We were recently joined for a fortnight by Stephanie Bredbenner, a student undertaking the Masters degree in Archives and Records Management at the University of Liverpool. As well as producing an excellent catalogue of W.P. Crozier’s Foreign Affairs Correspondence in the Guardian Archive, Stephanie found time to write a blog post for us before she left:
During the first two weeks of January, I worked on cataloguing the ‘confidential correspondence’ series of W.P. Crozier (1879-1944), editor of the Manchester Guardian from 1932 to 1944. The series is incredibly rich in materials from the Second World War on topics as diverse as confidential military and diplomatic strategy, the Blitz, and censorship of the British press. The most abundant materials concern the Middle East, particularly Palestine. Like his mentor C.P. Scott, Crozier was a fervent Zionist, and much of the correspondence concerns the Zionist movement and efforts to establish a Jewish national home and a Jewish fighting force during the war. The series provides valuable insights into the crucial role the Manchester Guardian played in the Zionist movement.
C.P. Scott, editor of the Manchester Guardian from 1872 to 1929, became a crucial ally to Jewish academics who settled in Manchester and made the city the centre of British Zionism. Scott was the founding member of the British-Palestine Committee and along with Manchester Guardian staff members Harry Sacher and W.P. Crozier, became a committed Zionist. He befriended Chaim Weizmann, Reader in Chemistry at the University of Manchester and leader of British Zionism who later became the first President of Israel. Scott used his influence at the Manchester Guardian to elevate the profile of the Zionist cause. He was also instrumental in introducing Weizmann to powerful figures such as David Lloyd George, Herbert Samuel, and Arthur Balfour, 1st Earl of Balfour, who later cemented British support for a Jewish national home with the Balfour Declaration of 1917.
Crozier continued Scott’s legacy by advocating for a Jewish state both inside and outside the pages of the Manchester Guardian. His primary correspondent on Zionist issues was Sir Lewis Bernstein Namier, a renowned Jewish historian who was a professor at the University of Manchester. Namier, once the secretary of the Jewish Agency for Palestine and a life-long Zionist, frequently sent bundles of documents for Crozier’s information and use. Crozier then used his influence in the British press to provide incisive commentary on the Zionist struggle. Crozier himself continued to write articles on the subject in addition to his editorial duties, demonstrating his passion and knowledge about Zionist issues. The importance of Crozier’s coverage of the Zionist cause was praised in a letter from Namier, dated 7 May 1938. Namier wrote:
‘May I thank you for your leader in to-day’s “Manchester Guardian”? If I may say so, although we are accustomed to your writing about our affairs with more knowledge and understanding than anyone else in this country, to-day’s leader seems to me of quite exceptional importance. You have put it all in a nutshell at a time when putting these facts before the public is of the very greatest importance.’
Zionists like Namier and Weizmann, both academics at the University of Manchester for decades, used Manchester as a centre for their activities. The Crozier confidential correspondence series contains significant materials which were circulated throughout the British Zionist network in Manchester. Crozier was influential in tapping into Zionist information networks and disseminating their impassioned pleas to the public. Crozier’s confidential correspondence provides insight into the behind the scenes machinations and carefully constructed rhetoric of the Zionist movement. Namier often sent Crozier initial drafts of crucial speeches, reports, and correspondence in addition to the final draft, showing a long and careful process of revision and negotiation within the movement. Crozier often saved multiple drafts of the same document, along with notes from Namier and himself. Such delicate diplomatic negotiations are displayed in one 1941 letter from Chaim Weizmann to Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill, of which Crozier saved multiple drafts. Weizmann wrote:
‘Tortured by Hitler as no nation has ever been in modern times, and advertised by him as his foremost enemy, we are refused by those who fight him for the chance of seeing our name and our flag appear among those arrayed against him. I know that this exclusion is not in your own intentions or spirit…But are the Jews so utterly unimportant as the treatment meted out to them suggests? … You are dealing with human beings, with flesh and blood, and the most elementary feeling of self-respect sets limits to service, however willing, if the response is nothing but rebuffs and humiliations. Let me feel, Mr. Prime Minister, that our friendship is not spurned on the British side, nor our name obliterated at a time when Hitler is endeavouring to obliterate our very existence.’
The Manchester Guardian was one of the most prominent newspapers on the global stage espousing Zionist ideals. The impact of Crozier’s efforts to raise the international profile of the Zionist cause by leveraging the reputation of the Manchester Guardian is perhaps best expressed in this statement made by Robert Menzies, the Prime Minister of Australia, upon a visit to Manchester in 1941:
In addition to his involvement in British Zionism, Crozier collected correspondence relating to Zionism and the fate of Jewish refugees all over the world, including in Palestine, Iraq, Mauritius, South Africa, Turkey, and the United States. Until his death on 16 April 1944, Crozier continued collecting information and writing about liberated concentration camps and the Zionist cause.
All images in this post are reproduced courtesy of Guardian News and Media Ltd.