UN files show Allies aware of Shoah by ‘42

Buchenwald survivors following the camp’s liberation.

JERUSALEM – Newly released documents provided by the United Nations revealed on Tuesday that the Allied Powers were well aware of the Jewish Holocaust at the hands of the Nazi regime at least two and a half years earlier than commonly thought, according to The Independent.

A full year before America entered World War II, the West knew that the Third Reich had already massacred two million European Jews and were planning to eliminate five million more in concentration camps spread throughout the continent, the records showed. 

Despite this, the Allied Powers did little to stop the genocide, with one minister in the UK war department, Viscount Cranborne, commenting that Jews were not a special case and that Britain was burdened with too many refugees as it was.

The documents, not seen for more than 70 years, showed at the same time that the Allies, made up of the United States, Russia and the United Kingdom, had prepared war crime indictments against Nazi leader Adolf Hitler and his top subordinates.

Speaking with The Independent, Dan Plesch, a professor at the Centre for International Studies and Diplomacy at SOAS University of London who analysed the documents, said that “The major powers commented [on the mass murder of Jews] two and a half years before it is generally assumed.”

“It was assumed they learned this when they discovered the concentration camps, but they made this public comment in December 1942,” he added. 

Plesch discovered during his research that the testimonies of numerous camp prisoners were smuggled to Allied forces, prompting the triumvirate to make a joint deceleration on the Jewish slaughter to the British parliament.

“The German authorities, not content with denying to persons of Jewish race in all the territories over which their barbarous rule extends, the most elementary human rights, are now carrying into effect Hitler’s oft-repeated intention to exterminate the Jewish people,” UK Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden told the legislative chamber. 

Anti-Semitism in the US State Department, however, stopped efforts to help the Jewish victims. The department was more concerned with preserving America’s economic ties with Germany after the war. 

Former US president Franklin D Roosevelt’s envoy to the United Nations War Crimes Commission (UNWCC), Herbert Pell, would later go public with the information, “embarrassing” the State Department to move forward with prosecutions against Nazi war criminals culminating into the Nuremberg trials. 

“Among the reasons given by the US and British policy makers for curtailing prosecutions of Nazis was the understanding that at least some of them would be needed to rebuild Germany and confront Communism, which at the time was seen as a greater danger,” Plesch said.

The documents were finally released after former US envoy to the UN, Samantha Power, lobbied for the archive to go public, according to The Independent.

Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust museum stated on its website that “information regarding mass murders of Jews began to reach the free world soon after these actions began in the Soviet Union in late June 1941, and the volume of such reports increased with time.”

“Notwithstanding this, it remains unclear to what extent Allied and neutral leaders understood the full import of their information,” it adds. “The utter shock of senior Allied commanders who liberated camps at the end of the war may indicate that this understanding was not complete.” 

DANIEL J ROTH / THE JERUSALEM POST