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The Riegner Report: Correspondence Regarding the “Riegner Cable”

(August-October, 1942)

Correspondance between R. Lichtheim (Representative of the Zionist Movement in Geneva) and Y. Gruenbaum concerning the “Riegner Cable”:

The following is a cable from Gerhardt Riegner, representative of the World Jewish Congress in Switzerland, August 8, 1942, advising of the plan to annihilate European Jewry.

An alarming report was received that in Fuhrers' headquarters, a plan was discussed and under consideration according to which all Jews in countries occupied or controlled by Germany numbering 3.5 - four million [excluding Jews in the Soviet union] should, after deportation and concentration in East, be exterminated in one blow to resolve once for all the Jewish question in Europe - stop - Action reported planned for autumn methods under discussion including Prussic acid - stop - we transmit information with all necessary reservation as exactitude cannot be confirmed - stop - informant stated to have close connections with highest German authorities and his reports generally speaking reliable Riegner

Source: Central Zionist Archives L-22/3

The remarks were attached to a letter from Richard Lichtheim to Palestine (August 30, 1942):

I attach a report based on information from a source (not Jewish) in Poland who is considered reliable. The report is so horrific that I had doubts about whether to send it to you or not. Since certain facts mentioned in the report (such as deportations from the Warsaw Ghetto in the past few weeks) have been confirmed by other sources. I decided to send it. In fact, I believe the reports are accurate. They correspond to Hitler's statements to the effect that no Jews will remain in Europe at the end of the war.

Source: Central Zionist Archives L-22/3

The first reply to Lichtheim from Jerusalem came on September 28, 1942 (Lauterbach to Lichtheim, September 28, 1942:

As for your letter...I will tell you frankly that we are not inclined to accept all of its contents verbatim.... Just as one should learn from experience sometimes to accept unimaginable actions as indisputable facts, so should one learn from history to distinguish between reality—however harsh it may be—and imagination aggravated by justified fear.

Source: Central Zionist Archives L-22/3

Excerpts from a more detailed letter follow:
Lichtheim to Gruenbaum,
October 8, 1942

It is easy for me to understand that you do not wish to believe the aforementioned report. As you can see, the report is dated August 15 but I sent it on August 30. This is because I myself had doubts about the desirability of forwarding the report. Ultimately, however, I decided that you should know about it for the following reasons: I noted in my letter the source of the information and left it to your judgment to decide how reliable the report should be considered. The facts described have been confirmed by another source that is totally unrelated to the first source. I cannot disclose his identity, but he holds a key position and should know whether these things happened or not. This source should be considered highly reliable. He has given us further details that were not yet included in the aforementioned report. I was told that there are at least two facilities meant for annihilation in the east. From here, it is impossible to explore the matter. No eyewitness would be allowed to depart for the neutral countries and only a small number of people have observed these events, if they have indeed occurred. Therefore, the only testimonies available are the accounts of German officers who returned from the east and who saw something or heard about the matter directly from those who are perpetrating it. The first source that confirmed the report was of this type.

The Nazis have committed so many crimes of this kind that this account seems no less and no more reliable than the others. What has happened to the deportees and the ghetto inhabitants, and what is happening to them every day, has been confirmed by so many sources that there can be no doubt about the intentions of Hitler and the Gestapo. In this context, I mention my reports about deportations from the west and the mass liquidation of Latvian Jewry. I have often heard of similar horrors in Poland, and there is no doubt that mass murder and deportation to unknown destinations has indeed occurred in Poland, especially in the ghettos of Warsaw and Lodz. The Jewish relief organizations that still exist in krakow have confirmed all of this indirectly. When we combine all the reports, we cannot doubt that the deliberate destruction of Polish Jewry has already advanced from the stage of planning to that of execution. We all know what Hitler decided to do with the Jews, and now he is doing it. ... We must face the fact that most of Jewry in occupied Europe has been annihilated. I have nothing to add. The tragedy is greater than words.

Source: Central Zionist Archives L-22/3, Geneva 84.

Sources:Yad Vashem