WASHINGTON, D.C. – Discussions about a possible U.S. bombing of Auschwitz reached much higher levels of the Roosevelt administration than previously believed, according to new research which has been revealed on the eve of Holocaust Memorial Day.
A just-published book, FDR and the Holocaust: A Breach of Faith, by Dr. Rafael Medoff, reveals that an American Jewish leader spoke directly to Secretary of State Cordell Hull and Secretary of War Henry Stimson in 1944 about bombing the railway lines leading to the notorious Nazi death camp.
Dr. Medoff cites previously unpublished documents showing that Meier Schenkolewski, an official of the U.S. Orthodox Jewish advocacy group Agudath Israel, met separately with Secretary Hull and Secretary Stimson on June 19, 1944, and urged them to bring about a bombing of the railroad lines, which were used to transport Jews to Auschwitz.
Secretary Hull promised Schenkolewski that he would “discuss the matter during the course of this week in a [meeting] of the War Refugee Board.” However, there is no record of Hull ever doing so.
Secretary Stimson told Schenkolewski that “the whole matter is within the competence of the Russian Military Command.” That claim was disingenuous. Since April 4, American and other Allied planes had been carrying out photo reconnaissance missions in the area around Auschwitz, in preparation for attacking German oil factories and other industrial sites in the region. During the summer and autumn of 1944, U.S. planes repeatedly hit German targets that in some cases were less than five miles from the gas chambers and crematoria of Auschwitz.
“Until now, it was believed that the bombing requests made by Jewish leaders were seen only by lower-level government officials,” Dr. Medoff said. “This new evidence reveals for the first time that bombing Auschwitz was discussed by members of President Roosevelt’s cabinet–in fact, by the two cabinet members who were best positioned to promote the bombing idea, if they had so chosen. Sadly, they preferred to make excuses, shift the blame, and bury the bombing requests.”
Holocaust Memorial Day (Yom HaShoah) will be observed on Sunday evening, April 7.
The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies
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