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17 December 1942: Declaration on the Persecution of the Jews

On 17 December 1942, the first public announcement of the Nazis’ attempt to murder Europe’s Jewish population was made by British government. The then Foreign Secretary, Anthony Eden, read a declaration on the persecution of the Jews in the House of Commons. MPs responded with a spontaneous moment of silence.

17 December 1942: Declaration on the Persecution of the Jews

Anthony Eden

Image: The Jewish Chronicle following the publication of Raczyński’s Note in December 1942

Eden read to the House of Commons a declaration issued by the wartime Allies, condemning the treatment of the Jews in Nazi occupied Europe. The declaration followed mounting evidence gathered by the Polish resistance that the systematic mass murder of Jews had begun in central and eastern Europe. Polish Foreign Minister in exile, Edward Raczyński, provided a diplomatic note to the Allied powers on 10 December 1942, the first official report that the Holocaust was taking place.

The Allies declaration read:

From all the occupied countries Jews are being transported, in conditions of appalling horror and brutality, to Eastern Europe … None of those taken away are ever heard of again. The able-bodied are slowly worked to death in labour camps. The infirm are left to die of exposure and starvation or are deliberately massacred in mass executions.

William Cluse, the then Member of Parliament for Islington South, asked the speaker ‘Is it possible, in your judgment, Mr. Speaker, for Members of the House to rise in their places and stand in silence in support of this protest against disgusting barbarism?’

Speaker FitzRoy replied, ‘That should be a spontaneous act by the House as a whole’.

Hansard records that ‘Members of the House then stood in silence’.

The Jewish Chronicle:

‘Ghastly details of mass murder and huge-scale slaughter of Jews, men, women, and little children, have now been confirmed by tested information received by a number of the Allied Governments, revealing that the most terrible massacre which has ever been perpetrated on any people at any period of recorded time is now being enacted upon European Jewry.’

11 December 1942, following the publication of Raczyński’s note.

The Times:

‘Moved by the horror of Mr. Eden’s recital of German atrocities against the Jews, and by the stern protest and warning of retribution which he uttered in the name of the British and allied Governments, the House, prompted by a suggestion from a Labour member, rose spontaneously and remained standing for a minute.’

18 December 1942

The Guardian:

‘In a moment all members were on their feet, and the Lord Chancellor in the Peers’ Gallery, with them. Nothing comparable with this has happened before. […] The House of Commons rose in calm to perform something of like a judicial action to brand Germany for these infamies.’

18 December 1942

The Daily Mail:

‘One after another M.P. stood until all, in their hundreds, sombre-garbed and sombre-faced ranks, were on their feet. I can tell you that there were many eyes which were not dry and there was not, I dare swear, a throat without a lump in it


I have never seen anything like this silence which was like the frown of the conscience of mankind.’

18 December 1942

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