On 21 November 1938 debates were held in Parliament to discuss whether Britain would be prepared to accept more Jewish refugees from Germany, including unaccompanied children.
At 9.35pm, Sir Samuel Hoare, the Home Secretary, took the stand and in questions following his speech he confirmed that as a result of a meeting that morning, with the promise of the Jewish community providing funds, the Home Office would waive visas so that child refugees could be brought to Britain on what would become known as the Kindertransport.
The speeches make fascinating reading, especially the desire to re-home Jewish refugees in Tanganyika (now Tanzania) or British Guyana in order to ward off fears from the British public that the refugees would take their jobs.
We have copied below the speeches in full, with some of the more interesting moments in bold and references to the Kindertransport in red.
Highlights include an address from Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain and an impassioned speech from Philip Noel-Baker, who later won the Nobel Peace Prize, on the dire situation for Jews in Germany.
We are proud to be the Jewish organisation who promised to oversee funding for refugees, including the children, that Sir Samuel Hoare refers to in his speech.
REFUGEES (GOVERNMENT PROPOSALS).
HC Deb 21 November 1938 vol 341 cc1313-71313
asked the Prime Minister what progress has been made by the International Commission set up after the Evian Conference to deal with the problem of refugees?
Perhaps my hon. Friend will be good enough to await the statements which will be made at the end of Question Time and during the course of this evening's Debate.
- The Prime Minister
In conformity with the recommendations of the Evian meeting in July last, His Majesty's Government have had under constant examination the contribution which they could make, in respect of the United Kingdom and of the Colonial Empire, to the international effort to facilitate the admission and settlement of involuntary emigrants from Germany. They have also had in mind the view expressed by the Evian countries that the country of origin should make its contribution to this problem of migration by enabling intending emigrants to take with them their property and possessions. The extent to which countries can be expected to receive emigrants must depend very largely upon the conditions in which they are able to leave their country of origin. His Majesty's Government have been greatly impressed by the urgency of the problem created by 1314the anxiety to migrate overseas of sections of the population in Germany and of individuals who, in consequence of recent events in that country, have found temporary asylum in countries of first refuge.
In the light of these circumstances and of the recommendations of the Evian meeting, His Majesty's Government have again reviewed the situation.
With regard to the United Kingdom, the number of refugees which Great Britain can agree to admit, either for a temporary stay or for permanent settlement, is limited by the capacity of the voluntary organisations dealing with the refugee problem to undertake the responsibility for selecting, receiving and maintaining a further number of refugees. His Majesty's Government are keeping in close touch with the Committee which has been set up to co-ordinate the activities of the voluntary organisations engaged upon this task. The United Kingdom has, since 1933, permitted about 11,000 men, women and children to land in this country, in addition to some 4,000 or 5,000 others who have since emigrated overseas.
As regards the Colonial Empire, it must be remembered that, although covering a great extent of territory, it is not necessarily capable of the immediate absorption of large numbers of refugees. Many of our Colonies and Protectorates and our Mandated Territories in East and West Africa contain native populations of many millions, for whom we are the trustees, and whose interests must not be prejudiced. Many large areas, which at present are sparsely populated, are unsuitable either climatically or economically for European settlement. The Colonial Governments could only co-operate in any schemes of large or small-scale settlement provided the schemes were formulated and carried out by responsible organisations.
As was indicated in this House by Lord Harlech on 30th March, and as was subsequently made clear by the United Kingdom representative of the Evian meeting, His Majesty's Government consider that there is no territory in the Colonial Empire where suitable land is available for the immediate settlement of refugees in large numbers, although in certain territories small-scale settlement might be practicable. The Governors of Tanganyika and British Guiana have, however, 1315been asked to state whether, without detriment to native interests, land could be made available for leasing on generous terms for the purpose of large-scale settlement to the voluntary organisations concerned with refugees, provided they undertake full responsibility for the cost of preparing the land and of settling refugees of suitable types as the land is made available.
The Governor of Tanganyika has replied expressing his readiness to co-operate in any schemes of settlement of the refugees so far as existing obligations will permit. While he has not yet had an opportunity of consulting the Legislative Council, the Governor has expressed the view that the only suitable areas for large-scale settlement are likely to be found in the Southern Highlands and in a part of the Western Province, but a thorough investigation will be required before a definite indication of the available areas can be given. He would welcome a mission from the refugee organisations, and would readily give them all facilities for inspecting the areas and forming an opinion of the possibilities. The area that might be available comprises about 50,000 acres of land.
In addition, a scheme of small-scale settlement up to a total of 200 settlers is being considered.
A small experimental private scheme in Kenya, devised by one of the Jewish organisations in London, has been approved by the Governor after consultation with the Legislative Council, and young men who have undergone a course of training at one of the agricultural training centres established by Jewish organisations in Germany have already been selected for this scheme. These men will be settled on farms purchased by the Jewish organisations, after a further period of training in the Colony, and, if the scheme proves successful, they will be joined by other members of their families.
Inquiries have been made of the Governors of Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland as to the possibility of small-scale settlement in those territories also, and I am glad to say that the replies received from both Governors indicate that this may be possible.
I turn now to British Guiana. In the interior of this Colony there are extensive 1316tracts of sparsely occupied land, consisting mainly of forest and savannah. These areas include certain Indian reservations, but the Governor states that ample space is available to provide fully for all possible needs of the Indian tribes and still leave large areas worthy of examination as to their suitability for refugee settlement. Agricultural development of these areas has hitherto been prevented by unfavourable conditions and lack of communications. It would, therefore, be essential that careful surveys by experts should be made before any definite scheme can be formulated, and His Majesty's Government propose to invite the voluntary organisations to send out their own representatives as early as possible to conduct such surveys on the spot. They will be given all facilities for this purpose by the Colonial Government, and His Majesty's Government would also be ready to send out some experienced official to advise and co-operate with them. Provided that the results of the surveys are satisfactory, His Majesty's Government contemplate the lease of large areas of land on generous terms under conditions to be settled hereafter. It is not possible at this stage to give exact figures of the total area which could be made available to be leased for this purpose, but it would certainly not be less than 10,000 square miles, and possibly more.
Finally, I must mention Palestine. It is generally recognised that that small country could not in any case provide a solution of the Jewish refugee problem; but Palestine has been making its contribution. No less than 40 per cent. of the Jewish immigrants entering the country during the last 12 months have come from Germany.
His Majesty's Government hope that the other countries represented on the Intergovernmental Committee to continue and develop the work of the Evian meeting, will also endeavour to make what contribution they can to the urgent need of facilitating emigration from Germany and from the countries of first refuge.
In conclusion, I must emphasise that, however great may be our desire and that of other countries to assist in dealing with this grave situation, the possibilities of settlement are strictly limited.
The right hon. Gentleman has said nothing about the Dominions.
No, I spoke only of conditions which we can control ourselves.
While thanking the right hon. Gentleman for his statement, may I ask whether the Government will be willing to consider favourably the admission into this country of young children from Germany, who will not be competing in the labour market?
We shall be having a Debate on this subject later in the day, and perhaps the matter could be discussed then.
Is my right hon. Friend in a position to say what plans there are to cover the intermediate period while the final plans are being made?
That, also, might be discussed to-night.
Are any approaches being made to the German Government by the Powers unitedly in order to induce them to facilitate the exodus of these people?
My hon. Friend knows that approaches have been made.
Would the Government not consider the possibility of granting a revolving loan for the maintenance of these refugees, in view of the fact that private organisations might not have the money?
That would be a little premature at this stage.
Is the area of 10,000 square miles in British Guiana the same as that considered by the League of Nations for Assyrian settlement three years ago, and condemned?
It includes that area, but it also includes other areas besides.
With regard to young children, if there are persons in this country who will undertake the responsibility for them and for their education, will the Home Office grant facilities for their speedy admission?
My right hon. Friend will deal with that this afternoon.
May I thank the Government for their interest in this matter?
HANSARD – November 21 1938 – evening session
RACIAL, RELIGIOUS AND POLITICAL MINORITIES.
HC Deb 21 November 1938 vol 341 cc1428-831428
- 7.33 p.m.
- Mr. Noel-Baker
I beg to move, That this House notes with profound concern the deplorable treatment suffered by certain racial, religious and political minorities in Europe, and, in view of the growing gravity of the refugee problem would welcome an immediate concerted effort amongst the nations, including the United States of America, to secure a common policy. I hope that this is a Motion with which the House will agree. I shall try to support it in no party spirit, and I hope I shall say nothing that will add, or will be said to add, to the difficulties with which the Government are to-day confronted. But I know the House will recognise that this Debate can serve no useful purpose unless we speak the truth, unless we face the facts and review the situation as it really is. What are the facts? On 7th November, a Polish Jew, Grynspan, a boy 17 years of age, entered the German Embassy in Paris and attacked a member of the staff, Herr Vom Rath. Two days later Herr Vom Rath succumbed to the wounds he had received. 1429He was the victim of political assassination. We have been told, here and elsewhere, that his action was a detestable crime. No one would dispute that. By our national standards political assassination is always detestable and always wrong. It is not less detestable when it is the method by which a party climbs or clings to power. There are people who, when they hear the name of Vom Rath, will remember also the names of Rathenau, Erzberger and Dollfuss, to whom the act of Grynspan will recall the night of 3oth June, 1934.
What followed Grynspan's act in Germany? Every hon. Member knows the main outline of the facts. Dr. Goebbels has described it as the justifiable and comprehensible indignation of the German people. Let hon. Members think of that. Here is the "Daily Telegraph's" first summary of what occurred: The entire Jewish population of Germany was subjected yesterday to a reign of terror. The pogroms started simultaneously all over Germany. No attempt was made by the police to restrain the savagery of the mob. Almost every synagogue in the country was burnt to the ground. Scarcely a Jewish shop escaped being wrecked. Looting occurred on a great scale. Parts of the fashionable district of Berlin were reduced to a shambles. Jews of all ages, of both sexes, were beaten in the streets and in their homes. Numbers were lynched. The caretaker of a synagogue is believed to have been burnt, with his family, to death. Let me give the House some details, which I can guarantee as facts. As part of the general destruction of Jewish institutions, a boarding school at Caputh, near Potsdam, was invaded and utterly demolished at 2 a.m. The young children were driven, without adult guidance or protection, into the night. At Bad Soden, the only Jewish home for consumptives in Germany was destroyed and sacked. The patients were driven away, wearing nothing but the shirts in which they slept. At Nuremberg the inmates of the Jewish hospital were forced to line up on parade. Some had just had serious operations, and one of them, my informant says, dropped down dead. At Ems, an asylum for aged Jews was raided, and the old people were driven out. A paralysed old man was driven from his bed, and his wife refused to leave his side. She was assaulted with an axe and her crippled husband was dragged away; at Bernsdorf, in Silesia, the boys in a Jewish camp were summoned to parade, and some were 1430missing. A storm trooper, so says my informant, at the point of the pistol, asked a young Jew if he knew the whereabouts of the others. The young Jew was either afraid to answer or really did not know anything about it, and he was shot dead immediately. As he was lying on the ground the storm trooper kicked him with his heels.
In a concentration camp at Buchenwald, near Weimar, 70 Jews were killed during the night of 8th-9th November. That is to say, before it was known that Vom Rath was dead. Dr. Goebbels tells us that these acts were the spontaneous outbursts of national anger. In our view there would be no justification if that were true, but there is too much evidence not to think that the attacks were organised, and that they were organised in advance. In all the raids on Jewish institutions a common plan was followed, such as the cutting of the telephones, the disconnecting of the electric current, and the smashing of the central heating system before the actual assaults on the buildings were begun. British journalists are unanimous in their testimony that the attacks were not spontaneous, but, as the "Times" said, all the indications point to centralised direction. Everywhere the police allowed them to go on. In the Fredrichstrasse district of Berlin traffic was diverted half an hour before the looting actually begun.
Not least among the mass of evidence which I could give to the House is the Government action which followed. If these acts had been the spontaneous excesses of the mob, the Government might have been expected to condemn them, to punish the offenders and make reparation to the victims. That was not what happened. Millions of pounds worth of damage has been done, and the Government proceeded to complete the work by decrees which ordered the Jews to pay a collective fine of £84,000,000 and to repair the damage done to their business premises at their own expense. That was accompanied by an order to the insurance companies not to pay them what was due.
