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 3

Copy of a letter from Churchill to the Archbishop of Canterbury, 29 October, 1942


➜ CHAR 20/54B/179

Simplified Transcript

Dear Archbishop,

I know you are having a meeting today to protest against the Nazis treatment of the Jews. I sympathise with your views. What the Nazis are doing to the Jews is one of the worst crimes in history. Those who take part in it will never forget their guilt and will be made to pay for their crimes. Free people hate what is being done and after the war we will try to end all racial prejudice and discrimination.

Yours sincerely,

Winston S Churchill

Original Transcript

29 October, 1942.

My Dear Archbishop, [handwritten]

I cannot refrain from sending, through you, to the audience which is assembling under your Chairmanship at the Albert Hall today to protest against Nazi atrocities inflicted on the Jews, the assurance of my warm sympathy with the objects of the meeting. The systematic cruelties to which the Jewish people – men, women, and children – have been exposed under the Nazi regime are amongst the most terrible events of history, and place an indelible stain upon all who perpetrate and instigate them. Free men and women denounce these vile crimes, and when the world struggle ends with the enthronement of human rights, racial persecution will be ended.

Yrs[Yours] sincerely,

Winston S Churchill [handwritten]

His Grace

The Lord Archbishop of Canterbury.

What is this source?

A copy of a letter from Churchill, on 29 October 1942, to the Archbishop of Canterbury (William Temple).

Background to this source

In October 1942 a public meeting was organised by lay-readers (a person licensed to preach and to conduct some religious services) of Anglo-Jewry in order to express outrage at Nazi atrocities being inflicted upon the Jews. The meeting was held at the Albert Hall in London. This meeting came about after over a year of the mass killings being committed on the Jews of Europe by the Nazis and their collaborators. Churchill decided to write this letter so that those present at the meeting were aware of his support and sympathy.

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’s view of the Nazi crimes against the Jews?
  2. What does Churchill want the assembled protesters at the Albert Hall to know?
  3. What does Churchill see as the post-war solution?
  4. Do you think Churchill had been asked to provide a message of support to the meeting, or was it something he decided to do unprompted?

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?
The British public were aware of the atrocities being committed against the Jewish people.

Churchill recognises the significance of the actions of the Nazis against the Jews.

Churchill’s main objective is winning the war.

 Download table (PDF)
 Download table (Word document)

Need help interpreting the source?

  • This source gives us some interesting insights. As with most sources it could be interpreted in different ways. At one level it suggests Britain is doing very little. On the other hand we see what people know and how they feel about it. In addition we see Churchill thinking about the post-war situation, even though there is little mention of action at this time.
  • Churchill chose to use very powerful vocabulary in this letter in order to add to the impact of his message of support to the protest meeting. When he refers to the ‘indelible stain’ upon the perpetrators of the crimes, he might have been alluding to the prosecution of the Nazis for war crimes.

Explore the guide to interpreting letters

 Source 4

 Back to sources page

 Investigation page