HL Deb 30 January 1946 vol 139 cc68-90

2.40 p.m.


rose to call attention to the mass transfers of Germans from Poland, Czechoslovakia, and the East of Germany; and to move for Papers. The right reverend Prelate said: My Lords, I rise to call attention to certain proceedings which have not, I think, made any special impression on the public mind but have a considerable bearing on the future of Europe. I have taken some trouble to get at the facts and I have had much help from those who have first-hand information in the territories concerned. I am afraid that the story which I have to unfold is a melancholy one, but for the simple reason that we are one of the three great Powers that were parties to the Yalta and the Potsdam Agreements we cannot free ourselves from the responsibility we have accepted for attention and action.

I would first like to tell you the facts. At Yalta in February last year, Mr. Churchill, President Roosevelt and Premier Stalin agreed to certain alterations in the boundaries of Poland. Included in these alterations was a promise to compensate Poland for its loss east of the Curzon Line by substantial concessions to the North and the East, and Danzig, East Prussia and Upper Silesia were specially mentioned. Great stress was laid at the time on the freedom, independence and sovereignty of Poland, and Mr. Churchill, in his speech of February 27, undertook a direct responsibility for the settlement as head of the British Government. The Potsdam Agreement last August registered the necessary consequences of Yalta, and pending a final delimitation of frontiers at the Peace Conference, East Prussia, all Silesia and Pomerania were handed over to the administration of the Polish State.

This is the point for our consideration this afternoon. The three Governments of Soviet Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States agreed to the removal of all Germans out of all these territories in advance. They also agreed to a similar removal from Czechoslovakia and Hungary. But the governing clause is in Article 13 of the Potsdam Agreement entitled Orderly Transfer of German Populations, which runs: The three Governments, having considered the question in all its aspects, recognize that the transfer to Germany of German populations, or elements thereof remaining in Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary, will have to be undertaken. They agree that any transfers that take place should be effected in an orderly and humane manner. The three Governments go on to request the Allied Control Commission to examine the problem with special regard to equitable distribution in the several zones of Germany, to report on the numbers already admitted into Germany and to estimate the time and rate at which further transfers may be effected. In the meantime they request that further transfers be suspended.

In anything that I say this afternoon, I shall not suggest that these three great Governments are themselves conducting expulsions from Poland, Czechoslovakia or Hungary, but what I claim is that all three have a great responsibility of which they cannot divest themselves, both for the fact of the expulsions and for the manner in which they are being carried out. I further beg you to understand that I feel deeply for the terrible sufferings which Poland and Czechoslovakia have endured during the war. Poland in particular is a martyr nation. It is impossible to speak of her to-day without admiration for her courage, without pity for the tragic losses of the flower of her manhood and for the ravaging of her land. I am also aware of the reality of the problem caused by the presence of alien minorities of a defeated nation in a victorious State.

Let me turn to the numbers affected by the expulsion orders. It is very difficult to be precise, and the Government will no doubt check my figures, but the information which I have obtained is as follows: German populations in pre-war Poland west of the Curzon Line, approximately 1,000,000; in East Prussia, West Prussia, Pomerania and Silesia, approximately 9,250,000; in Czechoslovakia, Sudeten Germans, approximately 3,200,000; in Hungary, approximately 500,000—a total approximate figure, if anything on the conservative side, of about 14,000,000 deportable people so far as those countries are concerned.


Do you mean west of the Curzon Line, or east?


I beg your pardon. In pre-war Poland, east of the Curzon Line. Thank you; I am very grateful.

It is very difficult to know how many of these 14,000,000 or so have already been transferred into Germany. It is certain that millions had been transferred before the Potsdam Agreement and that more had been transferred by the end of September, Marshal Zhukov, in a statement from his central office in Berlin on October 9, said that already there were 8,000,000 deportees in the Russian zone and that 4,500,000 more were expected. Your Lordships will agree that the numbers are vast; indeed, it is a transfer of population without precedent in the history of Europe. There was a Turco-Greek exchange of populations after the first world war which made perhaps the best of a bad job; but it was not a model of either humanity or wisdom, and its repercussions, economic and political, are still with us. Only just over 1,000,000 Greeks were transferred from Turkish territory and, as Sir John Hope-Simpson, who was intimately concerned, has remarked, it involved an appalling amount of misery and hardship.

There has been nothing like the present transfer of population in ancient Asiatic history. This transfer is not simply a handing over of territory, but a root-and-branch removal of immense populations for racial reasons to clear the ground for the new occupiers. It is bad in itself. It involves a denial of human rights and it is extremely difficult to see how to distinguish it in principle from the mass deportations of civilian populations for which the National Socialist leaders are now on trial as for a war crime at Nuremburg. I know it is urged that some measure of removal from Poland or the Sudetenland was necessary in view of the Czechs' experience with Himmler. I agree that safeguards are necessary, but perhaps the best safeguard is a demilitarized Germany, with genuine democratic Governments in Czechoslovakia, Poland and the other countries concerned, with political equality and economic security for all without distinction of race.