By another order it was decreed that after 1st January no Jew may take part in any economic activity of any kind. In the meantime, they are not allowed to open their own shops nor even to go to the shops of Aryans. Most sinister of all, the Government began to arrest 1431all the Jewish men. All Jews of the male sex, from the age of 16 to 60, have been driven off to concentration camps, and in 80 per cent. Of the cases I understand their families do not even know where they are. Every Jewish charitable and social organisation has been broken up. Be it noted, for this is very important, some of these decrees at least must have been discussed before the attack on Herr Vom Rath had ever been made. On 3rd November, an article appeared in the "Schwarze Kaps," the official organ of the S.S., the Black Guard by which the concentration camps are conducted and by which other secret police activities are carried on. In that article the editor said: Out of the hoarded wealth of the Jews we must compensate ourselves for the economic damage done to us by world Jewry. The article indicates very plainly that something such as that which has occurred was even in official contemplation. I stress that quotation because I believe it gives the clue to the real character of events in Germany in the last few weeks, which were not the spontaneous vengeance of the people for a Jewish crime but the consummation or, more correctly, the penultimate stage of a long-term plan, the spirit and purpose of which are all too plain.
Dr. Goebbels would like us to think that nothing had happened to the Jews before Grynspan fired his fatal shot, yet it is five years or so since Jewish children in schools were compelled to ask for milk in order that the milk might be publicly refused; it is five years or more since Jews were humiliated in the streets and since posters "Jews not wanted" appeared at swimming pools and other public places; it is five years or more since for every Jew, as for the Liberals, Socialists, Catholics and others, the concentration camp has been a haunting thought that has never left them day or night; for five years or so we have forgotten what a concentration camp is like.
I am not going to pile up horrors, but it is vital that we should know what is going on. We should have a living picture of what people are enduring in Germany to-day. I have an account of a British observer, Mr. Arnold Forster, well known to hon. Members of this House, which is based on his own personal observations in a camp in 1933. If I were to read extracts from that report, which has been published, hon. Members would feel physically sick. Things have not improved in concentration camps since 1933. I have with me an account written by a victim who in June of this year was in the camp at Buchenwald, where conditions were worse, I believe, than in Dachau. He tells of their ghastly convict work on the road, 17½ hours a day upon their feet with not enough food to keep a child in health. He describes the nameless tortures given as punishment for the most trivial offence. He says that of his batch of 2,000, 105 died on their feet in the first five weeks.
When we remember that this physical and spiritual torture has been going on for nearly six long years we can understand a little better, even if we do not excuse, the desperate act of a Jewish boy who was driven crazy by the fearful persecution of his parents and the people to which he belonged. We can understand, too, that these last drastic measures were not in any significant sense the result of Grynspan's act. They were part of a long and deliberate campaign moving with gathering and terrible momentum to its predestined end. That campaign was not ordained and it is not supported now by the German people. The Jews are the first to say that it is un-German. Germany was the cradle of Protestantism, the home of Kant, of a great trade union movement and a great free Press. Those who know it best—I do not—speak most warmly of the generous human spirit of the small post-war army which Germany was allowed to have. There is widespread testimony—I had it from an Englishman who returned here to-day—that the German people now are helping the Jews whenever they dare to do so. He tells me that even the police confess to him their shame and their disgust.
What have the Jews done to bring down this vengeance upon them? Sir Norman Angell has said: It is inflicted for one reason only; in their veins may run the blood of the race which gave us Jesus Christ, His Mother and His Apostles. Nothing is more certain than that it is no crime, no disloyalty, no treason of the Jews which has brought this fate upon them. We have good cause in this country to know the great services which the Jews have rendered to our nation. Hon. Members will not forget the Jewish contribution to the building of the Empire, and no one will forget their five Victoria Crosses, their 49 Distinguished Service Orders, their 263 Military Crosses and their 329 Military Medals won in the last War, an amazing record for so small a section of the population. Their services to Germany were certainly not less. There, as well as throughout the world, they have made an unmeasured and an unmeasurable contribution to art, science, medicine, music, knowledge, literature, and all that makes civilisation worth while. Indeed, it was only when they were driven from their posts in 1933 that we saw clearly how great a part of what we called the German genius was really the genius of the Jews.
Perhaps Dr. Goebbels has forgotten what they did for Germany in the War. I have here a record of those who fell—12,000 Jews gave their lives in a population of 500,000; a proportion one and a-half times as high as that of those who fell among the white population of the British Commonwealth for our cause. In this book Field-Marshal Hindenburg salutes his Jewish comrades who had fallen for the Fatherland, and the German Minister of War says that they were true saris of the German nation. Certainly it cannot be said that the Jews have given any cause for the treatment they have received since 1933. They have shown in Germany as in Palestine a self-restraint which it almost super-human, almost beyond belief. They have met their affliction with an international effort of co-operation of which the greatest living authority on refugee assistance, Sir John Hope Simpson, says: I do not think in the history of the world there has ever been such well organised, co-ordinated effort for humanitarian purpose as has been shown by the Jewish organisations in this crisis. And he went on to say: The Jews have not confined themselves to helping Jews. It is probably true to say that more Jewish money than Christian money has gone to help Christian refugees. I stress these facts because I think they make it plain that this martyrdom of the Jews in Germany is not a national vengeance on a disloyal race. However it started, it has become a part of the Nazi party's plan to disrupt and dominate the world. I think it is now quite plain what Dr. Goebbels means to do. He is not condemning the Jews to death; he is making it impossible for them to live. He means to rob them of all their worldly possessions, first for his party funds, and, secondly, for the bankrupt budget of the State. For years he has been stirring up anti-Semitism in other countries in order to increase the forces of disorder in the world, and now he is planning to drive out the Jews, in his own picturesque phrase, with one suit and a handbag, and leave them on the charity of the democratic world. And he is preparing to send them all. Consider his speech reported in the Press to-day: We only want the world to be sufficiently pro-Jewish to take all our Jews from our shoulders. What does that announcement mean? There are already at least 160,000, I think 200,000, refugees from Germany and Austria, Jews, Aryans, Socialists and Catholics together. There must still at least—I am taking bottom figures—be 400,000 Jews in Germany to come. There are somewhere between 300,000 and 1,000,000 non-Aryans, half-breeds as Dr. Goebbels calls them. There are many Aryans against whom persecution is still continuing, or has begun; Socialists, Liberals and Catholics, in an increasing degree. The programme of expulsion can be indefinitely extended at Dr. Goebbels' will. If he successfully executes his threats against the Jews in Germany can we hope that only Germany will be affected? Before 1933 anti-Semitism caused a certain amount of social discomfort in Germany at times of economic slump, but in Poland and Rumania it was an endemic malady, breaking out in violent pogroms from time to time. At the present time, to the honour of Poland and Rumania, their Governments are holding their anti-Semites in check, but if the Dr. Goebbels' plan succeeds, if he drives half a million penniless Jews upon the world, will not Poland, will not Rumania, say perhaps now is our chance to send away our 4,500,000 Jews and rid ourselves of this problem for good and all.
Where is this thing going to end? What is it going to mean to us before it is ended? Dr. Goebbels would like us to think that it is a domestic question, that it is no concern of ours how his Government treats the racial and religious minorities within their state. If the treatment of minorities is a domestic question 1435by what right did Germany concern herself with the fate of the Sudeten Germans two months ago? Certainly by no treaty rights. The treatment of minorities has always been a matter of international concern, and even if that had not been so, it is still true, as the Secretary of State for India said on Saturday and we thank him for it, that anything is international which stirs the conscience of mankind. But, alas, it is also an international question of a more material kind. We shall have to keep these unhappy human beings if Dr. Goebbels drives them out. There is not a Government in Europe to-day which is not already faced with cruel and urgent questions concerning refugees.
Let the House consider the prospect before us against the background of the refugee problem as a whole. There are still roughly 500,000 Russian, Armenians, Assyrians and others who have been refugees for 20 years, of whom we cannot yet say that they are settled. There are 250,000 Stateless persons for whom, as Sir John Hope Simpson says, no one is doing anything. There are 96,000 refugees, Czechs, Germans and Jews in Czechoslovakia to-day, and there will be many more. There are 25,000 Spaniards in France, apart from children. If Dr. Goebbels completes his programme, and if Poland and Rumania join in, what are we going to do? The outside world must have a programme also and it must have it now. I venture to suggest that that programme must comprise two parts. In the first place—here I speak in a most tentative manner, and I do not expect the Home Secretary to give any definite answer to-night—it must comprise action of some kind designed to check the persecution and the expulsion or penniless new hordes of refugees.
What can we do in that order of ideas? I believe that other Governments, like the Government of the United States, could protest in Berlin. There would be nothing new in such action. Our own Government protested in St. Petersburg in 1906 against the Jewish pogrom, and the present Archbishop of Canterbury was one who helped to see that the protest was made. The whole history of Nazi Germany shows that even verbal protests are worth while. In the second place, we can make it clear in Berlin that there can be no cordial relations between the German 1436Government and the British people while the martyrdom of the Jews, the Socialists, the Protestants and the Catholics goes on. It is hyprocrisy to pretend that in present conditions a feeling of confidence and trust can be pursued. No British Government has the right to leave Berlin with such a hope. In the third place, we may have to consider—I do not say more than that —whether we should not take measures of active self-protection. If foreign exiles are to be thrust upon us we may be driven to seek measures by which we cart make room.
Dr. Goebbels maintains what is called a "Foreign Organisation," and in a recent remarkable and well documented article in the "Quarterly Review," the author says that this foreign organisation is carrying on an insidious and provocative agitation by tens of thousands of agents. Every Government, even our own-perhaps most of all our own-is disturbed by the activities of Dr. Goebbels' agents. May the time not come when the number who receive our hospitality will have to be reduced? It was by threatening such action that Poland, two weeks ago, stopped the mass expulsion of Polish Jews; and there is another Government, which I will not name—a smaller country—which has successfully taken similar action by threatening the expulsion of German subjects. Dr. Goebbels' plan also creates a grave financial problem. Private and public money is now being poured out, and the time may come when we shall have to think of economic measures—taxes on German products, the control of German assets here—by which this grave financial problem which Dr. Goebbels is forcing on us can be solved
I have spoken of such self-protective measures, as I call them, in a tentative way. I shall be more positive, if I may, about the second part of our programme. We must certainly try to stop the persecution, to stop the flood of exiles who come, and at least ensure that they come with the men, with the breadwinners, and with some part of their possessions. But whether we succeed or fail in that, it is urgently necessary that we should have a positive plan to settle the hundreds of thousands of people with whom we know we have to deal. That plan is needed now. Charity is running everywhere to waste. I was told yesterday of £50,000 raised in Switzerland to keep 3,000 Austrian refugees. Those £50,000 are already exhausted in keeping them alive. With a plan, most of them would have been settled for good and all.
What can the plan be? When we think of the vast numbers involved, it seems very difficult to hope for any real result. I remember thinking that when stood with Dr. Nansen, in 1922, beside the camps at Constantinople, of which the Home Secretary knew something and in the relief of which he played an honourable part, the camps where 100,000 Russians were living in conditions of unimaginable squalor. I thought the same a little later, when I stood by a stream in Eastern Thrace and saw the camp fires of flying families of refugees stretching away through the night to the very horizon. I thought it still more when I saw those same families on the quays of Salonika in the midst of winter.
Yet those 100,000 Russians were dispersed and settled throughout the world. If you go to Greece to-day, you will see the new towns and the new villages where the 1,000,000 refugees who came from Asia Minor have been settled in a new life, and have brought new strength to the nation to which they came. By that same machinery, after the War, in those early years of the League of Nations, Dr. Nansen's High Commission settled, or helped to settle, 200,000 refugees in Bulgaria, 40,000 in Syria and Erivan; and by other means assisted hundreds of thousands of Russians to travel and to find work. Far greater numbers were then dealt with than all we are now confronting, and I believe our present problem can quite certainly be dealt with if the same energy and the same methods are used to-day. I speak with some assurance, because for several years it was my task to watch these schemes being carried through, and I think I know—indeed I have excellent cause to remember—all the difficulties and obstructions that are likely to arise.
Broadly speaking, what can be done falls under two headings—infiltration and large-scale settlement. Infiltration means dealing with people by individual cases or by smaller groups. If a specialist in surgery is driven from Germany and a new Chair is made for him in a Scandinavian university, that is infiltration. If a Russian count—I am speaking of cases I know—gets a permit to drive a taxi in Athens, if a Russian engineer walks from Bagdad to the Nansen Office in Geneva and is given a job in a railway in South America, that is infiltration. There are great possibilities in infiltration, provided you have a strong and authoritative international machine to carry it through. It was by infiltration that the 100,000 Russians in Constantinople were dealt with. There are many ways, of which I will mention only one—the use, perhaps, of Jewish doctors in building up our health services in the Colonies, where the health standard is far too low. There are many ways by which we, through an international organisation, could use infiltration to a successful end.
