Auschwitz And The Allies The Gilbert Thesis

FDR created the WRB in response to intense pressure from members of Congress, Jewish activists, and his own Treasury Department.The administration gave the Board only minimal funding, and the State Department and War Department, which officially were required to cooperate with the Board, did so only infrequently at best.

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Jewish requests for Allied military action included three possible avenues: bombing the railway tracks over which hundreds of thousands of Hungarian Jews were then being deported to Auschwitz; bombing the gas chambers and crematoria within Auschwitz; and sending Allied ground troops or Polish underground forces to directly attack the camp.The Jewish leaders addressed their appeals to American, British, and Soviet diplomats, as well as to the Polish and Czech governments in exile.Only one official of one organization specifically opposed any of these methods. Leon Kubowitzki of the World Jewish Congress urged the use of ground troops, and opposed bombing Auschwitz from the air, because of the danger of civilian casualties in the camp.Kubowitzki cited the principle of “hayei shaa,” that is, focusing on the fact that someone is still alive, albeit in danger.Later, he appeared to regret opposing bombing, confiding to a colleague: “With regard to the bombing of the death camps and many other questions, there is no doubt that I did not have as much information as I needed…”.Other Jewish officials weighed the risk of casualties and concluded that bombing was nevertheless justified, because the camp inmates were doomed to be murdered imminently.Bombing the railway tracks had the advantage of involving relatively little risk to Allied servicemen.Long before the first Jewish request for military intervention was made, senior officials of the War Department had decided that they would have nothing to do with aiding refugees.In response to the creation of the War Refugee Board, the War Department assured the British government (which was opposed to Allied intervention on behalf of the Jews): “It is not contemplated that units of the armed forces will be employed for the purpose of rescuing victims of enemy oppression unless such rescues are the direct result of military operations conducted with the objective of defeating the armed forces of the enemy.” Internal War Department memoranda the following month stated unequivocally that “the most effective relief which can be given victims of enemy persecution is to insure the speedy defeat of the Axis.” This attitude would govern the War Department’s response to Jewish requests in the months to follow.In a note to Pehle, he claimed that the War Department had carried out a “study” of the feasibility of such bombing raids.However, historians have never been able to locate a copy of any such study in the relevant archives.


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