HL Deb 01 May 1945 vol 136 cc61-97

2.7 P.m.

LORD DENHAM rose to call attention to the Report of the Parliamentary Delegation to Germany (Cmd. 6626) and to reports winch have appeared in the daily Press to the effect that, escorted by American Military Police, a thousand citizens of Weimar, men and women, have been marched six miles to the Buchenwald concentration camp and in groups of 100 were there made to view the conditions under which thousands of political prisoners were confined, starved and put to death; and to ask, whether His Majesty's Government will make arrangements forthwith for as many Germans as possible to undergo similar salutary and educative experiences in other parts of Germany; and to move for Papers.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in rising to move the Motion which is standing in my name, I think perhaps I ought to explain to your Lordships that when I first put it down, on Thursday, 19th April, there had, so far as I knew, been no invitation received in this country from General Eisenhower for a deputation to visit Germany. Time being, as it were, of the essence of the contract, I therefore put down my Motion for Tuesday, 24th April. It was suggested to me that I should broaden its terms, and this I glady agreed to do, by bringing in a reference to the Report of the Parliamentary Delegation in order that there might be a wider scope for the debate. I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Ammon, for the great courtesy which he has shown in postponing his Motion which should have been taken to-day, so that your Lordships could have this debate.

This subject—this grim subject—I suggest, readily divides itself under at least three clear headings. First of all there is the question of the conditions of cruelty and horror which are to be found in these concentration camps; secondly, there is the question as to who has been, directly or indirectly, responsible for these atrocities; and thirdly, there is the great question, the vital question, as I see it, as to what can be done, if anything, to bring home to the German people the enormity of their crimes and to open their eyes to the depths of depravity to which they have sunk. Now as to what has been going on in these camps, I think it would be sheer impertinence on my part if I were to ask your Lordships to listen to me on that matter. For this reason: that I could tell your Lordships no more than I have read in the Press. I could only describe the pictures that I have seen in the same way as would all your Lordships who have seen those pictures in the papers. I feel sure that your Lordships would much prefer to hear eye-witnesses' accounts about these camps from the two noble Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Addison, and the noble Earl, Lord Stanhope, who have been brave enough to go out and view the camps. I shall therefore not say one word about those cruelties but will leave it to those noble Lords to describe to your Lordships what they found during their visit. I could say a great deal about cruelty, because in my view it is the worst crime that a man or a woman can commit, but I do not propose to do so to-day.

My second heading was as to who were directly or indirectly responsible. I hold that in addition to all those who set up, ran and maintained these camps, every single German throughout Germany is responsible. That being so, I come to my third heading—namely, what, if anything, can be done to the German people to open their eyes to the depths of depravity which they have reached and to bring home to them the crimes for which they are responsible. My Motion refers to the action taken, doubtless under the direction of General Eisenhower by his military commanders, in relation to the people of Weimar. Your Lordships will see by the terms of my Motion that 1,000 representative citizens were chosen in Weimar, marched some six miles to the Buchenwald concentration camp, and there made to witness the conditions under which thousands of political prisoners were confined, tortured, starved and put to death. Reports differ as to the effect upon the people of Weimar of their visit to the Buchenwald concentration camp. Some reports say that the citizens who went there were visibly affected, some were sick and some fainted; but I am sorry to have to confess to your Lordships that, so far as the reports go that I myself have read, the majority of them show that these Germans, in the main, were just as arrogant after they had seen these horrible sights as they were before. In the main they seem to put it all off upon the Führer's orders and, anyhow, to disclaim any interest in what they would refer to as the "scum of the earth" who were condemned to this miserable lot. I should be very interested to hear whether either of the two or both of the noble Lords who, went out to the camp can bring to your Lordships any evidence on that point.

But however callous and however arrogant were the Germans who visited this particular camp, I think that now we are presented with a golden opportunity of enforcing similar visits wherever a concentration camp is liberated by the advancing British and Allied and American Armies. It will not be easy. I can well picture the way in which the General Staffs of the Allied Armies, the American, the British and the Canadian, have been overtaxed to the utmost limit of their endurance already. I can well conceive what the problem has been of getting arms, munitions and supplies of food to ever-advancing Armies, of dealing with all the wounded that have to be brought back, of evacuating the German prisoners who are taken, of setting up an administration for conquered German territory as it is reached, and so on; and therefore I feel great diffidence in suggesting one more piece of Staff work for these hard-worked soldiers. But I am going to do so because how better can we open the eyes of Germany to the sins that have been committed under this Nazi regime? I want it to become impossible afterwards for the Germans to deny their guilt.

I remember so well that shortly after the last war, very soon after the Armistice had sounded, the German Army boldly asserted that they had never suffered military defeat: that their political leaders had sold the pass and that the German Army had never been defeated. I remember, too, that within the next few months they were proclaiming aloud that they were guilty of no cruelty to our prisoners of war. I want to stop that happening now, and I think if action is taken soon a great deal might be done. I think I can sum up in one word what I want to happen to the German people and that one word is "remorse." I want as many Germans as possible to be filled with remorse for what has been done and, in the case of tens of thousands of these unfortunate political prisoners, cannot be undone. Once remorse is felt then repentance must be very near round the corner, and once repentance comes then there is a chance for a change of outlook, a chance for re-education and finally, for those Germans who will seize the opportunity, a chance of rebirth or regeneration.

Already the Germans are either denying that there has been any cruelty or are seeking the other loophole that they knew nothing about it if it did exist. I think that is purely a pose on their part; I do not believe a word of it. I cannot conceive that these camps, which have been going on now for at least twelve years, have existed in Germany without every single adult person, and most of the grown-up children as well, knowing about them. I would remind your Lordships that some of the worst camps have not yet been reached. We only heard of the liberation of Dachau Camp on the six o'clock news last night, and what the scenes will be there when they are revealed beggars description.

I want to look at this problem for a moment from a different angle altogether. In my view the whole civilized world, with certain exceptions to which I will refer in a minute or two, is satisfied about he truth of the allegations regarding these camps and is shocked to the core as no series of nations has ever been shocked in the World's history. This has mainly been due to the articles in the Press which they have seen, to the gallant work of the war correspondents, to the magnificent—if I may use that word, and I use it in its fullest sense—and truth-telling pictures that have been taken. I should like to take tins opportunity of paying my tribute to the Press of this country for the courage and boldness with which it has shown up the awful horrors in these ghastly concentration camps. General Eisenhower must be pretty satisfied of the truth of the allegations, otherwise he would not have sent for the deputation from both Houses of Parliament. I understand he is in process of getting a deputation from Congress also. I am sure both Houses of Parliament and Congress itself will be satisfied about the truth of these camps. But what about the Germans? Some German families must know all about them because many of the victims amongst the political prisoners inside the concentration camps were Germans themselves. Their families must hate the Nazi regime which has stooped to the depths of this depravity. But there is a conflict of opinion and a conflict of evidence as to how much the German people knew about these camps. The camps have been going on for at least twelve years and my belief is that the whole German people well knew about them. Here is the oppor- tunity to let as many as possible of the German people come to the camps and know the truth before the evidence disappears and it is too late.

