majesty's Government. The fact must be faced that transfers of the type which the noble Earl, Lord Mansfield, has mentioned would be everywhere feared and disliked by all the peoples concerned; we cannot get over that. Compulsion would necessarily have to be applied, and no devices such as provision for option and so on could prevent the occurrence of many cases of extreme hardship. It should, of course, be said, in mitigation of this, that experience has shown how quickly and effectively a rural population can be resettled, and that if the settlement is carefully organized and adequately financed the discontent need not necessarily in itself be enduring. Furthermore, the humanitarian case must be considered in relation to the causes of war. It can fairly be said, I think, that the suffering caused by a week's war would be more than the suffering caused by the efficient resettlement of these populations whose present situation is liable to endanger future peace. If, therefore, transfer, and transfer alone, seemed likely to ensure peace, I should personally take the view that the humanitarian argument must not be given more than its proper weight in the balance of considerations.

I have tried to place this complicated question in perspective, and to set it against the background of the vast problem, which will tax all the resources and all the good will and co-operative instincts of the United Nations, the problem of restoring peace and prosperity to a Europe devastated as never before in human history. Viewed against this background the problem of minorities, it becomes clear, is only one of the causes of war, and transfer of populations is only one method of dealing with this problem, and a method which is so drastic that it may well seem to your Lordships, as it certainly seems to me, to be one to be used only if all other methods are likely to fail, and if the minority problem in question is likely seriously to endanger peace. The saving of peace is the crucial point. That has been brought home to us by the unscrupulous use which has been made of minorities by Germany in the years between the two wars, and which has gone very far towards poisoning the normal and natural intercourse of nations.

But what of the minorities which cannot be transferred? Even if we did decide to apply in certain areas the drastic remedy of a transfer of population, in other districts minorities must inevitably still remain. What is to be done about them? This is a question which was lightly touched on by the noble Earl, Lord Perth, and by the noble Viscount, Lord Cecil of Chelwood. Anyone who has had experience of the minority problem in the years before this war will not, I think, harbour any false hopes that it will be easy to find clear-cut solutions for it. I had a feeling, when Lord Mansfield was speaking, that these questions sounded so terribly easy, but my experience at Geneva was that these problems are some of the hardest with which any statesmen or diplomats can possibly have to deal. As your Lordships know, many policies have in the past been advocated, ranging from full protection for the minority, either by international or national guarantee, to the elimination of the minority by transfer or assimilation, and including a combination of both methods. Alternatively, it has been suggested that nations containing minorities should bind themselves to some charter of individual human rights which should apply to minorities as to other sections of the communities concerned. I think it was the noble Viscount, Lord Cecil of Chelwood, who said that it was included in the Treaty of Berlin.


Something of that character.


It is quite possible that one might find some solution of that kind with rather more bite in it than perhaps the Treaty of Berlin had. At any rate this proposal has met with considerable support here, first of all because it coincides with long-established practice in our own country, and in the United States, and because it breathes the air of freedom and tolerance. It is in some ways, I think—this is a personal view—the most attractive of the various alternatives quoted for the solution of minority problems. But even so, I am bound to say that it would be a profound mistake to assume that it provides in itself a certain remedy. It is in any case not at all easy to formulate a statement of individual human rights, once generalities have been left behind. Moreover, even if this difficulty is surmounted, the charter of rights can always be in effect largely nullified by the ill-will of the majority. Whatever is put down on paper, if they do not want to play the game they can always nullify your efforts.

It is very easy to say our policy is based on the principle of non-discrimination and that the minority should be given by the State equal treatment, in law and in fact, with the majority. But how, in fact, is this to be guaranteed? In countries where the language and culture (I feel almost nervous about using the word) have not been perpetual battlegrounds, it might be safe to leave the fair and equal treatment of minorities to the good will of their Governments and local officials without any international guarantee. But, in the light of past experience, it would be utterly futile to attempt that over the greater part of Europe. On the other hand, an international guarantee which involves continual interference with the ordinary processes of internal law and administration in the countries concerned would be asking for trouble, and would only be likely to lead to constant friction and the eventual repudiation by Governments of their minority obligations.

Possibly, if I may suggest it, a solution might be found in some broad general declaration by the United Nations reprobating ill-treatment by a State of its minorities—some general statement of a standard to which they would be expected as members of the United Nations to conform, and indicating that if they did not conform to it certain sanctions would have to be applied to them. I only put that forward in a general form and not as a declaration of policy. I am thinking aloud, but it seems to me that it presents a possible method of getting over the difficulty. Of course, if one could impose such an obligation upon States and one were willing, if necessary, to take action to enforce a high standard, no doubt it might foe extremely effective; but certainly it would be impossible for any Government to put such a suggestion forward as a practical proposition until, first of all, we know what is to be the new international organization, and also what rights and obligations the members would be expected to assume. I merely put it forward as a possible line of approach. Other noble Lords will no doubt have other ideas, which they believe more practical.

There is one other point that I would like to deal with before I sit down. We should remember that the minorities themselves must play their part if minority problems are to be solved. They must not keep themselves to themselves; they must try and merge themselves in the general population. We ourselves in these islands, as I think Lord Cecil of Chelwood said in the course of his speech, had to face this problem in the earlier part of our history. As wave after wave of invaders crossed our shores, enclaves of Romans, Saxons and Danes were created all over our country, and on the top of that came the Norman invasion. At first, no doubt there was considerable friction between these heterogeneous elements. I have no doubt the British hated the Saxons, I have not the slightest doubt either that the Saxons cordially disliked the Normans. But now those things are mere episodes in past history. All these various waves of races have been welded together in one single coherent British race, and the memory of those distant problems is only kept alive by place names in various parts of the country. That, ultimately, we must hope, will be the evolution of countries in Central Europe, and that must be the aim of our endeavours. A policy which by the very act of protecting minorities kept alive these problems, and even extended them to areas where they do not exist at present, would be a very poor thing indeed.