But be that so or not, in any event we are obliged to consider the ruthlessness and the unmitigated racialism involved in the setting up of these homogeneous national States and the magnitude of the precedent created. Where are the nations to stop if so much is allowed? We have also to consider the incalculable danger to the future peace of Europe created by the flaming national resentment which is bound to arise. But whatever difference of opinion there may be about the policy of the transfer, I think all your Lordships will agree that the method ought to be humane. Mr. Truman, Mr. Attlee (who was then Prime Minister) and Premier Stalin agreed at Postdam that any transfers that took place should be effected in an orderly and humane manner. I should like to ask His Majesty's Government what machinery has been established for securing this, whether any authority representing the three Governments has been set up to see that it is orderly and humane, what is the result of the examination by the Allied Control Commission as to the equitable distribution in the several zones, and what estimate has the Allied Control Commission made as to the time and rate of further transfers. Unfortunately, there is only too good reason for believing that there is little order or humanity in the method of the transfer. The Czechs have a better way of presenting their story than others. In The Times of January 26 we were told that 1,209 Sudeten Germans, mostly women and children, had begun their transfer to the American zone in cattle trucks, with a liberal allowance of personal belongings. Nothing was heard of compensation for the property they left behind. There is not much humanity in a transfer starting in the dead of winter in cattle trucks, even when those cattle trucks have stoves.

We are not told what are the conditions in which these deportees are awaiting their fate. I have had this week an account sent from Vienna by an old Social Democrat about the condition of the internment camp near Prague. He writes: Long before the formalities of expulsion have been agreed, a great number of Sudeten Germans have been herded together in camps where they slowly perish from famine and disease. In Kladno, near Prague, for instance, thousands of Germans are kept in a camp irrespective of their age or political creed. Their daily ' food ' consists of black coffee in the morning, potato soup at noon, and black coffee in the evening plus 20 dkg. of bread. Inmates are dying day by day. The half-naked corpses are rolled into coffins and then thrown into mass graves, the empty coffins being taken back for further use. The burial is performed by fellow prisoners, who get a piece of bread and margarine extra for the job and are, therefore, fighting each other for that privilege. I have plenty of other evidence about the conditions of those being prepared for deportation. All Sudeten Germans are by decree deprived of civic rights; they have no appeal to any Court; their property is nationalized; they are robbed of their homes; payment of pensions and social insurance to them has been stopped; and they have starvation rations. The introduction of unpaid forced labour is rapidly increasing by the decree of September 7; medical aid is severely restricted by hospital rules and the expulsion of doctors; entry is refused to theatres, cinemas, concerts and, for the children, schools. People are obliged to wear white armlets around their left arms and they are obliged to stay within doors from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. —very much like Hitler's treatment of the Jews. In August, when the transfers were proceeding, they were given only half an hour and sometimes no more than ten minutes' notice to leave their home—not very orderly or humane.

The method adopted by the Poles in the transfer of populations from East Prussia, Pomerania and Silesia is no better. I have in my hands the report of a Silesian priest who describes the expropriation, the looting, the arbitrary arrests, the forced labour and the starvation of the Silesian population, but I will content myself with one quotation from a report on the problem of food and maintenance on the continent of Europe which reached me only the other day from the International Red Cross at Geneva. It runs: The inhabitants of both urban and rural communes were ordered to leave their residences at short notice, each person being allowed to take with him 20 kilos of his belongings. The aged people and the sick were left behind, without medical assistance, nursing facilities or medicaments. All the evacuees assembled on the high road, with their belongings stacked on perambulators, hand carts and other vehicles. There were only a few horse drawn carts for invalids and the aged or infirm, so that the people themselves had to push or pull the heavily laden vehicles. Belongings, including bags and trunks, bedsteads and bedding, shoes and foodstuffs, kept on disappearing by night and by day. Owing to the steady rainfall there was no possibility of drying clothes and underwear. The luckiest managed to find shelter in barns, cellars or ruined houses; the others remained in the open. Children were born on the roadside, in the most difficult circumstances; villages destroyed, no cattle. Babies are therefore condemned to die; the ditches by the roadside receive the corpses. The aged collapsed, and implored the younger ones to abandon them to their fate. Many who could march no further attempted to board passing trains, but here they soon lost the few possessions they had managed to save. Torn from their native soil, these homeless people are roaming along the high roads, a prey to hunger, exhaustion and disease. Covered with vermin, they strain every nerve to attain their sole aim—a new home. Wherever they seek shelter they are met by point blank refusals. They are sent further on, directed anew, conveyed back again, and then told to retrace their steps. We all know, of course, that these things happened under the Nazis, but we expected that these things would end with their régime. It appears they are being re-enacted in the case of millions of people.

