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British Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden told the House of Commons on this date in 1942 that Nazi Germany was carrying out “Hitler’s oft repeated intention to exterminate the Jewish people in Europe.” He described how hundreds of thousands of men, women and children were being transported from all German-occupied territory “in conditions of appalling horror and brutality” to Eastern Europe, while Jewish ghettos in Poland being “systematically emptied . . . None of those taken away are ever heard of again.” Eden read a joint declaration by Great Britain, the U.S., the USSR, and eight European governments in exile that condemned “in the strongest possible terms this bestial policy of cold-blooded extermination” and resolved “to ensure that those responsible for these crimes shall not escape retribution.” After his speech, the members of the House stood and held a minute of silence. Some 2.7 million Jews were killed in 1942 by hunger, mass executions, disease, or gassing.
“It is your duty to do something that should really shake the world, the English government, and force it to undertake real measures to save the Jews, something that the Warsaw Jews would do if the situation were reversed [i.e., persecution of Jews in the UK]. Fifty thousand London Jews should make a demonstration, they should block Downing Street; they should shout to Heaven in such a way that it will shake the world and the tranquility of the politicians, who potentially can do something. It is the last minute. The Jewish people is being slaughtered.” —Shmuel Zygelboim to the British Jewish Board of Deputies, December 17, 1942