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Allies Knew of Plan For Italy's Jews

According to documents declassified and released by the National Archives in June 2000, Allied forces were aware of Nazi Germany’s intent to murder Italian Jews as early as October 1943. Britain’s breaking of Germany’s Enigma code gave the Allies almost real-time intelligence on the Nazis’ collection and deportation of Italian Jews. An intercepted Nazi message stated that Nazi leaders were prepared and eager to begin “the immediate and thorough eradication of Jews in Italy.” Allied forces also intercepted a message on October 6, 1943, ordering German officials to take the 8,000 Jews living in Rome into custody. Another message, dated October 20, from the German security police commander in Rome, stated that a transport of Jews had left Rome destined for Auschwitz.

Though evidence suggests that Allied forces had intelligence on Auschwitz as early as 1943, it is still uncertain if British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and American President Franklin D. Roosevelt were made aware of its existence. Another theory holds that Churchill, who often personally read the intercepted intelligence, was aware of Nazi atrocities and frequently asked British Foreign Minister Anthony Eden to make public statements condemning the brutal policies of the Nazis. Eden resisted, believing that there was little Britain could do to stop Nazi war crimes other than win the war.

Source: Michael Dobbs, “Allies Knew of Plan for Italy’s Jews,” Washington Post, (June 27, 2000).