The last matter raised in this report is their aiming at a new home. Where are they all going? That is a vital point in orderly and humane transfer. I hope that His Majesty's Government will enlighten us on this, and will tell us what the Allied Control Commission is proposing. Is it true, as Field-Marshal Montgomery stated on November 11, that between four and eight million deportees are expected as the British share in their zone as a result of the Potsdam Agreement? Does this accord with the statement of the Allied Control Commission on November 21 that the British zone is receiving one and a half millions from Poland? How is it proposed to fit four million persons into a zone which normally contains 17,000,000 and now, according to Field-Marshal Montgomery, actually contains 20,750,000 inhabitants? Where are they all to be put, when the whole territory is made less industrial and in the great majority of the large towns the great majority of the houses are in ruins? It is a huge task for the Military Government, who are doing such magnificent work in very difficult conditions.

When will these deportations end? Your Lordships will agree that the picture which I have painted is melancholy. There is also the fate of those left behind, who are not deported. For example, three million of the original population in Silesia are said to be in a state of despair, with suicides frequent, with a desire to get out at all costs, and they are being put to forced labour. In Czechoslovakia numbers of deportable people are sent into the interior to do slave labour, so that besides mass expulsions we have the perpetration of a system of slave labour by one or more of the United Nations after Hitler's fall in the centre of Europe. Is this really the wish of the three great Powers? Does this really represent the ideal for which Britain and other free countries fought?

President Benes, on October 28 of last year, speaking to the Provisional National Assembly at Prague, said this: We decided to get rid of our Germans by sending them into the Reich. Our Allies everywhere agreed with our point of view in this matter. In the same speech he went on to say: It is obvious that all preparations for the transfer of Germans must be well organized, and that this action must be carried out in a human, not a Nazi-like manner, and in full accordance with our Allies. I would emphasize those two phrases—"a human, not a Nazi-like manner", and "in full accordance with our Allies." They cover both the policy and the method, and I would again make the claim that a responsibility does rest upon the British Government as a joint partner with the Americans and the Soviet Russian Governments to the Potsdam Agreement, not only for making strong representations, which I am sure they have made, but for intervening through the Allied Control Commission to secure that the transfer, if not ended, shall be orderly and humane. Indeed, as the supremest authorities under whose sanction the agreement was made, and the provisions for the transfer decided, they have, it seems to me, a duty to the world to intervene.

There is one other point to which I wish to call attention. It concerns the provision of room for the Poles from east of the Curzon Line who have to be settled elsewhere. There is some dispute as to their numbers. President Truman gave the figure of 3,000,000, and Mr. Bevin 4,000,000. I believe that both are over-estimates. Recent reports from the Commission for Repatriation, published by Radio Warsaw, said that only 1,356,592 applications for repatriation had been received by the end of November. The whole population of pre-war Poland, including Jews, Ukrainians and White Russians, was 35,000,000. The Poles have lost the flower of their manhood; they have had terrible losses. Their losses through death, deportation, slave labour and so on, due to the war, are estimated at 12,000,000. I am informed that a maximum figure for the present Polish population, including repatriable Poles, is 23,000,000. If that is so, then without any addition of territory Poland proper could re-absorb the repatriated people from the Soviet Union three or even four times over. If that is so, there is no surplus population.

In any case, it is an extraordinary proposal that Poles should be given territory of great dimensions—26 per cent. of the total arable land of Germany, occupied by over nine million persons—for one or three or four million (whatever be the figure) Poles from east of the Curzon Line. It seems to me, and I am sure that it will seem to history, incomprehensible that this part of Germany should have been incorporated into the Polish administration before any decision has been taken by the Peace Conference. Is it the intention to present the Peace Conference with a fait accompli? The state of the area is described as pitiful and devastated now to the last degree. What is the purpose? Why turn an industrial and agricultural territory into complete chaos? Why try to concentrate Polish energy here instead of on real Polish soil west of the Curzon Line? Is this the way to protect Poland from war, to counter the war spirit of Germany or to achieve—I am quoting the words of Mr. Churchill—" the establishment and future welfare and security of a strong, independent, homogeneous Polish State"? If the freedom of Poland is, as it must be, more important than the frontiers of Poland, the Potsdam Agreement has surely very badly failed. Apart from what is done to the Germans, apart from the woe inflicted on the body and soul of Europe, it is a most grievous and far-reaching wrong done to the Poles themselves.

