We were supposed to have reached a stage of civilization in which it might still be necessary to execute a criminal, but not to gloat, or to hang his wife and child by him while the orc-crowd hooted. The destruction of Germany, be it 100 times merited, is one of the most appalling world-catastrophes. Well, well,—you and I can do nothing about it. And that [should] be a measure of the amount of guilt that can justly be assumed to attach to any member of a country who is not a member of its actual Government. Well the first War of the Machines seems to be drawing to its final inconclusive chapter—leaving, alas, everyone the poorer, many bereaved or maimed and millions dead, and only one thing triumphant: the Machines.- J. R. R. Tolkien
On this date, February 9, 1944, Bishop George Bell gave a great speech against the British bombing of German civilians, delivered in the House of Lords.
Bishop George Bell (4 February 1883 to 3 October 1958)
HL Deb 09 February 1944 vol 130 cc737-55 737
§ THE LORD BISHOP OF CHICHESTER had the following Notice on the Paper: To ask His Majesty's Government, whether, without detriment to the public interest, they can make a statement as to their policy regarding the bombing of towns in enemy countries, with special reference to the effect of such bombing on civilians as well as objects of non-military and non-Industrial significance in the area attacked; and to move for Papers.
§ The right reverend Prelate said: My Lords, the question which I have to ask is beset with difficulties. It deals with an issue which must have it own anxieties for the Government, and certainly causes great searchings of heart amongst large numbers of people who are as resolute champions of the Allied cause as any member of your Lordships' House. If long-sustained and public opposition to Hitler and the Nazis since 1933 is any credential, I would humbly claim to be one of the most convinced and consistent Anti-Nazis in Great Britain. But I desire to challenge the Government on the policy which directs the bombing of enemy towns on the present scale, especially with reference to civilians, non-combatants, and non-military and non-industrial objectives. I also desire to make it plain that, in anything I say on this issue of policy, no criticism is intended of the pilots, the gunners, and the air crews who, in circumstances of tremendous danger, with supreme courage and skill, carry out the simple duty of obeying their superiors' orders.
§ Few will deny that there is a distinction in principle between attacks on military and industrial objectives and attacks on objectives which do not possess that character. At the outbreak of the war, in response to an appeal by President Roosevelt, the Governments of the United Kingdom and France issued a joint declaration of their intention to conduct hostilities with a firm desire to spare the civilian population and to preserve in every way possible those monuments of human achievement which are treasured in all civilized countries. At the same time explicit instructions were issued to the Commanders of the Armed Forces prohibiting the bombardment, whether from the air or from the sea or by artillery on land, of any except strictly military objectives in the narrowest sense of the word. Both sides accepted this agreement. It is true that the Government added that, In the event of the enemy not observing any of the restrictions which the Governments of the United Kingdom and France have thus imposed on the operation of their Armed Forces, these Governments reserve the right to take all such action as they may consider appropriate. It is true that on May 10, 1940, the Government publicly proclaimed their intention to exercise this right in the event of bombing by the enemy of civilian populations. But the point which I wish to establish at this moment is that in entering the war there was no doubt in the Government's mind that the distinction between military and non-military objectives was real.
§ Further, that this distinction is based on fundamental principles accepted by civilized nations is clear from the authorities in International Law. I give one instance the weight of which will hardly be denied. The Washington Conference on Limitation of Armaments in 1922 appointed a Commission of Jurists to draw up a code of rules about aerial warfare. It did not become an international convention, yet great weight should be attached to that code on account of its authors. Article 22 reads: Aerial bombardment for the purpose of terrorizing the civilian population, of destroying or damaging private property not of military character, or of injuring non-combatants is prohibited. Article 24 says: Aerial bombardment is legitimate only when directed at a military objective—that 739 is to say, an objective of which the destruction or injury would constitute a distinct military advantage to the belligerent. Professor A. L. Goodhart, of Oxford, states: Both these Articles are based on the fundamental assumption that direct attack on non-combatants is an unjustifiable act of war.
