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British Holocaust survivor accuses UK of leaving fellow expats to

A British survivor of Bergen-Belsen has called for greater awareness of hundreds of fellow British expats “left to rot” in Nazi camps during the Second World War due to half-hearted prisoner exchange negotiations.

As Israel and Jews worldwide mark Yom HaShoah, Jack Santcross, who lives in Hertfordshire, said his family is “still affected by the government’s betrayal” of British citizens who were living on the European mainland when war broke out in September 1939.

He accuses Whitehall of “sweeping” their fates “under the carpet” in the years that followed.

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Jack Santcross: “The British wartime government left Jews with British citizenship to rot away in Belsen, rather than liberate them through exchanges when that opportunity presented itself. This should be more widely known.

Bergen-Belsen concentration camp was set up in the spring of 1943 on the orders of Holocaust architect Heinrich Himmler. It was to hold Jews who had been temporarily exempted from deportation to the extermination camps so they could be exchanged for German citizens held abroad.

However, prisoner exchange negotiations did not see much progress and, according to scholars such as Professor Rainer Schulze at the University of Essex, the British government “bears some responsibility” for this.

“It regarded proposals from Nazi Germany for such exchanges as blackmail, and giving into it was unacceptable,” he said.

Bergen-Belsen survivor Jack Santcross with his granddaughter.

“It also insisted that the most important task of the anti-Hitler coalition – and best chance of saving Jews from extermination – was a quick and unconditional victory over Nazi Germany.”

Prof Schulze added: “Instead of pushing for serious negotiations to secure the release of as many Jews as possible, the British Foreign Office played for time.

“It seems likely that a larger number of Jews held at Bergen-Belsen could have been saved if the negotiations about exchange had been conducted with greater urgency.”

Prof Schulze added: “Instead of pushing for serious negotiations to secure the release of as many Jews as possible, the British Foreign Office played for time.

Santcross said his family were among those to suffer. His paternal grandmother, the wife of his London-born grandfather, was killed at Auschwitz, while Santcross himself and his parents were prisoners at Belsen from January 1944 to April 1945.

Santcross’ uncle, who had two children, was killed at Seibersdorf, leaving a wife, a daughter, and a son, who were also held at Belsen as exchange prisoners. His wife and son were murdered there,” said Santcross. “Only their daughter survived.”

His aunt, who was a nurse, escaped from Belgium by accompanying a patient to Switzerland.

“While there are 278 Brits listed as living in the Netherlands before the war who were killed in the camps, there are many more who were entitled to the protection of the British government, such as married partners and dependants,” said Santcross.

“This is just the Netherlands. How many British citizens killed in camps were living in other countries occupied by Germany such as France, Belgium and Italy?

“The British authorities have not made it known and swept it under the carpet.

“The British wartime government left Jews with British citizenship to rot away in Belsen, rather than liberate them through exchanges when that opportunity presented itself. This should be more widely known.”



Source: Jewish News

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