Here we are on the verge of victory and the problem faces the Allied Commanders in Europe, when the "Cease fire" sounds, how are they going to deal with Germany? The Germans have generated a hatred against themselves amongst the nations of Europe the like of which I suppose has never been equalled in the world's history. Not only so, but there are two other phenomena to which I would like to call attention. We have seen in the last six years or so the rise of the Hitler Youth Movement and we have also seen—it is my firm conviction—a general demoralization amongst the German people which has been most marked and which is not going to make any more easy the problem of dealing with them after the war. We know the fanaticism of the Hitler youth. I have heard it said often that it will take a generation of education to get out of their heads what has been implanted in them. We also know that the German people, ever since Hitler came to power, and incidentally long before, have been taught never to think for themselves. They have been taught to accept as gospel truth whatever their leaders say to them, either by means of the Press or the wireless, or in any other fashion. Surely there is one great hope of influencing the German people if only they can be taken to see these camps before it is too late and whilst the evidence is still there.

What else can and should be done? I was reading in the paper only this morning that since D-day America and ourselves have taken over 2,600,000 prisoners of war, mostly German prisoners of war and many of those German prisoners will be returning one day to Germany. I think it is absolutely vital that every German prisoner of war, wherever he may be, should be made to see the films which I understand are being taken at these ghastly camps, so that when he does go back to Germany he may know something, which otherwise he would not believe, of what has been going on there.

Incidentally, before I pass from the question of German prisoners, I have been specifically asked by two sets of people in Buckinghamshire to mention this to your Lordships. One deputation came from one of the hospitals, near which there is a prisoner of war camp where our own returned British prisoners of war first arrived from Germany. Many of these British prisoners arrived so emaciated that they had to go into hospital to be treated. Their nurses came to me and said "How can the Government allow the German prisoners to have big rations when our own men come back showing clearly that the Geneva Convention, or whatever is the Convention that deals with the food of prisoners, has been broken by Germany?" The second deputation came from farmers in the neighbourhood where I live in Buckinghamshire. They said they saw gangs of German prisoners working on the land who at five o'clock exactly to the minute stopped work. They said that their men had to work long hours with rations much inferior to those of the Germans because of starving Europe. That is a point I promised to bring forward to your Lordships and I hope the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack will make a note of it if he does not deal with it to-day.

As I said, the first thing we could do is to satisfy ourselves that German prisoners in this country and in America know what has been going on in these camps. The second thing that could be done is to make sure that these films of camps are shown all over Germany and that the attendance of local civilians is compulsory. The third thing which might well be done is to invite deputations from neutral countries to visit the camps so that they may see what is the inevitable concomitant of totalitarian rule as it has been experienced in Germany.

Now I want to say a word from a different angle. If I seem to end on a more controversial note I apologize in advance. As I see it, there is a great temptation for us in this country to focus all our thoughts upon the terrible happenings in these concentration camps and upon the way our British prisoners have been treated by Germans in prisoners-of-war camps. It may he easy and natural that that should be so, but the danger is that if we fix our attention too much upon the ghastly misdeeds of the Germans in these camps we may fail to see our own shortcomings in the past or our dangers in the future. I already see the red light. I do not know whether your Lordships saw two letters which appeared in the Daily Mail, one last Friday and one last Saturday. Let me read the one which appeared on Friday, April 27: Sir,—Emaciated bodies [in atrocity pictures] are more probably evidence of typhus deaths, the result of Allied destruction of habitations. Now publish some pictures of civilian dead of Le Havre and other places destroyed by soldiery of Jew-blighted United Nations. Your one-sided presentation of horrors of war is un-English, and worthy only of slimy, Jewish owners of your paper.

The other letter is signed by a sergeant of the British Liberation Army. I will read the first part of it: Sir,—A story with a terrible lesson in it was told in Paris recently by Major-General G. W. R. Templer, Field-Marshal Montgomery's Director of Military Government and Civil Affairs. Talking to correspondents in Paris, he said that while he was having his hair trimmed by his barber, a man from Wimbledon, the conversation turned to atrocities. 'About those atrocity stories and those terrible pictures,' said the barber, 'is there any truth in them?' General Templer confessed he was shocked. The barber confessed he was sceptical and added that when he went into a pub in Wimbledon none of his friends there believed a word of the stories from Belsen, Gotha and Buchenwald.

The letter goes on: There is a terrible prospect if there exists in this country now even a small body of opinion which will not accept this evidence. For if it is not accepted now there is little chance of its being remembered ten years from now, when, for reasons of self-interest or of intellectual fashion, there may be people who want to forget how narrowly we escaped the price of Nazism. I see the red light for another reason. Is this the time to vote against the continuance of that grand training corps for cadets, the A.T.C., or the continuance of the Army Cadet Force? Yet I see reports in the Press that at a local branch meeting of the Co-operative Society that was done, and it was also done at a meeting of a local council on which there is a Socialist majority. Ought we not at the same time as we look outwardly at Germany and at her unparalleled depravity, to look inwardly towards ourselves and vow that never again will we trust the Germans or be caught napping? What would have happened to the people of this country if these islands had been successfully invaded by Germany? In my belief it was only prevented by the mercy of Divine Providence which watches over the destiny of our race. Far worse would have happened here than has ever happened at Buchenwald or Dachau. Our men, women and children would have had a fate beside which the fate of the luckless political prisoners of Germany would have been as nothing. If I may paraphrase a well-known saying, "There into these camps but for the grace of God went we." We know something about the German plan. It was to reduce the population of these islands from 45,000,000 to 15,000,000 people. In other words, two-thirds of the population was to be deliberately put to death by starvation and by torture in a manner similar to what has been seen in these concentration camps. It is my firm conviction that what has happened at Dachau and Buchenwald would be but a pale reflection of what would have happened in German concentration camps set up in this country.

In the early part of my speech I ventured to make the suggestion contained in my Motion that the Government might take certain action for the reform of the Germans themselves. I now venture to make a second suggestion to your Lordships and especially to the Government. It is that, as the German nation has placed itself outside the pale of civilized nations, as a mark of the abhorrence of this country of all that the German nation has stood for and all the deeds of which they have been guilty, not for fifty years shall British nationality be given to any German. Let us not only look out at the Germans and do the right thing by them, but let us look in at ourselves and vow that never again will we be led away by the pacifism that won the East Fulham by-election in 1933, that never again will we leave ourselves unprotected, and never again will we allow this great country to run the danger of becoming soft. Rather let us remember that it is individual virility, the endurance and gallantry of the individual soldier, sailor and airman of both sexes, which have pulled us through this war, particularly during those grim twelve months when we stood unsupported by our gallant American and Russian Allies who since then have fought so magnificently side by side with us. Not till now have our eyes been opened to what our real danger has been. Not till a few weeks ago did the world know what was really happening in these concentration camps. Just as between the wars so many of us—and I am as guilty as anybody else—refused absolutely to believe that either Hitler or the Ger- man nation could be so evil as to plunge Europe into a second world war, so, up till now, have we all, or very nearly all, refused to open our eyes and to believe the stories which have been percolating through during the last twelve years. Now, we know the truth about these camps and other things, and from now on there will be no excuse if we do not guard ourselves against any possible repetition of our peril. My Lords, I beg to move for Papers.

2.32 p.m.


My Lords, I do not think that I can add very much to the Report which has been published by the Delegation of which I was a member. Neither my noble friend Lord Addison nor I volunteered for this very unpleasant task, but when we were asked by the noble Leader of the House to visit this camp we felt that it was a duty which we owed to your Lordships that we should accept his invitation. It is difficult really to bring home to your Lordships the full effect of what we saw. Your Lordships will remember that the United States forces ran into Buchenwald camp on a Wednesday. It was taken over on the Saturday by a special medical unit—an Evacuation Unit it is called—and we only got to the camp exactly a week later, that is to say on the following Saturday. By that time the condition of that camp was, quite obviously, very different from what it had been when the United States forces first arrived ten days earlier. None the less, we were able, I think, to make a full investigation concerning what the conditions of the camp had been, and to satisfy ourselves of the truth of what your Lordships and the public had read in the Press.