§ The noble Viscount, Lord Halifax, at the beginning of this war, in reference to this very thing, described war as bloody and brutal. It is idle to suppose that it can be carried on without fearful injury and violence from which non-combatants as well as combatants suffer. It is still true, nevertheless, that there are recognized limits to what is permissible. The Hague Regulations of 1907 are explicit. "The right of belligerents to adopt means of injuring the enemy is not unlimited." M. Bonfils, a famous French jurist, says: If it is permissible to drive inhabitants to desire peace by making them suffer, why not admit pillage, burning, torture, murder, violation? I have recalled the joint declaration and these pronouncements because it is so easy in the process of a long and exhausting war to forget what they were once held without question to imply, and because it is a common experience in the history of warfare that not only war but actions taken in war as military necessities are often supported at the time by a class of arguments which, after the war is over, people find are arguments to which they never should have listened.
§ I turn to the situation in February, 1944, and the terrific devastation by Bomber Command of German towns. I do not forget the Luftwaffe, or its tremendous bombing of Belgrade, Warsaw, Rotterdam, London, Portsmouth, Coventry, Canterbury and many other places of military, industrial and cultural importance. Hitler is a barbarian. There is no decent person on the Allied side who is likely to suggest that we should make him our pattern or attempt to be competitors in that market. It is clear enough that large-scale bombing of enemy towns was begun by the Nazis. I am not arguing that point at all. The question with which I am concerned is this. Do the Government understand the full force of what area bombardment is doing and is destroying now? Are they alive not only to the vastness of the material damage, much of which is irreparable, but also to 740 the harvest they are laying up for the future relationships of the peoples of Europe as well as to its moral implications? The aim of Allied bombing from the air, said the Secretary of State for Air at Plymouth on January 22, is to paralyze German war industry and transport. I recognize the legitimacy of concentrated attack on industrial and military objectives, on airfields and air bases, in view especially of the coming of the Second Front. I fully realize that in attacks on centres of war industry and transport the killing of civilians when it is the result of bona-fide military activity is inevitable. But there must be a fair balance between the means employed and the purpose achieved. To obliterate a whole town because certain portions contain military and industrial establishments is to reject the balance.
§ Let me take two crucial instances, Hamburg and Berlin. Hamburg has a population of between one and two million people. It contains targets of immense military and industrial importance. It also happens to be the most democratic town in Germany where the Anti-Nazi opposition was strongest. Injuries to civilians resulting from bona-fide attacks on particular objectives are legitimate according to International Law. But owing to the methods used the whole town is now a ruin. Unutterable destruction and devastation were wrought last autumn. On a very conservative estimate, according to the early German statistics, 28,000 persons were killed. Never before in the history of air warfare was an attack of such weight and persistence carried out against a single industrial concentration. Practically all the buildings, cultural, military, residential, industrial, religious—including the famous University Library with its 800,000 volumes, of which three-quarters have perished—were razed to the ground.
§ Berlin, the capital of the Reich, is four times the size of Hamburg. The offices of the Government, the military, industrial, war-making establishments in Berlin are a fair target. Injuries to civilians are inevitable. But up to date half Berlin has been destroyed, area by area, the residential and the industrial portions alike. Through the dropping of thousands of tons of bombs, including fire-phosphorus bombs, of extraordinary power, men and women have been lost, overwhelmed in the colossal tornado of smoke, blast and 741 flame. It is said that 74,000 persons have been killed and that 3,000,000 are already homeless. The policy is obliteration, openly acknowledged. That is not a justifiable act of war. Again, Berlin is one of the great centres of art collections in the world. It has a large collection of Oriental and classical sculpture. It has one of the best picture galleries in Europe, comparable to the National Gallery. It has a gallery of modern art better than the Tate, a museum of ethnology without parallel in this country, one of the biggest and best organized libraries—State and university, containing two and a half million books—in the world. Almost all these non-industrial, non-military buildings are grouped together near the old Palace and in the Street of the Linden. The whole of that street, which has been constantly mentioned in the accounts of the raids, has been demolished. It is possible to replace flat houses by mass production. It is not possible so quickly to rebuild libraries or galleries or churches or museums. It is not very easy to rehouse those works of art which have been spared. Those works of art and those libraries will be wanted for the re-education of the Germans after the war. I wonder whether your Lordships realize the loss involved in that.