More important is settlement, both in agriculture and in industry. It was by settlement that more than 1,500,000 people were given new means of livelihood in Greece, Bulgaria and other places I have mentioned, in the To years that followed the War. Of course, there is the problem of land, of which the Prime Minister spoke this afternoon. I admit that it is more difficult, perhaps, than it was in those cases, although in those cases it was not very easy; but I am bound to say that I am convinced that if the Governments bring good will to the matter, land can be found. Of all the countries that the Prime Minister mentioned this afternoon, I thought Palestine by far the most hopeful, and I hope that the Government are not excluding the principle of large-scale settlement in Palestine, where there is work ready to be done. I hope at least they will give permits now for the 10,000 children whom the Jews are eager to welcome. I hope Canada will take in, perhaps in British Columbia, on virgin soil, the Sudeten Germans. I know the Sudeten Germans. Canada would not find better settlers or more all-round settlers in any country in the world. The land is a big question, but it can be solved if other elements of a constructive programme are there. I was not quite sure this afternoon, as I listened to the Prime Minister, that they were.
I am sure that there are four conditions which must be fulfiied. First, there must be a real identity of purpose and co-ordination of policy between the different Governments. Let me give one example. A refugee—this is an actual case—was impounded as a vagrant, because he had no permit, in a certain 1439European country. He was tried and put in gaol. Then he was expelled to another country, where the process was repeated, and again he was re-expelled. In a year, £200 were spent upon the trials and imprisonment, while his family was a charge on the public funds. For half the money, the Nansen Office could have settled him for life. That is what happens—it is happening now—when you do not have a co-ordinated Government plan. There is misery and waste to all concerned.
But a co-ordinated plan means a strong international administration to carry it through. Dr. Nansen had his staff, he had the help of the Secretariat of the League, he had his own agents and offices in 20 countries. That was how we worked. Without it, we should have done nothing at all. It happens that, thanks largely to the efforts of the Noble Lord the late Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and his French colleague, M. Grumbach, the last Assembly of the League of Nations decided to appoint a new High Commissioner for refugees, with the same powers, the same budget, the same staff as Dr. Nansen had. I hope he will be used as Dr. Nansen was used, and I hope he will be encouraged to use his powers as Dr. Nansen used his.
Thirdly, there must be money, ready money for urgent needs, and long-term loans for settlement plans. Millions of pounds are needed. What disappointed me in the Prime Minister's statement this afternoon, as I understood it—I hope I am wrong—was that he is still relying on private charity alone. Private charity cannot solve the problem now. The Government need not be alarmed at the prospect of guaranteeing loans. They will not lose their money. These refugees are not like the Greeks and Bulgarians who were settled; they are very able, resourceful, educated people—one of the best investments in the world. If the Government can guarantee a loan for arms to Turkey, I think they ought to guarantee a loan to save these unhappy people. If they do, I think they will do quite as much, pound for pound, to make the British Empire strong and safe as they did by giving the loan to Turkey.
Lastly, there will be little hope of practical results—and perhaps here some hon.1440Members will think I touch more controversial ground—without the regular, pitiless publicity of the Council and Assembly of the League of Nations. I know the difficulties to be overcome, the obstructions that will be made, and the vested interests that will interfere. Only the power of vigilant and instructed opinion will break those obstructions down. If our Government will rely upon that power, if they will use the High Commissioner of the League, if they will guarantee the loans he will require—in common, of course, with other Governments—if they will give to this matter the drive that was given to it 15 years ago by the late Lord Balfour, Lord Cecil and those who worked with them on the British Delegation, then I am very certain they can obtain the same results.
I think they might in some measure stay the tyrant's hand in Germany by the means I have suggested. Certainly they can gather the resources, human and material, that are needed to make a new life for this pitiful human wreckage. That wreckage is the result of the mistakes made by all the Governments during the last 20 years. Let the Governments now atone for those mistakes. The refugees have surely endured enough. Dr. Goebbels said the other day that he hoped the outside world would soon forget the German Jews. He hopes in vain. His campaign against them will go down in history with St. Batholomew's Eve as a lasting memory of human shame. Let there go with it another memory, the memory of what the other nations did to wipe the shame away.
I cannot claim that tolerance which the House invariably gives to a maiden speech, but I can ask for some indulgence in view of the fact that this is the first occasion on which it has been possible for me to address the present House of Commons. It seems to me that there are three moods in which this refugee problem may be considered. We may, like the hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Noel-Baker), who has given us a speech full of incidents of the brutal and inhuman treatment which the Germans are meting out to the Jews, consider that every feeling of decency has been violated and in that mood we are apt to look upon these events in an atmosphere of indignation and resentment. Then there is the mood of intense 1441sympathy in which one is inclined to dramatise the record of human torture to be found in the tragic history of the persecution of the Jews throughout the centuries, and in the emotions aroused by that mood, we may forget the need for practical and effective action. There is a third mood which it is difficult for us to adopt, but which, I think, we ought to adopt. That is the mood in which we refuse to have our senses stimulated by sentiment, or our judgment darkened by indignation, and in which we look upon this problem of 500,000 refugees in Germany as just another practical problem which British statesmanship is called upon to consider and to solve.
It is because I think this last mood is the mood which will be most helpful to the settling of the problem that I propose to keep to it, in my brief examination of the position. We find that 500,000 men and women of Jewish race, but not all of Jewish religion, are looking round the world for a home and appeal to the British Government for help. Is there something in that problem which defies solution? Is its magnitude so vast, are its difficulties so complex, that we must recoil abashed from it and come to the conclusion that it is beyond human attainment to solve it? I do not take that view. Like the hon. Member for Derby I think that when we view this subject through the perspective of history, we see that a task of similar, or even greater magnitude, has been shown to be well within the capacity of a nation much poorer in possessions and wealth than ours. I refer to Greece. Looking at it in that light and recalling the fact that over 1,000,000 penniless, starving, homeless Greeks found refuge in that poor country, we must come to the conclusion, in confronting this problem, that the resources of civilisation are by no means exhausted. Many hon. Members are probably familiar with the masterly history of Europe which was written by a former Member of this House, Mr. H. A. L. Fisher. Referring to the defeat of the Greeks in Asia Minor in 1922 when the victorious Turks entered Smyrna, fired the city and massacred all of Greek blood whom they could find, Mr. Fisher writes: Mere than 1,000,000 Christians fleeing that terrible wrath were rescued from Asia Minor in Allied ships, and by a great feat of benevolent organisation distributed through Greece and its Islands. 1442Later, referring to those refugees he says: Greece became by reason of its industrious Asiatic immigrants richer, stronger, more populous than before. A task which when undertaken, under the wise guidance of Nansen, in reference to 1,000,000 friendless Christians, proved to be successful, should not, in relation to 500,000 assisted Jews, prove insuperable. I hope I have made my first point, namely, that the objective of settling these Jews in other countries is well within the capacity of the world to achieve. I turn to my second point: Is Parliament, is the British Empire, in a position materially to help the achievement of this objective? Undoubtedly it is. Responsible as the British Empire is for a quarter of the surface of the globe, it is absurd to suggest that we cannot give great help. I am aware that this House cannot speak for the whole Empire, but it can speak for a substantial part of it, and it is from the Government that money can be obtained and should be forthcoming.
The most obvious way in which immediate help can come is from Palestine. There should be the immediate increase of the available immigration into Palestine. That will afford the assistance which is most necessary and most urgent. Palestine could, according to those who are qualified to express an opinion, take some 50,000 additional immigrants. I do not wish to dwell at length on this question of Palestine, because the House will be debating it on Thursday, and I turn to some other parts of the Empire where the immediate prospects are not perhaps so favourable, but where, in my opinion, a great deal can be done. We have read of what the Italian Government are doing in connection with settlers in Libya. British Somaliland, Kenya, Tanganyika and, in a smaller way, British Guiana will greatly benefit from the immigration of intelligent, industrious individuals whom Germany, having first dispossessed, is now driving out.
I know there are colonists who may say, that if we increase considerably the number of immigrants to those parts of the British Empire we shall intensify the problem of unemployment there and, alternatively, it may be argued that the present economic development of those parts of the world admits of only a very 1443small additional amount of immigration. I reject those arguments for two reasons. First, we can learn from what has happened in Palestine. I well remember being in this House when the present Opposition formed the Government of the country and the Secretary of State for the Colonies, Mr. Sidney Webb—now Lord Passfield—told us that an increase of the immigration of Jews into Palestine by some 3,000, would upset the economic balance of that country. What has happened since? Over 200,000 Jews have gone into Palestine and the economic balance of the country has not collapsed. The proof of that lies in the fact that, great as the immigration of Jews into Palestine has been, the growth of the Arab population in Palestine has been greater. Therefore, it appears to me that a great deal of exaggeration may take place when one tries to assess what is the economic absorptive capacity of a country. These views are borne out by the last report which we have had, the Woodhead report, where, on page 31, it says: So far as concerns the non-agricultural settlement, it would seem that economic conditions in Palestine are by now so closely bound up with Jewish immigration, both actual and prospective, that the Arabs in Palestine would be faced with the prospect of greater economic hardship if Jewish immigration should be completely closed down, than they would be even if it should be allowed to continue. The argument that I am rejecting is that these various parts of the Empire have reached the limit of their absorptive capacity. Surely there is an urgent necessity for a greater development of our Colonial Empire. I am not trying to suggest that all these stricken Jews in Germany should be dumped in our Colonial Empire—that would not be right or possible—but I do say that if the Government base their views on what can be done on the conservative estimates of Colonial Governors—General, swayed by councils of settlers, then the estimate that the Government will give will be a long way from the real absorptive capacity of the British Empire, and a unique opportunity of relieving a heartrending human tragedy and restoring to Britain some of its waning prestige will have been lost.
There is another practical and important aspect which should not be overlooked. We are not dealing with a completely 1444friendless people. They may be destitute, but they have friends, and the financial assistance which organised Jewry can give is great. It would be impossible to suggest that these refugees should be dumped on various parts of the Empire without previous preparation and without capital, but the capital which is at the disposal of Jewry is great, and Jewry should be called upon to provide a great deal of capital. What it cannot provide, the great British people will endeavour to assist in providing. In my view, it is much better to lend to the Jews to build up our Empire than to lend to the new Czech Government in order to help to destroy it. Inevitably, when one thinks of these problems, one's mind turns to the United States of America, with its large Jewish population. What opportunities for cooperation lie here. Is it a dream to think that this German refugee problem and the American debt problem might find a simultaneous settlement? Certainly in working out the financial aspect of some of these schemes, that is an aspect of the matter which should not be overlooked.
To sum up, in my opinion, on severely practical grounds, the German refugee problem is a solvable problem, which the British Empire can materially assist to solve. It is more. It is a challenge to the inherent humanity of our race, it is a challenge which Britain, the champion of the oppressed, cannot ignore.
- 8.30 p.m.
- Mr. Mander
Surely the ham. Member for East Willesden (Mr. Hammersley), although he is not entitled to any congratulations, thoroughly deserves them for the speech which he has just made. I think we must have a feeling of universal disgust at the horrible brutality of what is going on in this exodus from Germany at the present time. It is nothing but a reversion to paganism and a repudiation of all those ideals for which Christianity and all other religions too, for that matter, stand. The hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Noel-Baker), in his interesting speech, gave a number of individual examples of cases of persecution. I should like to state one case that came under my observation of a rather different kind.
A month ago, just after the crisis, I was in Prague, and I went to the frontier one1445evening in order to see the situation there. I found in the schools and in a waiting room at the station large numbers of refugees, lying down on their straw, overcrowded, and in a great state of terror and excitement. I inquired from them why they had come. It was surprising to find that these people, who were German by race, had fled from the Reich. It was at first sight an extraordinary situation, but the explanation was that between the retirement of the Czech troops and the arrival of the German troops there was, unfortunately, a gap. All reports show that when the German army arrived in the Sudeten areas they behaved with consideration and kindness to all these unfortunate people, and even distributed the cigarettes that they had for themselves. They do represent a body of persons in Germany who have certain standards of conduct. But during that gap, during those 24 hours or whatever it was, you had the real terror of Hitlerism at work. There was no one to keep order, and they were let loose, these troops of young Henleiners, who had been trained in Germany in terroristic methods, and they went all round the Sudeten areas, beating, shooting, killing, setting fire to their fellow citizens and the property of their fellow citizens. That shows the contrast between the better element in Germany and the more horrible element fiat unfortunately has control of the Government of the country at the present time.
