Al­lies knew of Shoah in 1942, doc­u­ments re­veal

The Jewish Chronicle - - NEWS - BY BEN WE­ICH by Dan

AL­LIED FORCES knew of the hor­rors of Nazi death camps more than two years ear­lier than is com­monly thought, newly-re­leased doc­u­ments re­veal.

The once-in­ac­ces­si­ble ar­chive of the United Na­tions War Crimes Com­mis­sion (UNWCC), dat­ing back to 1943, will be opened by the Wiener Li­brary in cen­tral Lon­don. Mem­bers of the pub­lic will be able to read them on­line.

The doc­u­ments show the UK, US and Soviet gov­ern­ments learned of the mur­der of mil­lions of Jews as early as De­cem­ber 1942, but did lit­tle to pro­vide sanc­tu­ary for those still at risk.

It had been thought the Bri­tish gov­ern­ment learned of the true ex­tent of the Holo­caust much later, when Al­lied forces dis­cov­ered and lib­er­ated con­cen­tra­tion camps near the end of Sec­ond World War.

Ben Barkow, the di­rec­tor of the Wiener Li­brary, said: “This has never been a se­cret — no-one has cov­ered this up. It’s just been ne­glected and over­looked.

“But this is im­por­tant be­cause it will change peo­ple’s un­der­stand­ing of this

Vis­count Cran­borne time, mostly on the level of de­tail it of­fers.”

In 1943 Vis­count Cran­borne, a min­is­ter in Win­ston Churchill’s war cabi­net, said Jews should not be con­sid­ered a spe­cial case, and that the Bri­tish Em­pire was not able to ad­mit any more.

Mr Barkow said it had been known that the Bri­tish gov­ern­ment was aware of the hor­rors of the Nazi regime be­cause An­thony Eden, the then For­eign Sec­re­tary, made a speech to Par­lia­ment in De­cem­ber 1942 in which he said: “The Ger­man au­thor­i­ties, not con­tent with deny­ing to per­sons of Jewish race in all the ter­ri­to­ries over which their bar­barous rule ex­tends, the most el­e­men­tary hu­man rights, are now car­ry­ing into ef­fect Hitler’s oft-re­peated in­ten­tion to ex­ter­mi­nate the Jewish peo­ple.”

The files also show some of the first de­mands for jus­tice came from Poland and China, rather than the US, Bri­tain or the Soviet Union.

The re­lease of the doc­u­ments co­in­cides with this week’s pub­li­ca­tion of Hu­man Rights after Hitler: the Lost His­tory of Pros­e­cut­ing Axis War Crimes Plesch, the di­rec­tor of the Cen­tre for In­ter­na­tional Stud­ies and Di­plo­macy at Soas, Univer­sity of Lon­don. Dr Plesch, who has been work­ing with the doc­u­ments for a decade un­der the close guard of the UN in New York, said an­other key find­ing was that Hitler was in­dicted as a war crim­i­nal by the UNWCC in 1944.

The com­mis­sion had en­dorsed at least seven sep­a­rate in­dict­ments against the Nazi leader by the time of his death, Dr Plesch said. The files also show the Pol­ish gov­ern­ment re­ported in de­tail to the UNWCC on the Auschwitz and Tre­blinka camps.

One of the UNWCC’s tasks was to collect ev­i­dence of war crimes for the ar­rest and trial of Axis war crim­i­nals. The com­mis­sion was dis­solved in 1949.

Mr Barkow said the doc­u­ments were also sup­pressed in part be­cause the East­ern Bloc coun­tries, which were then Nazi-occupied, were “very ac­tive” in pur­su­ing war crime charges — and this may have em­bar­rassed Al­lied gov­ern­ments.

The Wiener Li­brary was founded in Am­s­ter­dam in 1933 by Al­fred Wiener, after he fled Ger­many. It trans­ferred to cen­tral Lon­don in 1939.

The found­ing prin­ci­ple of the li­brary was to doc­u­ment ev­i­dence of the Nazi per­se­cu­tion of the Jewish peo­ple.

PHOTO: AP

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