By HAROLD NICOLSON
' ON December 17th, 1942, exactly a year ago today, a curious scene was wimessed in the House of Commons. Mr. Silverman, by private notice, asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs
whether he had any statement to make regarding the plan of the German Government to deport all Jews to Eastern Europe, and there to put them to death. Mr. Eden replied that the Govern- ment had, in fact, received reliable reports as to the barbarous treatment to which Jews were being subjected in occupied Europe, and that, after consultation with the Governments of the United States of America and the U.S.S.R., it had been decided to issue a joint declaration on the subject. Mr. Eden then read, in a slow and emphatic voice, the joint Declaration of the United Nations. It may be useful to recall the words of that tremendous indictment. The German Government were accused by the Governments of twelve of the United Nations of seeking to "carry into effect Hitler's oft-repeated intention to exterminate the Jewish people in Europe." "From all the occupied countries," ran the Declaration, "Jews are being transported, in conditions of appalling horror and brutality, to Eastern Europe. . . . None of those taken away are ever heard of again. The able-bodied are slowly worked to death in labour camps. The infirm are left to die of exposure and starvation, or are deliberately massacred in mass executions. The number of victims of these bloody cruelties is reckoned in many hundreds of thousands of entirely innocent men, women and children. The Governments of the United Nations and the French National Com- mittee condemn in the strongest possible terms this bestial policy of cold-blooded extermination. . . . They re-affirm their solemn resolution that those responsible for these crimes shall not escape retribution." Members were so impressed by this indictment that they behaved in a most unusual manner. At the suggestion of Mr. Cluse, and with the approval of the Speaker, they rose in their places and stood in silence for one minute as a mark of sympathy and protest.
How far has this famous Declaration—the indictment it embodied, the threats which it announced, the dramatic approval with which it was supported by the House of Commons—either checked the German murder-plan or alleviated the lot of Jewish and other minorities in occupied Europe? The figures are not encouraging. The Polish Government estimate that in Poland alone some two- and-a-half million Jews have been exterminated, and that only a few hundred thousand remain. Only a few days ago the Netherlands Government in London issued an official statement which began with the words "The Jewish drama in the Netherlands is nearing its end." According to this statement, the Jews in Holland have been rounded up and sent to the concentration camps at Westerbork and Vught. From there they were packed into goods trains. "There were," states the communiqué, "about sixty people of all ages in each wagon, from six-weeks'-old babies to old people of ninety." Children under four were accompanied by their mothers ; children over that age could be accompanied either by their father or their mother, but not by both parents. This tragic freight was then trundled across Europe towards the murder camps in Poland. There must have been few indeed who reached their destination alive. Of the 800,000 Rumanian Jews, some 200,000 have escaped to Russia, and a further 200,000 are in Hungarian districts, where extermination has not been practised ; of the 400,000 in Rumania proper, only 275,000 are still living. Renewed persecutions have been started against the Jews in France and Italy. Under Mussolini's Socialist Republic, some to,000 Jews, who until now had remained un- molested, have been thrown into concentration camps. It may be said without exaggeration that the plight of the Jews is today even worse than it was twelve months ago.
* * Are we to deduce, therefore, that the Declaration of December 17th, 1942, and the change in the tide of war, has produced no effect whatsoever? The Jewish victims themselves have been encouragea, in some instances, to put up a forlorn and hopeless resistance. The rising in the Warsaw ghetto in the spring was followed by an out- break in Eastern Poland itself, during the course of which the murder camp at Treblinka was set on fire. In Warsaw itself the Jewish police refused to assist in arresting their fellow nationals, and were themselves machine-gunned by the Germans. A few, a very few, stronger Jews may have profited by these disorders to escape beyond the barbed wire. But all this can have occasioned but a temporary interruption of Hitler's plan ; and the long line of sealed wagons with their horrible freight still trundles eastwards along the Reichsbahn. It might be argued, none the less, that the warning issued by the United Nations may have had a deterrent effect upon those German authorities who were responsible this autumn for carrying out Hitler's schem: of extermination upon the Danish Jews. It is true that most, if not all, of the Jews of Denmark have been able to slip across into Sweden, where they have been received and comforted with praiseworthy generosity. But the fact remains that within the last twelve months many hundred thousand Jewish men, women and children, have been murdered, tortured or sterilised with scientific efficiency. And, since the contemplation of such atrocities is too horrible to bear, there are many people in this country who either "don't want to hear about them," or else assert that the facts provided from official sources are "propaganda," and therefore untrue.
I met recently a Swedish doctor who had Many friends in Germany, and who had visited that country several times during the course of the present war. When he was there in 1941 his pro- fessional colleagues had asked him, in the German way, how it came that the great German Kulturvolk had not managed to attach to itself the admiration and the gratitude of Europe. He had sug- gested to them that one reason for this lack of appreciation might be the German treatment of the Jews. "But all that is nonsense," they said to him, "you have been listening to the B.B.C." When he was there this summer the same people said to him: "It' is true what you said to us two years ago. We know now. Some of our own people have come back from the East and told us of the dread- ful things that have been happening. What crimes have the Nazis committed in our name!" He pointed out to them that by their acquiescence they had proved themselves accessories to the fact. They were (if Lord Vansittart will permit me to say so) decent Germans, and as such appalled by their own sense of "Mitschuld." "The German people," they said to him despairingly, "will have to expiate these crimes."
And what, since the date of the resounding demonstration of December 17th last year, have the United Nations done? Mr. Eden on that date assured the House that, in spite of the immense diffi- culties of the problem, the United Nations desired to "do every- thing they could to provide asylum for these people." This is easier said than done. The immediate difficulty is not so much to secure asylum as to secure escape. The neutral countries have been generous to those refugees who have managed to cross the frontiers, and we ourselves, since 1933. have given asylum to many thousands. But Hitler likes to murder the Jews within his power rather than to let them escape: his motto is that of Mephistopheles: " mir geht es wie die Katze mit der Maus." A large proportion of the refugees will, after the war, return to their countries of origin ; but niany will remain who are not repatriable. I trust that this country, and especially the Trades Unions, will be generous and unselfish in 'absorbing these unhappy derelicts. And that in our ears will echo, when peace comes, the sound of freight-trains rumbling through the night.