Newly disclosed documents prove Allied forces in World War II were fully cognizant of the mass murders and torturous human rights violations in the Holocaust — and the full scope of those atrocities — committed by Adolf Hitler’s fascist Nazis, nearly three years before joining the fight.
“The major powers commented [on the mass murder of Jews] two-and-a-half years before it is generally assumed,” Dan Plesch, author of the newly published, Human Rights After Hitler, and Director of the Centre for International Studies and Diplomacy at SOAS, University of London, told The Independent.
For two-and-a-half years, Plesch learned, the Allies appeared to have allowed heinous crimes against humanity — the killing of millions of innocent Jewish and marginalized peoples — to be carried out at various concentration camps in nations under Nazi occupation. The Independent reports:
“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.”
Of course, pointing this out does not mean one condones war, however, it should be known that potentially millions of lives could’ve been spared had Allied Powers simply let in refugees.
“Indeed,” the report continues, “in March 1943, Viscount Cranborne, a minister in the war cabinet of Winston Churchill, said 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 any more.”
It wasn’t until public comment on the topic years later that the Allied forces hinted at the scope of atrocities taking place behind the barbed-wire confines of Hitler’s death camps.
“It was assumed they learned [of the mass murders] when they discovered the concentration camps, but they made this public comment in December 1942,” Plesch continued.
“The German authorities,” announced UK Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden to British Parliament at the time, “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.”
In research, the professor discovered the Allies planned to hold Hitler and the Nazis accountable for killing millions of Jews using documents smuggled outside occupied lands by networks of resistance and rebel groups. Among the documents was an indictment of Hitler for ‘war crimes dating from 1944.’
In full awareness of the horrific deaths of so many innocents, Plesch noted, the Allies never spearheaded a categorical attempt to free prisoners and shut down the notorious concentration camps, despite the voluminous body of pictures, documents, and other evidence brought forth during war crimes trials, which the major powers would have previously seen first hand.
Further, Herbert Pell, Franklin D. Roosevelt’s envoy to the United Nations War Crimes Commission (UNWCC), had been met with sharp resistance from anti-Semites in the State Department — ostensively due to concerns the nation’s involvement would impact its economic relationship with Germany after the war.
“After Mr Pell went public with the scandal, the State Department agreed to the prosecution of the Nazi leadership at Nuremberg, something that gathered pace after the highly publicised liberation of the concentration camps in the summer of 1945,” reports the Independent.
Plesch explained, “Among the reason given by the US and British policy makers 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.”
For 70 years, the UNWCC document cache had been restricted from public and research perusal — until former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Powers made the archive available.
Precisely how much Allied forces knew of the death camps and horrific abuses perpetrated by the Nazi regime more than two years before publicly commenting, and five years prior to the summer 1945 liberation, cannot, however, be gleaned from the assortment of documents in the archive.
“Notwithstanding this, it remains unclear to what extent Allied and neutral leaders understood the full import of their information,” Plesch said. “The utter shock of senior Allied commanders who liberated camps at the end of the war may indicate that this understanding was not complete.”