Churchill Archive for Schools - Themes_Key questions_Jews in the Secon

Could Britain have done more to help the Jews in the Second World War?

Arrival of a deportation train bringing Hungarian Jews to Auschwitz death camp in Poland in 1942. (Photo by Universal Images Group/Getty Images)

Most people are aware of the horrific fate suffered by around 6 million Jews and other persecuted groups in the Nazi genocide during the Second World War. Debate has swung back and forth about what the Allies knew about what was happening and also whether they could have taken more actions than they did.

Winston Churchill, the British leader in the Second World War, was an outspoken champion of the Jews. He had made his attitude clear prior to the Second World War through speeches, letters, and even legislation aimed at protecting Jewish immigration to Palestine, and raising an awareness of their potential plight in Germany and beyond.

However, some commentators have questioned how far this support translated into genuine action on the ground. The debate centres on two questions:

  • Did Britain prioritise the war against the Axis powers over the treatment of Jews?
  • Was it possible for Britain and its allies to have done more to help Jewish groups and Jewish refugees while fighting a war?

Your challenge

We have a box of sources from the Churchill Archive for you to investigate.

  • Your challenge will be to study the sources and use them to investigate the British government’s (and Churchill’s own) position on the Jews before, during and immediately after the Holocaust in order to answer the question of whether Churchill and the British could have done more.
  • Your teacher will be able to help you with a recording framework and suggestions on how to present your work.

 Background information

The sources

 Notes for teachers