I took looks at Winston Churchill’s attitude toward the Jews in “‘Flabergasted’: A note on WSC,” in “A note on WSC,” and in “When Hitler didn’t meet Churchill.” Churchill, incidentally, tells the story of the time Hitler avoided meeting him in Munich in “The Locust Years” chapter of The Gathering Storm. In “A Note” I quoted Andrew Roberts on Churchill’s attitude toward the Jews:
[Churchill] believed the Jews to be “the most formidable and the most remarkable race which has ever appeared in the world.” He felt an instinctive affinity for their genius as well as a historian’s respect for their trials, and he supported Jewish aspirations wherever they did not clash with those of the Empire. He may have inherited his philo-Semitism from his father, but he certainly gave it new lustre in his own life.
Michael Smerconish has now devoted his Philadelphia Inquirer column to the question of Churchill’s relationship to the column on the Jews allegedly “discovered” by Richard Toye in the Churchill archives. Smerconish quotes Martin Gilbert and seems to comes down on Gilbert’s side dismissing the column as the work of a ghost writer.
Nevertheless, Smerconish’s column does not adequately address the subject. By far the best treatment of Toye’s “discovery” is the column by Richard Langworth showing that Gilbert himself had included an account dismissing the column in one of the companion volumes to Gilbert’s multivolume authorized biography of Churchill:
“How the Jews Can Combat Persecution” has not “lain unnoticed since the Second World War.” It was “unearthed” nearly thirty years ago by Oxford historian and Churchill biographer Sir Martin Gilbert, poring through the million documents in the Churchill Archives Centre.
Twenty-six years ago, Gilbert actually reprinted the letter conveying the draft of this article to Churchill, in Winston S. Churchill, Companion Volume V, Part 3, The Coming of War: Documents 1936-1939 (London: Heinemann, 1982), page 670.
The author of “How the Jews Can Combat Persecution” was Adam Marshall Diston (1893-1956), whom Gilbert’s volume identifies on page 190:
“Born in Scotland. Served in a Highland Regiment, 1914-18. Joined the Staff of Amalgamated Press after the war; subsequently Assistant Editor of Answers, and acting Editor (1934)…. A Socialist, he joined Sir Oswald Mosley’s New Party in 1931. Unsuccessful New Party Candidate for Wandsworth Central in the 1931 election (where he polled only 424 votes out of a total of 11,647, and lost his deposit); he never stood for Parliament again.”
Churchill briefly employed Diston to write rough drafts for the popular press. While drafts for Churchill’s weighty histories, such as Marlborough and A History of the English Speaking Peoples, were prepared by distinguished historians such as Bill Deakin and Keith Feiling, Diston drafted some of what Churchill called his “potboilers,” which supplied much of his income in the 1930s.
At least until the publication of Gilbert’s forthcoming book on Churchill’s “lifelong friendship” with the Jews, Langworth’s column — “Churchill was not an anti-Semite” — is the definitive treatment of Toye’s “discovery.”