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Auschwitz Bombing Controversy: Proposed Air Action to Impede Deportation of Hungarian and Slovak Jews

(June 26, 1944)

The official response of the War Department and of the armed forces to requests to bomb Auschwitz-Birkenau was based upon policy, strategic and tactical decisions taken even before the questions of bombing the camp arose in June 1944. Major General Thomas Handy's memo reflects these earlier positions (see McNarney memo, Feb. 4, 1944) and laid down two of the principles that underlay the American refusal to bomb Auschwitz: no diversion from the war effort and rescue through victory. Doubts as to the technical feasibility of such bombings were also part of the refusal to bomb.

OPD 383.7 (23 Jun 44)

Proposed Air Action to Impede Deportation of Hungarian and Slovak Jews.

26 June 1944

X Director, CAD

X Necessary Action

Reference is made to Civil Affairs Division disposition form, subject as above, dated 23 June 1944, which forwarded to the Operations Division for necessary action a paraphrase of a cable on the above subject.

The Operations Division, WDGS, recommends that the Civil Affairs Division reply to Mr. Morgenthau, the Chairman of the War Refugee Board, substantially as follows:

“The War Department is of the opinion that the suggested air operation is impracticable for the reason that it could be executed only by diversion of considerable air support essential to the success of our forces now engaged in decisive operations.

“The War Department fully appreciated the humanitarian importance of the suggested operation. However, after due consideration of the problem, it is considered that the most effective relief to victims of enemy persecution is the early defeat of the Axis, an undertaking to which we must devote every resource at our disposal.”

3. A copy of this D/F, with identical inclosure, has been furnished CG, AAF and AC/S, G-2.

Major General,
Assistant Chief of Staff.

1 Incl: Paraphrase of cable

Sources: Yad Vashem