Letter from WSC to Lord Melchett regarding the massacre of Hungarian Jews July 1944
My dear Henry,
You wrote to me on 1 July about the German plans for the mass murder of the Hungarian Jews.
I have passed your letter to the Foreign Secretary and fear that I can add nothing to what he said about it in Parliament.
This is clearly one of the worst crimes ever and has been committed by educated people from a well respected country. We are doing all we can to solve this problem, but the best way to do it is to win the war.
13 July, 1944.
My dear Henry,
You wrote to me on 1 July about the German plans for the massacre of the Hungarian Jews.
I have forwarded your letter to the Foreign Secretary and fear that I can add nothing to the statement he made in the House on 5 July in replying to Silverman’s Question.
There is no doubt in my mind that we are in the presence of one of the greatest and most horrible crimes ever committed. It has been done by scientific machinery by nominally civilized men in the name of a great state and one of the leading races of Europe. I need not assure you that the situation has received and will receive the most earnest consideration from my colleagues and myself but, as the Foreign Secretary said, the principle hope of terminating it must remain the speedy victory of the Allied Nations.
Winston S. Churchill
The Lord Melchett.
What is this source?
Copy of a letter from WSC to Lord Melchett sent on 13 July 1944, marked 'Private' informing him that he has sent on his letter regarding the massacre of Hungarian Jews to the Foreign Office and assuring him that he fully appreciates the seriousness of the issue.
Background to this source
‘Extermination’ of Hungarian Jews began in March 1944 after the German Army invaded the country. More than 800,000 Jews lived in Hungary and despite many being placed under forced labour under the dictatorial government of Miklos Horthy the invasion brought a much greater threat. Within eight weeks of 1 May 1944, 424,000 Jews had been deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau.
The British and American governments were aware of the deportations of Hungarian Jews and of the Nazis’ systematic extermination of the Jews. Winning the war remained the top priority for the Allies but the British and American governments (with the Red Cross, the Pope and the King of Sweden) publicly appealed to Miklos Horthy to stop the deportations. Although he agreed and the deportations stopped on 8 July 1944, by this time some 565,000 Jews of Hungary were murdered.
How can we use this source in the investigation?
Remember we are hoping that this source can be useful to us in investigating whether Britain could have done more to help the Jews. Sources usually help historians in two ways:
- What is the specific issue in question in this source?
- How does Churchill describe the methods being used by the Nazis against the Jews?
- What is the British Government’s number one aim?
Which of the inferences below can be made from this source?
|On a scale of 1-5 how far do you agree that this source supports this inference?||Which extract(s) from the source support your argument?|
|The British Government know, in some detail, the methods being used by the Nazis.|
|There is no plan in place to specifically combat the atrocities.|
|Churchill sees fighting the persecution of the Jews as a priority. |
Need help interpreting the source?
- The source hints at some important issues: what the Allies’ priority is in the war; how far Churchill agrees with this priority; how far atrocities affected the priorities of the Allies. As usual, the source can be interpreted in different ways and historians have to make a judgement on the balance of evidence on whether Britain could have done more to help the Jews.
Explore the guide to interpreting letters