§ How is it, then, that this wholesale destruction has come about? The answer is that it is the method used, the method of area bombing. The first outstanding raid of area bombing was, I believe, in the spring of 1942, directed against Lubeck, then against Rostock, followed by the thousand-bomber raid against Cologne at the end of May, 1942. The point I want to bring home, because I doubt whether it is sufficiently realized, is that it is no longer definite military and industrial objectives which are the aim of the bombers, but the whole town, area by area, is plotted carefully out. This area is singled out and plastered on one night; that area is singled out and plastered on another night; a third, a fourth, a fifth area is similarly singled out and plastered night after night, till, to use the language of the Chief of Bomber Command with regard to Berlin, the heart of Nazi Germany ceases to beat. How can there be discrimination in such matters when civilians, monuments, military objectives and industrial objectives all together form the target? How can the bombers aim at anything more than 742 a great space when they see nothing and the bombing is blind?
§ When the Nazis bombed France and Britain in 1940 it was denounced as "indiscriminate bombing." I recall this passage from a leader in The Times after the bombing of Paris on June 4, 1940: No doubt in the case of raids on large cities the targets are always avowedly military or industrial establishments; but, when delivered from the great height which the raiders seem to have been forced to keep by the anti-aircraft defences, the bombing in fact is bound to be indiscriminate. And I recall two other more recent articles in The Times on our own policy. On January 10, 1944, the following was published: It is the proclaimed intention of Bomber Command to proceed with the systematic obliteration one by one of the centres of German war production until the enemy's capacity to continue the fight is broken down. On January 31 the Aeronautical Correspondent wrote: Some of the most successful attacks of recent times have been made when every inch of the target area was obscured by unbroken cloud, thousands of feet thick, and when the crews have hardly seen the ground from which they took off until they were back at their bases again. If your Lordships will weigh the implication, and observe not only the destruction of the war-production factories but the obliteration of the places in which they are and the complete invisibility of the target area, it must surely be admitted that the bombing is comprehensive and what would ordinarily be called indiscriminate.
§ The Government have announced their determination to continue this policy city by city. I give quotations. The Prime Minister, after the thousand-bomber raid on Cologne in 1942, said: Proof of the growing power of the British bomber force is also the herald of what Germany will receive city by city from now on. Air Marshal Sir Arthur Harris, on July 28, 1942, said: We are going to scourge the Third Reich from end to end. We are bombing Germany city by city and ever more terribly in order to make it impossible for her to go on with the war. That is our object; we shall pursue it relentlessly. A few days ago, as reported in the Sunday Express of January 23, an Air Marshal said: "One by one we shall pull out every town in Germany like teeth."
§ I shall offer reasons for questioning this policy as a whole, but what I wish immediately to urge is this. There are old German towns, away from the great centres, which may be subjected—which almost certainly will be subjected—to the raids of Bomber Command. Almost certainly they are on the long list. Dresden, Augsburg, Munich are among the larger towns, Regensburg, Hildesheim and Marburg are a few among the smaller beautiful cities. In all these towns the old centres, the historic and beautiful things, are well preserved, and the industrial establishments are on the outskirts. After the destruction of the ancient town centres of Cologne, with its unique Romanesque churches, and Lubeck, with its brick cathedral, and Mainz, with one of the most famous German cathedrals, and of the old Gothic towns, the inner towns, Nuremburg, Hamburg and others, it would seem to be indicated that an effort, a great effort should be made to try to save the remaining inner towns. In the fifth year of the war it must surely be apparent to any but the most complacent and reckless how far the destruction of European culture has already gone. We ought to think once, twice, and three times before destroying the rest. Something can still be saved if it is realized by the authorities that the industrial centres, generally speaking, lie outside the old inner parts where are the historical monuments.
§ I would especially stress the danger—outside Germany—to Rome. The principle is the same, but the destruction of the main Roman monuments would create such hatred that the misery would survive when all the military and political advantages that may have accrued may have long worn off. The history of Rome is our own history. Rome taught us, through the example of Christ, to abolish human sacrifice and taught us the Christian faith. The destruction would rankle in the memory of every good European as Rome's destruction by the Goths or the sack of Rome rankled. The blame simply must not fall on those who are professing to create a better world. The resentment which would, inevitably, follow would be too deep-seated to be forgotten. It would be the sort of crime which one day, even in the political field, would turn against the perpetrators.
