29 March 1933
On Thursday 29 March 1933, Lord Hailsham, speaking in the House of Lords as Secretary of State for War, argued that any official representation made on behalf of Jews in Nazi Germany would be ‘an unwarrantable interference,’ declaring ‘I think it would be only right that I should say at once that the British government do not think they can claim to have any special right to intervene with regard to German subjects who are of the Jewish race.’1 His statement came just as the Nazi regime was preparing a mass boycott of Jewish shops and businesses for Saturday 1 April.
According to The Scotsman, ‘Hailsham said that he hoped and trusted that the (Nazi) German Government, which had not long to establish itself in very remarkable circumstances, would allow nothing to happen in Germany that would in any way conflict with the anxieties that had been expressed.’ He added that there had been ‘ambassadorial conversations in London and Berlin… of a reassuring nature.’2 Moreover there had been no reported incidents against British nationals and ‘no British citizen of Jewish descent’ in Germany ‘had any cause for complaint.’3
The Times gave its wholehearted support to the government line of appeasing Berlin, cautioning its readers, that ‘As Lord Hailsham pointed out on Thursday in the House of Lords, there can be no question of official intervention by this country on behalf of the subjects of another state.’ It then tried to justify its position by making the dubious assertion that any robust political action against a nation, as yet highly dependent on Britain economically and still virtually unarmed, ‘would only make the position of the German Jews more perilous and would provoke German nationalism to frenzy.’4
Most other newspapers expressed similar sentiments. Typically, an editorial in The Scotsman declared that ‘clearly the treatment of German Jews is a domestic issue which must be left for the German government to settle for themselves,’ adding that any intervention by Britain would be ‘most hotly resented by the Nazis, and could do the Jews no good’ and that ‘stories of ill-treatment’ had ‘given the Nazis a pretext for instituting a boycott against the Jews in Germany which is to begin on Saturday morning.’5
- Lord Hailsham quoted in ‘Position of Jews in Germany,’ the Yorkshire Post, 31 March 1933 p. 7.
- ‘Germany’s Treatment of Jewish Subjects,’ The Scotsman, 31 March 1933, p. 9.
- ‘Lord Reading Pleads for German Jews,’ The Leeds Mercury, 31 March 1933, p. 5.
- ‘According to Plan ?’ The Times, 3 April 1933 p. 15 accessed online in The Times Digital Archive on 20 July 2017.
- ‘The Jews in Germany,’ The Scotsman, 31 March 1933, p. 8.
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