May I try to bring home to your Lordships what the general conditions of that camp were like? The huts were in most cases an ordinary type of army hut. They were made of wood, with a wooden roof and a covering to keep out the rain. The floors were of earth. Along each but ran a gangway about twelve feet wide; that is to say about the distance between the Front Bench on this side of the Chamber and the Front Bench on that side. On each side along the wall ran four lines of wooden shelves six feet deep—that is six feet deep from the gangway to the wall. At intervals of four feet there was an upright. In other words, the whole but was slightly wider than from the back of the second Bench on this side to the back of the second Bench over there. On each four feet on each side of the but five or six men had to sleep and live. The prisoners told us—and it was quite obvious—that there was no room to lie on their backs, because, of course, a man so lying takes up more than nine inches of space. The only way in which they could lie was on their sides supporting their heads on their elbows. The length of this House is roughly sixty feet. Therefore, your Lordships will realize that in an area approximating in length to the distance from the back of the House to the Throne, and, in width, to a few inches more than the distance between the second Benches on each side, boo prisoners had to live.

They had nothing whatever to lie upon except bare boards. They were originally served out with a blanket each, but of course that went into rags, and they had nothing in the way of covering throughout the winter except such rags and such remnants of blankets as they could collect. That was bad enough if they had been in good health. But there was a hut similar to the one which I have described which was full of tubercular and dysentry cases. Your Lordships can picture what living conditions in those huts must have been with dysentry patients on the second, third and fourth shelves. Those were the conditions in which those men lived. They were given as food a thin bowl of soup and a chunk of bread, and they earned these only if they had a metal ticket showing that they were fit to do work, either in a munition factory situated nearby or in the quarries. If they failed to do that, the metal ticket, with its right to food, was taken away from them. How they lived in that case I really do not know. They told us that they scavenged among potato peelings and such like in order to keep alive.

Much the most painful thing that I saw was the condition of those who were still alive. The corpses we saw were merely skeletons covered with skin. They did not look like human beings. But living people who were lying on mattresses, and being carefully tended by the United States' medical authorities, had thighs that were not so thick as my wrist. Men lifted up their legs to show me bruises and cuts which had been inflicted upon them. Children whom we met were nothing but eyes. And we were told that in spite of all the wonderfully fine attention and skill devoted to them by the medical authorities of the United States Army, still a large number of those people would die. At the time when the United States Army reached the camp, deaths were taking place at the rate of a hundred a day. The day before we got to the camp the rate was still thirty-five. I can well understand, as my noble friend Lord Denham has said, that it is impossible for people in this country to realize that such things can be true. But they are true. We have seen them, and we have satisfied ourselves that what has been described in the Press and elsewhere is true. I met two Pressmen while I was out there. They were rather hurt that we should have been sent out to verify what they had already described. I said to them: "Well, you must remember that the public at home cannot realize that there are people of this kind in the world, and they think that perhaps you have been running this for a Press stunt. That is why we people have been sent here to see for ourselves, and to describe for ourselves."

What are the facts? Why were these things clone? My noble friend Lord Addison and I have asked ourselves that question both during our trip and since. Why did not the Germans feed their prisoners sufficiently well to get a full day's work out of them, and then when they were unfit any longer, from some cause or other, to do that work, shoot them? Why waste food in keeping them going for h few weeks longer? Why all these elaborate arrangements by which they were taken away in trailers to the crematorium and there put into ovens and their bodies burned? I do not know. I do not think that my noble friend Lord Addison or any of us really know. All we can say is that there seems to be some sort of sadism among the German people which encourages them to like that kind of thing. What is at the foundation of it all, however, is the fact that the German nation have been brought up to believe that they are a superior race; and they treat human beings of other races, and of their own when they disagree with them (because most of these prisoners were Germans), in the same way as a cruel little boy might treat a chicken, or as somebody might deal with a rat.

My noble friend asked me whether we saw Germans being taken round and shown these atrocities. We did. Those that I saw seemed to me to care very little. I saw a woman in the crematorium looking as though she felt "Well, I have been ordered to look at this, and I will, but it is nothing to do with me, and I do not care." We did not put anything about that in our Report, because some other members of the Delegation did see Germans who were obviously greatly distressed, and some of them ashamed; but I am bound to say that these whom I saw did not show that feeling. My noble friend suggests that a large number of Germans should be taken to these camps and shown something of what the camps have been like. I emphasize the words "have been." As I have said already, the whole camp has been cleared up. The filth and muck has been taken out of the huts and burnt. None the less they were still verminous to a degree impossible to realize. But the clearing up is going on steadily and rapidly, and when people go round them in some weeks time those camps will look very different from the way they look to-day. It must be remembered that the camps are all in the centre of Germany, or in Poland, far away from Allied bases. That means that the petrol and the stores and everything else have to be brought for very long distances. I know that General Eisenhower hesitated to ask even one delegation to visit them, because every one of us had to be taken there and back. Still more would that apply to the Germans. The Germans are isolated in their towns. There is no traffic of any sort; there are no motor cars, of course, and no trains. Oxen are doing the ploughing, with an occasional horse. It would mean that contingents of the Allied Armies would have to be provided as guards, and transport and food would have to be provided in order to take the Germans to these camps and back.

This is much less a British problem than an Allied problem. So far as I know, there is only one of these camps, that at Belsen, within the British area; and that is obviously not one which ought to be visited, because it was discovered to be full of typhus, and we do riot want to add to our many problems in occupied Germany by spreading typhus in regions which I hope our troops are going to occupy for many years. The worst of all these camps—so we were told by prisoners—were those at Auschwitz in Poland, fairly near to Cracow, and at Dachau, which has just been captured and which is near Munich. Neither of those is in the British area. I submit to your Lordships, therefore, that it is not really practical to think of sending Germans to see these camps. I think that the other suggestion made by my noble friend is very much more to the point, namely, that when things settle down and cinemas are opened, and the curfew, which now operates at six o'clock, comes to an end, the Germans should be compelled to go to the cinemas and see the photographs taken of these camps, taken soon after their occupation by Allied troops. I think that that would be wise. My noble friend seemed to imply, however, that the Germans did not know what was going on in these camps. It may be that they did not know the full details.


My Lords, I said exactly the contrary. I said that there was a conflict of testimony, and that the Germans themselves stated either that they did not know what was going on in the camps or that they did not believe that there was any cruelty there. I said that I thought that that was a pose, and that I did not believe a word of it. I thought that every German throughout Germany ought to have known all about these camps, as they have been going on for twelve years.


My Lords, I apologize to my noble friend if I have misrepresented him. I entirely agree with him that they did know, and the proof is this. There are certain sentimentalists who say "You must not judge the German nation because the S.S. guards and others committed these atrocities." Let those who say that answer this question: Why was one of the first items of propaganda to get the Germans to go on fighting, when quite obviously the war was lost, to say to them "If you lose the war, you will be taken away for slave labour, and put in a concentration camp?" Why was that so effective in making the Germans go on fighting? Obviously for this reason, that the Germans knew perfectly well what the conditions of slave labour were in their own country, and what were the general conditions in the concentration camps, and they feared that they might have to go through the same sort of thing. It is not the smallest use a German pretending that he did not know the general conditions in these camps when that propaganda has been so effective as in fact it has been during the last few months.

