Allied Knowledge of Auschwitz-Birkenau in 1943–1944

  • Richard Breitman
Part of the The Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute Series on Diplomatic and Economic History book series (WOOROO)


When we get into hypothetical questions in history—what could have been done—we have to start out by examining what was done. Then we can look at what was considered at the time, but not done, and the reasons why it was not done. Then we might look at what was technically and politically feasible, given what was known at the time. Then and only then can we proceed to discuss what should have been done. Lastly, we might want to consider what could have been done, given what we know in hindsight.


National Archive American Government Record Group Polish Government Soviet POWs 
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  1. 1.
    War Refugee Board to American Embassy, London, 9 February 1944, copy in Edmund R. Stettinius Papers, War Refugee Board Folder, University of Virginia. Pardy reprinted in David S. Wyman, The Abandonment of the Jews: America and the Holocaust 1941–1945 (New York: Pantheon Books, 1984), 291.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Martin Gilbert, Auschwitz and the Allies (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1981), esp. 339–340.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Ibid., 340.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    David Engel, Facing a Holocaust: The Polish Government in Exile and the Jews, 1943–1945 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1993), 287nl21: “The Polish government had long been in possession of information pointing to Auschwitz as a primary center for killing Jews, but it had not given such reports wide publicity.” Engel’s first volume, In the Shadow of Auschwitz: The Polish Government in Exile and the Jews, 1939–1942 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1987), 202, was even stronger: “The news [of Jews being gassed in large numbers at Auschwitz-Birkenau] may thus not have been altogether suppressed, but it was certainly so deeply buried and downplayed that only the most careful and thorough of readers would have noticed it at all, and hardly anyone would have attached to it any particular importance.”Google Scholar
  5. 11.
    Richard Breitman and Alan M. Kraut, American Refugee Policy and European Jewry, 1933–1945 (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1987), 201–202.Google Scholar

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© Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute 1996

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  • Richard Breitman

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