Anglo-Jewish Leadership and the British Government: Attempts at Rescue 1944-1945
When the Germans occupied Hungary in March 1944, 1,000,000 Jews faced annihilation. This time free world Jewry reacted rapidly. President Roosevelt set up the War Refugee Board which reacted lukewarmly. In Britain the Board of Deputies, the World Jewish Congress, and the Anglo-Jewish Association negotiated with the Foreign Office and the BBC, neither of which responded very positively to Jewish proposals such as contacting the Russians and Yugoslavia’s Marshal Tito to help Jews escape. Even Churchill’s response was muted. Weizmann addressed the Board of Deputies and berated the Jews of the world for not doing enough. He lauded the rescue efforts of the Jewish community in Palestine. He disclosed his involvement in Brand’s trucks-in-exchange-for-Jews (“blood for wares”) deal. In July 1944 pressure from the Pope and the King of Sweden led Hungary’s Regent Horthy to suspend transports to the death camps. Horthy asserted that 50,000 Jewish children under the age of ten and about 20,000 adults with valid certificates would be able to leave Hungary. Sweden and Switzerland agreed to accept the children and the Red Cross was prepared to make transport arrangements. Britain refused to accept them into the British Isles, its colonies, or Palestine. Now the Germans, fearful of Arab reaction to refugee Jews arriving in Palestine, announced that they would only be permitted to leave for the USA or Britain. Britain’s Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden agreed to accept the refugees but procrastination by all concerned continued until Horthy was deposed and the transports were resumed. In 1945 efforts were made to prevent Jewish deaths at the hands of the retreating SS. The British government, however, remained adamantly negative and did not cooperate.