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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Just what you always suspected: FDR opposed bombing Auschwitz

A new study by the US Holocaust Museum has concluded that Franklin Roosevelt himself opposed bombing the Auschwitz death camp (Hat Tip: Dan F).
A new two year study by the US Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) in Washington, DC reveals the opposition by WWII American President, Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) to bombing the Auschwitz Birkenau death complex in Southern Poland in the summer of 1944. The findings of the latest USHMM study on wartime allied and Jewish Zionist leaders over the decision not to bomb Auschwitz were the subject of an EnerPub article, “Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Sin of Omission: Auschwitz” by former US diplomat, Martin Barillas. Barillas noted the contrast with Britain’s wartime leader, Sir Winston Churchill:
Churchill appeared interested in a military strike against the camps. He told Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden that Hitler's war against the Jews was "probably the greatest and most horrible crime ever committed in the whole history of the world," adding, "Get everything out of the Air Force you can, and invoke me, if necessary." In July 1944 Churchill was told that U.S. bomber pilots could do the job best, but that it would be "costly and hazardous."
We wrote of the controversy over whether the US Army Air Forces could have bombed the Auschwitz Birkenau complex in a May 2009 NER article: “The Auschwitz and Iran Bombing Controversies: Are There Parallels?” The evidence from that third party analysis demonstrated the feasibility of bombing Auschwitz early in the summer of 1944. Several sorties spread over three weeks would have destroyed the killing machinery, representing a minor diversion of resources in the allied air campaign in central Europe. According to Professor David S. Wyman that might have spared 150,000 of the more than 430,000 Hungarian Jews who were murdered over a three month period from May to July.

Wartime Assistant Secretary of War, John J. McCloy figured prominently in Roosevelt’s thinking. Note what we said in our NER article about his role and the ironic Budapest bombing in July 1944 that proved both FDR and McCloy wrong about the proposed Auschwitz bombing campaign:


New information may now make FDR culpable of the omission, however. In 1986, three years before his death, McCloy had a taped private conversation with Morgenthau's son Henry III. The 91-year-old McCloy told the junior Morgenthau that he of course had raised the issue with FDR. He said, "I remember talking one time with Mr. Roosevelt about it, and he was irate. He said, 'Why, the idea! They'll only move it down the road a little way.' One can take FDR’s meaning that the Nazis would have built other death camps and continue the killing.” McCloy recollected that FDR "made it very clear" to him that bombing Auschwitz "wouldn't have done any good." Moreover, Roosevelt said that bombing Auschwitz would be "provocative" to the Nazis and he wouldn't "have anything to do" with the idea. FDR warned Morgenthau that Americans would be accused of "bombing these innocent people" at Auschwitz, adding, "We'll be accused of participating in this horrible business!"

McCloy also told Morgenthau’s son Henry, "I didn't want to bomb Auschwitz... It seemed to be a bunch of fanatic Jews who seemed to think that if you didn't bomb, it was an indication of lack of venom against Hitler. Whereas, the president had the idea that that would be more provocative and ineffective. And he took a very strong stand." So, based on McCloy's account, FDR make his decision about Auschwitz after little or no consultation with his key advisers. This raises questions. Did McCloy cover up FDR’s decision to avoid bombing Auschwitz out of misplaced loyalty? Did McCloy in his ninth decade decide to share the blame for the Auschwitz omission with the grinning patrician lion Roosevelt, having tired of being labeled the sole culprit? Was it any coincidence that it was the son of Treasury Secretary Morgenthau, who had indicted McCloy as an enemy of the Jews, who was to receive this confession?
Read the whole thing.

70 years from now, will future generations be discussing whether and why Barack Hussein Obama opposed bombing Iran?

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At 1:26 PM, Blogger Juniper in the Desert said...

Re: last sentence: no doubt!! Unless Israel acts as she should!

At 3:01 PM, Blogger Sunlight said...

