Another Spotlight: Collusion before the Holocaust

Another Spotlight: Collusion before the Holocaust
Another Spotlight: Collusion before the Holocaust

As I wrote and rewrote my novel Whitewashed Jacarandas, the first of a series culminating just before UDI, I didn’t intend it to have a strong Jewish focus–it’s just the way it evolved. Readers might be taken aback by Sunny’s contradictory reactions to anti-Semitism on the Cheetah Mine in 1946. It was a very conflicted era.

My thoughts were triggered by Spotlight winning Best Picture at the Academy Awards last Sunday. It’s tragic when investigative journalism falls short. One of the Boston Globe’s Spotlight members confessed he had failed to follow up on a major lead that would have brought the story to public attention almost a decade earlier!

He reminded me of the little-known lost opportunity in Northern Rhodesia to save almost a million Jews from Hitler, as a result of worldwide suppression of information in the media then.

From 1934, Jews could leave Germany with an emigration visa provided they surrendered all their possessions. In a belated response in July 1938, Roosevelt initiated the Evian Conference in France to create a program to allow more German and Austrian Jews to escape.

Attended by 32 countries and over 200 journalists, it petered out in a cloud of rhetoric. Chamberlain had made a pact with Roosevelt beforehand: the US representative would not bring up the subject of the Mandate for a homeland in Palestine and in return the British would remain silent that the US was not filling its immigration quota, set in 1924 by Congress, let alone increasing it.

It was an exercise of Anglo-American hypocrisy. The rest of the world followed suit. Southern Rhodesia tightened immigration, Sir Godfrey Huggins, the Prime Minister, saying that since the country did not accept the British lower classes so, if there was to be any change in policy, ‘charity should begin at home’.

The Dominican Republic and Northern Rhodesia were the only two countries that widened their doors to Jewish immigration. But neither country in the event achieved much.

Northern Rhodesia, an undeveloped colony larger than Texas, with a white population of 10,000 Whites and less than one and a half million Blacks, could certainly have accommodated the refugees.

But the Jewish refugees had no knowledge of this option although thirteen different settlement schemes were presented.

This dereliction was abetted by the Anglo-Jewish elite, led by Anthony de Rothschild, in their desire to protect their position in British society. Despite Colonial Secretary Malcolm MacDonald’s pleading, they requested secrecy in negotiations on any and all of these thirteen different Jewish Refugee Settlement Plans proposed for Northern Rhodesia. The Zionists under Chaim Weizmann condemned any diversion of attention from the goal of a single homeland settlement in Palestine.

In the US, throughout the years building up to and during the war the Jewish owned New York Times maintained a consistent policy to minimize reporting on discrimination, dispossession, deportation and murder of Jews. When it was reported, it often only referred to ‘refugees’ and was buried in the back pages of the paper amongst the ‘soap and shoe polish ads’. Arthur Hays Sulzberger, the paper’s publisher at the time, was anti-Zionist. The few Times European correspondents had Nazi and Vichy attachments and back in New York Catholic night editors made the article placement decisions.

The Times lead the way. The American Government, American Jewish groups and the rest of the American press followed. Even 50 years on, Jewish Immigration to Northern Rhodesia remained classified in the UK Public Archives in London.

Only 250 Jews found their way to Northern Rhodesia through personal contacts in South Africa who knew about Northern Rhodesia’s open door policy. (In the middle of the war, 3,500 Poles amongst those that escaped from the Soviet Union found refuge in Northern Rhodesia via Tehran.)