In any case, I do not propose to dogmatize this afternoon. The question raised in the noble Earl's Motion was necessarily complex and delicate, and it is clearly not one on which any single Government can make a unilateral statement of policy. All I have sought to do is to expose broadly some of the considerations which will have to be borne in mind by those whose task it will be to frame the peace settlement. I can assure the noble Earl, Lord Mansfield, and the House that His Majesty's Government have these considerations very much in mind. The great thing that we have to do, as Lord Cecil of Chelwood said, is to promote the happiness and peacefulness of the world. I can say on behalf of His Majesty's Government that, so far as lies in our power, we are quite prepared to let that principle be our guide.


My Lords, the noble Viscount began his reply by addressing to me with his usual exquisite courtesy a mild chastisement for having raised this question at all. I fear, to use a tennis metaphor, I must return the service by applying the rebuff to the noble Viscount, inasmuch as the Motion has been on the Paper for a number of weeks and, had it seemed fit to him to make representations to me to withdraw it, I would of course have given those representations the most earnest consideration. At the same time, I must frankly disagree as to the inexpediency of raising the question at the present time, because it appears to me vital that it should be considered, at least in its broadest aspects, well before the conclusion of hostilities. Apart from this, however, I am glad to say that the noble Viscount's reply was very satisfactory indeed, and in a few minutes I shall ask your Lordships' leave to withdraw my Motion. But before doing so there are certain remarks which have been made in the course of the debate to which I feel some words are necessary in reply.

I have listened to the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, many times in your Lordships' House, but I do not think that I have ever heard him make a worse speech than he made this afternoon. To begin with, he hardly dealt at all with the matter in my Motion, but he did engage in what I fear is one of his favourite pastimes, the raising of imaginary brick walls in order to give himself the pleasure of knocking them down. I will offer a very few considerations on some of the remarks. He complained, apparently, that transport would not be available at the end of the war to put mass deportation into effect. Nothing in my remarks, I think, was calculated to make anyone believe that I expected such mass transportation to be achieved quickly or at the immediate conclusion of hostilities. If the transference of the Greeks and Turks took approximately six years, it may well be that the other transferences, if they ever come to pass, may take up to twenty years or even more. It is certainly a matter which must not be hurried. Next, the noble Lord chose one of the worst possible examples when he alluded to Northern Ireland because all my remarks had been explicitly about States where a large minority was subject to alien rule. The Six Counties of Northern Ireland have their own independent Government, and there would therefore be no reason whatever why all their inhabitants should be transferred to this country.

Later on the noble Viscount, Lord Cecil of Chelwood, and the noble Lord, Lord Noel-Buxton, appeared to be attempting to pour cold water on the idea, but it seemed to me that every argument they brought forward was really in support of my views rather than in support of what they were apparently trying to prove. The suffering that was involved was perpetu-allly stressed—one might almost say harped on—but surely the fact that the transference of the Greek and Turkish populations resulted not merely in an immediate improvement between countries whose relations hitherto had been strained, but in a cordiality which has persisted ever since, goes to show that the admittedly great suffering was well worth while. The noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne, has said that a week of the kind of war we are having at present involves far more suffering than would be caused by any transference that might take place. The noble Earl, Lord Perth, made what I thought was a most thoughtful and helpful speech. I will, however, say to him that he perhaps a little underestimated the possibilities of political as well as racial strife, while the cultural side of it undoubtedly does come, in some cases, into it a little as well. If, for example, you have a minority which has its own songs, its own costumes, its own folk dances, its own code of behaviour, combined with a racial origin different from the majority, and very likely with a different religion, these are bound, at any rate, not to make the position any easier.

Throughout the debate, upon the Benches opposite, there ran a peculiar current of what one can only term that sympathy with Germany which I have already mentioned.


No, no.


It seemed to me that the suffering of the dispossessed German minorities was being stressed to an unnaturally large extent. It is perfectly true that they represent the biggest problem. The noble Viscount, answering for the Government, spoke about charters for minorities, but very wisely went on to add that the minorities themselves must also learn how to behave. The experience of the past has shown that no German minority anywhere has ever behaved properly at all, and that it would at once quietly violate the terms of any charter and cause in future the trouble it has caused in the past. You cannot really judge the German nation by the standard of any other country. I protest very forcibly against the idea that you can separate Nazi Germany from the rest of Germany as a whole. It has been made apparent through the history of centuries that Germany is, as a nation, aggressive, and therefore it seems to me that Germany must pay the penalty. The noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, talked about the non-application to them of the Atlantic Charter as if it were something new. If my recollection is right, in the last few days we have been officially informed that the Atlantic Charter will not apply to Germany, and therefore there is no reason whatever why we should not contemplate, if not with equanimity, at least without undue consternation, any unavoidable sufferings that may be inflicted on German minorities in the course of their transference.

In conclusion, may I say to the noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne, that I do not for one moment minimize the great difficulties of putting into operation the suggestions I have brought forward? I fully recognize the difficulties, but I believe that when the Allied Nations came, in concert, to consider the future shape of Europe, all the difficulties and all the sufferings may well be compensated for by the definite diminution of the risks of future war. I thank the noble Viscount for his reply and beg leave to withdraw my Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.

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