§ I wish to offer a few concluding remarks on the policy as a whole. It will be said that this area bombing—for it is this area bombing which is the issue to-day—is definitely designed to diminish the sacrifice of British lives and to shorten the war. We all wish with all our hearts that these two objects could be achieved, but to justify methods inhumane in themselves by arguments of expediency smacks of the Nazi philosophy that Might is Right. In any case the idea that it will reduce the sacrifice is speculation. The Prime Minister, as far back as August, 1940, before either Russia or America entered the war, justified the continued bombardment of German industries and communications as one of the surest, if not the shortest, of all the roads to victory. We are still fighting. It is generally admitted that German aircraft and military production, though it has slowed down, is going forward; and your Lordships may have noticed signs in certain military quarters of a tendency to question the value of this area bombing policy on military grounds. The cost in sacrifice of human life when the Second Front begins has never been disguised either from the American or from the British public by our leaders.
§ It is also urged that area bombing will break down morale and the will to fight. On November 5, in a speech at Cheltenham, the Secretary of State for Air said that bombing in this way would continue until we had paralysed German war industries, disrupted their transport system and broken their will to war. Again leaving the ethical issue aside, it is pure speculation. Up to now the evidence received from neutral countries is to the opposite effect. It is said that the Berliners are taking it well. Let me quote from two Swedish papers. On November 30 last, the Svenska Dagbladet—this was during the first stage of our raids on Berlin—said: Through their gigantic air raids the British have achieved what Hitler failed to achieve by means of decrees and regulations; they have put the majority of the German people on a war footing. On January 9 of this year, the Sydsvenska Dagbladet said: The relative German strength on the home front is undoubtedly based on desperation, which increases and gets worse the longer the mass bombing lasts. It is understandable that the fewer the survivors and the more they 745 lose the more the idea spreads 'We have everything to gain and nothing to lose, and we can only regain what is ours if Germany wins the final victory, so let us do everything in our power.' If there is one thing absolutely sure, it is that a combination of the policy of obliteration with a policy of complete negation as to the future of a Germany which has got free from Hitler is bound to prolong the war and make the period after the war more miserable.
§ I am not extenuating the crimes of the Nazis or the responsibility of Germany as a whole in tolerating them for so long, but I should like to add this. I do not believe that His Majesty's Government desire the annihilation of Germany. They have accepted the distinction between Germany and the Hitlerite State.
On March 10 of last year the Lord Chancellor, speaking officially for the Government, accepted that distinction quite clearly and precisely. Is it a matter for wonder that Anti-Nazis who long for help to overthrow Hitler are driven to despair? I have here a telegram, which I have communicated to the Foreign Office, sent to me on December 27 last by a well-known Anti-Nazi Christian leader who had to flee from Germany for his life long before the war. It was sent from Zurich, and puts what millions inside Germany must feel. He says: Is it understood that present situation gives us no sincere opportunity for appeal to people because one cannot but suspect effect of promising words on practically powerless population convinced by bombs and phosphor that their annihilation is resolved? If we wish to shorten the war, as we must, then let the Government speak a word of hope and encouragement both to the tortured millions of Europe and to those enemies of Hitler to whom in 1939 Mr. Churchill referred as ''millions who stand aloof from the seething mass of criminality and corruption constituted by the Nazi Party machine."