What is to be done with people like that? It is an extraordinarily difficult question. I am quite certain that the only thing to do is to prove to the German people that they are not a superior race. We have to realize that the German people are a disciplined people, and they enjoy more than anything else obeying orders. If the Allies do not give the orders, somebody else is going to do so. The orders that we shall give will be sound orders and just orders, but the orders that other people will give may be such as the Nazis have been giving during the past thirteen or fourteen years. If, therefore, the Allies want to stop this sort of thing going on in future, they must take command in Germany, they must for a long period of time issue orders to the German people and see that they are obeyed, and then, perhaps, this kind of thing may come to an end. I entirely agree with my noble friend that we have to make the Germans realize the bestiality that has been done in their name, and at any rate with their consent, and they must be made to see these films as soon as the military situation makes that possible.

2.49 p.m.


My Lords, the noble Lord who moved this Motion very wisely made it clear that it had a threefold object in view: first, to bring home to the German nation a sense of national responsibility; secondly, to ensure that at some distant date the German people should not be told that all these abominations were just a fiction of Allied propaganda; and thirdly, if possible—I say "if possible"—to ensure a national repentance. If we could secure that, it would indeed be a great safeguard for the future. But we shall most certainly not succeed in that object unless we realize that we are dealing not with isolated phenomena but with a continuity. All modern Germanity is a continuity. Great cruelties were perpetrated in the last war and they were due to a very simple cause. All students of German political and military literature will realize that the theme of ruthlessness and its extension frightfulness was heavily plugged throughout the latter part of the nineteenth century and the earlier part of the twentieth century. Illustrations of course abound. I will just take one of the most impressive ones. In October, 187o, Bismarck declared that every French village where resistance was offered should be gutted, to use his exact word, and all the male population hanged. The story goes back a good deal further than that. It goes back to Clausewitz. He was also an apostle of thoroughness. Your Lordships will find an example in Scott's Tales of a Grandfather where, speaking of the Duke of Cumberland, he says he had learned war in the rough school of Germany where the severest infliction on the people was never withheld if it was thought likely to obtain an advantage or to preserve one already gained.

And so with this great background of frightfulness behind them, when the greatest chance hitherto came in 1914 the German Army played it with a vengeance. Again the examples abound. We have the proclamations of their own generals. I will quote one. It was that of General von Billow, which was posted up on the walls of Liége on August 2, 1914. It read as follows: With my permission the general in command has burnt down the entire locality and over a hundred persons have been shot. A very textual reproduction of Bismarck!

Now who carried out the frightfulness? It was the rank and file of the German Army. Were they silent about it? No, they talked, they wrote—I saw some of the letters. The policy of frightfulness was so well known in Germany that the German intellectuals not only defended it, but they exulted in it, and you saw a very interesting illustration of that on April 27 in The Times. It was a letter from the niece of the late Lord Bryce who drew up the report on the atrocities in the last war. Unfortunately it was far from complete, and he was horrified at the defence of the intellectuals. So when the war was well over he wrote to one or two of them whom he knew to give them a chance of demonstrating that they had only defended atrocities under duress, and to his surprise he got back just the same defence; nothing was altered at all, and he was immensely surprised. Perhaps he would not have been quite so surprised if he had remembered a passage in Burke —an author who has been sometimes quoted against me. It runs as follows: There is no possible safety for honest men but by believing all possible evil of evil men. Let us take another example. When the "Lusitania" was sunk the Germans were very pleased; they were pleased because 1,100 civilians had been drowned. They struck a medal and circulated it widely in the country. There was common knowledge in Germany that their submarine commanders were firing on merchant ships and sinking at sight, and even butchering people in the lifeboats. We put some of the worst offenders on our list of war criminals, and what happened? We were met with a national refusal to hand them over. I underline the word "national" because it was the word used by all their Press from right to left; and, secondly, because it has a material bearing on what we are discussing to-day. And that national refusal to hand over was extended also to the worst beasts among those at the head of the concentration camps of those days. That surely is germane to what we are discussing to-day. It was extended also to General Stenger who had massacred prisoners by the thousand and who was on the same moral level as the beasts of Belsen. His methods were a little more expeditious; that was the only difference. They would not hand them over because they were executing policy.

Now there was no thought of denial until the war was lost. Then the Germans suddenly discovered that in this country and others there were a number of dupes and fools who were prepared to help them by denying atrocities and so of course they played them up. And what was the result? They got away with murder. We passed a sponge over the whole thing. A French statesman whose name is familiar to many noble Lords, Louis Marin, was charged with the work of collecting the evidence of frightfulness. He got dozens of volumes ready and then the Government of France, the country which had suffered at the Germans' hands, decided not to publish. It was well meant; it was the policy of reconciliation, which afterwards became appeasement. Now, on this occasion, for the time being, there is no possibility of denying and so a new excuse is being cooked up and again British dupes are on hand to help. The excuse is that they did not know, and that is profoundly untrue. As the Minister of Information said in another place last week, that is the doctrine, the line that will be followed by Goebbels's successor. In 1933 and 1934 concentration camps were the subject of current conversation, sometimes with fear but often with gloating.

I am not going to labour the point because I have in my pocket a letter which settles the matter. There are masses of other evidence of the same kind but this is a succinct example. It was written by an Englishman who has lived long in Germany and is so completely bilingual that he can always pass as a German and he was therefore the recipient of many confidences. He writes: Those of us who were in Germany during, the Nazi rule and in close touch with all sections of the people know well that the brutal treatment of victims of Konzertlagers,, or K.Z.'s as they were called, was a topic of household talk throughout the country. We were told tale after tale from sides. The Nazis themselves whispered it around as a dire warning to potential political opponents. The great bloc of their supporters knew all about the brutalities committed on Jews, Communists and so-called unsocial elements at Dachau, Oranienburg, Esterwege and other K.Z.'s. Many of them saw with enthusiasm and Schadenfreude the disappearance of their trade competitors and political and social rivals into these foul camps and applauded, with the feeling 'It serves the Jews right.' I would remind your Lordships that the bulk of the earlier inmates were Jews. It all began on a large scale after the Reichstag fire. By 5935 I am sure there was not a peasant in Germany who had not heard tales of the brutalities, and well knew that they were true. Apart from the K.Z.'s being a topic of conversation in every family, how could people escape knowing? Were their children not in the Hitler Jugend, or the Arbeitsdienst or the Bund Deutscher Mädel, and did they not know? Again may I interpose to say that the Hitler Youth was taken sometimes on visits to these camps to harden them. Why should not, then, a parent say to its naughty child, 'Be good, or you will get into a K.Z.?' Was not it then the most dreaded punishment? Of course it was. That all the world in Germany was fully aware of the atrocious treatment obtaining in the camps before 1939 there is not a shadow of doubt in my correspondent's mind. He adds "Why did not somebody do something about it?" Because, he says, the Army crowd were seeking careers, because the Churches were seeking concordats and because the great majority was at least indifferent. Now that was the position from 1933 to 1939 when the concentration camps were still few and sparsely inhabited. How much more did everyone know when they were filled to bursting with foreign slaves and prisoners, and when they were strung out in profusion all over Germany! You were told on the wireless last night, and very truly, that in 1939 there were only 1,600 people in Dachau—and God knows that was enough. Since then there have been 33,000, and that is typical. Of course they knew. And I would point out to the Germanophiles who seek to deny it that they are just contradicting themselves. At one moment they are saying that the Germans did not know, and in the next they are trying to explain the absence of any resistance movement in Germany comparable to that in occupied countries by saying that they knew so well that they were too terrified of the Gestapo and concentration camps to take any action. Does that make sense?

