Welles Tells Wise He Has Information on Nazi Extermination Plan

(August 28, 1942)


Undersecretary of State Sumner Welles tells Rabbi Stephen Wise he has information confirming that the Nazis' plan to kill all of Europe's Jews.

During September and October, [the World Jewish Congress representative in Geneva, Gerhart] Riegner continued to receive first-hand reports from countries all over Europe that the plan for mass extermination was being rapidly implemented. All these reports he transmitted to the State Department through Leland Harrison, American minister in Berne. In November, four sworn statements reached the State Department through Harrison, fully substantiating Riegner's reports. Mr Welles telegraphed that I come at once to the State Department...

In the office of Mr. Welles, we took our places and I shall never forget the quiet but deeply moving way in which he turned to us and said, every word etching itself into my heart, “Gentlemen, I hold in my hands documents which have come to me from our legation in Berne. I reget to tell you, Dr. Wise, that these confirm and justify your deepest fears.” He handed me the original documents from Berne which confirmed our dreadful apprehensions. The documents' red seals suggested the blood of my people pouring forth in rivers. Mr. Welles added, “For reasons you will understand, I cannot give these to the press, but there is no reason why you should not. It might even help if you did.”


Source: The Challenging Years: The Autobiography of Stephen Wise, G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1949.