Why is there this blindness to the psychological side? Why is there this inability to reckon with the moral and spiritual facts? Why is there this forget-fulness of the ideals by which our cause is inspired? How can the War Cabinet fail to see that this progressive devastation of cities is threatening the roots of civiliza- 746 tion? How can they be blind to the harvest of even fiercer warring and desolation, even in this country, to which the present destruction will inevitably lead when the members of the War Cabinet have long passed to their rest? How can they fail to realize that this is not the way to curb military aggression and end war? This is an extraordinarily solemn moment. What we do in war—which, after all, lasts a comparatively short time—affects the whole character of peace, which covers a much longer period. The sufferings of Europe, brought about by the demoniac cruelty of Hitler and his Nazis, and hardly imaginable to those in this country who for the last five years have not been out of this island or had intimate association with Hitler's victims, are not to be healed by the use of power only, power exclusive and unlimited. The Allies stand for something greater than power. The chief name inscribed on our banner is "Law." It is of supreme importance that we who, with our Allies, are the liberators of Europe should so use power that it is always under the control of law. It is because the bombing of enemy towns—this area bombing—raises this issue of power unlimited and exclusive that such immense importance is bound to attach to the policy and action of His Majesty's Government. I beg to move.
My Lords, I cannot possibly agree with what I understand to be the views of the right reverend Prelate who has just spoken in regard to bombing on the Continent. I am an out-and-out bomber, and I approve of the bombing action the Government have taken against Germany, and I hope that there may be more to come. When the right reverend Prelate appeals to me to say a word, if I can, on the question of religious persecution or trouble in Rome I am very glad to be able to respond to his request. Personally I have the greatest possible devotion and affection for the present holder of the high office of Pope, and I should deprecate strongly anything being done that might put him to any personal inconvenience. At the same time, apart from sentimental grounds, I cannot be blind to the fact that whatever may happen to the existing occupant of the Holy See at any particular time, the Church always arranges that we are provided with a successor whenever a vacancy does occur. Also I depre- 747 cate strongly the possibility of any action being taken that might encourage the bombing of the city of Rome itself. I think it would be deplorable, not only on religious grounds but also on grounds of culture, if any damage were done to the city of Rome. I do not at all confine my views on that point to those of my own religion. I say exactly the same thing with regard to any other religious centre or religious culture throughout the world. I cannot conceive anything more humiliating to our Government or anyone else than to be responsible for doing wanton damage to the city of Rome, and I earnestly hope the Government will take every precaution to avoid any such thing occurring.
My Lords, let me say at once that in the few remarks with which I shall trouble your Lordships I do not intend to follow the speech of the Bishop of Chichester, because I should be sorry, whether by agreement or by criticism, in any way to diminish the effect of its courage, sincerity and impressive-ness. I must content myself with one or two quite general observations. There is indeed one subject alluded to by the right reverend Prelate and by my noble friend who has just sat down on which I should have liked to speak at some length, that is to say the preservation of objects of historical and cultural value in the war areas. I think that is a subject so important that it deserves separate treatment, apart from any question of the ethics of the policy of bombing. Besides, it is a subject upon which I think many of your Lordships are well able to speak with special knowledge and interest. Accordingly I wish to say now that I have tabled a Motion to be brought before your Lordships' House at the next series of sittings on this particular subject, and I have reason to think that the Government would welcome the opportunity of amplifying the statement recently made in another place by the Secretary for War, which was in some ways reassuring. I therefore add nothing more on that subject to-day, and I say this now because perhaps some of your Lordships who may have wished to speak on this particular aspect of the subject may prefer to defer your remarks till the next series of sittings.
I therefore confine myself to one or two quite general observations. Of course, we must all assume, as the right reverend 748 Prelate assumes, that one of the primary objects of modern warfare must be to cripple or destroy the enemy's supply and manufacture of the munitions of war. That means, of course, in the main the destruction of munition works of every sort and kind, and that mainly from the air. Unfortunately, it must also be acknowledged that this cannot well be done without running the risk of destroying or damaging the houses or lives of civilians who live near, or in the immediate neighbourhood of, these munition works. That, I think, is a matter of necessary agreement. At the same time in passing I am bound to say that the recent attacks upon cities like Hamburg, Frankfurt and Berlin seem to me to go a long way beyond what has hitherto been the declared policy of the Government and the Higher Command. We were always told that that policy was to limit attacks to definite military objectives or their immediate neighbourhood, and not directly and purposely to involve the destruction of the lives and the homes of the people. I do not think it can be said that that policy has been adhered to in these apparently deliberate attempts to destroy whole cities, and I venture to think there is some force—I think we must all admit it—in the plea that either the hitherto declared policy is to be changed or this new policy is to be definitely adopted. That I think would give rise to a good deal of criticism which has hitherto been quite silent.