But that is not all. These foreign prisoners and slaves, these poor wrecks of humanity, were worked to death not only in the camps but outside—in the quarries, for example. All signs of pity were verboten, and they were driven to and from work, sometimes—not always, of course, but sometimes—mocked and stoned, sometimes even by the very children. And sometimes the local population, in their off-hours and on Sundays, would come to peer and jeer through the wires and throw in bits of offal to see the skeletons scramble. And there is more than that. These foreign prisoners and slaves were employed in factories, on the farms and in the homes. And when we are considering these things, let us never forget that the entire German Army enjoyed the enforced prostitution of women from all the occupied countries; that they worked those women literally to death, and even when they did not, when they had had enough of them they murdered and replaced them. Nobody compelled the rank and file of the German Army into that bestial pleasure. They knew well enough what they were doing.

Well, let us return from the brothels to the farms, the factories and the homes. What is the truth? The truth is that the German nation has lived on slave labour and revelled in it, and that is exactly what all the nationalist writers have been promising ever since the nineties. Again that is not all. The most appalling cruelties were perpetrated from the beginning of the war, in September, 1939, and by whom were they perpetrated? Again by the rank and file. More than that, I have already produced irrefutable evidence to show that scores of thousands of just ordinary Germans took part in the extermination of 3,000,000 Jews in Poland. They thought it was good sport. Again, were those rank and file silent? No, they talked and they wrote. I have seen the letters, and your Lordships might think it incredible that one human being should write to another like that. Once more, the Russians have a considerable collection of those letters which they have taken from dead bodies and from prisoners of war. They are terrible reading. They revelled in loot and cruelty.

But more interesting still, for the purpose which we are discussing to-day, are the letters to them, particularly from the women. Over and over again they are clamouring for more and more loot, and even for babies' shoes. Every now and then you get something more illuminating still, which is a letter from the old folk at home, describing, quite simply and naturally, how badly they are treating the slaves. My Lords, there have been 12,000,000 men' in the German Army. They had families. They wrote and talked, and the families wrote and talked. There were hundreds upon hundreds of thousands of the Gestapo, the S.S. and the S.A., and they had families; and they wrote and talked, and the families wrote and talked. It is utterly impossible to carry on sadism on a nation-wide scale without it being known. It is said that dead men tell no tales. That might be true of one or two dead men, but when it is a case of millions of dead men they tell, in the most literal sense, the very hell of a tale, and it is mostly the same.

Look at the case of the first really prominent sadist in history, 500 years ago. He was Marshal Gille de Rais, the companion in arms of Joan of Are and incidentally the original of the legend of Bluebeard. In the fifteenth century communications were not so good, but everyone knew perfectly well what was happening in his Konzertlagers at Machecoul and Tiffauges. Yet when he was hanged in 1440 it was for the mere murder of 140 children—a bagatelle compared with Belsen, a drop in the ocean compared with the million at Maidanek. The same was true in the eighteenth century, when communications were still not so good, but when everybody knew about the so-called Marquis de Sades, who has left his name to a vice which is inure profoundly endemic in Germany than any civilized nation has every dreamed of.

Make no mistake about it, the task ahead of us is the reclamation of a profoundly vitiated nation. Do not let us underestimate the task lest we shall not fulfil it. After the last war there was no national repentance in Germany because the crimes of the nation had not been brought home to it, and that is one of the main reasons why we have had this war. When this war came there was no opposition to it except by some cold, calculating militarists who wanted to postpone it by a year or two in order to wage it better. At the eleventh and at the twelfth hours there was opposition, not to the war but to the continuation of a lost war, and some of the bitterest critics of the bankrupt regime now on its stained and tousled deathbed have been the members of the vile family. Do not let us flout experience again. One of the greatest of German philsosophers, Schopenhauer, who had a very low opinion indeed of his compatriots, once said that to forget and to forgive is to throw out of the window priceless experience. Whatever may be thought in this country, Europe is not going to forget Schopenhauer, but even more important is it that the Germans should not be allowed to forget themselves. That is a prophylactic measure of the highest human importance, and I therefore very gladly support the Motion before your Lordships' House today.

I would only add one point for the consideration of His Majesty's Government. So long as there is an occupation—and I am glad to see that one at least of the higher German commanders who has been taken prisoner agrees with me—that occupation must be prolonged. So long as it endures, let January 30, the day of the advent of Hitler to power, be observed in Germany as a day of national repentance and atonement. My Lords, in looking back over this wilderness that we call the twentieth century, there comes back to me a passage, written I think by the Poet Laureate Robert Bridges, in 1920. It is this: In craven Germany was no man found, not one, with spirit enough to cry shame. Nay, but on such sin follows perdition eternal, and it has begun. At long last, at long and painful last, we have reached an end to which I say frankly I have given a great part of my thinking and working life—the perdition of Germany, not as a people but as a Power, the power of darkness.

3.12 p.m.


My Lords, I intend to detain you for a few minutes only, while I make one or two points. First of all I would like to say how much I admire the simple and downright way in which my noble friend behind me has expressed the disgust and horror which we all, of course, feel about these truly terrible deeds in the German concentration camps. I should like, at the same time, if he will not mind my doing so, to make a friendly criticism, and that is that he has not carried the tale of these atrocious deeds nearly far enough backwards or forwards. I think, if I may say so, this criticism also applies to the somewhat unilateral view that we have just had from the noble Lord, Lord Vansittart.

There is nothing new about these horrors at Buchenwald and Dachau, nothing new at all. My noble friend behind me wilt remember that when we first started our education side by side one of our daily tasks was to read and hear about innumerable acts in the histories of all countries, such as the sacking of cities, during which the whole population, women and children, were put to the sword. He will also remember hearing about many other horrible scenes of torture, inquisition, religious intolerance and persecution, which are so well described in Griffiths' great film Intolerance, in which thousands were burnt at the stake merely for refusing to adopt one word of dogma. It was said at the time that it was done to save their souls and I suppose that is the argument that Hitler has used in these atrocities; he has pretended to save Germany's soul through these atrocious tortures. Then there followed a further daily spoonful of tales of piracy, blood feuds and other sadistic tales which were illustrated so truthfully by Goya and other painters of the time. By this time we believed, as boys of every country believe, that history is little else but a series of tortures and murders of which some are the work of the devil and others, if not of divine origin, have had at any rate a salutory effect on the people who suffered from them, this depending, of course, on the country to which you happen to belong.

Later on in the intervening period, until we came back here side by side again to complete our education, my noble friend will have read of many civil wars and revolutions, and of political murders and persecutions galore, all attended with the most perfect refinement of cruelty and all coincidental with, or resultant from, war conditions or war decisions. These horrors at Buchenwald and other places therefore are not in the least new in type or origin, even if they are on a greater or more cold-blooded scale. The worse they are (multiplying everything that has been said to-day by twenty or one hundred times) the more obvious is the present moral of them, which is that under reaction from a long period of intolerant international forceful procedure mankind has the power and possibility of descending to far lower levels of bestiality than the lowest and least evolved forms of animal life, and that the level now reached is so decadent and subversive to the whole purpose of human existence that if it is not definitely halted the human fabric will collapse in misery and despair.

I suggest, therefore, that though it may be salutary to show these pictures of infinite shame to the Germans, the place where they really do need showing in film and photographs, three times a day and after meals, if possible, as the old medicine bottle says, is the San Francisco Conference. If San Francisco views these pictures rightly and honestly, I assert to your Lordships that the delegates can come but to one conclusion, and that is that the reactions to force applied either rightly or wrongly from past ages are now, aided by scientific invention, of such terrible horror that unless an end can be put to this method of deciding international problems in the future, the human mind, together with its ideals and hopes, will atrophy and fade away. San Francisco has before it not only this one foul story in history but a long chain of cruel and bloody incidents each connected with and causing the succeeding link— of defeats causing revenges, of revenges causing repressive and cruel usurpers and dictators, and of dictators causing wars in which the people who are wrong at the moment (as well as those who are right) and many innocent thousands of neighbouring neutrals have all had to sacrifice youth and treasure. All have suffered serious setbacks to their prosperity and progress and disturbance to their stability.

