A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46

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15th January, 1942


1. General

The following summary on public feeling about Jews is based on special reports from all Regional Information Officers.

Seven R.I.Os report that there has been no appreciable change lately in public feeling. Anti-Semitism is reported to be latent, however, in most districts, and to become noticeable when it is “stimulated by a report or rumour of some offence in which a Jew is implicated - as for instance, black market prosecutions”. All the R.I.Os except those in the Northern and Northern Irish Regions refer to a general belief that black markets are largely run by Jews. It is said that Jews “play a prominent part in all schemes to ‘get round’ legislation restricting the sale of various commodities in short supply".

There is, nevertheless, no indication of any feeling that as a nation we are “Jew-led” on the lines suggested by enemy propaganda, though some people are said to have a “sneaking feeling that by getting rid of the Jews, Hitler and those of like thought through the ages were right”.

Refugee Jews, however, seem to be regarded with sympathy and “a few people appear genuinely sorry for their persecution”.

2. Increase and prevalence of anti-Semitism

Anti-Semitism is said to be increasing in areas where Jews have evacuated themselves from danger spots, and in towns with a large percentage of Jews in their normal population. The following places are specifically mentioned: Oxford, Reading, Luton, Brighton (where “anti-Jewish sentiment runs very high”) Camberley, Farnborough, Colwyn Bay, Llandudno, Glamorgan, and the South West of Scotland. The situation in Glasgow has been described as “a banked fire which could easily flare up if fanned”. At Sheffield and Leeds “the close contact between Jews and the population has led to a continuous simmering of anti-Jewish feeling”.

In Northern Ireland, alone, there is said to be “no Jewish problem”; out of a total population of a million and three quarters, there are only fourteen hundred Jews; “So long as Protestants and Roman Catholics are so deeply concerned with their own quarrels and antipathies anti-Semitism is unlikely to thrive”.

3. Reasons given for anti-Semitism

Black market activities : Typical comments are:- “Jews are almost always thought to be associated with black market dealings. Shopkeepers accuse Jews of cornering commodities, alleging that they pay high wholesale prices and pass the increased price to the customers. The honest trader is thus excluded from the market. It is also complained that Jewish wholesalers and retailers work together to exclude the ordinary trader” (North Eastern).

“The Jews are considered very active in the black market business and are always able to pull a fast one across us” (Scotland). “The tie-up between Jews and the black market is now well established in people's minds. When there are prosecutions there is usually at least one Jewish name in the list of directors” Also: “They are always willing to pay the extra price for things, so that under the counter trade is encouraged”. (London). “Jews are accused of being the prime offenders in all the black markets, both as vendors and purchasers” (Wales). In Brighton, it is said that when the ban on visitors was lifted “Jews descended on the town like locusts, bought up all stocks of tobacco and drinks at higher prices than retail and returned to London to operate in the black market; they cleaned up the town within forty-eight hours of the removal of the ban”.

Avoidance of war obligations : Feeling runs high over the number of Jews said to be evading their war obligations. The following instances are given:

  1. Evasion of Military Service : From the North Midland, London, South Western, Welsh and Scottish Regions, come stories of young Jews avoiding their call-up for the Services. It is suggested that they manage this “either through rich parents buying them small holdings to farm, or through using their wits to find war work of a more congenial type than soldiering”. From Cardiff comes the question: “Are Jews automatically exempt from military Service or do they know a way of becoming temporarily unfit”?

  2. Evasion of Civil Defence duties : It has been alleged in the Southern Region that “able-bodied Jews avoid Civil Defence service and allowed local women to firewatch their houses”. In Sheffield, “the most frequent comment about Jews concerns their unwillingness to take their part in Civil Defence duties.”

  3. Young Jewish girls in the Luton district are said to be escaping war work. “Caustic references are heard about the number of frail Jewish women, who, owing to their state of health, need to keep their daughters at home.”

Business methods and evasion of regulations : “One of the main difficulties appears to be that Jews continually prove themselves more than a match for Gentiles in business” says a report from the North Midland Region. “Their capacity for money making leads to envy in the general population and abuse from those in competition”. The Midland Region, also, suggests that “a lot of criticism might be described as ‘envious’. Reports from other Regions say it is often alleged that “Jews fail to follow Government requests and instructions”; they “can be expected to be in any kind of ‘ramp’ intended to mislead or defraud the public”. There seems to be suspicion that “the Jews are not popular because they ‘do not play fair’ over legislation”. In Cardiff it is said that “Jews cannot help avoiding the law and finding ways round it. The way they play about with the bankruptcy laws is monstrous”. The R.I.O. South Eastern Region sums up the feeling in these words: “Fundamentally the intense dislike for the Jews seems attributable to what are described as their low business morals and methods as compared with those of ordinary business-folk; methods and actions, which the majority of Gentiles regard as despicable, are considered to be the regular business practice of the Jews”.

Evacuation to safer areas : The R.I.O. Southern Region reports “constant complaints of wealthy Jews alleged to have taken an unfair advantage over other evacuees by offering exorbitant prices for house purchase and rents”. In Ayrshire many Jews are said to have evacuated themselves to the safer areas and to be monopolising transport”. The attitude of Jews to invasion is also said to have led to resentment in Llandudno and Brighton: “At the first hint of danger they fled like rabbits to safer quarters, but they are now said to be retaking possession of the town”.

Ostentation and the spending of money : A typical comment comes from the North Eastern Region: “Ostentatious spending by Jews, the apparent luxury of their dress, households and especially cars, cause many expressions of disgust”. There are also complaints that “as they have the money and the time, they shop out of their districts and go from shop to shop for goods in short supply for which they will pay any price”. In the North Eastern, London and Midland Regions, there is sarcastic comment on the number of Jews to be seen in the more expensive restaurants.

15th January, 1942

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