State Department Learns
of Nazi Extermination Plan
(August 11, 1942)
This telegram must be closely paraphrased
before being communicated to anyone. (SC)
Dated August 11, 1942
Rec'd 2:35 p.m.
Secretary of State,
3697, August 11, 3 p.m.
Gerhardt M. Riegner Secretary
World Jewish Congress Geneva called on Vice
Consul Elting Geneva Saturday eighth greatly
agitated and requested following quoted message
be transmitted for information American and
other Allied Governments and be notified
in Department's discretion to Dr Stephen
Wise New York City:
"Informer reported to have close connections with highest
German authorities who has previously generally reliable
reports says that in Fuehrer's [sic] headquarters plan
under consideration to exterminate at one blow this
fall three and half to four millions Jews following
deportation from countries occupied, controlled by
Germany and concentration in east. Method execution
undecided but prussic acid has been considered. Information
transmitted with reservation as exactitude cannot be
CONFIDENTIAL Legation note:
Legation has no information which would tend
to confirm this report which is however forwarded
in accordance with Riegner's wishes. In
conversation with Elting Riegner drew attention
to recently reported Jewish deportations eastward
from occupied France, protectorate and probably
elsewhere. The report has earmarks of war
rumor inspired by fear and what is commonly
understood to be the actually miserable
condition of these refugees who face decimation
as result physical maltreatment persecution and
scarcely endurable privations malnutrition
Geneva, Switzerland, August 10, 1942
Subject: Transmitting Memorandum of Conversation with
Secretary of Jewish Congress, Geneva, concerning Report
that Germans are Considering Wholesale Extermination
THE HONORABLE SECRETARY OF STATE, WASHINGTON.
At the suggestion of the Legation at Bern, I have the
honor to enclose a copy of a memorandum in the above
I desire to reiterate my belief in the utter seriousness
of my informant.
Howard Elting, Jr.
American Vice Consul
Copy of memorandum, as stated.
Subject: Conversation with Mr. Gerhart M. RIEGNER,
Secretary of World Jewish Congress
This morning Mr. Gerhart M. RIEGNER, Secretary of the
World Jewish Congress in Geneva, called in great agitation.
He stated that he had just received a report from a
German business man of considerable prominence, who
is said to have excellent political and military connections
in Germany and from whom reliable and important political
information has been obtained on two previous occasions,
to the effect that there has been and is being considered
in Hitler's headquarters a plan to exterminate all
Jews from Germany and German controlled areas in Europe
after they have been concentrated in the east (presumably
Poland). The number involved is said to be between
three-and-a-half and four millions and the object is
to permanently settle the Jewish question in Europe.
The mass execution if decided upon would allegedly
take place this fall.
Riegner stated that according to his informant the
use of prussic acid was mentioned as a means of accomplishing
the executions. When I mentioned that this report seemed
fantastic to me, Riegner said that it struck him in
the same way but that from the fact that mass deportation
had been taking place since July 16 as confirmed by
reports received by him from Paris, Holland, Berlin,
Vienna, and Prague it was always conceivable that such
a diabolical plan was actually being considered by
Hitler as a corollary.
According to Riegner, 14,000 Jews have already been
deported from occupied France and 10,000 more are to
be handed over from occupied France in the course of
the next few days. Similarly from German sources 56,000
Jews have already been deported from the Protectorate
unspecified numbers from Germany and other occupied
Riegner said this report was so serious and alarming
that he felt it his duty to make the following requests:
(1) that the American and other Allied Governments
be informed with regard thereto at once; (2) that they
be asked to try by every means to obtain confirmation
or denial; (3) that Dr. Stephen Wise, the president
of his organization, be informed of the report.
I told Riegner that the information would be passed
on to the Legation at once but that I was not in a
position to inform him as to what action, if any, the
Legation might take. He hoped that he might be informed
in due course that the information had been transmitted
For what it is worth, my personal opinion is that Riegner
is a serious and balanced individual and that he would
never have come to the Consulate with the above report
if he had not had confidence in his informant's reliability
and if he did not seriously consider that the report
might well contain an element of truth. Again it is
my opinion that the report should be passed on to the
Department for what it is worth.
There is attached a draft of a telegram prepared by
Riegner giving in his own words a telegraphic summary
of his statements to me.
Howard Elting, Jr.
American Vice Consul