These photographs are the best possible witness they can have to the absolute necessity of at last reversing international procedure and, instead of jockeying for power and position and forming new varieties of power politics, adopting an all-embracing co-operative scheme for resettling the grievances of the past and preventing their appearance in the future, on the sensible and ethical basis that the security and peace of each individual nation are primarily vested in similar conditions obtaining in their neighbours. When such a general security begins to return such horrors may well begin to disappear. If they can do this and gradually insert it into the place now occupied by the old faulty idea of force, then these poor wretched victims may not have died and suffered in vain. San Francisco will fail if it grudges them this last and only possible tribute.

3.19 p.m.


My Lords, I do not wish to add anything to what the noble Earl said as to the conditions we found in this particular camp. He has certainly not exaggerated them. If anything, he has made a studious under-statement. I think it is well, it is essential, that there should have been, and should be, a sufficient amount of independent and disinterested testimony as to the facts, because it is true, as we all know, that many people have been inclined to say that they could not credit the statements that have been made. As to the truth of them, that is past any conflict or discussion. They are presented to us in horrible fact.

One or two reflections have been present in my mind ever since I saw these places. First, I should like to say that so far as I myself noticed the attitude of the Germans who are being made to visit the camps I saw no indication whatever of shame—none. There may have been others, of course, who were differently affected from those whom I saw. They were brought there as a defeated people and they may have assumed a defiance they did not feel, but I did not myself see nor did any conversation elicit—and I spoke to many about it—any evidence whatever that the German people felt shame. They no doubt regretted that they were defeated and were compelled to witness these things, but that is another matter. In view of what other speakers have said I think that it is really undeniable that the majority of the German nation knew sufficiently welt what was going on in these places. It had been going on for twelve years or more. It must have been known to them as it was known to many of us. The problem that presents itself to us is, what are we going to do about it? I confess to a little disappointment that some of the previous speakers did not help us a little more on that question. Of course we know that history is packed full of stories of massacre and all the rest of it, as the noble Earl who has just spoken reminded us, but I know no precedent for the organization of the mind of a nation such as we have seen in Germany in the last twelve years. What has been happening has been the disciplining of the mind of a whole nation to a particular point of view, and that has been attended with an appalling success. That has been the tragedy of it.

I do not think it can be doubted that the German people as a whole really believed that they were a special and a superior race. Other things follow, once that kind of conviction gets into people's minds. They come to regard other persons or races as inferior and to treat them accordingly. Therefore the inevitable sequel of the teaching to which the German people have been subject, during the last twelve years particularly, is that they consider there is no such thing as equality of human rights, that other races are to be subjugated physically and indeed mentally, as these poor people were. The problem that confronts not only San Francisco but our practical action in Germany in the coming years is how we are to act in the face of a nation so impregnated with doctrines of this kind that cruelty and the disregard of human life is an inevitable consequence. I suggest that it can only be a national point of view which has led to these horrors and that that point of view can only be affected over a long period of years. It is impossible to expect that anything the Allied Nations can do can produce its effect in the minds of the German people in a short time. From that it seems to follow that the administration and control of Germany must be long continued, and that unless we are prepared to face up to that the future is hopeless. That is the first conclusion.

The second reflection in my mind is that if you can intensify the egotism of a nation in twelve years to the extent that the Nazis have done, so that they become regardless of the sufferings of others, that dreadful fact really gives some small ground for hope. It is an illustration of what you can achieve by intensified propaganda. It gives perhaps some little reason to think that if the Allied Nations deliberately arrange for the teaching of opposite doctrines to German children over a long period of years we may begin to have some hope that the national point of view will be improved. But I cannot help thinking that long continued propaganda amongst the Germans that the rights of others must be recognized—prompted and assisted by the occupying authority over a long period of years—will be essential.

There is also this more short-dated consideration, which I think is equally important, that the German people will have to realize in their own lives that bullying does not pay. It may be a short-sighted reflection, but people like the Germans who seem to wish to be ordered about, acquire, when they are in a position to order, the mind of the bully. That seems to follow. There is nothing that impresses people of that kind so effectively as to find that it does not pay. I think we are seeing now, behind the scenes in Germany, the beginning of that lesson. My noble friend and myself saw, and everybody else who goes there will see, along the roads small parties of displaced persons, as they are called, released workers, in twos, threes and fours, with handcarts and perambulators packed with parcels of all kinds, trekking westwards (as they were then). An American officer told me an illuminating story. He was responsible for patrolling a certain district and I asked him whether those displaced persons who were wandering along the road were giving any trouble. He said no, not particularly to the authorities, but they were a cause of great anxiety to the Germans. The day before, so he told me, some villagers had appealed to him for protection because one party had gone into a house and demanded so many eggs, so much of this and so much of that, and, after they had been got rid of, with sufficient protests, having got what they wanted, they were followed by another party with similar demands. The second party had equally to be placated, and so an appeal was made to the officer to give some protection to the villagers against that kind of incident. He said: "Well, you brought these people here, it's up to you to feed them." That was the only comfort he could give them. But those German people were finding out that what their nation had done did not pay.

That is the moral which I am trying to stress. And this is, I believe, the first time in the history of the German people, so far as I know, when war has impressed its horrible facts on Germany itself. The Germans are learning that war does not pay. But behind it all, it seems to me, the question which forces itself to the front of our minds is how is humanity, how are the Allied Nations, to set about, I was going to say, the conversion of a race? For that is what is needed for the safety of the world. I cannot pretend to be able to supply anything like an answer to that question. But I do think that, cruel as it may be, every German citizen must be made to feel, in his own life, that the tyrannizing over other people and the making of war bring desolation to himself.

In the second place, I consider that the Allied Nations must set up an organization which contemplates the occupation of Germany and its deliberate re-education over a long period of years. How successful that will be is a matter upon which we can only speculate. But one is impressed by the fact that well-directed, sustained propaganda, in these days, while on the one side it is an immense danger, does also, on the other side, present a certain degree of hope. It affords us ground for hoping that we may be able, with the aid of propaganda, if it is well directed, gradually to change the point of view of the German children during a long period of years. I feel no reason whatever to hope that the world will be secure in the future unless, at the same time as force is applied to prevent the recurrence of war, there is a deliberate and sustained endeavour to re-educate the German people and to remould their minds. One does remember, after all. that—leaving aside the Prussians, whom one must exempt—in past centuries the world has owed an infinity of debt to liberal thought and to philosophy of a very high order coming from Germany. So, perhaps, there may be some ground for hoping that the future will see some restoration of the mind of the German people. But for the present I am quite sure it is well that all of us should not only recognize the truth of these horrible things, but should devote our energies diligently to framing measures designed to influence the mind of people of the German race during the next generation, and to making them realize that this kind of thing is contrary to their interests and repugnant to themselves.

3.35 p.m.


My Lords, before I answer the specific question on the Paper, which was introduced by my noble friend Lord Denham, I should like to express—and I am sure that I may claim to do it on behalf of all your Lordships—our gratitude and our admiration for the services which were performed by my noble friends Earl Stanhope and Lord Addison in undertaking a horrible duty, and in discharging it in the way shown in this White Paper. To the members of the two Houses who made this investigation, and who have written this united Report, our country owes a great deal, for it is not an altogether ignoble impulse—and it is certainly very common among our own people—to show a certain suspicion as to the truth of atrocity statements. It is not an ignoble attitude of mind, though it becomes utterly worthless and to be condemned if, whatever one's temptation to suspect may be, one is not willing to have those suspicions removed by actual investigation.

