Edited By Geraldine Horan, Felicity Rash and Daniel Wildman
Russell M. Wallis ‘Good’ Germans, ‘Bad’ Nazis and British Reactions to the Holocaust
On 3 September 1940, Sir Robert Vansittart, Chief Diplomatic Adviser to the government and formerly Permanent Under-Secretary at the Foreign Of fice from 1930–1938, made the first of seven BBC broadcasts about the Germans. The broadcasts were subsequently published as a pamphlet, Black Record; but no sooner had the radio series ended than Vansittart was engulfed in controversy. His pamphlet was fought over in the columns of the press and cited in acrimonious parliamentary debates throughout the war. Such was the storm of controversy that Vansittart felt obliged to resign his position. To a broad section of opinion in England embracing right and left, Vansittart was a German-hater. Others, however, believed he had elucidated the reasons why Britain had to fight. For these reasons, the debate over Vansittart’s Black Record is a very useful window into wartime attitudes towards Germany and the debate over war aims. However, many of Vansittart’s detractors were also humanitarians and champions of Jews. Their role in the debate highlights the swirling currents of compassion during World War II. This article will explore the origins of Vansittart’s notorious broadcasts, examine those who were against him and those who sided with him and attempt to delineate the conf licting forces shaping British policy towards Germany that would inf luence propaganda during the war and even approaches to the reconstruction of Germany after 1945. These aims are assisted by recent research into the attitudes of ‘ordinary Germans’ towards the Nazi regime.1 My article will therefore question 1...
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