I am trying to put before your Lord-ships a picture of the facts as far as I can learn them, and also to take a stand on the rights of man. I have already asked certain questions of His Majesty's Government as to the principles and the machinery, but there are many other matters on which information is desirable which can only be obtained from a visit to the country. So I would ask His Majesty's Government to consider the sending of a British Parliamentary delegation, with the necessary consents of other Governments, to Poland and Czechoslovakia and all the zones concerned, in order to investigate the conditions in which deportation is being carried out and the arrangements being made for distribution and resettlement. The report of such a delegation would be a document of first-class importance. Again, this is a matter which concerns all the United Nations—not least the small ones. It is fortunate that the United Nations Organization is meeting now. According to their Charter the United Nations are determined to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women of all nations large and small. I would, therefore, ask His Majesty's Government to move the Economic and Social Council to take the whole question of these transfers of: population into their purview, to investigate the position of those dispossessed former citizens of Germany, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Poland and other countries involved, from which expulsions are proceeding or are in contemplation, particularly the case of the former minority citizens of Czechoslovakia, deprived of rights, homes, property and appeal to Courts, and put to forced labour.

I thank your Lordships for the patience which you have shown in listening to the tale I have had to unfold. I hold no brief for the Germans as Germans. My first speech in your Lordships' House, made eight years ago, was for the Jewish victims of Nazi persecution. I honour the Czechs and the Poles as brave and friendly nations deserving a great future. I appeal only for human beings to human beings. We, in Great Britain, once stood alone in a world conflict against tyranny and oppression. Then by the help of our Allies, and the help of God, we prevailed. We are still the champions of human freedom. We must not fail to give a lead to the world in the same great cause to-day. My Lords, I beg to move.

3.16 p.m.


My Lords, I am only too glad to come to your Lordships' House to-day to support, if only for a few minutes, the plea which my right reverend friend has made for abatement of the sufferings of the nationals who are now being, or are about to be, transferred from Poland, Czechoslovakia and East Prussia. That plea he has advanced to you, as always, with eloquence and, if I may say so, with Christian fidelity. As the right reverend Prelate told your Lordships, there are two ways of looking at these transfers of population to-day, and he has touched on both of them most ably. The first way is from the point of view of human pity for the actual sufferings undergone on the journey, under conditions of extreme hardship and difficulty, in ice and snow, and packed into cattle trucks, by the old and infirm and the children, many of whom must inevitably perish by the way. The second angle is that of consideration as to what the result of such sufferings is going to be on the future peace of Europe and of the world. I would like, for the few minutes for which I am going to detain your Lordships today, to touch upon this second aspect.

At the end of every war, so history tells us, there is always a lot of political manœuvring and the object is always a good one—it is the prevention of a similar outbreak in the future. But I think I can quite justly say that this result has never yet been attained. The method followed is always the same. It consists in the physical weakening of the recent aggressor by various forms of deprivation, of money, of territory, of machinery plants, of arsenals and the establishments generally where he, can make weapons for war and collect his guns and his troops. It also consists in the grouping of the victors together into different forms of blocs—without a "k"—of such difficulty of maintenance as your Lordships have, perhaps, already been able to note since this present conflict ended. All this manœuvring is based on the assumption that the danger to the peace of the future lies solely in the recent aggressors and that the victors are capable of permanent unity and ability to keep the peace.

I venture again for the "nth" time to disagree in toto with these assumptions. Peace between nations—I say this again, and I am going on saying it—will come when no nation has any reason to wish for war; and in no other way. At Nuremberg the other day there was read an affidavit by a previous War Minister in Germany, Field-Marshal von Blomberg. In it he said that he considered that there were three critical territorial questions confronting Germany after 1919. These were the Polish Corridor, the Ruhr and Memel. He went on: I myself, as well as the whole group of German General Staff officers, believed that these three questions outstanding, among which was the question of the Polish Corridor, would have to be settled some day, if necessary by force of arms. About 90 per cent. of the German people were of the same mind as the officers on the Polish question. A war to wipe out the desecration involved in the creation of the Polish Corridor and to lessen the threat to separated East Prussia, surrounded by Poland and Lithuania, was regarded as a sacred duty, though a sad necessity. This was one of the chief reasons behind the partially secret rearmament which began about ten years ago before Hitler came to power and which was accentuated by the Nazi rule. No one could possibly approve of the methods taken to fulfil such a statement of what he called a "sacred obligation," but no one on earth in his senses could deny that it is a true revelation as to why nations make war. The United Nations have said exactly the same thing themselves. In the indictment which they issued the other day against the German warmongers, Item 2 states that one of the causes for their trial at Nuremburg is that "they tried to get back by force what they lost in the last war" or words to that effect.

I venture to say once again that it is as certain as it is possible to be in this life that in the future some new Hitler with another name will urge the Germans to revenge for various things which are taking place to-day, the loss of East Prussia, of the territories in East and West, and to these will certainly be added the evacuation of these Germans to which the right reverend Prelate has referred this afternoon. The proclamation which this new regenerator will produce will doubtless be adorned by the portraits of past leaders who may have achieved canonization by that time, especially if they get executed as a result of the Nuremburg trial. It is a proven fact that you cannot prevent a nation from making war if it wants to. Take away the contemporary potentialities for making war weapons and they will invent something else. You can see that to-day with the introduction of the atomic bomb. The army of the future may merely be an atomic bomb corps of a few hundred men of a scientific variety clad in suits of lead!

