Britain’s Holocaust memorial shortlist: right time, wrong place?

[From The Guardian]


1600“A
mazing, most amazing position,” said a US government official in 1943 of British reluctance to help with a plan to rescue 70,000 Jews from a part of the Soviet Union under axis occupation. The British feared “the difficulties of disposing of any considerable number of Jews”. Or as the American paraphrased: “We let them die because we don’t know what to do with them.” In 1945 the Liberal politician Viscount Samuel described the British and international response to the Holocaust another way. “Out of that vast reservoir of misery and murder,” he told the House of Lords, “only a tiny trickle of escape was provided.”

These facts, recorded in Whitehall and the Jews 1933-1948 by the lawyer and historian Louise London, should be remembered. For everything that Britain has to be proud of in the defeat of Nazism, including a slightly less mean attitude to refugees than some other countries, and the children’s rescue programme, Kindertransport, the response to the displacement and slaughter of millions was to admit only by the thousands those trying to escape. The government feared immigrants taking British jobs, and social unrest. In terms that sound familiar now, it tried to distinguish political refugees from “economic” migrants. Much of the press backed them up. “The law of self-preservation”, said the London Evening News in 1938, “demands that the word ‘enter’ be removed from the gate.”

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