Between the years 1933 and 1938 there have come out of Germany something like 150,000 refugees, mostly Jews, but, as has been said, there are potentially well over 500,000, again mostly Jews, in Germany who are capable of being sent out. In addition to those, there are a great many Catholics and Protestants who may be driven out, because it is clear that this terror is not being confined to one race or religion, but is going to be applied also to those who adhere to the Christian faith. We have to consider the reflex of all this on the nations to the East, because, if you take together such countries as Lithuania, Poland, Hungary, Rumania, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, and Greece, there are something like 5,000,000 Jews living there, and in some of those countries, particularly in Poland, the Jewish question is becoming very serious indeed, and we may have very large numbers of these persons on our hands as well.
1446I understand that the Inter-Governmental Committee as it is called, before the recent crisis in Germany, estimated that there would be something like 500,000 Jews to be disposed of, and they planned that there should be the emigration of 100,000 a year for each of the five years. I am sure they now realise that these numbers will, unfortunately, have to be considerably added to. The question is where they can go. I understand that since the Evian Conference there has been some rigidity among certain non-European countries, particularly South America, where they have rather got the impression that there may be an attempt on the part of European countries to unload upon them a large number of persons who are unwanted here. It is essential, therefore, that in any action that is taken in Europe it should be made clear to these other countries that we are prepared to play our part to the full, and that there is no foundation for the suggestion that they are being asked to make all the sacrifices. It is most important that Great Britain should firmly and strongly take the lead and make it a major part of British policy to see that action is taken. If we were willing to undertake to find places in the Empire for, say, one-quarter of the numbers, and the United States another quarter, it might well be that South America and other countries would be prepared to absorb the other half.
Where would they go? The question of Palestine has been mentioned, but whatever we do to Palestine it must be recognised that it can deal with only a portion of the problem. We cannot solve the problem by sending all these Jews to Palestine. At the same time, it is absolutely our duty to see that order is restored and maintained at the earliest possible moment, that the mandate entrusted to us is carried out to the full, that emigration in accordance with the economic absorptive capacity is restored, and that we do not spend too much time consulting with other countries who really have no right to be consulted except as members of the League of Nations. I venture to hope that in considering the possibilities of Palestine, the great area of the Negeb will not be overlooked, because it is established that without creating the sort of difficulties among the Arabs which there are in other parts of Palestine, there are large areas which might be placed at 1447the disposal of the Jews for settlement in that part where a good deal of study has been given to the problem during the last year or so. The main problem is with regard to some part of the British Empire, either in the Dominions or in the Colonies. It really will not do for us to tell other nations, possessing the enormous Empire that we do, that we are very sorry but we cannot find any room in the British Empire. I am sure that that will not be the attitude taken by this country. The Prime Minister has made certain indications of territories where emigration might take place. I must say that I am particularly attracted by the idea of Tanganyika. It is a first-class suggestion for reasons which, I think, are obvious to us all, and there is no need to dilate upon them.
Let me turn to the question of finance, because it is no good pretending that this problem can be dealt with by private finance. It is far beyond that. Many of the organisations that are dealing with refugees at the present time are finding the greatest difficulty in carrying on. In dealing with these hundreds of thousands of persons no one would argue that the problem can be dealt with otherwise than through the Government. I understand that the chairman of the Inter-Governmental Committee has been unsuccessful so far in obtaining any response from the German Government in the negotiations for obtaining from Germany some portion of the property of the refugees when they come out. It is an intolerable thing that Germany should be in a position to throw out large numbers of her citizens and rob them of the whole of their property, and then expect the rest of the world to finance them and to look after them. Exasperated as we may be by a feeling of that kind, we must put humanity before money. If it does happen, we have to do the best we can for these unfortunate people.
I would like to make one or two suggestions rather on the lines of those made by the hon. Member for Derby as to the steps that might be taken, although I do not say that all of them are practicable. I venture to think that certain pressure might be applied to Germany. I do not want to use the word "sanctions," because that is not popular in these days, but certain pressure might be applied. There is pressure, first, of a diplomatic 1448kind. The United States Government have withdrawn their Ambassador, temporarily at any rate. If all the principal nations were together to withdraw their diplomatic representatives as a demonstration against this kind of thing, I should think that it might possibly make some impression. Then there is the financial pressure that might be applied, such as refusal of financial support, although I do not suppose that Germany is getting very much at the present time. Then there is economic pressure, for which there is an analogy in connection with a country not far from here. I should have thought that there was a case for imposing a pretty high tariff upon German goods exported to this and other countries, the proceeds to be used for looking after the refugees who are being expelled.
I agree with the suggestion made by the hon. Member for Derby that consideration should be given—I have put it to the Home Secretary before in the form of a question—to the possibility of sending back to Germany a considerable number of Nazi Germans who, I am sure, could be identified and isolated if it were necessary. They should be sent back to the Reich, where they would be so much happier than being engaged on propaganda and agitation here and taking the place of refugees who could otherwise come to this country and be very much happier here. I hope that that is a problem that will not be overlooked. We ought not to rule out altogether the possibility of making a register of the property of all Germans in this country with a view to seeing whether, if Germany is going to rob the Jews of all their property in Germany and send them out, we should not appropriate some of their possessions here and use them for the help of the refugees. There are obvious difficulties, but I do not think that that is a matter that should be ruled out.
If we cannot do any of these things, we must go in for an international loan guaranteed by the central banks of issue for this purpose. I do not see any alternative to that. I hope that something will be done, on the lines suggested by the hon. Member for Derby, by making use of the machinery of the League of Nations. I know that our Government are not enamoured of certain functions of the League, but they maintain, I believe, that they would like to use to the full its humanitarian side, and here is an 1449opportunity, through that magnificent sounding board the Council and the Assembly of the League, of focussing and expressing the public opinion of the world in a way that would be entirely appropriate and effective and in accordance with the views that persons of all parties have as to the possibilities of the League of Nations.
With regard to immediate steps—and some steps of an immediate nature will have to be taken—I hope that the Home Secretary will be able to say something about the camps which, as one reads, are being set up in Belgium, and perhaps in Holland, and tell us whether there is any idea of establishing temporary camps in this country in order to receive these refugees.
It is hardly camping weather just now.
There are camps and camps. Further, I would ask the Home Secretary whether he does not think there is a case for amending the Aliens Act. I appreciate to the full the human sympathy which he, and the Home Office under him, have shown in dealing with the refugees. I believe they have tried to do all they can under the law as it is at present. But the Aliens Act was not passed to deal with a situation like this. It was never intended to exclude political exiles, and I should have thought there was a case for making it very much easier for refugees who have something to come to this country without enforcing all the rules and regulations which exist at present, which include getting people to guarantee them here for the rest of their lives. There might with great advantage be a relaxation of the rules. Another point is this: Refugees who have been admitted for a month or three months get a notification naturally when the time is up, and have to take steps to get the period extended, and of course it is extended, because there is no idea of sending them back, but the letters sent to them are of rather a formal nature and very often sound somewhat alarming to the persons who receive them, because they appear to intimate that the recipient must clear out of the country as rapidly as possible. I know that that is not the intention, and if some consideration could be given to the way in which the matter is put, it would relieve a good deal of anxiety.
1450I should also like to mention the possibility of the setting up of Czech factories here. Czechs in Sudetenland did a good deal of trade with the United States, and the good will they created with the people in the United States still exists, but it does not exist between the United States and Sudetenland, and those Czechs, with all their knowledge and experience are now leaving and setting up factories in France, as I know. I hope that encouragement may be given to them to set up factories here. Those factories will employ British labour and increase our export trade to the United States. It has been proved that more persons are employed by refugees at the present time than the number of the refugees themselves who have actually come in. Finally, I hope that the horrible sufferings of these people, whose only crime is that they belong to a particular branch of the human family, and one of the most distinguished branches of it, will so touch the hearts of mankind that immediate, practical and resolute steps will be taken by this Government, in conjunction with the other Governments of the world, to solve the problem.
- 8.50 p.m.
- Mr. Butcher
Those of us who listened to the account of the appalling happenings in Germany recently which was given by the hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Noel-Baker) must have felt that behind the happenings themselves was a principle even still more sinister, and that is the deliberate prosecution, of a set policy of intolerance, in a country many of whose people desire to maintain the most friendly relations with this country. I believe that if such a policy of intolerance is allowed to flouring unchecked it will spread, and that in place of the present trickle of refugees there will be an enormous number of human beings who will beat themselves against the barriers which prevent them from seeking refuge in freer and happier lands. Civilisation as a whole must oppose against this spirit of intolerance some nobler and higher principle. It must recognise the inherent worth of ordinary men and women, and recognise that in God's world there is a place for each and everyone of us. In recognition of that principle the hospitable lands of the new world have offered asylum to those who were persecuted in their native countries, and in settling there they have enriched the countries in which they have made their permanent home.
1451We welcome the pronouncement that the Government are willing to assist, and I am sure that such an announcement will give much encouragement to those who are now enduring suffering, tribulation and persecution. But I think we must do a little more. We must make up our minds as to why we are offering this help. Either the refugees are a burden which, for very shame of our common humanity, we are compelled to shoulder, or, alternatively, they are a definite and positive asset, the value of which is temporarily forgotten in certain countries, the rulers of which are blinded by fear, by untenable and untested theories of race and political culture and the true position that religion should occupy in the State. Each refugee has a value not only as a producer but as a consumer, and the refugees may permantly enrich the life of the country which shelters and succours them, and that is the view which is held by those who have most carefully examined the problem. Is it unreasonable to suggest that a translation of that principle into vigorous action by this Government, in conjunction with the other members of the British Commonwealth of Nations, the United States of America and the other free Powers, would do much to check the extension of what is going on? It might cause the present rulers in Central Europe to review their present position in the light of their own crude self-interest.
The extent to which assistance can be offered must vary from country to country. In this country we must be careful to safeguard the interests of our own workers, both as regards employment and the standard of living, but I am sure that the members of the trade unions and co-operative societies, who have not been behindhand in extending help to people in Spain, will be equally willing and eager to extend help and assistance to people from other parts of the world. While I welcome the statement of the Prime Minister this afternoon I confess that I have some feeling that the burden which the refugee organisations may be called upon to shoulder may prove to be too heavy for them, and I hope that the Government will see to it that those organisations receive all possible assistance in the way of skilled personnel and advice in the heavy task 1452which they are so honourably striving to carry out.
A reference was made by the hon. Member for Derby to relief by means of infiltration. That is an extremely valuable suggestion which may have great potentialities for increased prosperity and employment inside our own country. As he said, in dealing with a problem so large the method of assistance to be envisaged Is something in the nature of mass settlement, but before we are able to contemplate such mass settlement we must have a short-term plan of rescuing those who are most in danger and who are, at the same time, most likely to he readily absorbed in the countries of eventual settlement. A short-term plan would include the establishment of camps. The hon. Gentleman opposite objects to camps because the present time of the year is inclement. I would, therefore, call them places of refuge.
Would not the hon. Member use the word "home"? "Camp" always seems to suggest something cheap and nasty.
I will use the word "home," if the hon. Member appreciates that I refer only to a temporary home. It would not be unwise if we were to allow 10,000 of these people to make their temporary home among us. They could be selected in the country of origin and after selection promptly given the necessary visas to enable them to travel to this country. Obviously such permission could not be given without examination. Certain requirements would have to be fulfilled. We must, of necessity, select those whom we are most able to help. They could be selected from age groups capable of being self-supporting over a considerable period of years, and most likely to become loyal citizens in the ultimate country of their adoption. Good character should be one pre-requisite and robust good health another. Thirdly, there should be some technical skill. Such a plan would require finance, and I believe that a certain amount of it could be raised.
While the obligations of our common humanity rest on each and every one of us, they must rest on two classes in particular—first, on those who, having escaped from peril, now make their homes among us in freedom and liberty. Then, the class on whom the burden should rest 1453will be the citizens and sympathisers of the country which causes this immense amount of human suffering. We should not be doing any great injustice if we were to say that most citizens of German or Austrian origin fall into one or other of those two classes. Therefore, I would like to suggest an annual impost on the earnings of such citizens while in this country. I cannot imagine anything more likely to check this persecution than letters arriving home from ordinary Nazis in this country saying that incomes earned here are liable to increased taxation because of the increased demands made upon refugee organisations. Such a thing would probably penetrate right into the minds of those who are able to check this persecution.
