Labour History Review

The Limits of Solidarity: The 1942 Protest Meeting at Caxton Hall against German Atrocities

Labour History Review (2017), 82, (1), 23–50.

Abstract

During the Second World War, news about the German persecution and mass murder of Europe’s Jews was received in Britain. The Bund Report of May 1942 stated that the occupying Germans had murdered 700,000 Polish Jews. Its receipt in Britain precipitated a (temporary) shift in how news of the Holocaust was reported. In late June and early July 1942, British newspapers published reports detailing German atrocities against Jews and, on 9 July 1942, the British Minister of Information hosted a conference that highlighted them. The left in Britain – the British Labour Party, exiled socialist parties, and other organizations – sought to respond to the terrible news from Poland. This paper explores that response.

I focus on the important but much-overlooked protest meeting that took place on 2 September 1942 at Caxton Hall, Westminster. I argue that an analysis of the meeting – the preparation, the event, and its aftermath – sheds a great deal of light on how the left responded to news of the Holocaust, on the limits of international solidarity, on the parochial concerns of various European leftist parties and, importantly, on the way in which news of genocide was managed within Britain.

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Author details

Fleming, Michael