Pre-WW2 Churchill Article Says Jews Partly to Blame for anti-Semitism

Former British leader never published article, which he wrote weeks before becoming prime minister.

Reuters
Reuters
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Reuters
Reuters

A historian has uncovered a pre-World War Two article Winston Churchill wrote about the persecution of Jews but then decided not to publish. In the long lost article, the British wartime leader disapproved of the treatment they experienced but did say of the Jews: "They have been partly responsible for the antagonism from which they suffer."

Cambridge University lecturer Richard Toye, reflecting on his find, said: "While most people would accept that Churchill was no anti-Semite, this sheds fascinating new light on his views about Jews which were very inconsistent."

While researching in the university's Churchill archives, the historian uncovered the unpublished article in a pile of proofs and press cuttings. "It was a dramatic moment," he said.

"How The Jews Can Combat Persecution," originally written in 1937 when it failed to find a publisher, was finally picked up in 1940 for publication by the Sunday Depatch newspaper.

But when the paper's editor formally asked for permission to use the piece, Churchill's office wrote back and refused, saying publication was "inadvisable."

Within weeks, Churchill became prime minister, leading the fight against the Nazi regime which murdered six million Jews in the Holocaust.

"He may well have had second thoughts. When he looked at it again, he may well have thought it wasn't the most intelligent thing to say," Toye told Reuters in an interview.

He uncovered the article while researching for a book he was writing on "Lloyd George and Churchill: Rivals For Greatness."

In the piece, Churchill argued that "the wickedness of the persecutors" was not the only reason for the ill-treatment of Jews down the ages.

He called Jews sober, industrious and law-abiding and praised their readiness to fight and die for the country they lived in.

But he added: "Yet there are times when one feels instinctively that all this is only another manifestation of the difference, the separateness of the Jew."

Echoing modern-day debates about multi-culturalism, Churchill criticised what he called the "aloofness" of Jewish people from wider society and urged them to make the effort to integrate.

He criticized Jewish employers in the clothing trade for exploiting the readiness of Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany to work for lower wages. He also criticized the refugees themselves for their readiness to accept rock-bottom salaries.

Toye said "I do find it perverse to blame persecuted people for their own persecution. There is a lot of contorted logic there."

Speculating on why the article never saw the light of day, he concluded: "In terms of its potential impact on public opinion, it was one thing to say these things in 1937 but quite different to say them in 1940 when Britain was at war."

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