We can thus raise a substantial fund, but the probability of a long-term settlement will require heavy and substantial finance. I suggest that a loan be guaranteed both as to principal and as to interest by such countries as are represented on the inter-governmental committee dealing with these refugees. The noble Lord the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, speaking on this subject just before the summer Recess—since which so much has happened— said: it is largely public opinion which must be the determining factor in this matter. We think that we have, as the result of the meeting at Evian, clone much to focus the eyes of the world on this problem, as being urgent and being one which requires the utmost sympathy of treatment. That is quite true. Since then recent events have caused public opinion to move forward with a leap. The action of the Government has shown that they are prepared to keep in step.
I hope and trust that His Majesty's Government will set an example and will secure for this country the lead in relieving the suffering that is going on, and that they will demonstrate by their action that while in some quarters, falsely I believe, we may be thought not to hold our old lead in diplomacy or even perhaps—and, again, I believe falsely—our old lead in armed force, in the question of relieving and succouring the suffering this country will never yield her place to any nation.
I will end on a personal note. Last year His Excellency the American Ambassador was in the town of Boston which 1454I have the honour to represent. He was paying a tribute to the men who left Boston as refugees some 300 years ago. Have we the courage to realise that, in assisting these refugees to-day, we may be sowing seeds which, in the years to come, will enable these people to return from the settlements abroad to which we have helped them, in peace and amity to Germany and Austria?
I speak to-night in the British House of Commons to voice my opinion upon the terrible happenings in another country. Not one Member of this House but recognises from the statement made by my hon. Friend the Member for Derby (Mr. Noel-Baker) how difficult is the proposition before us and how urgent. It must he dealt with immediately. I speak as an orthodox Catholic, feeling to the depth of my heart the sincerity of the cause of the Jew. The oppression is all-powerful, but the exodus from Germany should take place in such a way as to give the refugees an opportunity for a fuller life. I do not wish to say anything adverse to the people of Germany, but this is my first opportunity of speaking upon an international problem after being in this House for nine years I feel that I should be unjust to the body to which I belong if I did not do so, especially as a great gathering is taking place to-night in Liverpool at which the Protestant Bishop of Liverpool and the Catholic Archbishop are on one platform together dealing with this great problem. Coming from the Scotland Division, I feel that it is essential that I should express my views in the House of Commons.
I am aware of what civilisation owes to the Jews. I remember well, only a few years ago, when one of the most illustrious men that Germany ever produced came into the corridors of this House and when I had the privilege of speaking to him, Professor Albert Einstein. What a great character, and what a commentary on a country which, with all its great wealth, will never allow men of that calibre to go back to it again. The deification of the State has brought them to a menial position, where neither talent nor even service is recognised.
We are asked in this Motion, and I am sure that no hon. or right hon. Member of the House will disagree with it, 1455to do our proper part as a British nation in the restitution, if that be possible, of a happier life for these refugees. I hear mention made of the question of money. If we cannot have civilisation contented, if we cannot bring sunshine into the lives of people, without being concerned with the question of money, civilisation is doomed. To-day an opportunity is offered to the British nation to take its proper stand among the nations of the world to protect a minority that deserves well of all the nations of the world. That may appear strange, coming from me, but I lived for 12 years among the Jews in the city of Liverpool. I knew them well; I traded with them, went into their family life, was at their christenings and their weddings. I know them well, and, because I know them well, and what we owe to them, I ask this Government to take its courage in its hands. Personal friends of mine are suffering great difficulties in Germany to-day, and my heart goes out to them when I learn of the terrible incidents which have been recorded and which have been so graphically described by the hon. Member for Derby.
No man in any part of the world can look upon the desolation that Jewry is undergoing in Germany to-day without wondering when the day of retribution will come for those who pretend to govern a totalitarian State in the interests of the German people. I am fully convinced, from my knowledge of the Germans with whom I have come in contact, that that is not the conception of life even in Germany. To me it is not the ethics of Christianity. In fact, humanitarian ethics are thrown to the winds. The totalitarian State wants all to be subservient to it. The conscience of man is to be destroyed. Because I believe that humanity has a right to a conscience irrespective of Governments, and a right to express what is inherent in it, I ask the Government to take courage and go on and do their right and proper part. America, in conjunction with this country, can play a wonderful part. The power of the British race is not decadent. Let the English-speaking peoples, with the power that they have, concert and come together in a work of this kind.
I feel that from the gloom of Jewry a regeneration for mankind is about to come. I feel that some of the incidents 1456of the past three weeks have brought about a different point of view in the whole English-speaking race, and that we people will be able to recognise and bring about in this House a common unity which we could never achieve under any conditions of political partisanship. Common humanity appeals to the British House of Commons to play its part. I am not unaware of the strategic value that may come about through the dispossession of the Jews in Germany, of the various vulnerable points in the British Empire that can be made secure, of the wonderful power of these people giving expression, in prayer to God, of their thankfulness at having been saved from their terrible plight. I am sure that, if we appeal, not to material things, not to dividends and so on, but to something higher and more spiritual in us, we shall be able to conceive some method whereby a regeneration of the community of mankind may be brought about.
In my humble opinion, we are at the turning of the roads. The nations are beginning to unite; combines are being made; a spiritual regeneration is coming about among mankind, even through the old dispensation. I am one of the new dispensation, and I believe that that blending is about to take place. I ask the Government to take into consideration the views that have been expressed. We are spending millions of pounds upon armaments for war; here is the opportunity for peace; here is the power to blend nations together; here is the chance of a revival of the Covenant of the League of Nations, of bringing about a forum where matters of this kind can be redressed, where an appeal to the best of mankind can be made. For these reasons I make my humble appeal in this tribunal of the British race. We could never set our hands to a better thing. To-morrow may be a hard day for us, but I feel that, by doing the things that are morally right, we shall achieve something which is worthy of the name of the British nation. I beg to support the Motion.
- 9.12 p.m.
- Commander Sir Archibald Southby
I do not think there is a Member of this House or a person in this country who was not horrified at the senseless crime which was committed in Paris recently, or who does not feel sympathy with the relatives of the victim of that crime. Equally, there is no Member of this House 1457or person in this nation that is not filled with shocked horror at the treatment of the Jews in Germany. I do not believe that the vast majority of the German people are a consenting party to that treatment; I do not believe that the rulers of Germany themselves are unanimous in their support of that policy. I think the saddest thing which has emerged from the events of the last few days in Germany is that they tend to make an understanding between the peoples of the two countries more difficult to arrive at. This country and this House, irrespective of faith or party, have always been sympathetic to the sufferings of persecuted people, whatever their race or faith may be. Whatever our past history may have been, we have learned tolerance of those strangers in faith and race who live among us. For that reason I welcome the statement which the Prime Minister made in the House this afternoon.
I quite agree with the hon. Member who opened the discussion from the Front Opposition Bench that a place of refuge must be found for these people. It is our duty to help to find that place. I believe it is our duty to help in collaboration with other nations; I believe it can only be properly done if there is successful collaboration between the nations of the world. We are a sentimental people, but I venture to say to the House that we cannot be swayed by sentiment alone in this matter. Perhaps the most terrible problem of the times in which we live is the problem of refugees—the awful train of pitiful people who, for one reason or another, are the result of wars and differences of opinion and clashes of ideals in various parts of the world. We in this country have always offered asylum to the afflicted and the distressed. I venture to say that we have always gained by offering that asylum. I have no Jewish connections, nor one drop of Jewish blood, but I believe—and I think the House will agree—that no nation has ever prospered which has persecuted the Jews.
There are obvious difficulties in the way of a solution of this problem. The Dominion Governments are the only people who can decide questions of immigration into the Dominions. We can work in collaboration with them, but the ultimate decision must rest with those Governments. I am sure they are sympathetic, but, of course, there are limitations 1458on what the Dominions can do. As the Prime Minister said this afternoon, the Colonies are restricted in space. There is a very great deal to be done when you consider the problem of refugees, quite apart from Jewish refugees. Space can be found in the world to accommodate these people; but, in our desire to help this stream of refugees, we must not lose sight of the fact that there exists in the minds of many of our own people a very real fear lest there should be a tremendous influx into this country of refugees who are unable to maintain themselves and who would have to compete with our own citizens for a livelihood. After all, many of our own people are hard put to it to find work and a means of livelihood, and our primary duty in this House of Commons is to those we represent. Our first duty is to our own people. We have other duties, international duties, duties to the rest of the world, as well; but we must realise the apprehensions that are bound to exist in the minds of the people of this country. Our taxpayers and our ratepayers are already shouldering heavy burdens—shouldering them uncomplainingly and cheerfully. We cannot shoulder entirely by ourselves the financial burden of looking after the refugees. We have to be fair to our own people. The question of those refugees who are self-supporting and of good character—because that is important—is an administrative problem with which the Home Secretary can deal quite simply. The real problem is concerned with those who are not self-supporting, for whom some means of livelihood must be found, or for whom some possibility of advancement must be found elsewhere.
Does the hon. and gallant Member include in that category those who are lucky enough to obtain affidavits from responsible persons in this country that they will not become a charge on the public funds?
Certainly. I said that the question of those who are self-supporting is a simple problem which does not offer any great difficulty in its solution. World Jewry has always been generous and mindful of its duties, not only to its own afflicted but to the afflicted of other creeds. I suggest not only that Jewry throughout the world will help in this matter, but that it must help.
1459I welcome the Prime Minister's statement, particularly that part of it with reference to the desirability of refugees being allowed to bring with them their possessions and their money. The strongest possible representations should be made, in collaboration with other Governments, to see whether something may not be done to ameliorate the existing conditions, so that these people may bring something upon which they can live. We cannot allow any nation to rid itself of its liabilities at the expense of our taxpayers. Our taxpayers are sufficiently harassed at the present time, and we cannot allow any responsibility which should be shouldered elsewhere to be placed on them without at least some protest. We must safeguard the occupations of our own folk. We can do it best by providing opportunities for refugees which will not injure our own people, while they will, at the same time, offer hope and a livelihood to the refugees themselves. I listened with great interest to the moving speech of the hon. Gentleman on the Front Opposition Bench, and the thing which struck me most was his insistence on the fact that assistance to these refugees must be planned. Haphazard, sentimental dealing with the question would not be right; nor would it find acceptance with the people of this country. If help to refugees is to be successful, it must be planned in such a way that it cannot merit adverse criticism.
I do not agree with what was said as regards Palestine offering even a partial solution of this problem. There are sufficient difficulties in Palestine at present without desiring to add to them. I think that in that connection the Prime Minister's statement met with general acceptance in the House, as it certainly will throughout the country. It is in parts of the world where there exist ample space and opportunity that the future of these people and the future of other refugees can best be secured. It should be remembered that there are in London alone about 250,000 Jews. One of the difficulties in finding a solution of the problem is that many of the people from Germany are, as I understand, not suitable for work on the land. They are people of business occupation. Great assets they will be, I believe, to the countries which are able to absorb them.
1460I would suggest that, not only the Government but this House also, should bear in mind that it is outside this country—other, of course, than in the case of asylum given to those who will not be a charge on this country—in parts of the world where there is space and where these people can find a means of livelihood, that a solution will he found which will not only be something of which we can be proud but which will be of lasting benefit to the world itself.
- 9.24 p.m.
- Mr. Maxton
I do not feel it necessary to speak at length on this matter, because I am tremendously pleased at the great unanimity that has been shown in all quarters of the House. I particularly want to congratulate the hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Noel-Baker) on the tremendously fine survey he made of the whole problem, and on the general spirit he displayed in his approach to the matter. But while I say I do not feel the necessity of saying much, I would not like to let the occasion pass without saying something. The spirit that has animated the speeches of other spokesmen to-night has expressed the sentiments that we in this part of the House feel on the subject. There are, I think, three aspects of it. One is an immediate one—it seems to me to be a matter of handling in days, and not in weeks or months—that is, the getting of the people away from the danger point where they are now. I think that should be done at once, and it is angersome to me to have case after case brought to me concerning people who have got all the qualifications for getting away, but who are delayed in getting a visa.
Surely the spirit of this House and of the country is not one of quibbling about office details, and I am particularly referring to one case. I will send it to the Home Secretary to-morrow. I think it is a particularly cruel thing for a man to be granted a visa and then have it withdrawn. I know that things could be said about him. He is a Jew, he is a Socialist, and he is a Socialist of a line not different from my own. I see my hon. Friend the Member for Seaham (Mr. Shinwell) smiling; he knows just how popular that fellow will be in Czechoslovakia at this particular juncture. The Home Office in their approach to this question of granting visas should not 1461allow trivial little things to determine their decision. The getting of these people away from the danger point is a matter of urgency, and the merit of the individuals can be looked into after their bodies are safe.
