According to documents newly released by the United Nations prove that the Allied Powers of the Second World War were well aware of Germany’s National Socialist program of exterminating Jews at least two-and-a-half years earlier than was previously believed. However, despite having that knowledge, the United States and the eventual allies in the war against totalitarian Germany, Italy, and Japan did nothing to halt the Holocaust.
Not seen in more than 70 years, the documents showed that at the same time the United States, United Kingdom, and Russia had prepared indictments against dictator Adolf Hitler and his subordinates on charges of war crimes. A year before the U.S. entered the world war, the federal government was aware that Hitler’s Third Reich had already murdered two million Jews in Europe and was planning to murder five million more in purpose-built extermination camps throughout the continent, the records showed.
Henry Ford receiving Nazi Grand Cross
On its website, Israel's Yad Vashem Holocaust museum stated that the “information regarding mass murders of Jews began to reach the free world soon after these actions began in the Soviet Union in late June 1941, and the volume of such reports increased with time.”
“Notwithstanding this, it remains unclear to what extent Allied and neutral leaders understood the full import of their information,” it adds. “The utter shock of senior Allied commanders who liberated camps at the end of the war may indicate that this understanding was not complete.”
The U.S. and its allies did little to halt the systematic murders. Indeed, IBM was providing its computational expertise to the extermination efforts and had an office at the Auschwitz death camp. Other American business involvement with the Third Reich included General Motors’ Opel division, which provided its “Blitz” trucks to Germany’s Wehrmacht. In the case of Britain’s Viscount Cranborne, he commented that Jews were not a special case, even though they were especially targeted for extermination by the Nazis, and that the country had incorporated enough refugees.
Professor Dan Plesch at the Center for International Studies and Diplomacy at SOAS University of London told The Independent newspaper that “The major powers commented [on the mass murder of Jews] two-and-a-half years before it is generally assumed." Having analyzed the newly-revealed documents, Plesch told the UK-based newspaper, “It was assumed they learned this when they discovered the concentration camps, but they made this public comment in December 1942.”
Plesch discovered that numerous prisoners of Nazi concentration camp prisoners were smuggled to Allied forces, prompting the Allies to make a joint declaration on the murder of the Jewish people to the British parliament.
“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,” UK Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden told Parliament at the time.
However, concerns over advancing American business ties to a future Germany after the war, coupled with anti-semitism in the State Department, stymied any efforts to help the Jewish victims. For example, an entire shipload of Jewish refugees on board the SS St. Louis was turned back by the U.S. in 1939.
The American envoy to the United Nations War Crimes Commission (UNWCC), Herbert Pell, would later go public with the information, "embarrassing" the State Department to move forward with prosecutions against Nazi war criminals culminating in the Nuremberg trials.
“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.
Before leaving office at the end of the Obama administration, former U.S. envoy to the United Nations Samantha Power released the revelatory documents.
In his book, "IBM and the Holocaust," author and investigative journalist Edwin Black recounted the complicity of corporations such as IBM, Ford Motor Co, and General Motors with Germany's war preparations and the Holocaust. Here follows an excerpt of "IBM and the Holocaust:"
On December 17, 1942, the Allies finally declared there would be “war crime” trials and punishment. The Allies warned that all who cooperated with Hitler’s genocide would be held responsible before the bar of international justice. In Parliament, members rose in awed silence as one MP rang out, “There are many today who … but for the grace of God … might have been in those ghettos, those concentration camps, those slaughterhouses.” The Allies’ joint declaration of war crimes for genocide was broadcast and published as the top news in more than twenty-three languages the world over.
A New York Times article was headlined “Allies Describe Outrages on Jews,” and sub-headlined, “Extermination is Feared.” It led: “What is happening to the 5,000,000 Jews of German-held Europe all of whom face extermination.” The Allied report emphasized calculated starvation, group gassing, mass shooting, ghetto street scenes “beyond imagination,” and intense deportation campaigns by railroad.