During the years before the outbreak of World War II, the government of the UK did little beyond occasional rhetoric in response to the Nazi government’s social, economic, and, after the November 1938 Kristallnacht pogrom, physical persecution of Jews within the Third Reich. Indeed, the Chamberlain Government’s policy of appeasement is widely viewed as providing the Nazi authorities with a reassurance that they could purse their anti-Semitic policies with impunity. In addition, the UK Government’s draconian restrictions on Jewish immigration to Palestine prevented many German and Austrian Jews from finding refuge there.
In 1938-1939, up to the outbreak of World War II on September 1, 1939, the UK Government did allow nearly 10,000 Jewish children from Germany, Austria, and Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia to come to the UK in a rescue effort known as the Kindertransport, which allowed these children to escape deportation to concentration and death camps.
Throughout the years of World War II, the British Section of the World Jewish Congress, under the leadership of the Marchioness of Reading, Labour Member of Parliament Sidney Silverman, Dr. Noah Barou, Alex Easterman, among others, together with the Board of Deputies, were at the forefront of largely unsuccessful efforts to prod the UK Government to undertake initiatives on behalf of European Jewry.
On April 15, 1945, British troops liberated the Nazi concentration camp of Bergen-Belsen in Germany, and in September-November, 1945, the SS officers and personnel that ran this camp were put on trial before a British military tribunal.