Any proposals made to-day for limitation, suppression or dismemberment are pointers to another war. No one with any sense would either excuse or condone or do anything else but deplore the recent doings of the Germans, Japanese and Italians, but anybody who thinks that such deeds are going to be stopped in the future by any other method except that of bringing the nations concerned into some form of amicable co-operation, or that they can remove any tendencies to revenge by suppression, dismemberment and eviction, or punishment or forcible education, is just imperilling the future not only of the youth of the world and the age-long era of civilization, but possibly even the existence of the planet itself. Therefore, these evictions of which the right reverend Prelate has spoken in his melancholy story, are in fact taking their part in forming a new war, so I pray that the Government will do their very best to stop them. I was much moved, as I am sure many of your Lordships were, by a poem in a Sunday paper by the noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Inch-rye. It was a message from the spirit of an airman who had gone above and the last verse read as follows: Hello down there! I call again Though free from earthly base. I charge you: banish fear and pain From colour, creed and race. I wish the noble Lord were here to-day, for I believe he would agree with the contentions of the right reverend Prelate and myself.

There is not much time left now for the reversal or cessation of the acts which are now begetting the nucleus of a new war, which will surely accomplish the destruction of human existence as we now know it. There is not much time, for the wheels will soon be deep in the old ruts again. A lot of punishment may be deserved, but punishment is a difficult matter for the human mind to apportion correctly. But punishment should not fairly be meted out either to the old and infirm or to the innocent children either of to-day or of a future generation who must inevitably suffer unimaginable horrors in a new conflict. There is very little information given to the public about these evictions and I hope the noble and learned Lord, who I believe will answer for the Government, will be able to tell the right reverend Prelate and myself that we have taken an unnecessarily gloomy view, that the evictions, are far less than was supposed and that there is only a little suffering. I think the public ought to be given more information about this. This question of evictions and also the question of the food situation in Europe seem to be shrouded in what I might call almost a suspicious silence.

But what would be most welcome to-day, far in excess of hearing such details, would be the knowledge that His Majesty's Government see this question in the light of the future of the world's peace; that they are using their best offices to resist any persuasion that may be urging them to agree to a process so perilous for the future of that peace which it is their avowed aim to produce; and that they would be willing to endeavour to get these evictions stopped, even if that does mean an attempt to repeal decisions taken in past conferences. I think that, to-day, such evictions must either be justified or brought to a close.

3.31 p.m.


My Lords, the Motion which we are discussing is thus phrased: To call attention to the mass transfers of Germans from Poland, Czechoslovakia and the East of Germany; and to move for Papers. To deal with that Motion I have come prepared with all the information which is in the possession of His Majesty's Government, but, except for its closing passages, the speech to which we have just listened bore very little relation to the Motion on the Paper; and the speech of the right reverend Prelate, in so far as he based his animadversions on the boundaries of Poland to-day, the provisional boundaries of Poland, equally bore no relation to the Motion on the Paper. I am bound to say that I think it is a little unfortunate that observations of that nature should be made when the Government spokesman, by reason of the form of the Motion, has no opportunity to answer him, and the statements must, therefore, go by default.

With regard to the Motion on the Paper, I shall, as I say, give your Lordships the most complete exposition of the facts in the possession of His Majesty's Government. Let me start by saying this. His Majesty's Government were parties to the Potsdam Agreement. The Potsdam Agreement, as the right reverend Prelate says, recorded the fact that the three Governments recognize that the transfer to Germany of German populations remaining in Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary will have to be undertaken. To that decision His Majesty's Government adhere. My Lords, do let us be realists about this thing. We in this country have led a comparatively sequestered and cloistered life. We have not suffered a Lidice or seen our women lined up naked in the snow to decide which of them should, and which of them should not, be sent to the gas chamber. If we are realists about this matter, I believe we shall come to the conclusion that the best chance of peace—I am not talking about punishment at all; I agree with the noble Lord there—in the future of Europe lies in preventing the continuance of German minority populations in those countries.

Let me take one illustration, if I may, from a country I know very well—Czechoslovakia. I honestly believe that if any country really tried to give its German minority population a fair and reasonable chance of assimilation, it was Czechoslovakia. And what happened? Henlein, who posed as being the national leader of the Sudetens, and wanted to maintain his place in the country, was, as we all know now, a mere agent of Hitler. I do think we should be lacking in realism if we were to ask these people to risk the very experiment which proved so disastrous in the past, and therefore, I believe, not on the ground of punishment, but on the ground of future peace, that future peace is best secured by removing the German population, which has proved that it is not digestible or assimilable, back from those countries to Germany. When the right reverend Prelate referred to these things as being bad in themselves—the denial of human rights and analogous to the things we are hearing of at Nuremburg—I think he failed to realize what these people who have suffered in the past must feel with regard to the future. We must realize too that one cannot possibly move populations on this vast scale without considerable hardship and suffering. When the right reverend Prelate referred to that matter, I think he carried us all with him. It is the duty of every one of us to do all we can to see that this necessary transfer is accomplished with the minimum of human suffering.

