Churchill and the Jews

Overview

Visiting Israel in 1972, Gilbert discussed Winston Churchill’s influence on the evolution of the Zionist ideal with the Israeli leader, David Ben-Gurion, at whose last meeting with Churchill in 1960, Churchill declared: “You are a wise leader of a brave people.”

Born into a British class and society that was far from well-disposed towards Jews, Churchill rejected anti-Semitic attitudes. In the early 1920s, as a senior member of the British government, Churchill took a lead in ...

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Overview

Visiting Israel in 1972, Gilbert discussed Winston Churchill’s influence on the evolution of the Zionist ideal with the Israeli leader, David Ben-Gurion, at whose last meeting with Churchill in 1960, Churchill declared: “You are a wise leader of a brave people.”

Born into a British class and society that was far from well-disposed towards Jews, Churchill rejected anti-Semitic attitudes. In the early 1920s, as a senior member of the British government, Churchill took a lead in securing for the Jews a National Home in Palestine that would be open to Jewish immigration from all over the world. In 1948, Churchill urged immediate recognition of the State of Israel, and, in 1951, strongly supported Israel’s right — denied by Egypt — of free passage through the Suez Canal. The book also details acts of rescue initiated by Churchill on behalf of European Jewry during the Second World War. When Churchill was asked to bomb the railway lines leading to Auschwitz, his response was immediate: “Get anything out of the air force you can.” Gilbert follows this story to its unexpected conclusion, and the saving of more than 100,000 Jewish lives.

Many times during fifty years of public life, Churchill was called upon by the Jews of Britain to intervene on their behalf both nationally and internationally. His responses made it clear to them that he was, as he once expressed it, “their friend.”

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Praise for Churchill: A Life:

“The most scholarly study of Churchill in war and peace ever written.”
New York Times

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780771035173
  • Publisher: McClelland & Stewart Ltd.
  • Publication date: 6/24/2008
  • Pages: 384

Meet the Author

Martin Gilbert, the author of more than seventy books, is Winston Churchill’s official biographer and a leading historian of the modern world. In 1995 he was knighted “for services to British history and international relations” and in 1999 he was awarded a Doctorate of Literature by the University of Oxford for the totality of his published work. As a three-year-old Briton he was sent to Canada in the summer of 1940, returning to Britain in May 1944, just in time for Hitler’s V bombs. He now divides his time between London, Ontario, and London, England.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter Nine

The Rise of Hitler

In Britain, a General Election was called for 14 November 1935. As the day drew near, it was rumoured that Churchill would be brought back into government. On 24 October he spoke publicly of the dangers to Britain and Europe of German rearmament and of the German population being ‘trained from childhood for war.’ On the following day the British Ambassador in Berlin, Sir Eric Phipps, sent the Foreign Office an article by the London correspondent of the official Nazi Völkishcer Beobachter, stating ‘that as soon as Mr Churchill opens his mouth, it is safe to bet that an attack on Germany will emerge. He is one of the most unscrupulous political intriguers in England. His friendship with the American Jewish millionaire Baruch leads him to expend all his remaining force and authority in directing England’s action against Germany. This is the man whom the government are apparently thinking of including in the Cabinet.’

In an article in the Strand, a widely circulated monthly magazine published in both Britain and the United States, Churchill described in uncompromising language the militaristic and racist aspects of the Nazi regime. His sources of information were wide-ranging. He had read Hitler’s own book, Mein Kampf (My Struggle), and followed the often detailed British newspaper accounts of Nazi rule. Friends in the Foreign Office and the Intelligence Service had brought him first-hand information about the severity of Nazi rule. ‘Hitler’s triumphant career has been borne onwards,’ he wrote in his Strand article, ‘not only by a passionate love of Germany, but by currents of hatred so intense as to sear the souls of those who swim upon them. Hatred of the French is the first of these currents, and we have only to read Hitler’s book, Mein Kampf, to see that the French are not the only foreign nation against whom the anger of rearmed Germany may be turned. But the internal stresses are even more striking. The Jews, supposed to have contributed, by a disloyal and pacifist influence, to the collapse of Germany at the end of the Great War, were also deemed to be the main prop of communism and the authors of defeatist doctrines in every form. Therefore, the Jews of Germany, a community numbered by many hundreds of thousands, were to be stripped of all power, driven from every position in public and social life, expelled from the professions, silenced in the Press, and declared a foul and odious race.’

The twentieth century, Churchill wrote, had witnessed ‘with surprise, not merely the promulgation of these ferocious doctrines, but their enforcement with brutal vigour by the Government and by the populace.’ The Jews were the chief victims of these doctrines. ‘No past services, no proved patriotism, even wounds sustained in war, could procure immunity for persons whose only crime was that their parents had brought them into the world. Every kind of persecution, grave or petty, upon the world-famous scientists, writers, and composers at the top down to the wretched little Jewish children in the national schools, was practised, was glorified, and is still being practised and glorified.’

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