An example to today’s business leaders who trade with Putin
A British business leader boycotts Hitler
From The Earl of Woolton’s Memoirs (Cassell 1959)
“In 1938 the world was shocked by the relentless persecution of the Jews in Germany. Many were escaping to this country and to America, including some of the most eminent scholars and scientists in the world. Meanwhile, the ordinary innocent people among the Jewish race were being treated with a sadistic cruelty that was stirring the sympathy of the Christian world and creating both anger and despair that such things could be possible in this supposedly enlightened century – and still more that they could be tolerated by the civilized world.
“When in the spring of 1938 Hitler moved into Austria, I found it impossible to resist making the small effort of protest that a private citizen could make. Lewis’s [department stores] had at that time fourteen buyers in various parts of Germany. I cabled to them, telling them to close their books, honourably fulfil all their contracts, and to return home. A few nights later, I took the occasion of a speech I was making at a Lewis’s sales managers’ dinner at Leicester to express my personal alarm and disgust at what was happening and to say that I thought each one of us individually ought to do what he could to warn the people of Germany of the gravity of the position into which Hitler was leading them. I then announced that as far as Lewis’s was concerned, we should proceed at once to sell all the German goods that were in our stores and that we would have no further trading with German manufacturers whilst the German people continued to tolerate a Government that ‘for no other reason than that of their faith persecuted one of the oldest races in the world.’
“The effect of this speech, which lasted but a few minutes, surprised me. It was what the public wanted someone to say: it gave the individual citizens something to do – a means of expressing their emotions.”
Sir Frederick Marquis, as he then was, infuriated the Chamberlain government. “I was sent for to appear at Number 10 Downing Street, and there handed what is now colloquially called ‘a high-powered rocket.’ I was told that the Prime Minister strongly disapproved of my action and that I had no right to interfere in this manner in the foreign policy of the country. I remained respectfully unrepentant, and said that I should continue to exercise my rights to trade where I would, and to say what I thought.”
Marquis later became famous as the successful wartime Food Minister and promoter of the Woolton pie. He was also a reforming postwar chairman of the Conservative Party, widely credited for his role in its 1951 General Election victory.