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Nazi Prisoners, Spandau

Volume 526: debated on Wednesday 7 April 1954

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asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether, at the forthcoming quadripartite discussions on the question of the Spandau prisoners, he will suggest that on the question of the disposal of bodies of the prisoners the same procedure should be adopted as was the case with Herman Goering and others, in view of the similarity of the crimes committed in each case.

Can the right hon. Gentleman tell us why, if in the case of the other criminals there was a joint understanding that it would be dangerous to allow them to be buried because the Germans might worship at their shrine and declare them to be martyrs, it is not proposed to carry out the same procedure in regard to these criminals?

Any agreement depends upon the attitude of the four Powers. Our attitude is that the bodies should be handed to the relatives for private burial.

Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that a great many of us who cannot be suspected of any sympathy with these crimes or criminals are not really very disturbed about what happens to the bodies, provided that they are not made the occasion for political demonstrations?

The hon. Gentleman has admirably expressed what I think is the feeling of the House and the policy that we are trying to pursue.


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs on what date in 1951 he received a letter from the Archbishop of Canterbury concerning the conditions in Spandau Gaol, and enclosing a letter from the wife of prisoner Grand Admiral Karl Von Doenitz; and what was the nature of his reply.

A letter from Frau Doenitz to the Archbishop of Canterbury was forwarded to the Foreign Office on behalf of the Archbishop in November, 1951. As I informed the hon. Member on 31st March, I am not prepared to disclose details of personal communications. I can say, however, that the whole correspondence was concerned exclusively with the question of improving prison conditions. No question of releasing any prisoner was mentioned.

Can the Foreign Secretary say whether, in this photostatic copy of the reply sent by the Archbishop, the following words were in fact remitted to the Archbishop by the Foreign Office:

"Your husband is one of the victims of the present unfortunate political situation."
Is that, in fact, a reflection upon the Nuremberg trial and on the sentences imposed, and did the right hon. Gentleman and the Foreign Office send that reply to the Archbishop?

I have not a copy of the reply with me, but I have made it quite plain that what the reply had to deal with were the conditions, particularly the conditions of sick prisoners, and I think it quite possible that this relates to the fact that so far there has been no four-Power agreement about the treatment of sick prisoners. I hope there will be, and that a little bit of human misery will be mitigated.

While agreeing that these men ought to serve their sentences, is not this petty vindictiveness rather nauseating?

What about my constituents who were murdered? Is there no sympathy for them?