I'm saving this post to turn into a fact sheet or ad for the '12 election. We keep hearing that the Dems stick with the DNC because their parents loved FDR. Good on FDR for winning WWII, but you can also say that Lincoln the Republican won the Civil War, which freed the U.S. slaves. Carl, this post is well done.

At 3:07 PM, Blogger Sunlight said...

BTW, in case Israel feels extra special in Obama's destructive smashing, heads up. Look what he did to Mexico by arming up two drug cartels that are having turf and market wars:

One Mexican State Bordering The US Was Deadlier Than All of Afghanistan Last Year


And for Caroline to say Obama is the biggest loser in the ME? Nope, he wants the U.S. and the rest of the world to be Che's Africa... the bomb is just a modern machete to someone like him. He is being wildly successful according to the lights of himself and his comrades.

At 3:19 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Hmmmm......70 years from now we might be throwing sticks and stones as Einstein predicted.

At 6:11 PM, Blogger Baruch Dov Bear Wohlmeuth said...

I also heard that the head of reform Judaism at the time, Rabbi Stephen Wise, advised Roosevelt not to bomb Auschwitz

At 5:09 AM, Blogger Captain.H said...

There's much more to this than what's presented in this thread. Readers might want to start with this Wiki article on "Auschwitz bombing debate".

There's a couple of hi-res photos in the article, one of Auschwitz I and one of Birkenau. They illustrate the enormous difficulty in bombing the camps and destroying the gas chambers and/or crematoria but without hitting any adjacant prisoner barracks. Both photos show the gas chambers and crematoria were close to prisoner barracks. Speaking as an Air Force veteran who has done some eclectic study of such things, I don't see how it could have been done, with the technological limits of WW2 bombers, without killing thousands of prisoners, hitting all those adjacent barracks.

There is a reference in the article, "On August 24, 1944, the U.S. Army Air Corps carried out a bombing operation against a factory adjacent to the Buchenwald concentration camp. Despite perfect conditions, 315 prisoners were killed, 525 seriously harmed, and 900 lightly wounded."

The Allies had to use heavy bombers in saturation bombing of a given city, e.g. Schweinfurt, just to take out part of that city, it's bearing industry factory section. Again, the results were limited with German repair efforts compensating within a couple of months. The USAAF losses even for that limited success were staggering. (I myself am acquainted with a man who was a B-17 crewman in one of the 88 B-17s shot down -out of less than 250 total- in the two Schweinfurt-Regensburg co-raids in 1943. He spent the next two years in a German POW camp.)

Nor I suspect would attempted bombing of the railroad tracks leading to the camps have worked. The Allies had been bombing railways in much of Europe, starting in 1943. In early 1944,the Allies put enormous effort to bomb a limited number of railroads and railyards in northern France, preparatory to D-Day. Even with diverting the bulk of USAAF 8th Air Force and RAF Bomber Command bombers away from strategic bombing of Germany for this task, the results were only a limited success. And in that limited success, many thousands of Frenchmen were casualties and many private homes, civilian buildings destroyed. Plus, the ever-efficient Germans had developed equipment and processes, strategically distributed all over their domains, for speedy repair of damaged railways and rail yards.

Light bombers, such as the RAF Mosquito or the USAAF B-25 didn't have the range to reach Poland, nor could they carry enough ordnance. Nor, most importantly, were they really any more accurate than the heavy bombers.

In my opinion, any serious bombing raids against Auschwitz, Birkenau or any other death camp would probably have had even worse results than the above-referenced raid on the adjacent-to-Birkenau factory. The technology of the times just didn't allow anywhere remotely near the degree of accuracy needed.

As far as Roosevelt and the top Allied leaders, anti-Semitic or not, I'm inclined to give them the benefit of the doubt on this. By this point in the war, they would have well known the very serious limitations of "strategic bombing" in those times. The probable results of concentration camp raids would have been thousands of dead prisoners, many shot down bombers and dead aircrew and concentration camps only temporarily partly damaged.


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