After the Potsdam Conference, in July, 1945, your Lordships will remember that the Three Powers requested the States concerned, that is, Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary, to suspend further expulsions pending the examination by the Governments concerned of the report from their representatives on the Control Council. In the case of Czechoslovakia—I think it is fair to say this and I think acknowledgment should be made of the fact—that request was acceded to and expulsions were stopped. When I say "stopped" I mean that, although there may have been some, very few persons were expelled. Equally, it must be admitted that in the case of Poland expulsions were not stopped and, despite repeated representations, continued; or at least—I want to be quite fair—a very large number of Germans migrated. It was at that time, during the summer and autumn of 1945, when the request to discontinue expulsions had been made, that the worst sufferings were experienced. The Control Council worked out its plan by November 20. By that time the transfers had died down and they have not since been resumed on any large scale under the terms of the Agreement. Your Lordships will be aware that the Agreement provided for numbers and for the monthly instalments of those numbers. The Control Council's plan has broken down, but that breakdown is not unwelcome because, had that plan been adhered to, very considerable numbers would have been expelled in the months of December and January, whereas it has been recognized, I think, by all concerned that transfers on any considerable scale are quite impracticable during the winter months, and, in fact, can only be got going in the spring. At the present time, so far as is known, virtually no transfers are taking place.

I will now refer to particular countries. In the case of Poland, under the Control Council plan the Poles were to expel a total of three and a half million Germans from November, 1945, to July, 1946. Two millions of them were to be settled in the Soviet zone, and one and a half millions were to be settled in the British zone. Under the plan the Soviet zone was to accept immediate transfer, but so far as is known to His Majesty's Government, transfers are not yet taking place. The British zone was not obliged to accept transfers until the spring, on account of the fact that, of all the occupied zones in Germany, accommodation in the British zone available for refugees is already stretched to the limit; the British zone of all the zones is the furthest from being self-supporting in the matter of food; our zone suffered far more from bombing, and already had received a large influx of Germans fleeing before the victorious Russian Armies. Already there has been a net increase of some 800,000. But although our obligation to accept these Germans does not begin until the spring of the year, we have agreed to accept 5,000 Germans from Poland daily. This movement has not yet begun, but we are prepared to accept these immigrants as soon as the Poles can arrange their delivery on the frontier of the British and the Russian zones of Germany. We have camps side by side on the inter-zone border, and when we receive the refugees they will be fed, medically examined and sent forward to their destinations in our zone in enclosed and—unless it proves impossible to obtain fuel—heated railway carriages. Meals will be provided on the journey and ration cards for the districts to which the transferees are going will be issued. We should, I say frankly, prefer to use the sea, but we have agreed to take 4,000 of the 5,000 by rail.

In the case of Czechoslovakia, the Control plan provided for the transfer of 2,500,000 Germans, of which 1,750,000 were to be received in the American zone and 750,000 in the Russian zone. Transfers were to have begun in December, and had they been carried through 15 per cent. of the total—that is, 375,000 persons—would have been moved in December. But although this movement has begun it has been only on a small scale and this situation is likely to continue until the end of March. Both the occupying authorities in Germany and the Czechoslovak authorities realize that at this time of year a large-scale transfer is impossible without inflicting considerable hardship, and that more time is needed for the elaborate preparations which will be involved. The main transfers therefore will not begin until the spring. That means that the spread over, which was December to July, will last longer, but that, I think, is all to the good. In the meantime we are advised that the conditions in the transit camps in Czechoslovakia are regarded as not unsatisfactory.

With regard to Hungary, the Control plan provided for the transfer of 500,000 Germans from Hungary to the American zone. It seems likely that somewhat less than this total will be transferred, and here again, in order that the proper arrangements can be made, transfers have been postponed. Very few persons have so far been transferred from Hungary. British officers who attended to see the departure of the first train of emigrants, reported that conditions were on the whole orderly and humane.

