A reluctance to believe: "The Poles, and to a far greater extent the Jews, tend to exaggerate German atrocities in order to stoke us up. . ."
Source: PRO file ...
MOST SECRET CYPHER TELEGRAM
From:- Air Ministry.
To:- Quadrant [Quebec Conference]
CONCRETE 583 26th August, 1943.
Following for Foreign Secretary from [Sir Orme] Sargent.
Your telegram WELFARE No.386.
We are instructing H.M. Ambassador at Moscow to communicate text to Soviet governrnent and, if he sees no objection, to enquire whether they would feel disposed to a similar statement at the same time.
Deputy Prime Minister
FROM FOREIGN OFFICE TO MOSCOW
No. 1190 D. 5.25 p.m. 26th August, 1943
26th August, 1943
Repeated to Washington No. 5702
My immediately preceding telegram.
Trustworthy information has reached His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom regarding crimes committed by the German invaders against the population of Poland. Since the autumn of 1942 a belt of territory extending from the province of Bialystok southwards along the line of the River Bug has been systematically emptied of its inhabitants. In July 1943 these measures were extended to practically the whole of the province of Lublin, where hundreds of thousands of persons have been deported from their homes or exterminated.
I understand that the information on which telegram No. 1190 to Moscow is based is taken in the main from the aide-memoire by the Polish Government in C 8965/34/G.
This aide-memoire is in line with a good deal of other information which we have received from time to time. There can, I think, be little doubt that the general picture painted is pretty true to life. On the other hand, it is of course extremely difficult, if not impossible, for us to check up on specific instances or matters of detail. For this reason I feel a little unhappy about the statement, to be issued on the authority of His Majesty's Government, that Poles "are now being systematically put to death in gas chambers",
The only two references which I have been able to find in the appendix to this Polish aide-memoire which deal with this form of execution are as follows:
(1) Telegram of 17th July, 1943 from Poland.
"Commander-in-Chief armed forces Lublin district informed me that he had evidence that some of these people are being murdered in gas cells there" (Majdanek Camp).
(2) Telegram of 17th July, 1943, from Poland.
"'It has been ascertained that on July 2nd and 5th 2 transports made of women, children, and old men, consisting of 30 wagons each, have been liquidated in gas cells."
It will be observed that the first of these reports gives no indication of the date of the occurrence, or the number of people concerned; the second is silent as to the place and the source.
It is true that there have been references to the use or gas chambers in other reports; but these references have usually, if not always, been equally vague, and since they have concerned the extermination of Jews, have usually emanated from Jewish sources.
Personally, I have never really understood the advantage of the gas chamber over the simpler machine gun, or the equally simple starvation method. These stories may or may not be true, but in any event I submit we are putting out a statement on evidence which is far from conclusive, and which we have no means of assessing
However, you may not consider this of sufficient importance to warrant any action.
signed Roger Allen
27th August, 1943
In my opinion it is incorrect to describe Polish Information regarding German atrocities as "trustworthy". The Poles, and to a far greater extent the Jews, tend to exaggerate German atrocities in order to stoke us up. They seem to have succeeded.
Mr. Allen and myself have both followed German atrocities quite closely. I do not believe that there is any evidence which would be accepted in a Law Court that Polish children have been killed on the spot by Germans when their parents were being deported to work in Germany, nor that Polish children have been sold to German settlers. As regards putting Poles to death in gas chambers, I do not believe that there is any evidence that this has been done. There have been many stories to this effect, and we have played them up in P.W.E. rumours without believing that they had any foundation. At any rate there is far less evidence than exists for the mass murder of Polish officers by the Russians at Katyn. On the other hand we do know that the Germans are out to destroy Jews of any age unless they are fit for manual labour.
I think that we weaken our case against the Germans by publicly giving credence to atrocity stories for which we have no evidence. These mass executions in gas chambers remind me of the story of employment of human corpses during the last war for the manufacture of fat, which was a grotesque lie and led to the true stories of German enormities being brushed aside as being mere propaganda.
I am very sad to see that we must needs ape the Russians and talk about "Hitlerite" instead "German" .
signed but illegible
27th August, 1943.
I have discussed this with Mr. [Frank] Roberts. It seems too late to make substantial changes. But we could telegraph to Washington and Moscow on the lines of the annexed draft
signed D. Allen 27/8
Mr Bentinck ext
...Sent of Mr. .... informed the Polish P.M. readily accepted the change.
signed illegible 28/8
I daresay that my minute is too late to be of use but I feel certain that we are making a mistake in publicly giving credence to this gas chambers story."
TO: CANADA (GOVT)
NEW ZEALAND (GOVT)
SOUTH AFRICA (GOVT)
(sent 6.30 p.m. 27th, Aug., 1943.)
D. No. 597 SECRET
Following for Prime Minister. Begins .
My immediately preceding telegram. Following is Text.
Trustworthy information has reached his Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom regarding crimes committed by the German invaders against the population of Poland. Since the autumn of 1942 a belt of territory extending from the province of Bialystok southwards along the line of the River Bug has been systematically emptied of its inhabitants. In July 1943 these measures were extended to practically the whole of the province of Lublin, where hundreds of thousands of persons have been deported from their homes or exterminated.
FROM FOREIGN TO WASHINGTON
27th August, 1943
D: 9. 05 p.m. 27th August, 1943
Repeated to Moscow telegram No. 1200
My telegram No. 1190 to Moscow [of 28th August: declaration about German atrocities in Poland]
On further reflection we are not convinced that evidence regarding use of gas chambers is substantial enough to justify inclusion in a public declaration of concluding phrase of paragraph 2 of draft and would prefer if United States Government agree, that sentence in question should end at "concentration camps".
2. Please telegraph United States Government's views urgently.
O. T. P. [One time pad]
[Telegram from London Dominions Office to Empire prime ministers, August 28, 1943, 2:30 p.m.]
TO: CANADA (GOVT)
NEW ZEALAND (GOVT)
SOUTH AFRICA (GOVT)
(sent 2.30 p.m. 28th August 1943)
D. No. 605 SECRET
Following for Prime Minister. Begins.
My telegram D No. 596 of 27th August. Declaration regarding German atrocities in Poland.
On further reflection we are not convinced that evidence regarding use of gas chambers is substantial enough to justify inclusion in a public declaration of concluding phrase of paragraph 2 of draft contained in my telegram D.No. 597 of 27th August and we are therefore suggesting to United States Government that sentence in question should end at "concentration camps". Ends.