New documents reveal Allies knew of Holocaust years before previously assumed

Despite the knowledge, the Allies did little to help stop the massacre at the hands of the Nazi regime.

Auschwitz-Birkenau (photo credit: REUTERS)
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Newly released documents provided by the United Nations revealed on Tuesday that the Allied Powers were well aware of the Jewish Holocaust at the hands of Nazi Germany at least two-and-a-half years earlier than commonly believed, according to The Independent.
The documents, not seen for more than 70 years, showed at the same time that the Allies, made up of the United States, Russia and the United Kingdom, had prepared war crime indictments against Nazi leader Adolf Hitler and his top subordinates.
A full year after America entered World War II, the records show, the West knew that the Third Reich had already massacred two million European Jews and were planning to eliminate five million more in concentration camps spread throughout the continent.
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The popular narrative among western countries is that the gross barbarity of the Nazi Holocaust was not apparent until Allied forces liberated Jews and other minorities from European extermination camps in May of 1945. These new records now show that the West was at least somewhat aware of the situation in December of 1942.
Despite this, the Allied Powers did little to stop the genocide, with one minister in the UK war department, Viscount Cranborne, commenting that Jews were not a special case and that Britain was burdened with too many refugees as it was.
Speaking with The Independent, Dan Plesch, a professor at the Center for International Studies and Diplomacy at SOAS University of London who analyzed the documents, said that “The major powers commented [on the mass murder of Jews] two-and-a-half years before it is generally assumed."
“It was assumed they learned this when they discovered the concentration camps, but they made this public comment in December 1942,” he added.
Plesch discovered during his research that the testimonies of numerous camp prisoners were smuggled to Allied forces, prompting the triumvirate to make a joint deceleration on the Jewish slaughter 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 the legislative chamber.
Antisemitism in the US State Department, however, stopped efforts to help the Jewish victims, who were more concerned with preserving America's economic ties with Germany after the war.
Former US president Franklin D Roosevelt’s 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 into the Nuremberg trials.
“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,” Plesch said.
The documents were finally released after former US envoy to the UN, Samantha Power, lobbied for the archive to go public, according to The Independent.