That is one thing. The second thing is their temporary accommodation. I agree at once that this is not a matter of days, but a matter of weeks or months, and one can be a little more leisurely about it. And I agree with the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander) that either the short-term settlement or the long-term settlement of these refugees is not a matter for private finance; although, mind you, I am surprised at that coming from the hon. Member, because if I were a defender of capitalism and private enterprise of his standing I would say that an international corporation for the settlement and exploitation of the Jewish people would be one of those profitable enterprises that would show a very reasonable return on the capital invested. I think, however, I would take the term "exploitation" out of the title of my company. I would give it a more benevolent name.
But I do certainly think that if private enterprise and international capitalism believed in their own system they would say: "Here is a crowd of people as skilled, as intelligent, as hard working, as pertinacious, and as docile as any body of workers that you would get in the world. What more do you want? "But I think that international capitalism has not got the courage for that type of enterprise, and I am glad that it should be so. I prefer that the type of problem that we are confronting just now should not he confronted from the point of view of how we can exploit the Jewish people, but of how we can give them the same opportunities in the world as we have ourselves. That is perhaps not a guarantee of perfect security or of the certainty of being able to earn a livelihood.
Will you allow them to work?
Surely the right hon. and gallant Gentleman knows my political philosophy perfectly well—that while I do not share the general enthusiasm for work, I am always delighted to let anyone who wants to go ahead. I believe 1462that any one of the great countries of Europe could accommodate all the 500,000. I believe that Scotland could accommodate 500,000. [An HON. MEMBER: "There is no chance of that."] That is a matter which has to be considered. I believe the Highlands of Scotland could accommodate 500,000. I believe that 500,000 Jews could make a better job of the Highlands of Scotland than the Highlanders ever did. But I know perfectly well that our industrial system cannot fit them in just now. I know that you have 2,000,000 people of your own that you cannot find work for, and I am not so foolish as to suggest that we should attempt to push a new group of that magnitude into the middle of an industrial economy that cannot utilise their services. But I say that there is a great vast territory over the control of which we have the last word, and that it is possible to place all the people involved in this immediate problem at some point in those territories, for a temporary period at least, without putting undue burdens on the district in which they are placed, and without causing additional suffering to the population that is already there. And I say that that should be cone and done speedily.
I hope that the Government, in conjunction with other Governments, are looking for a more long-term solution of this problem. And here I think the Secretary of State for the Dominions and Colonies in his forthcoming conference on the Palestine situation has to give very earnest consideration as to whether the failures up to now in that country have been due to the fact that the problem has been looked at in too small a way. I am not going into that—that will be debated here on Thursday, the 1st December. But it may have been conveyed to the right hon. Gentleman that I protested against the idea of his holding the two positions of Dominions Secretary and Colonial Secretary at the same time. I still protest. I think it is bad. But I think the fact that he holds both offices throws on to his shoulders on this particular issue a bigger responsibility than rests on the shoulders of anybody else, and I shall watch with very great interest to see whether he is worthy of the responsibility that is iinvolved. I expect from him through the offices that he holds the immediate solution of this particular problem, and I expect from the office 1463which he holds a big proportion of the long-term solution as well. These are the few words that I wanted to say on this matter. I and my friends are anxious that in the kindest and best and speediest way everything shall be done to give these people a chance to live, in the same way as the rest of us.
There is no page in our lifetime which is so tragic as that of the sufferings of the refugees in the last 20 years. Wave after wave of refugees has drifted across the world, uprooted from their homes, penniless, destitute, no country found ready at hand to receive them, separated from their families and their surroundings and, as it seems to me, most tragic of all, many of them have been men of intellectual eminence who felt that their life's training had been wasted, and that there was no future for them to carry out the professional work in which they held so eminent a place. I speak with some feeling upon this subject. As the hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Noel-Baker) reminded the House this evening, he and I at one time were directly connected with this problem, he more eminently than myself. While he was working continuously with Dr. Nansen, I was called in upon only one occasion to help Dr. Nansen in dealing with the Russian refugees in Constantinople and in the Balkans.
How well I remember this tragic experience, these thousands of men and women stranded upon the streets of Constantinople without means of livelihood, upon the verge of starvation, in a no-man's land which did not wish to receive them, and with no future, so it seemed, before them. I am glad to think that we were able at that time, as the hon. Member reminded the House this evening, to find a home for a great number of those refugees. I remember very well that I was instrumental in placing, I think, 45,000 of them in various parts of Eastern Europe. Since that time I have followed with the closest interest and keenest sympathy the tragedies of this problem. On the top of these waves of post-war refugees, Czechs, Armenians, Turks, Russians, Spaniards, comes the appalling problem with which 1464we have been faced in the last six months, and, in particular, in the last 10 days.
I rise at this stage of the Debate to explain the policy of the British Government upon this last phase of this tragic problem. Before dealing with the details that have been raised in the course of the Debate, I wish to make it clear to the whole House that the Government accept this Motion. No useful purpose would be served by repeating what the Chancellor of the Exchequer, on behalf of the Government, said at Rhyl on Friday last. We all condemn the senseless crime that led to the death of the German diplomat in Paris. We should not, however, be honest with ourselves or with the world if we concealed the depth of our feelings at the suffering inflicted upon thousands of men and women as the result of a crime with which they had no connection whatever.
I speak as a convinced believer in the possibility of Anglo-German friendship. I speak as a staunch supporter of the Munich Agreement. Indeed, it is because I am so anxious to see a complete and permanent settlement of the questions that divide our two countries that I frankly and unreservedly state my views this evening. I am opposed to all attempts to intervene in the domestic affairs of other countries, but the issue that has been raised in these last few days by the measures against the Jews in Germany, and the way in which it has been raised, forces it upon the attention of other countries. How can a question remain exclusively domestic when it involves scores of thousands of men, women and children, destitute and penniless, seeking admission into other countries?
Faced with this problem, let me explain to the House the policy that His Majesty's Government intend to adopt I will begin by stating as clearly as I can that, however deep may be our sympathies, this problem is, and must remain, an international problem. No single country can hope to solve it. While we are perfectly prepared to take our full share in any attempt to solve or mitigate it we must state, and state categorically, that it is a problem for all the countries who are at present members of the Evian Inter-Governmental Committee. Believing it to be an international problem. His Majesty's Government were grateful when the 1465President of the United States took the personal interest that he has taken in it and for the invitations that he gave some months ago to the Governments of the world to take part in the Evian Conference.
The House will remember the steps that then were taken. They will remember that a very distinguished citizen of the United States, Mr. Myron Taylor, at the invitation of the President came over to Evian and presided at the Conference. Thirty-two countries were represented at it, and as a result of its meetings a committee was formed representative of these various Governments, with my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy as its chairman. Another distinguished public man from the United States, Mr. Rublee, is the director of the organisation. Since then my right hon. Friend and his colleagues have been making active inquiries among the States that comprise the representatives called together at Evian to see how the problem could be dealt with, and which of the Governments were prepared to take refugees, and to what extent. Although no very definite action has yet resulted, these inquiries have proved useful, and I hope that a further step will be taken, in the immediate future, when the officers of the committee meet in London, I understand in 10 days' time, when Mr. Myron Taylor, who is at the moment leaving the United States, will be present and will be able to consult with my right hon. Friend and his colleagues as to what steps should immediately be taken.
I give the House this information to show that, first of all, His Majesty's Government are very conscious of the responsibility that rests upon their shoulders, and, secondly, that the international organisation is acting with a sense of the urgency of the problem. I hope that in the near future we shall be informed of the decisions that will be taken after their meeting in London. I agree with everything that has been said in the Debate as to the need of the fullest co-operation between all the Governments concerned. I do not think that this problem is insoluble, but I do take the view that it is insoluble unless there is the kind of international effort to which the hon. Member for Derby referred, in which all the Governments concerned will co-operate actively, with an effective organisation, 1466for dealing with this very complicated problem.
I pass from the international organisation to the part that we, the United Kingdom, and we, the British Empire, ought to play in this co-operative effort. We are prepared to play our full part and to take our full share with the other nations of the world. We accept the responsibility that is on our shoulders, from the fact that we possess a great part of the surface of the world and that, owing to our wealth and other resources, we can play an important part in any attempt to deal with this tragic problem.
The Prime Minister, in his statement to-day, gave a picture of the way in which we propose to give our help. He said, and said purposely, nothing about the Dominions, and for this reason, that the Dominions were themselves represented at the Evian Conference, and they must speak for themselves. It is not for us in this House to speak for them. But let me say this in passing, without entering into any details, that I think the several Dominion Governments are giving very urgent attention to this question and that a substantial number of refugees have been already admitted into one or other of the Dominion territories.
I come next to the Colonial Empire. The Prime Minister described our willingness to place territory at the disposal of the refugees and, quite rightly, said a word of caution as to the difficulties that must be surmounted if settlement upon a large scale is to succeed. It sounds very easy when one points to the immense territories that are possessed by the British Empire, and one asks the question: "Is it not easy to settle so many hundreds or thousands in these millions of acres of undeveloped territory? "The fact, however, is that the greater part of this territory can only be settled after careful survey and after adequate preparation. It may well be that, with the best will in the world, some time must elapse before substantial numbers of refugees can be satisfactorily settled in the Colonies and Dependencies.
That, however, does not mean that His Majesty's Government are not taking active steps, as the Prime Minister described this afternoon, to expedite a survey of this kind in certain of the Colonies, to see how many and how quickly we can settle in one or other of these territories.1467He mentioned several territories, Tanganyika, Kenya, Northern Rhodesia, British Guiana, and so on. When he mentioned British Guiana, the hon. Member for Derby asked him whether he was referring to the same territory that had proved unsuitable for the settlement of 5,000 Assyrians a few years ago. Some of the territory is the same. There is, however, another block of territory that we contemplate. In any case, there were special features connected with the Assyrians that made it difficult for them to settle in British Guiana. For instance, it was necessary to settle them all at once. I am told that many of them, owing to years of exile, had got out of touch with agricultural and pastoral pursuits. [Interruption.] It is not a smiling matter; it is a fact.
I want to suggest to the House, without exaggerating the possibilities, that the problem of the Jews is somewhat different. It is not necessary to settle them all at once. We might find temporary homes for them whilst they were being trained. Moreover, we are given to understand that if territory, either in British Guiana or some other Colonial Dependencies can be placed at their disposal, it is quite possible that large sums of capital would be provided by their co-religionists to support them for a considerable time. I would, therefore, ask hon. Members not to set aside the possibility of an experiment of this kind upon the ground that a particular territory in the past was found unsuitable for a particular type of emigration. What we wish to do is to test out all these possibilities, and test them with the definite intention of trying to find territory where immigration on a large scale is likely to succeed. As to Palestine, I propose to say nothing. Questions connected with Palestine are to be debated on Thursday, and the Prime Minister, while he gave the House to-day a figure to show that there has been considerable immigration of German refugees into Palestine in recent months and years, was right to lay stress on the peculiar difficulties which lie in the way of anything like mass immigration at the present time.
I pass from the Colonial Empire to a part of the problem for which, as Home Secretary, I am directly responsible—the problem of the United Kingdom. It may be for the convenience of the House if 1468I give hon. Members a full and detailed description of the position. Many of them, as I know from the correspondence I have had, are deeply interested either in the problem in general or in the fortunes of particular refugees, and I think it would be useful at this stage if hon. Members on all sides of the House were given further information about the problem in the United Kingdom and about the way in which the Home Office is attempting to deal with it.
Let me begin by reminding the House of some of the difficulties. In this country we are a thickly populated industrial community with at the present moment a very large number of unemployed. Competition is very keen with foreign countries, and it is difficult for many of our fellow-countrymen to make a livelihood at all and keep their industries and businesses going. It is quite obvious that there is an underlying current of suspicion and anxiety, rightly or wrongly, about alien immigration on any big scale. It is a fact, and we had better face the fact quite frankly, that below the surface—I know it from my own daily experience at the Home Office—
I know it from my own experience that there is the making of a definite anti-Jewish movement. I do my best as Home Secretary to stamp upon an evil of that kind. That is the reason why I have prohibited demonstrations in certain parts of London where inevitably they would stimulate this evil movement. Faced with a fact of that kind, while I think very few hon. Members look upon this problem with greater sympathy than I do, I have to be careful to avoid anything in the nature of mass immigration which, in my view, would inevitably lead to the growth of a movement which we all wish to see suppressed. That means that we must keep a check upon individual cases of immigrants. I agree with the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) that we must have as little red-tape about it as possible and as little delay as possible, but none the less, it is essential, if we are to avoid art influx of the undesirable behind the cloak of refugee immigration, that we should keep a check upon individual cases, and inevitably a check of that kind must involve a certain measure of delay.