Let me now say a word or two about the responsibility of His Majesty's Government. I need hardly say that we shall do our best to see that, so far as the operation lies within our control, these necessary transfers are carried through in as humane a manner as is possible, to reduce to the lowest possible degree suffering which will do no good to anybody, which may do much harm and which is revolting to all of us. In Hungary, the Soviet Chairman of the Allied Control Council has proposed that the three controlling Powers should ensure, by meeting together, that the transfers are carried out at the Hungarian end in an orderly and humane manner and we very much welcome that proposal. In Czechoslovakia, the Czech Government have thoughout co-operated to the best of their ability with the Allied Council. We feel confident that the Czech Government will do all they can to ensure humane treatment, and we think it probable that they will gladly allow our representatives in that country to observe the process. In Poland we have not so far been able to observe the process of the transfers from that end, and it seems unlikely that we shall be given any such opportunity. Furthermore, we ourselves cannot be responsible for resettlement in zones other than our own. We receive reports, and the reports indicate that the conditions for Germans remaining in Poland are bad. It is fair to add that the reports also indicate that the conditions for the Poles are far from good. It is for that reason that we have offered, before our due date, to accept the daily number of 5,000, rather than see them exposed to the rigours of three or four more months in Poland.

Now I come to the specific questions which the right reverend Prelate asked. He asked: What is the estimated number of deportable Germans from Poland, including the new territory, and from Czechoslovakia and Hungary? From Czechoslovakia it is 2,500,000; from Hungary 500,000; and from Poland, including her new territory, the figure may be as high as 10,000,000 but it must be borne in mind that probably more than half that total have already got to Germany, very many of them by voluntary evacuation before the end of the war. Then the right reverend Prelate asked what is the machinery for carrying out the agreement that any transfers would be effected in an orderly and humane manner. There is no international machinery for carrying out transfers or for supervising their execution. The arrangements are left to be worked out directly between the Government of the expelling country and the authorities of the zone in Germany to which the immigrants are to be expelled. But it is considered that, except perhaps in the case of Poland, our representative in the country concerned will have the opportunity of observing the manner in which the transfers are in fact to be executed.

The right reverend Prelate next asked what is the situation of those Germans who have not yet been deported. In Czechoslovakia, a large proportion of the Germans to be expelled have been assembled in transit camps, and the reports we receive indicate that the conditions in these camps are tolerable. In Hungary most of the Germans have not yet been removed from their own dwellings, but those who have are likewise in transit camps, and the rest will be put through these camps as the move progresses. The situation of Germans in Hungary not yet transferred is believed to be satisfactory. In Poland, as I have said to your Lordships, the same cannot be said, and conditions for the Germans there are undoubtedly bad.

The next question is, what is the present result of the examination by the Allied Control Commission of the equitable distribution of the deported Germans in the several zones? If the right reverend Prelate will look at the report of the Control Commission, which has not been altered—they adhere to their figures—he will find all the information which I can now give him. To what extent have the Germans already entered Germany from Poland? This is hard to estimate. From Poland, probably more than half the Germans have already entered Germany; from Czechoslovakia, probably less than one-tenth; and from Hungary, virtually none. Then I am asked about Marshal Zhukov's estimate that 8,000,000 Germans had arrived in the Russian zone by October 9, 1945. His Majesty's Government have no means of checking those figures; nor indeed have we a record of the statement. We should have thought it unlikely that as many as 8,000,000 Germans had entered the Russian zone by October 9, although half that number might well have done so.

Then I am asked about Field-Marshal Montgomery's statement. He is supposed to have said on November 11—I have not seen the statement—that between 4,000,000 and 8,000,000 are to be expected from the Russian zone and Poland and Czechoslovakia in the British zone. It is not true that so many Germans are to be expected in the British zone. Adding together the net immigration from the Russian zone and the number of Germans from Poland transferred to the British zone under the November plan, we do not think that the total of newcomers should be much more than 2,500,000. When is it expected that the deportations will come to an end? Under the November plan the transfers should have been completed by July, 1946, but, owing to the fact that transfers have been virtually suspended during the winter months, it is quite certain they will be spread over a longer period. However, I am sure the right reverend Prelate will agree with me that on balance it is a great gain that we should have suspended them during the winter months.

On the question of a visit by a delegation of British Members of Parliament, we really cannot assume responsibility for transfers except in respect of our own zone. For instance, transfers from Czechoslovakia to the American and Russian zones are not the responsibility of this country, except that his country is a member of the Allied Control Commis sion. In that capacity we will certainly do all we can, but I could not, although I would be very glad to consider the matter, hold out much hope in these circumstances of a visit by British Members or Parliament. What is the responsibility of the United Nations? The United Nations is responsible, under its Charter, for promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and for fundamental freedom for all without distinction as to race, sex, language or religion, and the Economic and Social Council, under the General Assembly, are charged with the task of implementing those provisions.

I would point out to the right reverend Prelate that the whole object of these transfers—a policy which none of us like, because we know it involves hardship, but a policy which most of us believe to be inevitable—is to prevent the existence of a hard core of German minorities Which cannot be assimilated. Surely it is far better to do that, and to give peoples a fresh start without these minorities in them, than to do what the League of Nations tried to do after the last war—namely, to have some kind of international supervision over minorities living in a different State. I venture to think history has shown that that has failed.

