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?

Source 2

Copy of a letter from WSC to Professor Harold Laski about Jewish suffering in the war, 5 July 1943


CHAR 20/94A/11

Simplified Transcript

Dear Laski,

Thank you for your letter. Although in the speech you heard I talked about Nazi atrocities against European countries, I have never forgotten their terrible treatment of the Jews; and I am always thinking about how we can stop them, now and after the War.

Yours sincerely

Original Transcript

5 July, 1943

Dear Laski,

Thank you for your letter of July 1. Although in my speech at the Guildhall I referred only to the wrongs inflicted by Hitler on the Sovereign States of Europe, I have never forgotten the terrible sufferings inflicted upon the Jews; and I am constantly thinking by what means it may lie in our power to alleviate them, both during the war and in the permanent settlement which must follow it.

Yours sincerely,

Professor Harold J. Laski.

What is this source?

A copy of a letter from WSC to Professor Harold Laski [Professor of Political Science at the University of London] 5 July 1943.

Background to this source

Churchill’s speech to those assembled at the Guildhall in London on 30 June 1943 was a rousing one, designed to praise the work of the British soldiers, civilians and allies.

In the midst of this he made reference to the ‘enemy’ only fleetingly and did not focus great attention on their actions, preferring to celebrate the efforts of the allies. Professor Harold Laski, a professor of Political Science, a socialist and Jewish took exception to Churchill’s lack of comment specifically on the issue of atrocities towards Jews. He wrote Churchill a letter to make it clear that he felt Churchill had let the Jews down by not specifically mentioning the issue.

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:

Surface level

  1. What is Churchill trying to say he never forgets?
  2. What does Churchill want to do about the suffering inflicted on the Jews?
  3. What is the purpose of this letter?

Deeper level

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?
Churchill has no plan for combatting atrocities committed against Jews at this time.

Churchill plans to bring the Nazis to justice over atrocities after the war.

Laski is unimpressed with Churchill’s Guildhall speech.

Atrocities being committed towards the Jews were widely known about.

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Need help interpreting the source?

  • This letter was written in 1943, over a year after the beginning of the Holocaust.
  • Churchill did not mention atrocities against the Jews in his speech and yet he claimed it was something he never forgets. This could be interpreted in different ways – that he is contradicting himself or that he simply cannot do anything about the atrocities.
  • Churchill needed to avoid explicit references to the Holocaust so that the Germans did not realise that the British were intercepting their secret messages. See CHAR 9/182A-B.
  • Churchill’s desire for a ‘permanent settlement’ after the war as a means of alleviating the suffering of the Jews does gives clues about his personal views, especially if we look at Source 1 along with this source.

Explore the guide to interpreting letters

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