1469We try at the Home Office to work in the closest co-operation with the various organisations that are directly engaged on the refugee problem. We have, for instance, the invaluable assistance of what is called the Co-ordinating Committee, a committee upon which are represented the principal Jewish organisations, the Quakers, and organisations of the Christian Churches. The procedure we adopt is to refer cases to these organisations and almost invariably we accept their recommendation. With our help they make the necessary inquiries, and when they tell us that an immigrant has either a friend who will keep him in England or can keep himself, almost invariably—I think I may say invariably—we see that the refugee gets a visa and is allowed to enter this country.
Does the right hon. Gentleman say that they must get a guarantee?
What I said was that the Committee finds out whether his friends can keep the refugee or whether the refugee is likely to be able to keep himself. Further than that, we work in the closest co-operation with the Ministry of Labour, and where we see a chance of settling a refugee without damage to British employment or British industry we do everything we can to facilitate the settling of the refugee, and it is interesting to note that while during the period in which large numbers of refugees from Austria and Germany have been arriving, 11,000 German refugees have been settled in this country, the information at my disposal goes to show that they have been instrumental in employing 15,000 British workmen in the industries which they have set up, without, so far as I can gather, any damage to British employment or to British labour. Let the House remember that this is due to the very careful selection that has been made by the Co-ordinating Committee, the Home Office, and the Ministry of Labour. If there had been anything in the nature of mass immigration I think the story might have been very different.
Carrying this description of our machinery a stage further, the Foreign Office has in Germany two passport control offices which deal with the issue of visas to the applicants. [Horn. MEMBERS: "Where are they?"] In Berlin and Vienna. I admit that during the 1470last 10 days the machinery has been strained to breaking point. I admit also that my organisation at the Home Office has been strained to the breaking point. What else could you expect, with an organisation that hitherto was based upon a limited number of immigrants that could easily be controlled and now is faced with applications running into thousands a day? I can tell the House that we have already made considerable extensions to the machinery in Germany, at the ports here and in London. We admit it is still inadequate to deal with this great mass of applicants, and accordingly we are in the act of making a much greater expansion of the machinery, and I hope that by this means we shall avoid some of the delays that have inevitably taken place in the past.
The curious feature about the visas is the large number of visas that have been given and the comparatively small number of immigrants who have hitherto reached these shores. As the Prime Minister stated this afternoon, about 11,000 refugees have been allowed to reside in this country, but that is by no means the tale of the visas that we have given on the Continent. We have given visas on the Continent running into 50 or 60 or 70 a day, and when I have asked the reason for this disparity, I have been told that a good many of the refugees probably stopped somewhere en route and have not yet arrived here. None the less, there is the fact that we have given a much larger number of visas than would appear from the figure of 11,000 given by the Prime Minister in his statement this afternoon.
One should also remember that, however much we improve the machinery, in the nature of things there are bound to be delays, and in the nature of things there are bound to be failings. I have had innumerable letters from my fellow countrymen—I might also say innumerable letters from hon. Members of this House—and with the best will in the world often it has been difficult to identify the individuals about whom they have written to me, and even if they could be identified, to arrange that they should go to the passport offices in Germany and obtain their visas. I am afraid it often happens that a German about whom I have received some communication leaves his address, or it may be is taken off to a concentration camp, and we lose touch with him, and although 1471we are prepared to give the visa allowing him to enter this country, there is no means of making contact with that particular individual. I hope the facts which I have given to the House will enable hon. Members to see that I am attempting to deal as sympathetically as I can with individual cases and that I am attempting to make the machinery, both in Germany, in the passport offices in Berlin and Vienna, and in this country, at the ports and in London, adequate to deal with this mass of applications.
Must the individual travel to Berlin or Vienna?
Yes, Sir. It is only there that we have offices for visas.
If the person is hundreds of miles away, has he to appear personally either at Berlin or Vienna, or can he write to the office in one of those towns for his visa?
How do the passport offices in Germany, at Berlin or Vienna, get into touch with the persons for whom visas have been granted in this country? What is the machinery?
The machinery is that the individual himself gets into touch with the passport office. Further to that, I was not correct when I said that there were only these two passport offices at which visas can be obtained. Visas can be obtained at any British Consulate. The central offices in Germany are at Berlin and Vienna. The individual would have to get into touch with the nearest British Consul. I think that is the only way in which it can be done.
One knows that there are long queues, hundreds and thousands of people, waiting to approach these Consulate offices. Sometimes it is physically impossible for them to reach the door. Would it not be possible for the persons in charge somehow to notify individuals for whom visas have been granted?
We must get the particulars on the spot. The hon. Member will see at once that we are in an awkward dilemma in all these things. The dilemma with which we are faced in this particular instance is that of not making sufficient inquiries on the spot and the man then arriving at the port here and having to 1472be turned back. The object of the visa system is to make inquiries on the spot, where they can be adequately made, so that when a man has a visa he is not turned back from a British port. We are attempting to improve the machinery. For instance, I was told to-day that where there have been long queues outside the Consulate, we are attempting now to communicate with the people who have been turned away on a particular day and giving them priority the next day. The House will see the gigantic scope of the problem with which we are faced. Those consulates which hitherto dealt with perhaps half-a-dozen visas, are now faced with hundreds and perhaps thousands of people outside their doors. All I can say to the House is that we are most anxious to deal with these cases, both as expeditiously and as sympathetically as we can.
Is the right hon. Gentleman putting a limit to the number of people whom he is going to allow in?
No, Sir, I have no such intention, and I hope the House will approve the policy which I am trying to carry out. I am opposed to anything in the nature of a quota. I think a quota is bound to have one of two bad effects, and possibly two bad effects. Many people might think it was too big and many people might think it was too small. I think it is much safer for the Home Secretary working in the closest possible touch with the Co-ordinating Committee, to treat individual cases on their merits and not to be bound down by a numerical figure.
Is the right hon. Gentleman making any special provision to expedite and facilitate the coming in of children?
I will cover all these various questions, if the House will allow me to deal with them in order. I pass now from the individual cases to a class of case which we can deal with en masse. Those are cases in which individual inquiries will not be essential. I begin with the cases of trans-migrants, that is to say, men, women and children for whom we might provide a temporary home here, upon the understanding that, at some time in the future, they will go elsewhere for their permanent home. We 1473are prepared to look sympathetically and favourably upon proposals of this kind. While the absorptive powers of this country might be limited as far as permanent residents are concerned, we certainly could take in a larger number of refugees for a temporary period, provided they were eventually to be settled in some other part of the world.
For instance, if we take as an example settlement in various parts of the Colonial Empire we shall undoubtedly find that the refugees, if they are to make good in those undeveloped parts of the Empire, will need an intensive course of training. I can say to the House that we shall look most favourably upon proposals for keeping refugees in this country during their period of training. An interesting experiment has already been started under the auspices of the Co-ordinating Committee for the training of Jewish boys for agriculture and Jewish girls for domestic service. The experiment is still in its early days, but I can tell the House to-night that, so far, it has succeeded satisfactorily. A number of boys and girls, running into some hundreds, have already been trained. A number of older men have also been trained here under the auspices of the Co-ordinating Committee; I believe to the number of several thousands, and have left this country after their training and are already beginning to make good in other parts of the world. We shall encourage and facilitate other experiments of this kind.
I come next to the very important question of the non-Aryan children. I think here again we can deal with a problem of that kind very differently from the way in which we have to check in detail the individual positions of the older refugees. I think there will be children with whom we could deal in large numbers, provided they were sponsored by responsible bodies and responsible individuals.
By "non- Aryan," does the right hon. Gentleman mean Jews and half-castes?
Yes. I had, only this morning, a very valuable discussion with Lord Samuel and a number of other Jewish and other religious workers who were co-operating together in attempting to mitigate the sufferings of their co-religionists. They came to me with a very interesting proposal about the non-Aryan children. They pointed back to 1474the experience during the war, in which we gave homes here to many thousands of Belgian children, in which they were educated, and in which we played an invaluable part in maintaining the life of the Belgian nation. So also with these Jewish and non-Aryan children, I believe that we could find homes in this country for a very large number without any harm to our own population. The Co-ordinating Committee and the other organisations told me that they would be prepared to bring over here all the children whose maintenance could be guaranteed, either by their funds or by generous individuals, and that all that will probably be necessary will be for the Home Office to give the necessary visas and to facilitate their entry into this country. I told Lord Samuel, without a moment's hesitation, that the Home Office would certainly be prepared to provide facilities of that kind, and I venture to-night to take the opportunity of commending this effort to my fellow countrymen in general. Here is a chance of taking the young generation of a great people, here is a chance of mitigating to some extent the terrible sufferings of their parents and their friends.
I could not help thinking what a terrible dilemma it was to the Jewish parents in Germany to have to choose between sending their children to a foreign country, into the unknown, and continuing to live in the terrible conditions to which they are now reduced in Germany. I saw this morning one of the representatives of the Quaker organisations, who told me that he had only arrived in England this morning from a visit to Germany and a visit to Holland. He inquired of the Jewish organisations in Germany what would be the attitude of the Jewish parents to a proposal of this kind, and he told me that the Jewish parents were almost unanimously in favour of facing this parting with their children and taking the risks of their children going to a foreign country, rather than keeping them with them to face the unknown dangers with which they are faced in Germany. He went on to Holland and found that Dr. Colijn, the Prime Minister of Holland, was prepared to give a temporary refuge to children and trans-migrants of this kind, provided there was a hope of our receiving them into this country. I can give Dr. Colijn the assurance to-night that we shall put no obstacle in the way of children coming here and living in the 1475conditions that were described to me by Lord Samuel and his colleagues on the Co-ordinating Committee this morning.
As to the question of a still greater effort, of some international loan, as was suggested in the course of the Debate this evening, these are essentially questions that can only be dealt with internationally. I can imagine that they are questions that will have to be considered by the representatives of the Evian Conference. All I will say to-night is that we are prepared to take our full part with other nations of the world. I hope that the House will see from the figures that I have given and from the attitude that I have adopted towards the future that there will be no Government among all these Governments more sympathetic than the Government of the United Kingdom, no Government more anxious to solve this problem, if it can be solved, and, if it proves to be insoluble in its entirety, at any rate, to mitigate to the utmost the suffering that is now inflicted on hundreds of thousands of unfortunate people.
Let my last word be a tribute to the representatives of the Jewish community in this country and of other religious bodies which have co-operated with them. Already they have done an immense amount of valuable work in helping their co-religionists. They have provided large sums of money, sums running into many thousands of pounds. Let us wish them every success in their mission of mercy. Let me assure them as Home Secretary that I will do my utmost to facilitate their work, to extend its scope and to show that we will be in the forefront among the nations of the world in giving relief to these suffering people.
May I ask a question on a point on which my right hon. Friend has not touched? There are a certain number of people for whom we have a very direct responsibility, namely, Germans in the area which has been handed over from Czechoslovakia to Germany. The Home Office has granted 250 visas, and these people who are coming to this country are being supported by private charity. There is a belief that about 1,500 people are in direct and immediate danger of punishment, imprisonment or even execution if they return to Germany. May I ask my right hon. Friend to say a word as to the1476policy of the Home Office in granting to the Sudeten Germans the additional visas which are desperately needed?
Our policy would be exactly the same towards the Sudeten Germans as it would be towards Germans generally. We must treat the cases on their merits, we must deal with individual cases, but, as my hon. Friend probably knows, I have dealt with several of them as matters of great urgency and in those cases, at any rate no charge of delay can be made against the Home Office.
Does the right hon. Gentleman not feel that we have a rather different responsibility for the Sudeten Germans, because they are the people whose danger is the direct result of the Munich Agreement? Some of us feel that there is a greater and more direct responsibility for rescuing them from their peril, a consideration apart from humane considerations affecting the general question of the refugees, and would he not be prepared to expedite action in their case, because as he knows it may be a question of days as to their chances of survival?
I can only answer again by permission of the House. As far as I know, we are dealing with all the cases that have been brought to our attention. If my hon. Friend brings any cases to my attention I will see that they are dealt with at once.
- 10.31 p.m.
