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Great Britian & the Holocaust: Churchill's Decision to Not Bomb the Concentration Camps

(September 18-20, 1944)

In August 1944, the Jewish Agency for Palestine requested, on behalf of Jewish organizations worldwide, that the British Foreign Office green-light an attack to bomb the camps, especially Auschwitz-Birkenau.

The following, is an exchange of notes between Prime Minister Winston Churchill and his Private Secretary about the British decision not to bomb the concentration camps.

(Letter A)
(Letter B)
Letter A:
      [From the Prime Minister to Private Secretary]

Please see minutes on WR 823 attached.

So far as I can discover these plans never were in fact communicated to Air Ministry.

The Minister of State on Sep 1 (on behalf of the Secretary of State) agreed in writing to the Secretary of State for Air that in view of the difficulties of the operation of bombing the camps as requested by the Air Ministry (they said they had no detailed information of the topography [layout of the camps]) the idea of bombing them might be dropped.

We are therefore technically guilty of allowing the Air Ministry to get away with it without having given them (though we had it) the information they asked for as a prerequisite.

In all the circumstances I think perhaps (though I feel a little uneasy about it) we had better let this go by. PM 189.

Letter B:
      [From the Private Secretary to the Prime Minister]

Don’t know enough about this to form a view. Surely this information was taken into consideration when the decision was taken not to pursue the matter?

Perhaps Service Liaison Dept [Government Department whose job was to help different government departments communicate effectively] could advise as to whether this info would have made any difference to the Air Ministry’s attitude? Sec 20/9

[Prime Minister - annotation]

That’s the whole point. It looks as though it wasn’t.

Sources: British National Archives