Among the reports in the White Paper concerning the treatment of Jews in Germany was one from Mr R T Smallbones, formerly H.M. Consul-General in Frankfurt-on-Main, Mr Smallbones and his daughter, who witnessed the terrible effects of the progrom of November, 1938, told the following story to Mr E.P. Montgomery of the “News Chronicles”.
During the first two weeks of the terror, said Mr Smallbones, we gave sanctuary to hundreds of people who would have been safe nowhere else. Men and women who did not dare to show their faces in the light would hide in the woods by day and creep into the consulate at night for food and shelter.
They slept in the hall, in the dining room, in the kitchen, on the stairs. My wife and daughter, my staff of 11, even my servants, turned and helped to give them what food and comfort we cold. Some of us who has seen the sufferings of the people in Germany persuaded the British Government to allows us to grant “transmigration visas”, which would enable refugees to get out of Germany quickly and to stay two years in the United Kingdom while awaiting an opportunity to emigrate to the United States and other countries.
This was provided their maintenance was guaranteed by friends, relatives or charitable organisations.
I worked closely with my American colleague in Stuttgart, and as soon as the formalities for immigration into the United States were complete, I would issue a ‘Letter of Promise’, which gave the refugee a promise of a British visa when he could obtain his German passport.
These ‘Letters of Promise’ were regarded almost as talismans, for with them the relatives of men in the concentration camps could obtain their release, and possession of them made the holders safe against further molestation by the police and S.S.
During the worst of the terror we were besieged with applicants for the letters, often trying to deal with as many as 800 to 1,000 a day.
People would begin to gather in the Consulate garden long before dawn, and by 9 o’clock, when we opened the doors, there would be hundreds waiting.
Miss Turnbull, a 23-year-old English teacher who has come in to help, would stand on a table in the hall to deal with the first rush.
We instituted a system of numbered metal disks, which Miss Turnbull handed out in order to save people from standing drearily in a queue for hours. Each one knew his turn and could go away and come back when his time drew near.
One day she had to hand out a number to her own finance, a German who was trying to get out.
In the main, the people who came to us were mostly women with husbands, sons or brothers in the concentration camps, some had to bring their children with them, not daring to leave them alone at home.
All of us had to work long hours to keep abreast of the rush. In addition to the hundreds of interviews daily we had to deal with 200 ro 300 applications a day by post.
“my own records, I think, was four days at my desk with six and a half hours’ sleep. And the others on my staff worked just as hard, or harder.
All through November, December and January the persecutions, and our work, went on. Then things became a little easier, because the German-Jewish Aid Committee took over some of the work of investigation into means of subsistence and ultimate destination.
Even so, we combined right up tp noon on September 1st, forty-eight hours before war was declared, with our job of trying to give those frightened, distressed and suffering people our help. If I may say so – England’s help.”
For weeks Mr Smallbones’ wife and daughter helped in the work, calming the fears of hysterical refugees and serving then with coffee, soup and bread when they came pleading for sanctuary in the Consulate.
They turned their sitting room, drawing room and hall into offices for interviewing the victims.
The first few days of the pogrom were terrible, said Miss Smallbones. Women whose husbands and been beaten up and taken to concentration camps, and women who husbands had committed suicide rather than be arrested, came clamouring for shelter.
Some of them were frantic in their despair-their faces recognizably swollen with weeping. Their gratitude for what we did was pathetic. They offered us little articles of jewellery and trinkets-which, of course, we could not accept-in expression of their thanks.
One old man who had maintained stoical calm broke down and wept when we gave him coffee and bread. There was one awful scene when a woman in the Consulate saw her husband, who was waiting outside, seized and manhandled by a band of Nazi hooligans.
Miss Smallbones emphasized that the masses of the ordinary German people had no sympathy with and took no part in the pogrom.
“Nazi hooligans alone were responsible,” she said “More than one German apologized to me for what was happening, using such phrases as ‘I am ashamed to be a German when I see such things happening.‘ “