- Mr. David Grenfell
The House this evening has shown a wonderful unanimity of sentiment and feeling, which must gladden the hearts of Members in all parts of the House. Within the framework of a feeling of common humanity and a common standard of civilisation Members in all parts of the House have filled in a picture which shows the House of Commons at its very best. The sentiments which come to the surface of our national life on great occasions have been displayed with a clearness and a vigour which must have an influence on all countries which are to co-operate with us in this great task. We owe the hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Noel-Baker) a debt for his magnificent opening speech, in which he put on record much of the tragedy and injustice associated in all lands with the history of the Jewish1477people. Other hon. Members have shown a sympathy which is representative of the feeling of the mass of the people for whom we speak in this House. I must also pay a tribute to those hon. Members who are of the Jewish race and religion for the restraint they have displayed in refraining from taking up the role of special pleaders and, instead, reposing their confidence in a House of Commons where we are all free to speak without regard to race or religion.
In announcing the acceptance of the Motion the Home Secretary made reference to the various categories of refugees, and I was particularly glad that he included not only the Jews, who form the most compact and the largest body of refugees, but the Czechs, and I am glad also that he referred to the case of the Spaniards. Spain has a tremendous refugee problem, which we here may be tempted to forget because of the more sensational reports from other parts of Europe. I am particularly grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for having just mentioned with the others the refugees in Spain. I want to pay a tribute, also, to the description given by the Home Secretary of the machinery and the procedure for granting permits. I realised that he would be unable, even though he devoted the whole of his speech to the subject, to portray faithfully and fully the tremendous work done by his staff in this country and abroad. I have had the privilege of seeing his staff at work in this country. I have seen two passport control stations abroad within the last few months. I have seen queues of destitute people. I have seen the plight of those people, their nervous condition, their apprehension and their despair when they have come to the passport control offices in Vienna, Berlin, Prague and elsewhere. They have come as though they were facing the tribunal which was to decide life and death for them. Many of them, on account of the unavoidable delay, have given way to despair and have taken their own lives because they could not stand the strain of waiting for the relief that might have come had they been able to wait.
I have seen the passport control officers—it is due to them that I should say this in this House—discharging their duty in those circumstances, and I have never witnessed a single sign of discourtesy or impatience on their part. They have talked with courtesy to every applicant 1478who came along and who, because of sheer nervousness, might not be able to make the best of his case. The passport officers have helped such people to make their case. I have been thrilled by it, and filled with very deep gratitude indeed to the men who were thus serving the cause of humanity.
I may be pardoned if I choose to pay tribute to the Jewish people, the race which we know better than we know any other race. We have known of this race from the beginning of our days when we have heard Scriptural lessons and have read the texts and the stories of this race in olden times. We have learned very much about the names and characters of the great leaders of the Jewish people, and subconsciously we have learned to cherish in our hearts great respect and veneration for many of the people who have been the object of persecution. In most nations and lands, century after century, has the Jew been singled out for persecution. Nobody has suffered as much. Anti-Jewish propaganda and persecution, pogrom, confinement, limitation, the Ghetto and the cell of punishment are more familiar to this people than to any other. Political, social and religious disabilities have been heaped upon them, with all the contumely and contempt which other nations could muster in their discrimination against this unfortunate people.
They have survived, and what a tremendous thing it is that they have survived. After centuries of suffering the Jews have never failed, when the opportunity has been given to them, to make a handsome and generous contribution to the life of the community in which they have been allowed to participate. We are glad to know that in recent decades in the last century, and during the last 60 years in particular, a new attitude towards the Jew has grown up in all the countries of the world. The process of enlightenment has been gradual and slow, and subject to reservations and disturbances from time to time, but the Jew was improving his status by merit and by the common recognition of those with whom he lived. The emancipation of the Jew brought to the Jew himself a problem. I never quite understood this problem until I met a very learned Jew, who was an emigrant. I accompanied him on a journey from Zurich to Vienna. We 1479travelled all night, and talked the whole night. This man, who was unable to return to his native country, Germany, told me what contribution he thought the Jew could make. The Jews, only recently escaped from the limitations of the ghetto into the political conditions that surround them to-day, had a contribution to make to the citizenship of the world. I came to understand the Jew better, and to understand the problems of Jewry better, after that interview, and my sympathy was not diminished by what this very wise Jew had to say about himself and his people.
I felt distressed by the growing reaction in Germany. I saw its beginnings in 1928 and 1929. Then I saw simple little leaflets urging people not to buy of the Jews. They seemed very small and ridiculous, but they grew into big posters and cartoons, with distorted pictures. I have seen the weekly publication of Dr. Streicher week after week, and have been horrified at the possible results of the continuation of propaganda on these lines. We have seen bitter attacks upon the Jewish race. They have become a part of the propaganda stock-in-trade of some of the largest and most powerful countries in the world. This constant malicious propaganda has had its result. In Germany, in 1933, there were 600,000 Jews, and in Austria at the same time 200,000 more. They amounted to about one per cent. of the German population of the two countries; one in every 100 persons was a Jew. I have asked myself time and time again why should the 99 show such malevolence against the one? Why should not the 99 so order their lives that it was possible for the one to live in peace among them? I have never been able to understand why that could not be done. When I saw the measures which were described at the Refugee Conference as involuntary emigration, I saw what I feared might be the beginning of a vast compulsory exodus of these people from the German-speaking countries, an exodus due to the propagation of an admiration for the one race and a detestation for the other which was thoroughly unjustified and unwarranted by the history of Germany herself. The Jews have done much to enrich that country, and not merely by money. Money is not all to the Jews. The Jew is sometimes charged with being a very acquisitive person, but nobody gives 1480more readily of the fruits of his genius than the Jew does when he gets the opportunity. He has given much to Germany and has given much to the world in the arts, in literature and in science.
Now, at this time of involuntary emigration, 40,000 German Jews have found a home in Palestine alone. It was a blessing that the Mandate was taken in Palestine before this crisis came upon Europe. Altogether, nearly 300,000 Jews have gone to Palestine since 1920, and 40,000 in the last three years. The absorptive capacity of Palestine has been very much in the picture to-night, as it always is in connection with this question of dealing with the Jews. I would urge the Home Secretary and the Government, if they need urging, to lend the weight of their influence in the conference which is to be held in about a week's time in London, and so to arrange affairs in Palestine as to allow of a free flow of emigration to that country at the maximum rate of absorption of which it is capable. I feel quite sure, from what I know of Palestine, that there will be no difficulty, given peace in that country, in settling 50,000 emigrants per year in that country. If that were done over a period of five years, tremendous relief would be given. This problem is increasing in magnitude, approaching very grave proportions indeed; and I agree with the Home Secretary that there is immediate need for prompt international measures. The Home Secretary pledged this country, and I was very glad to hear him do so. I believe him to be sincere in that. It will give this House much confidence; it will give Jewry much confidence; it will give the people of the world much confidence; and I hope the leadership, once assumed in this matter, will not be dropped by this country but that we shall maintain the leadership until the day of freedom for these people has arrived.
I want to speak of the contribution due from Germany towards the solution of this problem. This large and powerful nation of nearly 80,000,000 people cannot be allowed to pass these Jews out, stripped of everything, dump them over the frontier, and say, "I do not want the Jews in my country; you must take them." Why should the Germans be allowed to do that? Why should they assume that, because they do not like 1481these people, they will be allowed to dump them on somebody else? I agree that there is no need to offend anybody, but an offence has been committed against the whole world by the action Germany has taken. The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, speaking either at Evian, or after Evian, said: Evian may offer a palliative. It cannot lake from the shoulders of Germany the consequences that will follow the relentless persecution and segregation of a large element of its population. The right hon. Gentleman should not be ashamed of such a statement.
I am not in the least ashamed of it, but I do not recollect it.
I may have picked up the wrong cutting, but it is at least a statement worthy of the right hon. Gentleman himself. There is something far greater—and I do not think Hitler would object to this statement—than Hitler's Germany. There is a large humanity which surmounts and overrides these petty vanities of small peoples wherever they may be. Sixty or seventy years ago, the great Sage of Chelsea, Thomas Carlyle, this man who was so wise and disatisfied with the rest of the world, who grumbled and scolded us severely, said, in "Sartor Resartus": Man's unhappiness is, I construe, because of his Greatness. It is because there is an infinite in him, which with all his cunning he cannot quite bury under the Finite. Will the whole Finance Ministers and upholsterers and confectioners of modern Europe undertake in joint stock company to make one shoeblack happy. They cannot accomplish it above an hour or two, for the shoeblack also has a soul quite other than his stomach, and would require, if you consider it, for his permanent satisfaction and saturation, simply this allotment, no more and no less: God's infinite universe altogether to himself, therein to enjoy infinitely and fill every wish as fast as it lose.'' There is something far more than the mere ambitions of small-minded men. There is in this humanity of ours an irresistible force working for freedom and largeness and generosity of mind, and no dictator can set the limit to that force. If Germany cannot let Jews live in peace, she should let them take means of starting afresh in other parts of the world, where Jews may be more welcome, and where the Jew has a right to be welcome.
1482Someone has said to-night—and I do not think there is any offence in saying this—that if Herr Hitler will cast out the Jews, does it not occur to him that there might be an exchange in this transaction? There are 20,000,000 or 30,000,000 Germans in other parts of the world, and if the soil of any one part of the world is peculiarly destined for the use of one people and the Jews have no right of domicile in Germany, Herr Hitler might find a transaction, where people are driven out on his terms, in which 50 Germans may have to go back to Germany for every Jew driven out. That is a fundamental of civilisation—a principle of give-and-take which is the very basis of civilisation tself. I am convnced this physical problem is quite easy of adjustment. This is only a very small problem for the world. But there is a great moral question. How is it to be solved? We must try to learn to understand and, with understanding, to tolerate and to make accommodation for it. That is the problem for the nations of the world in the years ahead of us in which toleration reigns. There is not much difference between Jew and Gentile. There is not an unbridgeable gulf between German and Briton, or between German and Frenchman. We have simply ignored the lessons of history and refused to understand the forces which operate in our own times. History cannot be undone in a day, even by dictators. It has taken a very long time for man to write his history up to date—a painful effort, much of it mere scrawling and scribbling, but it has been written. It is folly for any one person to attempt to unwrite that which has been written, and if we are not satisfied with the conditions of to-day then we must all of us learn to write better.
And in this let the example be once again given by a Jew. I would remind the House that on 4th June, 1922, Dr. Walther Rathenau, German Minister for Foreign Affairs, was assassinated while driving through Berlin on his way to work. He was a very important statesman in Germany. Rathenau was a world figure in his day, but he was a Jew. His assailants were young Nationalists. One of them was 17 years of age. What was the reaction of the German people on the day of the murder, a Sunday? Great processions of workmen, hundreds of thousands strong, and four abreast, 1483marched solemnly and silently in mourning through the streets of Berlin, mourning for a Jew. At the funeral on 27th June President Ebert said: This atrocious crime has struck not only at Rathenau the man, but at the whole German people. The reports in the paper I have before me said that the last word on the human side of this tragedy came from Rathenau's mother. She wrote this letter to the mother of Ernest Techow, one of the accused: In my unspeakable grief I stretch out my hand to you most suffering of women. Tell your son that I forgive him in the name and spirit of the murdered man as may God forgive him if before an earthly justice he makes a full and open confession and repents before the justice of heaven. Had he known my son, the most noble that the earth has borne, he would sooner have turned the murderous weapon on himself than on him. May these words give your soul peace.— Mathilde Rathenau. That is the spirit of the Jew mother who has lost her dear son at the hands of a Nationalist in Germany, an Aryan, a member of the German race. Would that these words and the spirit of these words be brought into play in Europe, suffering Europe, perplexed Europe, distressed Europe. Should not these words of forgiveness, toleration and understanding be spoken once again, loud and clear enough for the whole of the world to notice? If these were given response to in some countries in Europe to-morrow this problem of dealing with the refugees would be taken from our hands. While we have waited for the response to that message spoken by one country to-day, by another country to-morrow, increasingly I hope, by a larger number of people of all sections and all races, by this message of understanding, toleration and forgiveness, we have a splendid opportunity of raising our own level and rising to be worthy of our own standards in carrying out this task of relief and salvation and providing refuge and security which men need because of the follies of mankind.
- Question put, and agreed to.
- Resolved, That this House notes with profound concern the, deplorable treatment suffered by certain racial, religious, and political minorities in Europe, and, in view of the growing gravity of the refugee problem, would welcome an immediate concerted effort amongst the nations, including the United States of America, to secure a common policy.