(ANTIMEDIA) According to recently revealed documents, the U.S., British, and Russian governments knew of Adolf Hitler’s slaughter of Jews, known as the Holocaust, as early as 1942 but failed to take action to prevent it. The Independent reports:
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“Newly accessed material from the United Nations – not seen for around 70 years – shows that as early as December 1942, the US, UK and Soviet governments were aware that at least two million Jews had been murdered and a further five million were at risk of being killed, and were preparing charges. Despite this, the Allied Powers did very little to try and rescue or provide sanctuary to those in mortal danger.”
The documents were withheld for decades by the U.N., which required individuals to have permission from both their own national governments and the U.N. Secretary General to view them. For years, researchers who accessed them were not even allowed to take notes, and the archives remained private until former U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power worked for their release.
Dan Plesch, Director of the Center for International Studies and Diplomacy at SOAS University of London, recently wrote a book about the new findings called Human Rights After Hitler. He told the Independent:
“The major powers commented [on the mass murder of Jews] two-and-a-half years before it is generally assumed. “It was assumed they learned this when they discovered the concentration camps, but they made this public comment in December 1942.”Despite the Allied efforts to bring war crimes charges against Hitler in 1944 — and their public declarations of Hitler’s atrocities in 1942 — Plesch says they did little else.
Though he acknowledges hundreds of Nazis were prosecuted after the war, a fact often overshadowed by the Nuremberg prosecution of Nazi leadership, he says “the Allied Powers did little to try and help those in peril.”
In March of 1943, Viscount Cranborne, who worked as a minister in Winston Churchill’s war cabinet, claimed “the Jews should not be considered a special case and that the British Empire was already too full of refugees to offer a safe haven to anymore,” the Independent summarized.
As is now widely known, the Roosevelt administration actively rejected thousands of Jewish refugees and other foreigners seeking asylum, claiming they threatened national security and could be spies or saboteurs. Smithsonian.com magazine detailed these rejections:
“U.S. Attorney General Francis Biddle said in 1942 that ‘every precaution must be taken…to prevent enemy agents slipping across our borders. We already have had experience with them and we know them to be well trained and clever.’”
Despite a lack of evidence, until 1944, he cautioned Roosevelt “not to grant immigrant status to refugees.”
Smithsonian notes that at the same time, the FBI was putting out propaganda films “that bragged about German spies who had been caught,” further drumming up fears of outsiders.
Additionally, though Roosevelt’s envoy to the United Nations War Crimes Commission (UNWCC), Herbert Pell, pushed to help, he claimed anti-Semites within the U.S. State Department quashed any efforts.
In addition to claims of national security concerns, ignoring Hitler’s Holocaust was also rooted in politics and economic motives.
“Among the reason given by the US and British policymakers for curtailing prosecutions of Nazis was the understanding that at least some of them would be needed to rebuild Germany and confront Communism, which at the time was seen as a greater danger,” Plesch said.
Indeed, the Independent notes, “individuals within the State Department were concerned that America’s economic relationship with Germany after the war would be damaged if such prosecutions went ahead.”
It wasn’t until Pell went public with the internal conflict that the United States government agreed to support the prosecution of Nazi leaders at Nuremberg after the war.
Nevertheless, the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial center in Israel cautions the findings may not mean members of western militaries knew about Hitler’s murder of Jews at the same time their governments did — prior to liberating the camps.
“Notwithstanding this, it remains unclear to what extent Allied and neutral leaders understood the full import of their information,” a statement from the memorial posted by the U.N. reads. “The utter shock of senior Allied commanders who liberated camps at the end of the war may indicate that this understanding was not complete.”
Regardless, the new documents reveal that despite the U.S. government’s narrative that it saved the world from Hitler, many of the Allied powers’ individuals and institutions left his most tortured victims behind to serve their own interests.