- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 4, 2005

The Allies received detailed information about the Holocaust earlier than is generally realized, according to a new U.S. government report. And that has important implications for our understanding of how the Allies responded to the Holocaust.

Sam Roberts reported in the New York Times on July 31 on a Holocaust-related report written by Robert J. Hanyok, an historian working with the National Security Agency’s Center for Cryptologic History. Mr. Hanyok’s analysis shows that the Allies, including the United States and Great Britain, had information detailing the Nazi genocide against the Jews as early as January 1943.

The information was provided through an intercept. Mr. Roberts writes, “For instance, one message, declassified in 2000 and barely noticed except in scholarly journals, was intercepted on Jan. 11, 1943. It specified the number of Jews killed under ‘Operation Reinhard’ at four death camps Lublin, Belzec, Sobibor and Treblinka through 1942: 1,274,166.” This is the latest smoking gun which refutes the claim of apologists for President Roosevelt that the Allies did not know of the death camps or the systematic extermination of the Jews until the end of the war, so therefore, bombing the train tracks to the Auschwitz death camp or the camp itself was not an option. The latest revelations show the Allies did know, and they knew early on.

According to the Times, the very first indication that the Nazis had embarked on wholesale killing of the Jews was “July 1941: The first intercept: a report of a massacre of Jews by German police in the western Soviet Union.” A later intercept in October 1942, stated: “A report is intercepted detailing the slave labor population at Auschwitz.” Then came the Jan. 11, 1943, intercept giving the horrifying number of 1,274,166 Jews killed by the Nazis who kept meticulous statistics recording the deaths.

The Hanyok analysis states, “Both President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Churchill were often hampered in their limited efforts to alleviate some of the suffering by the general anti-Semitic sentiment in both nations.” But was the fault really just with the public, and not the Allied leadership? The National Security Agency’s records contained an internal British government memorandum providing an insight into the official British mindset on the killing of the Jews: a Sept. 11, 1941, memorandum from a British cryptologic official with this comment on German massacres of Jews in Soviet territory: “The fact that the police are killing all Jews that fall into their hands should now be sufficiently well appreciated. It is not therefore proposed to continue reporting these butcheries unless so requested.” Out of sight, out of mind. And all the while, the British continued to close off Palestine to Jewish refugees.

Jan Karski, a Polish Christian affiliated with the Polish underground, was spirited into the Warsaw ghetto in 1942, where he saw Nazi atrocities first-hand. When Mr. Karski went to England, he met with Foreign Minister Anthony Eden, who said that Great Britain had already done enough for Jewish refugees. Mr. Karski traveled to the United States and met President Roosevelt at the White House on July 28, 1943. According to a later New York Times account, Mr. Karski “told Roosevelt about Auschwitz and said that 1.8 million Jews had already been killed in Poland. He said that commanders of the underground Home Army were estimating that if there were no Allied intervention in the next year and a half, the Jews of Poland would ‘cease to exist.’ ” Roosevelt responded by assuring him that the Allies would win the war. The president said nothing about rescuing the Jews. Rescue was not on his agenda.

After the war, Mr. Karski summed up his feelings concerning the destruction of the Jews as follows, “This sin will haunt humanity to the end of time. It does haunt me. And I want it to be so.”

The Sam Roberts article includes a positive reference in the Hanyok report to Pope Pius XII’s statements and actions vis-a-vis the Jews during the Nazi period. Mr. Roberts writes, “It also offers a revealing exchange involving Pope Pius XII, who some historians say did not use his influence to halt the killing of Jews. The conversation, relayed by an Ecuadorian envoy, was between the Vatican ambassador and Marshal Henri-PhillippePetain,the French collaborationist leader. Over lunch at a Vichy hotel in July 1942, Petain said he was consoled that the pope approved his policy of deporting Jews. The ambassador corrected him, saying, “The Holy Father does not approve.” If the Vatican had announced that it would excommunicate Petain or any other Catholic who took part or assisted in the slaughter of the Jews, one can only wonder what the impact would have been.

The world’s political and religious leaders, in Washington, London, the Vatican and elsewhere could have done so much more to impede the Nazi slaughter of the Jews. The Hanyok report is a grim reminder of that painful fact.

Edward I. Koch, a former congressman and mayor of New York City, was recently appointed to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council.

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