It seems to me that my two noble friends and the members of the House of Commons, who have made this Report of the Parliamentary Delegation, have discharged that task in a most admirable manner. Anybody who reads this short document can see that it is entirely confined to a record of observations of fact. It is not arguing any general thesis or drawing any large deductions. There can but have been the gravest and most painful reactions on the minds of our colleagues who went to make this investigation, but you do not find any attempt to reproduce matters of feeling or sentiment. I would call attention especially to the last paragraph which shows the real character of this document. The authors, headed by Earl Stanhope, say: In preparing this Report, we have endeavoured to write with restraint and objectivity, and to avoid Obtruding our personal re actions or emotional comments. We would conclude, however, by stating that it is our considered and unanimous opinion, on the evidence available to us, that a policy of steady starvation and inhuman brutality was carried out at Buchenwald for a long period of time; and that such camps as this mark the lowest point of degradation to which humanity has yet descended. They may well be allowed their concluding sentence, in which they say: The memory of what we saw and heard at Buchenwald will haunt us ineffaceably for many years. I now turn to the question contained in the Motion put on the Paper by my noble friend Lord Denham. The Motion has led, not unnaturally, to a discussion on rather wider lines, and I think that this is a very good illustration of the way in which the looser practice of this House may contribute most valuable material in the course of a debate which has been as timely and important as this. The question contained in the Motion, however, had better be answered first. My noble friend asks whether His Majesty's Government will make arrangements forthwith for as many Germans as possible to undergo similar salutary and educative experiences in other parts of Germany. Let me give a completely dogmatic and unqualified answer. His Majesty's Government fully support the action of the Supreme Commander, General Eisenhower, in obliging Germans living in the neighbourhood of concentration camps overrun by the Allied Armies to visit these camps. We have not a word of criticism to suggest. The decision was a decision taken by General Eisenhower; the area is an area in which the Allied Armies are in occupation, and in which General Eisenhower is the Supreme Commander. I trust it will be unanimously agreed that we in this country have nothing but commendation for the action which he has taken.

His Majesty's Government entirely agree with the description which my noble friend gives in his Motion of the experi- ence which a number of German civilians from Weimar have been compelled to undergo. When I think of some of the fine literature of an older Germany, I cannot get out of my mind a poem of Matthew Arnold's, which begins, I think, with the line: Goethe in Weimar sleeps. … Anybody who recalls some of the declarations of Goethe as to promoting feelings of kindness between different races, and of the impossibility of hatred between neighbours, will, I think, be moved by the thought that it is close to the burial place of Goethe that this abominable camp was set up. My noble friend Lord Denham's description of this experience of these German citizens was that it was "salutary and educative." I have to say, on behalf of His Majesty Government, that we entirely agree, and we shall be very glad if it is possible to apply the experience in other parts of the country.

The qualification must be made, however, which was pointed out in such plain language by my noble friend Lord Stanhope. It is the Supreme Commander who is responsible in this matter. It is not a matter for His Majesty's Government, and it is certainly not a matter for one of the Allies apart from the others. The Supreme Commander is acting for all of us, and the practical application of my noble friend's suggestion must, of course, depend entirely upon the judgment of the Supreme Commander and of the military commanders who are under him in the field as to what, in the circumstances, may be done. All that I say is that we entirely agree with the sentiment that it is a good thing to do, and we shall be willing to see it repeated; but these matters cannot be regarded as matters for the decision of His Majesty's Government in this country. The action that can be taken, the extent to which it can be carried, the further application of this policy—all these things can be decided only by the proper authorities who are charged, as my noble friend Lord Stanhope said, with such a tremendous accumulation of urgent, active duties. In any event we should not wish to give any supposed mandate for further action of the same sort without full communication with the American authorities. I am, however, able to give the House this piece of information. We do know that the Supreme Commander has under con- sideration the question of following this Buchenwald precedent in other camps, to whatever extent this is compatible with military requirements and with the other more general preoccupation of the Allied Forces in Germany. I am very glad to be able to give my noble friend so specific and clear an answer to the particular question which he has raised.

It is quite inevitable that a debate which started on a specific question should take a wider range, and I cannot but be deeply impressed by some of the speeches which have been made. I do not think that Lord Vansittart, in his many impressive contributions in this House, has ever more deeply stirred those who have heard him than he has this afternoon. I must confess to being just a little sorry, however, for the speech which was made by the noble Earl, Lord Darnley. I do not deny—I suppose that no fair-minded man and no student of history can deny—that many horrible things have been done by many races in many wars before; but I really cannot, for my own part, agree with him if he intended in his speech to imply that, after all, this is only one more example, and "What else can you expect?" I really do not think that the attitude which might be thought to mean that it is "six to one and half a dozen to the other" in the least truly represents a reasonable judgment on this case. One distinction was pointed out just now by my noble friend Lord Addison. We have here the deliberate perversion of every feeling of sympathy, decency and fair conduct pursued for the very purpose of exalting a particular race and securing its predominance. *While I would not for one moment attribute to Lord Darnley any such opinion as I am now going to mention, the kind of argument which he used comes dangerously near to suggesting that, at least in private, we might almost be willing to believe that British soldiers could do the same thing. Well, they could not. They could not do so in any circumstances.


I must disagree with the noble and learned Viscount. Nothing that I said could ever suggest anything of the kind, and to make such a statement is quite unfair in every way.

* See column 101.


I am sorry that my noble friend should think that.


I do think it.


My point is that he dealt with this actual situation as being a normal example of what had constantly happened in the history of the world, and I do not think we are assuming any special cloak of complacency for ourselves when we say that in point of fact, whatever be the horrors that have been perpetrated in other wars by other people, and it may be sometimes in our own, they do not come into the same category with what we are here concerned with. For that reason I must say for my part—I hope I say it with all courtesy—I do regret the line which he thought it right to take.

If I may, I will just contribute two or three general reflections before I sit down. First of all I think on a fair view of the present information that we may safely claim to be dealing with facts, established facts, and not with atrocity stories; and that is an immense thing gained. I have been told by one member of the Parliamentary Delegation that since returning that member has received quite a number of letters suggesting, even now, that what was being reported upon was exaggerated, in the nature of an atrocity story—not as a reflection on the individual but because of this reaction which is so common in the British mind to discount tall stories. Thanks to the visit of the Parliamentary Delegation, thanks I hope also to the visit of the Commission headed by Lord Wright, I think we have got to a situation now where we really can say, whatever be the comments and whatever be the solution, we are dealing with actual proved facts. That is an immensely important stage to have reached.

In the second place I would like to observe that of course what we are dealing with here is not a prisoner-of-war camp, it is not a camp to which prisoners-of-war were sent; this is a concentration camp for political prisoners, I understood my noble friend Lord Stanhope to say mostly Germans, mostly of the very nation to which the authorities of the camp belong but also for members of what the Herrenvolk regard as inferior races, and in some special cases for people from the occupied countries. I think it is very important to realize that. It leads me to this reflection, What is the real world condemnation of Hitler and his Nazi companions Is it merely a war crime, is it something or other which happened by their orders or under their authority during the war? I think it is something far wider. I think the true arraignment which the world brings against Hitler is not limited to the conduct of the war, horrible as that has been on the German side; the essential complaint goes much outside that, and it is not confined to the waging of war. This bestiality reported on in our White Paper is not the bestiality of war as such. As I understand, it existed before, and it demonstrates that what the world is really accusing the Nazi chiefs of is this: it is an arraignment against the foul cruel system of government which endeavours to force a whole nation to support one particular Party and does so by the method of remitting all who criticize it, all who oppose it, all who are suspected, to a concentration camp from which they wit never get out.