But, be that as it may, this is the very simple point on which I wish to base my few remarks: It is one thing to accept the destruction of military objectives and of their immediate neighbourhood as a regrettable military necessity; it is quite another thing to exult in it, to gloat over it, and to regard it as something that is in itself worthy of almost jubilant congratulations. What I want to do in these few remarks is not to criticize the Government but to give some indication of the effect of all this upon the moral outlook of our people. If it be true that such a mood, such a temper, of exultation is becoming prevalent among large sections of the people, it must involve a very lamentable lapse in their moral outlook. I may be wrong—I hope Iam—but I seem to see a good many signs of the spread of this particular mood and temper amongst some of our people. For example, I have recently had a fairly full correspondence where the language in 749 which this mood is expressed is to me shocking, not only from those cranks and fanatics who are apparently the natural correspondents of one who has been an Archbishop, from people whose frenzies we may entirely ignore, but from, apparently, sane and sober citizens. This is the kind of thing—"Let them have it, they did it to us, let us do it to them tenfold, pay them back in their own coin," and all the language with which we are only too familiar. It is the effect of all that upon the people that I deplore.
It may be in a sense natural. The lex talionis is one of the oldest and most primitive instincts of mankind. We cannot be surprised that it rises in strength in the hearts of chose who have lost homes and lives which they loved; though indeed I must add It is not among them, but among people more comfortably placed, from whom we hear most of this rather savage language. We may admit all that, but nevertheless it is plain that there must be some real moral deterioration in the indulgence of this temper, stimulated as it is, apparently, by the headlines of our popular Press—so many thousands and thousands of bombs dropped here and there—and sometimes by the announcements on the wireless. If that becomes prevalent, it means this, that the ruthlessness in which it exults, and for which it clamours, must bring us into competition with our enemy at his worst. It must mean that, somehow or other, we become indifferent to those values of humane civilization for which, as a people, we have believed we are contending in this war. That sort of competition is one, we should all agree, in which success would be far more dishonourable than defeat. It is a competition in which we can win only by the sacrifice of what has been best and noblest in the traditions of our race.
War, as the right reverend Prelate truly said, is fertile of every kind of evil. There are some splendid memories which this generation which has gone through the war may be able to hand down to the succeeding generations—memories of the vigilance and resourcefulness of our sailors, of the constant courage and cheerfulness of our soldiers, of the skill and bravery of our gallant airmen, and of the endurance and fortitude of our people. Would it not be lamentable if these great memories were to be sullied by other memories of which, on reflection, 750 conscience would have cause to be ashamed? I repeat that I should be glad to be convinced that I was exaggerating the prevalence of this rather truculent spirit among our people, but I know there are many of our fellow countrymen giving themselves heart and soul, spending all they can of their energies and of what they possess, in this war effort who are becoming convinced that it represents a very real moral danger to our people, and who are anxious that some word of warning should be uttered against it. I hope you will not think I have been wasting your time in these few minutes if I have ventured to utter such a warning in your Lordships' House.
My Lords, the right reverend Prelate, the Bishop of Chichester, in his very eloquent, moving, and sincere speech this afternoon, raised the question of our bombing policy towards enemy countries. If he asked for some assurance from His Majesty's Government that the purpose of these intensive attacks upon German cities is to hamper and, if possible, to bring to a standstill enemy war production, and not merely to sprinkle bombs broadcast with the object of damaging ancient monuments and spreading terror among the civilian population, I am very ready to give him that assurance. Indeed I am very happy to have the opportunity of doing so. As your Lordships know, the Royal Air Force has never indulged in pure terror raids, in what used to be known as Baedeker raids of the kind which the Luftwaffe indulged in at one time on this country. Nor, as indeed the right reverend Prelate himself recognized, did we start raids on enemy cities. The city of Rotterdam and the city of Warsaw were destroyed by the Germans before a single British bomb ever fell upon German soil. In passing, if I may take the opportunity, I should like to say a word about what was said by my noble friend Lord FitzAlan of Derwent. I would assure him that it is certainly not the intention of His Majesty's Government to drop bombs within the precincts of the Vatican City nor, if it can be avoided, on the city of Rome.
