Letter: BBC right to remain silent on Holocaust rumours

Click to follow
The Independent Online
STEPHEN WARD'S accusation of wartime 'anti-Semitism' at the BBC ('Why the BBC ignored the Holocaust', 22 August) boils down to the fact that broadcasters avoided giving blatant publicity to allegations of Nazi massacre on a scale which, at the time, might have seemed hysterically exaggerated. As such, it would have indirectly lent credence to Goebbels and Joyce (Lord Haw-Haw) in their overseas propaganda - that the Allies were really fighting for Jewish interests rather than, as originally proclaimed, to rescue Poland or protect the Empire.

The report, to which your article refers, from the Jewish Socialist underground to the Polish government in exile here, was published in a BBC broadcast by General Sikorski. The BBC issued a general directive on 24 June 1942 to give this information 'full prominence'. The very next day another directive urged that this 'ghastly story' of the massacre of Jews should be given 'the fullest possible publicity in all languages' and made 'the subject of commentaries' in foreign services.

As Dr Jacob Robinson, co- ordinator of Holocaust research for Yad Vashem, the Holocaust studies centre in Israel, explained: 'The secrecy of the Final Solution operations was complete and, to a large extent, effective. The very monstrosity of the crime made it unbelievable . . .' Heinrich Lohse, Nazi commissioner for Ostland, reportedly observed: 'Just imagine what would happen if such occurrences became known to the enemy and were exploited; but probably such propaganda would have no effect, since those who hear or read it would not be willing to believe it]'

The discreet, persistent and positive methods proposed by the BBC Director-General to report 'notable achievements by Jews' as well as their sufferings at enemy hands, in retrospect, must surely seem a most productive counter-action in a period when far more 'free speech' for opinions and prejudices on 'racial' matters was allowed by law and convention in this country than is the case today. This change in public attitudes is largely the consequence of frequent reference in the mass media, especially BBC programmes, to the Holocaust - which the Government has now made a compulsory part of history lessons in all schools.

Titania Mason

Thuringer Wald, Germany