Los Angeles, Nov. 24 (JTA) – A newly discovered speech given in 1942 by Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels is leading some experts to believe that the British government suppressed clear proof that Adolf Hitler intended to exterminate European Jewry.
The speech was unearthed accidentally in London's Public Record Office by Sol Littman, the Canadian representative of the Simon Wiesenthal Center.
News of the find was reported publicly for the first time Sunday in the London newspaper The Observer.
Leading British and American experts on the Holocaust have hailed the discovery as "crucial" and of "amazing importance," and some believe that British authorities sat on the speech to avoid embarrassment over London's wartime policy toward Jewish refugees and Palestine.
In the Sept. 23, 1942 speech, the Nazi propaganda chief warned 60 German newspaper editors of the "understandable" Jewish hostility toward Germany.
A copy of the translated text was provided to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency by Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean of the Los Angeles-based Wiesenthal Center.
In the speech, Goebbels said: "There are still 48,000 Jews in Berlin. They know with deadly certainty that as the war progresses they will be packed off to the East and delivered up to a murderous fate.
"They already feel the inevitable harshness of physical extermination and therefore they harm the Reich whenever possible while they still live."
A report on the speech was obtained by the Polish government in exile, which was headquartered in London, and reached the British Foreign Office in May 1943.
Hopelessly prejuduced against jews
As shown by handwritten notes appended to the text, the speech was deemed important enough to be read by key officials in Britain's Foreign Office, up to and including Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden.
Eden's personal secretary, Oliver Harvey, once described Eden as "hopelessly prejudiced against Jews." This was reported in "The Splendid Blond Beast," a book by Christopher Simpson that delves into profits made and government malfeasance during the Holocaust.
Eden separated British policy from that of its American allies and opposed prosecution of Nazi war criminals after the war, Simpson also wrote.
Goebbels' speech was never made public and its contents were not shared with the U.S. State Department or with Jewish leaders in Britain.
Suggestions that the British Foreign Office kept the document secret to protect Polish sources inside Germany were rejected by Hier.
"British authorities wanted to protect their Palestine policy (which severely restricted Jewish immigration) and keep Parliament quiet," Hier said.
"If the Jews had known about this they would have raised Cain and they'd have turned up the pressure for the British to change their policy (on Jewish refugees)," he said.
Goebbels' brief reference to the fate of the Jews was contained in a lengthy talk that dwelled mainly on his concerns that the morale of the German people might crack if faced with a prolonged war. "The German people are not so capable of endurance as the English," he said.
"After the capitulation of France in 1940, there might perhaps have been peace had not England, remembering November 1918 (the end of World War I), believed that she was still able to wear out Germany psychologically," said Goebbels.
The Observer reported the reaction of various experts, who all agreed on the importance of the document but differed on the Foreign Office's motives for repressing the information.
Sir Frank Roberts, a key Foreign Office official at the time whose annotations appear on the original document, said, "The Poles used to keep us pretty well-informed. This was clearly important or it would have stopped with me.
"But I don't think the reference to the Jews would have been the report we found most interesting. It would have been the fact that they were preparing for a long, drawn-out war," he said.
Historian Walter Laqueur of the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington stressed that this was the first time a top Nazi official spoke openly about killing the Jews.
David Wyman, author of "The Abandonment of the Jews," observed that both British and American officials routinely withheld information about the murder of the Jews. "It would certainly have been in character for them to suppress information like this," he said.
Martin Gilbert, the leading British authority on the Holocaust, stressed that the document's main significance lay in its refutation of the canard that the Holocaust never occurred.
"In terms of denying what happened, it's a crucial document, because here you have one of the people who was perpetrating it actually, specifically outlining what was going on. I think that gives it amazing importance," he said.
(Contributing to this report was JTA staff writer Susan Birnbaum in New York.)