‘Antisemitism’ in wartime Britain: article suppressed by The Times

Cyril Radcliffe (later Lord Radcliffe), Director-General of Britain’s wartime Ministry of Information

In the early hours of this morning The Times published an online article under the headline ‘Antisemitism in Britain’, revealing the attitudes held by ordinary Britons towards Jews during the Second World War. This article quoted extensively from an official British document written in May 1943 by the Director-General of the British Government’s Ministry of Information, responsible both for some wartime propaganda and for monitoring the opinions of British civilians.

Within hours The Times suppressed their own article and the link now produces a one-line message: “This article has been removed”.

H&D does not know why The Times decided their readers should not be informed on this topic – but since we ourselves have obtained a copy of the once-secret wartime document, we now publish its contents. Even if The Times is afraid of the truth, we are not.

On 27th May 1943 Cyril Radcliffe KC (Director-General of the Ministry of Information) wrote to his Minister, Brendan Bracken. Radcliffe had spent the previous morning with his Regional Officers from every part of the UK discussing “the question of anti-Semitism”. He believed that they had given him a comprehensive picture of the scale of anti-Jewish feeling among the British public and that no other organisation would have been capable of giving “a better impressionistic view of the position than they were able to provide”.

Radcliffe’s letter to Minister of Information Brendan Bracken in May 1943 about “anti-Semitism” among British civilians during the Second World War

Only Northern Ireland and North East England seemed to show little anti-Semitism, according to Radcliffe: everywhere else in the UK there was “general agreement on the fact that from the beginning of the war there had been a considerable increase in anti-Semitic feeling”. This did not seem to have been incited by anti-Jewish organisations. According to the Ministry’s Regional Officers: “They seemed to regard it as quite beyond argument that the increase of anti-Semitic feeling was caused by serious errors of conduct on the part of Jews.”

This view of Jews had developed not only in cities with a long-established Jewish presence, such as Manchester and Leeds, but also in “areas which had known the Jews mainly as wartime evacuees from the cities”.

Radcliffe continued: “The main heads of complaint against them were undoubtedly an inordinate attention to the possibilities of the ‘black market’ and a lack of pleasant standards of conduct as evacuees. The chief enemy of the Jew appears to be in most areas the small trader who suffers peculiarly from the operations of Jews, whether they are in fact ‘black market’ operations or not. There was a general belief that Jews somehow or other get supplies and advantages which are not available to other people.”

One section of the letter is still censored, dealing with the proportion of Jews involved in black market criminal offences brought before the London courts.

Minister of Information Brendan Bracken (seen above right with his mentor Winston Churchill) was the recipient of a newly-revealed letter discussing propaganda strategies for dealing with ordinary Britons’ negative perceptions of Jews.

Radcliffe and his officers had discussed how official propaganda could best deal with British civilian “anti-Semitism”.

His advice was that rather than seeking to change people’s minds about Jewish behaviour and characteristics, propaganda should concentrate on hammering home the message that saying bad things about Jews was divisive and “peculiarly the badge of the Nazi”. This is strangely reminiscent of more recent propaganda that seeks to ignore specific facts about Jews or blacks, merely insisting that “the truth is no defence” in cases of “racial hatred”.

In 1943 there was of course not yet any question of criminalising “racist” or “anti-Semitic” opinions. This criminalisation of political incorrectness in Britain did not begin for another twenty years: wartime internment of British dissidents was restricted to active members of banned political groups such as Sir Oswald Mosley’s British Union. Radcliffe and his officials preferred more subtly to persuade Britons to adopt the view that anti-Semitism was “a thing to be regretted, even if they thought that the Jews were to a large measure responsible”.

H&D would be very interested to learn who at The Times took the decision today to censor these wartime revelations, and why. Can the paper be shamed into reinstating their own story?

 

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