I have not embarked on the large question of the frontiers of Poland—what Poland's frontiers should be and why Poland has had these provisional frontiers fixed; neither; have I embarked on the large question of the causation of war, to which the noble Earl referred. But I think I have, in regard to the question on the Paper, given your Lordships all the information which is in the possession of His Majesty's Government. Though I say frankly that the matter is one which causes grave anxiety in certain respects, yet I can assure your Lordships that day by day His Majesty's Government, by example, by advice and by precept, will do everything we can to lessen the hardships which, unhappily, in a matter of this sort, must be caused.

3.57 p.m.


My Lords, I apologize to the right reverend Prelate for not being in my place at the beginning of his speech. I think that those noble Lords who oppose the transfer of populations are not really serving the cause of ultimate peace. Those of us who believe in it (and I am a firm believer in the necessity for it) wish, above all, that these transfers shall be carried out under the most humane conditions possible and with such mitigation of suffering, which we all detest and deplore, as is feasible. We had, happily, an assurance from the noble and learned Lord Chancellor that His Majesty's Government were doing all that lay in their power to give effect to this desire which we cherish.

I would like to put to the right reverend Prelate whether he believes that the continuance of these minorities in countries of different race and different mentality, countries which have suffered terribly, is really desirable. I put to him another point. Are these people going to settle down to a happy existence in countries such as Czechoslovakia and Poland? I believe it is in the interests of the minorities themselves that they should be transferred to their mother country. I happen to have seen a great deal of these German minorities and I believe you cannot get the Germanic idea out of their minds—namely, that they are the master race and are going to remain so.

Your Lordships probably remember the transfer of population between Greece and Turkey. All transfers of population cause intense misery that cannot be helped. But if anybody asked me whether that transfer was advantageous to the people concerned, I would say that in about four years the region to which they were transferred became the most prosperous region in Greece and Greece became a united nation, for it got rid of people it did not want and got people it did want. It is with that example in mind that I support most strongly the principle of transfers of population, provided always that humanity is exercised in the carrying out of that very difficult task.

3.59 p.m.


My Lords, I should like first of all to thank the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack for his reply and for the fullness of the answers which be gave to the series of questions I put to him, of which I had given him notice. I am a little surprised that he should take such vigorous exception to my allusion, in a small corner of my speech, to the frontiers of Poland. After all, as I explained to the noble and learned Lord, my remarks were founded on Article 13 of the Potsdam Agreement, which in itself depends on this great proposed change of frontier. When you are dealing with the effects, or alleged effects, there is something to be said for an allusion to the cause. I was mainly concerned, however, with the transfers themselves, and with the conditions in which the transferable people now are and under which the transfer takes place. When my speech is read to-morrow, it will be seen that I was more concerned with the details of the transfer than with anything else.

My noble friend asked me whether I thought that it was possible to leave the Sudeten Germans as a minority in Czechoslovakia or as another minority in Poland. The answer to that requires a very considerable background. It is fair to remind the noble Earl that the conditions under which the Sudeten Germans were incorporated in the Czech State were quite different from the conditions under which Slovakia was incorporated. It is also fair to point out that there are many people of high authority who in the period between the wars maintained that the Sudeten Germans were not getting their economic and political rights in the same way as the other minorities in Czechoslovakia. It is also perhaps, fair to remind the noble Lord that when it was suggested to President Masaryk that he should deport these minorities, which have resided in that part of Czechoslovakia for centuries, he absolutely repudiated embarking upon such a barbarous policy; so that if I err, I err in good company.

I was concerned, however, with the conditions under which the transferred persons are now living, and under which the transfer is made. I am not quite so optimistic about the satisfactory conditions in which the Germans detained in Czechoslovakia are now living, though I have not all the sources of information which are open to the noble and learned Lord. I gave a good deal of evidence, as the noble and learned Lord might expect me to give in arguing the case, which goes to show the denial of human rights to persons now living in Czechoslovakia.

I am very glad, however, to note two or three things which the noble and learned Lord said. He did accept a measure of responsibility on behalf of the British Government. That respon sibility is a tripartite responsibility so far as the Allied Control Commission is concerned. He also quoted with approval a move made by the Hungarian Government in asking that the three Powers should actually inspect the proposed transfer from Hungary. That in itself is a good precedent for other transfers. I was also very glad to find how warm his sympathy was towards the hardships of which I tried to draw a picture, and which do not think that I exaggerated, under which these people are now being transferred. However, I do not wish to detain your Lordships any longer; you have been patient enough in all conscience. I thank the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack again. I hope that he will continue to give his study to these matters, and look into some of the points that I have mentioned. I am glad that he does not altogether rule out the possibility of a Parliamentary delegation, in spite of its difficulties. I ask leave to withdraw my Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.