At the same time, although it is clearly right that the right reverend Prelate, the Bishop of Chichester, should clear his 751 conscience on this matter, about which he feels so very deeply, although all of us have very considerable sympathy with much that he has said to your Lordships to-day, and although I entirely agree with what was said by my most reverend friend Lord Lang of Lambeth that it would be very wrong for us to gloat over the destruction of German towns which has been forced upon us by the necessities of the military situation—in this respect I would entirely agree with the right reverend Prelate—at the same time I think it is also right that he and we should face hard facts frankly. If the right reverend Prelate will allow me to say so, I do not think he was facing these facts, quite, this afternoon. The hard, inescapable fact is that war is a horrible thing, and that it cannot be carried on without suffering, often caused to those who are not immediately responsible for causing the conflict. In the situation with which we are faced today we cannot expect to find means of conducting hostilities which do not involve suffering. We cannot do any such thing. What we have to do, to the best of our ability, is to weigh against each other how much suffering is going to be caused or saved by any action which we may feel obliged to take.
My Lords, the right reverend Prelate himself has been within recent months prominent in bringing before your Lordships other aspects of the present conflict. He has pointed out again and again—though it is not an aspect he dealt with very much to-day—the cruelties which are being inflicted by the Axis Powers upon Jews and upon the peoples of the occupied countries. He has told—and we know it to be entirely true—how they are being persecuted, how they are being tortured, how they are being starved, and he has asked what His Majesty's Government can do to alleviate their miseries. He has always received a reply from the Government spokesman—I have had to give it to him several times myself—that the only cure for these miseries is to bring the war to a victorious end and liberate the occupied countries from their present servitude. That is the only honest answer, as I am quite sure the right reverend Prelate himself would agree. The purpose of the present air offensive is to achieve just that happy result at the earliest possible moment. It has been carefully planned with precisely that aim.
752 The targets which have been attacked are the administrative centres, the great industrial towns, the ports and the centres of communication. These targets have been chosen with the definite object of making it more difficult for Germany and her Allies to carry on war. That is why the Royal Air Force attacked Essen, why it attacked Mannheim, Cologne, Hamburg, Magdeburg, Berlin and many other towns. Your Lordships will remember that we have never concentrated upon sleepy country towns and villages. That would not only have been unnecessarily brutal; it would have been utterly futile from our point of view. But I would emphasize this to the right reverend Prelate: the great centres of administration, of production and of communication are themselves military targets in a total war. You cannot escape that fact.
Take Berlin, which was mentioned by the right reverend Prelate himself this afternoon. It is not only the administrative centre of Germany, it is not only the heart and soul of the Nazi system, where are situated Government Departments and the headquarters of Himmler's network of Secret Police; it is also the most important centre of German war production and it is the largest railway and air transport centre in Europe to-day. It contains the Siemens works, which make electrical equipment, it contains the Rheinmetal Borsig, which make guns, the Daimler Benz, which make tanks, the A.E.G., which make electrical cables and submarine motors, the Lorenz works, which make wireless equipment, the Henschel works, which are devoted to aircraft assembly, and the Argus works, which make aero engines. These are only some of the works which are within the boundaries of the city of Berlin. They are all war targets of the very first importance. In addition, there are numbers of smaller enterprises scattered broadcast throughout the city. Every garage is transformed into a factory for the production of war material.
If you look at another city, Magdeburg, which has also been the subject of air attack, it is one of the foremost cities in central Germany, it is an important centre both of industry and of river and rail traffic, it contains many large engineering and armaments firms, the Braun-kohle Synthetic Oil Plant, the Krupps Tank Assembly Works, the Lignose 753 Chemical Works which produces more than half the total output of T.N.T., and the Polte Armament Works. I could give similar details of every one of the cities that the Royal Air Force has attacked in its recent campaign.
