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The Holocaust: World Response

In the aftermath of the Holocaust, the civilized world was shocked to see photographs of unimaginable horror; skeletons of victims stacked in piles of hundreds and thousands, living skeletons describing unspeakable brutality and atrocity, and searching for the truth as to what would permit this to occur without intervention. Could an event of this magnitude have occurred without the knowledge of the Allies? If the Allied governments knew this was taking place, why was nothing done? Why was there such deathly silence?

The American press had printed scores of articles detailing mistreatment of the Jews in Germany. By 1942, many of these newspapers were reporting details of the Holocaust, stories about the mass murder of Jews in the millions. For the most part, these articles were only a few inches long, and were buried deep in the newspaper. These reports were either denied or unconfirmed by the United States government. When the United States government did receive irrefutable evidence that the reports were true, U.S. government officials suppressed the information. U.S. reconnaissance photos of the Birkenau camp in 1943 showed the lines of victims moving into the gas chambers, confirming other reports. The War Department insisted that the information be kept classified.

Photographs of mass graves and mass murder, smuggled out under the most dangerous of circumstances, were also classified as secret. British Prime Minister Winston Churchill called for the death camp at Auschwitz to be bombed. He was ignored. Hundreds of thousands of innocent Jews could have been saved had the Allies agreed to bomb the death camps or the rail lines which were feeding them.

Desperate for war material, the Nazis offered the British a million Jews in exchange for 10,000 trucks. When asked why he had refused to negotiate the deal, a British diplomat responded, "What would I do with one million Jews? Where would I put them?"

Escaped prisoners from the death camps filed reports on what was occurring. Again, many of these reports were suppressed.

Eventually, President Roosevelt, under pressure from the public, agreed to issue a statement condemning the German government for its genocidal policy against the Jews.

Could actions of the Allies have prevented the Holocaust or limited the destruction of six million Jews and five million other innocent civilians? There is no question that the silence and inaction of the world community in the face of irrefutable evidence resulted in the senseless loss of millions of lives.

Source: The Holocaust - A Guide for Teachers. Copyright 1990 by Gary M. Grobman. All rights reserved.