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London, November 3, 1998
was 'wary' of Nazi refugees
By Louise Jury
A NEW pamphlet,
be distributed in
schools, will offer
a radical reassessment of Britain's
wartime behaviour towards victims of the
British reaction to the Nazi slaughter of
the Jews was "mixed" and influenced by
anti-Semitism, according to the report by
David Cesarani, professor of
20th-century European Jewish history at
But the study also highlights how few
other countries and "least of all the USA
with its incomparably greater resources"
matched Britain's humanitarian record on
refugees after Hitler took power in
Germany. Britain and the Holocaust is
described by its publishers, the Holocaust
Educational Trust, as the first time
the responses of the British government
and the general public have been brought
Not even the UK's Jewish community
escapes criticism. Some refugees worked as
domestic helps for Jewish families who
treated them badly, the professor said.
And too few Jewish families offered to
foster German-Jewish children despite
The 21-page pamphlet was conceived as
an attempt to put the British response in
historical context. But the trust decided
that its clarity made it ideal for
schools. An overview of the Second World
War, including the Holocaust, is part of
the national curriculum. But Rosie
co-ordinator at the trust, said
some children spent only a single class
studying one of the most appalling
atrocities of the century.
"This book is about not giving pupils a
false impression that everything Britain
did was glorious," she said. The text will
be also available on the Internet.
Professor Cesarani outlines the history
of Jews in Britain, attitudes in the years
preceding the war, what was known about
the Final Solution, the liberation of the
camps and the aftermath of the Holocaust.
He highlights how in 1933 Britain had
strict immigration controls and many
people opposed letting German Jews into
Suspicions of Jews continued during the
war, when the government was apprehensive
about the level of anti-Semitism in
Britain and feared it could turn into
anti-war and pro-Fascist sentiment. "It
did everything to avoid the impression
that Britain was at war on behalf of the
Jews," the professor said.
The amount of information reaching
Britain about the treatment of Jews in
Nazi Europe was "plentiful and accurate.
However, there was a vast gap between
knowing and believing".
Some officials were prejudiced against
the Jews and others thought information
about persecution was being manipulated
for Zionist purposes. Yet numerous
telegrams made clear to the British
government what was happening.
when Richard Dimbleby broadcast
in April 1945 (Belsen girls:
right), he never explicitly referred
to Jews. "Allied propaganda used the camps
to vindicate the war against Germany and
not to explain the Final Solution," says
The report concludes that the British
people comforted themselves post-war with
the idea that the 1939-1945 conflict had
been a "good war.
dossier on the origins of