I would like to give one or two more instances, because I think it is important that your Lordships and the country should realize the purpose for which our raids are organized. Take Essen, which, as we all know, is the centre of the Krupp Armament Works. I thought it might be valuable to your Lordships to know what the results of our bombing of that city have been, and I have taken pains to obtain a very brief account. This is what it says: As a result of our attacks virtually no part of the Krupp Armament Works, which covers an area of two square miles, escaped damage, and most of the important shops were destroyed completely. The severity of the damage was such that virtually no reconstruction has been undertaken, and this concern, probably the largest individual producers of armaments in Germany and also an important centre of locomotive manufacture, has been virtually put out of action. The earlier raids brought the work to a standstill from which subsequent ones never permitted it to recover, and some indication of the effect upon the German military position can be gauged from the fact that the production of heavy guns by the whole of the Krupp organization was reported, in the month of June, to have been reduced by 75 per cent. compared with the production in January. One last example. It is calculated that the intensive attacks which were made against Hamburg last summer cost Germany, in the next three months no less than 400,000,000 man-hours—an immense reduction of her capacity to manufacture materials of war. This could have been achieved in no other way than the method that was adopted. Now it may well be, and I personally do not blink the fact, that these great German war industries can only be paralysed by bringing the whole life of the cities in which they are situated to a standstill, making it quite impossible for the workmen to carry on their work. That is a fact we may have to face and I do face it. It is, I suggest, a full justification for the present bombing campaign. I am sure that your Lordships would not refuse to accept the idea of shelling cities and towns in the front line. Nobody likes it, but it has to be done for the purpose of winning wars. The German cities which I have mentioned are in the front line and they must be 754 bombarded. In addition—and this is another point which I would like the. right reverend Prelate to consider—by the very fact of our attack, and the possibility of further attacks, we are holding at the present time a vast proportion of German fighter planes on the Western Front. Up to 80 per cent. are held there and they are 80 per cent. of the best German machines. That, of course, greatly facilitates the efforts of our heroic Russian Allies to liberate their own country from the Nazi yoke.
Therefore, when considering what I fully agree is a most difficult question, I do ask the right reverend Prelate and other noble Lords not only to think of the Germans who are suffering from these raids, but to think also of the Russians and the Poles and the Czechs, the Dutch, the Belgians, the Norwegians, the Yugoslavs, the Greeks, the French and the Danes who are at present enduring intolerable anguish at the hands of the Armies of the Axis. Every day, appalling stories flow in from the occupied countries of men, women and children who are being starved, subjected to fiendish tortures, mental and physical, at the hands of the German Secret Police, who are being slaughtered in droves. We must remember that. We must also remember our own soldiers and airmen who at present are engaged in mortal combat in Italy, and those others who are soon to engage in yet greater attacks in other parts of Europe. We must remember our men who are languishing at present in intolerable conditions in Japanese prison camps, and the soldiers and sailors of our Allies. Their lives are our responsibility.
I sometimes wondered as I listened to the right reverend Prelate—I appreciate his sincerity—whether he really wants to help these people, because if he does want to get them out of their misery he must accept the implications of that policy. The only way to end this horror is to beat our enemies rapidly and completely and restore enduring peace. That is the only way. From that aim we must not avert our eyes, however kind our hearts, however deep our sentiments. While, therefore, I deeply respect the high motives which have inspired the right reverend Prelate, and while I am glad to give the general assurance contained in the earlier part of my speech, I cannot hold out hope that we shall abate our bombing policy. On the contrary, we shall continue it against proper and suitable targets with 755 increasing power and more crushing effects until final victory is achieved. So alone, in my view, shall we be able to fulfil our obligations to our own people, to our Allies, and to the world.
My Lords, I should like to express my gratitude for the courtesy of the noble Viscount's reply. I will not disguise the fact that the end of his speech was not exactly unexpected but was nevertheless a disappointment. I, of course, wish—no one more—for the liberation of the unfortunate peoples of Europe, and I know it is only by the conquest of Hitler and his associates that that can be achieved. I would very strongly press the noble Viscount to take great pains about the definition of legitimate objectives of a military and industrial kind and to avoid to the utmost extent possible any confusion of them with non-military and non-industrial objectives. I do not wish to trouble your Lordships further, but we have to think of the future as well as the present. I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.
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