If not an anti-Semite himself, Jeremy Corbyn, the current leader of Britain’s Labor party is at the very least someone who finds anti-Semitism entirely unobjectionable. But it was not ever thus. As has been made public only recently, Clement Attlee—Labor’s then-leader—took a German Jewish child named Paul Willer into his home in 1939. Rajeev Syal tells the story:
Willer was raised with his younger brother by his Jewish mother, Franziska, in the Bavarian town of Würzburg. Their father, Johannes, a Christian, left their mother in 1933, began a new relationship, and declared himself to be a Nazi sympathizer. Willer’s mother, a doctor, struggled to find work and look after her children. She decided she must leave Germany after witnessing the anti-Semitic violence of Kristallnacht on November 9, 1938. . . .
Her plan was for all three to escape to London, while she would retrain as a midwife. But with no money . . . she could leave [Germany and enter Britain] only if she found someone to guarantee to look after her children. [She] wrote to a German church official in January 1939, “I am in such despair and so despondent that I can’t see a way out.” A faint hope eventually came after her London-based brother Otto contacted the Reverend William Hewett, . . . who then found two local families willing to take a boy each.
One of these families was the Attlees, who were regular churchgoers and occupied Heywood, a beautiful home with a walled garden. At the time, Attlee was fifty-six and had been the leader of the Labor party for four years. Europe was sliding closer to war and Labor was opposing the policy of appeasement being pursued by the then-prime minister, Neville Chamberlain.
Attlee’s decision in 1947, when he was prime minister, to end the British Mandate over Palestine would make possible the creation of the state of Israel, although his government would hardly distinguish itself as a friend to the Jews in the process.