Auschwitz and the Allies
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"One cannot write too highly of Martin Gilbert's industry and literary abilities in making the world aware of the fullness of this hideous tale...A brilliant book" (Spectator)
"Auschwitz is now a name of horror without parallel...Why did it remain relatively unknown for so long? Martin Gilbert has set out to explore this contradiction" (Observer)
"A story that needs to be remembered. It is here told by a real historian...whose style is the more moving by being objective and controlled" (Hugh Trevor-Roper The Times)
"An unforgettable contribution to the history of the last war" (Jewish Chronicle) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
'A story that needs to be remembered. It is here told by a real historian.whose style is the more moving by being objective and controlled' - Hugh Trevor-Roper, The Times --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.See all Product description
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The Nazi extermination of European Jewry was shrouded in secrecy (alleged "resettlement", extermination camps in distant Poland). The programme was already well under way when in 1942, Jewish Agency representatives in Switzerland put two and two together (massive deportations and news of experiments with gas chambers). This was initially largely ignored by the Allies, because extermination on such a scale seemed just too incredible, and because the Jews were said to exaggerate everything. However, eyewitness accounts corroborated the terrible things going on, at about the time the minor camps - Treblinka, Sobibór, Belzec - were running down their operations.
The most amazing thing of all, and a tribute to the Germans' secrecy, is that the biggest and worst of the extermination camps, Auschwitz-Birkenau, retained its secret until mid-1944. The existence of a camp at Auschwitz was known from the beginning, but the Allies thought it was a labour camp (because of the factories attached to it). They also thought that Birkenau was an entirely separate labour camp elsewhere.
And when the secret was discovered, then what? The Allies had a limited ability to do anything. Reprisals against German civilians (e.g., by bombing) for the murder of Jews were considered unwise, because this could have led to counter-reprisals against Allied POWs. The camps were for much of the war at extreme range for Allied bombers.
Especially tragic is the tale of the Hungarian Jews. Admiral Horthy, ruler of Hungary, had resisted Nazi attempts to deport the Jews for extermination, and the Nazis were able to start only in mid-1944, with the defeat of the Nazis less than a year away. Jewish Agency demands that the railway lines be bombed (they eventually were in range of Allied aircraft operating from Italy) were met with the arguments of the difficulty and uncertainty of such an operation, and that resources should not be diverted from the ultimate salvation of the Jews - the defeat of Nazi Germany. Churchill was keen to disrupt the murder schedule and passed the problem to the Royal Air Force, which passed it to the US Air Force, which did nothing. Eventually, Allied threats to try the Hungarians as war criminals stopped the shipments, but only after a substantial proportion of Hungary's Jews had been slaughtered.
And Auschwitz kept on with its deadly work until the Russians were almost at the gates, at which point the SS sought to destroy the evidence by demolishing the place
Sir Martin tells the sorry tale in a reasoned, dispassionate way, never attributing blame and letting the various elements of a complex story speak for themselves. It is not a straightforward story, in which blame can be attributed - except to the depraved monsters who, in contravention of all logic and humanity, were set on mass murder, even at the cost of taking resources from their own desperate and failing war effort. Confronted with a crime of unimaginable proportions, the Allies fumbled the ball, because they really didn't know what to do, how to do it, or who should do it, whatever "it" was. Edmund Burke said that, "all that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing". The good men did something - they defeated Nazi Germany. Whether this was enough and whether something more could have been done to save more of the Jews of Europe is something we shall never know.
We are confronted with the disturbing revelation that, although supplied with considerable information about the decimation of Jewish communities in the Nazi Concentration Camps & gas ovens of Europe, the Allies allegedly turned a blind and incredulous eye to the suffering and slaughter.
In relation to the British involvement (or lack of it), the book quotes from a letter by Winston Churchill to Anthony Eden dated July 1944 pertaining to the Nazi slaughter of Jews in Europe;-"...there is no doubt that this is probably the greatest and most horrible single crime ever committed in the whole history of the world..."
One would think that this expression of apparent concern would have led to the most aggressive intervention possible to rescue the vast numbers facing genocide. Not so ! The book shows that Churchill did indeed order a so-called feasibility study for possible air-strikes on Auschwitz, but subsequently did nothing. The issue was passed to the Americans who also did...nothing.
Before some say that it was too late in 1944 anyway, the book clearly illustrates the Allied possession of such knowledge of an ongoing genocide in 1942.
Hitler himself being shown to have publically announced during 1942, before an enormous crowd & film crews, that the war in Europe would result in the complete annihilation of the Jews. Some 11,000,000 in Europe. The Allied Government's all heard this, but looked away.
The book details a number of British newspaper headlines and extensive reports, some of which follow;-
"Nazis murder 700,000 Jews in Poland". - Daily Telegraph, 25 June 1942, which also included a follow up report under the heading "Travelling Gas Chambers".
Additionally, the following reports were published publically on 30 June 1942;
"Massacre of Jews - Over 1,000,000 have died since the war began". - The Times.
"Greatest pogrom - one million Jews die". - Daily Mail.
Other such references are also included, all of which show an alarming knowledge of the Nazis agenda and operations for the last 3-4 years of the war.
The contents of this study clearly show that the Allies had both the equipment and technology to bomb/destroy the railway lines and bridges leading to Nazi Concentration Camps and even the gas chambers themselves at Auschwitz. Allied aircrews and far-reaching amounts of aircraft were even risked to drop supplies to assist the Polish resistance during the Warsaw Uprising against the Germans.
Missions that even entailed overflying Auschwitz itself whilst en-route to Warsaw, yet not a single bomb or supply was dropped to assist the Jews. Having served in the British armed forces, I feel an incredible level of shame whilst writing this.
The book proceeds to examine whether it was not perhaps `politically expedient' for the Allies to intervene on behalf of the Jews. The British situation in Palestine is studied, in particular the restrictions placed upon Jewish immigration into Palestine and British interests in the Middle East in parallel with the latter's relationship with the Arab world.
Reference is made amongst others to the incident surrounding what the British called the `illegal' refugee ship `Struma', carrying some 750 men, women and children, forbidden entry into Palestine and sent back to the Black Sea. Despite there being little food or sanitary provisions for these poor people and their vessel being declared as unseaworthy, no help was forthcoming. Indeed, the book shows that neither humanitarian or military considerations would change British policy towards the Jews. The `Struma' mysteriously blowing-up in the Black Sea with all but one of the 750 refugees being allowed to perish.
This is an essential contribution towards Holocaust studies. Might I respectfully recommend another book upon this same subject entitled "The Abandonment of the Jews: America and the Holocaust 1941-1945" by David Wyman.
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