Commons Debate Urges Bars Be Let Down for Jews Fleeing Germany
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Commons Debate Urges Bars Be Let Down for Jews Fleeing Germany

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That facilitation of immigration of German Jews into England as well as into Palestine would in some measure be granted, was the gist of a statement made by Sir John Simon, Minister of Foreign Affairs, in the House of Commons, in winding up a debate in which a number of prominent members of the House gave expression to their indignation at the regime of persecution and discrimination practiced against the Jews in Germany.

The debate, which lasted several hours, was opened by Major Clement R. Attlee, who suggested that the British Government should help Jewish refugees by setting in motion the International Office for Refugees which was created by Friytjof Nansen, under the aegis of the League of Nations, and by offering a home in Palestine to victims of anti-Jewish persecution.

Barnet Janner, following Major Attlee, declared that the most disturbing fact to the civilized world as a whole is that a deliberate policy could be instituted by a country on the basis that it is a crime to be a Jew. He refuted the suggestion that the Jewish press had indulged in propaganda and had spread exaggerated reports.

Sir Austin Chamberlain exclaimed amidst cheers that Germany must not only learn to live for itself but how to let other peoples live, inside and beside Germany.


Major Nathan pointed out that the Nazi policy against the Jews was carefully and deliberately set forth in their official program, which provides for the deprivation from the Jews in Germany of their rights as citizens. He cited several instances of German Jews who are at present destitute in England, whose ancestors had lived in Germany for centuries. He mentioned that precedents exist for intervention by the British Government, referring to similar intervention undertaken by King Edward VII twenty years ago with the Czar. The small Jewish community in Germany, he emphasized, is subjected to continuous attack. It is a wild perversion of the truth to conclude that it did not identify itself with the German nation.

Janner stressed the possibility that if England raised its voice in the League of Nations the effect would be greater than that which a protest by Poland might achieve.

Sir Austin Chamberlain warned MacDonald to beware of treaty revisions which might place new minorities under the heel of the Nazi Government. Europe, he declared, could not afford to grant a country a status of equality. Quite the contrary, he said, suggesting that action by the League and a threat that there would be no treaty revision so long as Germany pays no consideration to public opinion would be most effective.


Colonel Josiah Wedgewood, in a moving address, described the hardships of the Jewish refugees who upon their arrival on the British frontiers were turned back to their ships by the authorities. He was pleading for these unfortunates, he declared, not from a humanitarian viewpoint but from that of the advantage which these people would have brought to England. Col. Wedgewood urged opening the doors of England to Jewish physicians and scientists as well as political prisoners at present confined in concentration camps.

Sir Herbert Samuel, while deprecating the exaggerated accounts, stressed that it was established beyond a doubt that shocking violence, in addition to insult and degradation, had been inflicted on great numbers of worthy, self-respecting Jews. Jews throughout centuries, the speaker said, have occupied an uncomfortable position, being the test for the character of the nations among whom they lived. They have been the touchstone of nations. It had been suggested that Palestine should provide an outlet for a certain number, Sir Herbert continued, expressing profound satisfaction over the fact that Palestine is the only prosperous country, but even Palestine’s prosperity does not permit an unlimited immigration. Nevertheless, a good deal could be done, and Sir Herbert expressed the belief that the Palestine administration had already taken steps to admit as many Jewish refugees as possible.


Sir Herbert added that he also did not desire that the British Government do anything which would embroil it with the German Government. The main solution must come from within Germany, as a result of the exercise of pressure from the civilized world. Let the opinion of mankind declare, he exclaimed, that to persecute people because of their religion or race is an abomination and that all are entitled to equality before the law.

The anti-German boycott in England was not advocated by him or conducted under the authority of any recognized Jewish organization, he added. He thanked the previous speakers for what they had said regarding the German Jews, pointing also to the spontaneous outburst in the United States against the persecutions in Germany.

Sir John Simon, in closing the debate, revealed that under the authority of Sir Arthur Grenfell Wauchope, High Commissioner of Palestine, 200 immigration certificates had been allocated, to be supplied by the British Consul in Berlin to Jewish capitalists owning £1,000, in order to enable them to proceed to Palestine immediately without referring their cases first to the Palestine administration.

Secondly, applicants with from £250 to £500 would be given liberal consideration. Thirdly, the High Commissioner issued special orders that considerate treatment be accorded applications of German Jews already in Palestine who are desirous of bringing their parents or other relatives from Germany.

Sir John Simon expressed his sympathy with the indignation manifested in the House of Commons debate against the events in Germany. It would be a profound mistake to suggest, he declared, that the feelings expressed against the anti-Jewish persecutions in Germany were limited to or instigated by members of the Jewish community.


Sir John Simon explained the difficulty of the British Government’s intervening on behalf of non-Britishers, but personally felt that unnecessary obstacles should not be placed in the way of Jewish refugees who desire to enter England, although consideration of the unemployment situation must prevail. At the same time, he stated the admission of people with good character would be a gain and not a loss to England.

It would not be in the interests of the Jews to assume, Sir John Simon concluded, that the British Government should be armed with authority to intervene on behalf of foreign subjects in another country, but he thought an effect would be achieved by the present parliamentary debate which undoubtedly would find an echo in public opinion outside England.

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