That is the real nature of the indictment and it is incidentally one of the greatest demonstrations of the value of a different set of institutions; for once you have that system, this result inevitably follows, that all individual liberty is lost, because there is no conceivable means by which those who are victims of this system can ever get out. When Hitler said that he was the law of Germany he was not using some extravagant bombast, he was telling a literal fact. In this country if the police come for me, I go with them without any very great alarm and I shall probably be able to explain that they have made a mistake. If by any chance I have committed an offence I know shall be fairly dealt with, and if by any chance I am put into a camp or a prison without due judgment of law I know very well that I shall get out by writ of habeas corpus within twenty-four hours. It is the contrast between that, which is the civilized way of governing a country and the conditions in Germany, not at all confined to the waging of war but which went on long before it, which measures the real width of the gulf which separates the Germans from a community which is reasonably well governed.

I am disposed to add a footnote to the question which has been raised and which more than one of your Lordships has answered: Did the ordinary German citizen know? What has already been said on that subject especially by the noble Lord, Lord Vansittart, is to my mind completely conclusive, but having during part of my life, for due reward, asked a few questions in cross-examination, I have an even simpler question than the one which the noble Lord, Lord Vansittart, suggested. It is essentially the same question. I will not say I thought of it first but at least I thought of it before I heard his speech. It seems to me that if I were confronted now with a German of reasonable intelligence who had been living in one of these German towns during the war and he protested that he knew nothing about it, I should want to ask him this very simple question: "But if you knew nothing about it, why were you so frightened of the Gestapo calling at your house?" An Englishman is not frightened because a policeman calls at his house. There is one and only one explanation of why these alleged respectable citizens should have been in this state of agonized apprehension. They knew what might happen to them. It was because they had observed in their own street or in their own town that there were people who had disappeared and who had never come back, and they knew very well that if there was a power like that in Germany it behoved them to be very careful not to give any possible grounds of suspicion. I therefore myself think it is completely proved by considering the facts of the case that the defence that they did not know is a defence which would not be accepted by any impartial tribunal.

There is a second line which is to say, "Well, yes, I knew, or I suspected. I was horrified; but what could I do? The powers against me were too strong." That is a very much more probable line of defence, but it is open to this criticism. This method of the Gestapo and the concentration camp has been applied not only inside Germany but in the smaller countries, the less powerful countries, bordering on Germany, which have been occupied during the course of the war. The Norwegians, the Dutch—they knew perfectly well what was the sort of fate that was overhanging them, yet in every one of these smaller countries so occupied there did spring up a really powerful re- sistance movement, cost what it might to resist. There are few things in the history of the world more really wonderful than the courage with which men and women in many of these small countries of Europe have shown their resistance by every possible means, whatever be the extent of the threat levied against them. It is a melancholy fact that though it may well be there were people in Germany who disliked, perhaps abominated, such methods, from beginning to end inside Germany itself there has been no considerable resistance movement.

These considerations only add to the gravity of the problem which remains. Lord Addison at the end of his speech, in sentences which I thought were very well chosen, pointed to some of the methods which might have to be employed, emphasizing length of occupation and continuous effort to try, not merely to bring home to the Germans after their defeat that they were utterly and absolutely defeated, and always would be if they followed such a line, but to bring them to believe in a state of things which calls for some measure of regret and of repentance. I have inquired of one or two members of the Parliamentary committee what their own view was as to the extent to which the Weimar citizens taken to the camp showed any sign of distress or repentance, and we have heard Lord Stanhope and Lord Addison most judicially report their own observations, without in any way denying that others may have seen a more hopeful sign. I inquired of one member of the Delegation who had the advantage of speaking very fluent German, and I was told, in answer, that while looking at these people who visited the camp with great attention, this member came across only one case in which the smallest indication of distress or regret or shame appeared. That was in the case of a woman who did say, "When I look at that, I am ashamed to be a German"—or words to that effect. I hope it was truly said. It is high time it was said. I think one of the greatest difficulties will be to induce a state of mind in these people, who have lived for years under this disastrous and dreadful system of education, that will make them accept, even after defeat, that the root of this whole matter is the abominable doctrine and practice which lay at the bottom of the Nazi regime.

There is a lady of my acquaintance much interested in the subject of slavery and in efforts to end what remains of it, who has said a thing that I think applies here—that until "human" and "humane" mean the same thing, the world will never be civilized. This is the task which falls upon the victors in the war. It is a terrible task. I would suppose it to be a more difficult task even than overcoming all the dangers that have beset us. Yet if we cannot find means, with others of like mind to ourselves, to discharge that task, then we shall have failed to serve civilization in the future, greatly as we and our Allies have brought deliverance to the world in the past.

4.8 p.m.


My Lords, I have only two things to say. One is that I should like to thank all those noble Lords who have joined in this debate, and especially my noble friend Lord Vansittart, who made a more brilliant speech than one expects even from him. I should like to thank all those noble Lords who have joined in this debate and made it a most interesting one. The second thing is that the noble and learned Viscount who sits on the Woolsack will not expect me to be satisfied with the reply which he gave to the speech which I made. If I may sum up his reply to me, it is, "I should be very glad if it were possible for the Government to do something, but all must depend on the Supreme Commander, and actually it is ultra vires the Government." Naturally I am not satisfied with that, nor am I satisfied with the fact that the noble Viscount who was answering for the Government did not reply to one of the three other questions, but he did, as he always does, gild my pill of disappointment with such a sweet coat of courtesy and kindness that I think it ill becomes me to complain. I can only hope that perhaps my suggestion as to the films being shown to German prisoners and also being shown all over Germany, and my second suggestion about naturalization being denied to Germans as some mark of the disapproval of the British race, may be considered and not lost sight of in the days to come.


I would ask leave to intervene. I really am sorry that my noble friend should feel disappointment. I thought I had answered his main question, the question on the Paper, with the greatest precision and, I should have thought, in a way entirely satisfactory to him. I am sorry that I did not acknowledge his suggestion about the films, which I am quite prepared to welcome. Lord Stanhope also approved, and so far as my own knowledge of it goes, I think it would be approved generally. But of course the noble Lord cannot expect me to stand up here and deal with questions that are not on the Paper merely because in the course of his speech he has asked this question. That is trite of the question of naturalization. I myself should be extremely chary of pledging the Government for fifty years ahead. I certainly am not authorized to say, nor would it necessarily be my view, that, let us say, a Jew who has escaped these horrors and who has shown himself for, the noble Lord said fifty years—but let me take twenty-five years—to have been a useful, meritorious and decent citizen in this country, should in no circumstances be naturalized because he was a German Jew. I certainly would not be prepared to say that in no circumstances should such a person ever be naturalized. Perhaps the noble Lord will allow me to add this. I had intended to remind the House that on Thursday, May 3, at 4 p.m. and also at 4.30 p.m., here in the Palace of Westminster, there is going to be the showing of the film to which my noble friend referred—the film of the German concentration camps. I apologize for intervening, but I felt bound to do so in the circumstances.


My Lords, I am going to conclude with this remark. I felt that it was the fact that I had travelled wide of my Motion in my speech and that I should meet with the answer which has just been given to me. I am most grateful to the noble and learned Viscount for the additional words he has spoken, and I beg leave to withdraw the Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.