The Cabinet Minister's Traitor Son

Richard Grayson reveals the human side to a wartime Cabinet minister’s personal tragedy.

Leo Amery (1873-1955), Secretary of State for India in Churchill’s wartime Cabinet, had a Jewish ancestry which was not publicly known despite his strong pro-Zionism. Through the war years, however, he suffered a personal and political tragedy, as his son John allowed himself to be used as a propaganda tool by the Nazis and was finally hanged for treason in December 1945. Details of Leo’s attempts to do his best for his son over this difficult period have just come to light.

Amery’s eldest son John (1912-45), a staunch anti-Communist, was stranded in Vichy France in 1940. He felt some sympathy with Nazism, and as the son of a British Cabinet minister, was recognized by the Nazis as a valuable propaganda tool. In 1942 they took him to Berlin where he broadcast to Britain, recruited for the British division of the SS, and wrote anti-semitic propaganda.

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