National/World

British authorities ignored rise of antisemitism during WWII

(JTA) – Antisemitic sentiments skyrocketed in Britain during World War II, but the country’s leaders took little action to counter it, according to documents released by the UK’s National Archives. According to The Times of London, which obtained the files, British officials blamed the Jews for the problem, which manifested itself in the spread of conspiracy theories, vandalism and the distribution of antisemitic literature. In a letter dated May 1943, Ministry of Information Director-General Cyril Radcliffe described how antisemitism had spiked across the country except in Northeastern England and Northern Ireland.

“All the others showed general agreement on the fact that from the beginning of the war there had been a considerable increase in antisemitic[sic] feeling,” he wrote. “They seemed to regard it as quite beyond argument that the increase of antisemitic feeling was caused by serious errors of conduct on the part of Jews.”

Continuing his letter, Radcliffe himself engaged in antisemitism, seemingly blaming the Jews for their own plight.

“I reminded them that it was part of the tragedy of the Jewish position that their peculiar qualities that one could well admire in easier times of peace, such as their commercial initiative and drive and their determination to preserve themselves as an independent community in the midst of the nations they lived in, were just the things that told against them in wartime when a nation dislikes the struggle for individual advantages and feels the need for homogeneity above everything else,” he said. Despite the British government’s knowledge of the problem, no public campaigns were run to counter antisemitic sentiment.

Antisemitism appears to be growing in contemporary Britain as well. In July, British Jewry’s main watchdog on antisemitism announced that it had recorded 727 hate incidents in the first half of 2018, the second-highest six-month total on record. In the first half of 2017, CST recorded 786 incidents, constituting the highest total CST has ever recorded during any six months since the organization began monitoring incidents in 1984. During that entire year, a total of 1,414 antisemitic incidents were recorded – the highest tally so far.

CAP: The Nazi Blitz of London, 1940.

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