Holocaust Education & Archive Research Team
[The Occupied Nations]
The Allied Reaction Regarding the Holocaust During 1942
"What the Allies Knew"
The following letters, reports, telegrams indicate the Nazis brutal persecution of the Jews in Poland, and the extent to which the Allies knew what was happening in Poland.
General Sikorski’s broadcast to Poland of June 9 1942:
The wave of terror in Poland has assumed such vast dimensions in the spring of this year after Himmler’s visit that the Polish Government has again decided to call the attention of the Allied Nations to these crimes unheard of in history.
On Saturday, June 6, the Polish Cabinet debated the form of this protest, and it has been decided that General Sikorski shall give a protest speech on the radio to Poland. This protest shall be made known to the world in a diplomatic note which the Polish Government will address to all Allied and Neutral Governments.
In the speech of protest broadcast today General Sikorski surveyed the new wave of terror which began in March of this year. He said:
"Mass shootings and torture of tens of thousands in concentration camps: confiscation of property and all means of production: expulsion from businesses: the deportation of over a million and a half people: the systematic starvation of the Polish nation, and the banning of any assistance to the sick and feeble: the methodical and continuous destruction of all Polish culture: the ruthless extermination of everything Polish in lands inhabited by Poles for a thousand years – all these continue without respite.
For some time we did not bring this appalling state of affairs to the notice of the world, but confined ourselves to noting only the facts and their perpetrators, so that the hour of victory should also be the hour of stern retribution. However when –under the influence of insane fear – the wave of terror assumed such vast dimensions in Poland in the spring of this year, that is to say, after Himmler’s visit to our country, the Polish Government again decided to call the attention of the Allied nations to these crimes, unheard of in history.
This new wave of terror began in March of this year by mass arrests in Warsaw, Cracow, Lublin and other Polish towns, and by the deportation of the prisoners thus seized, including a large number of women, to concentration camps ill-famed for their cruelty.
The professors of the Lwow University who were imprisoned after the Germans entered the city have been deported to an unknown destination, and there is no trace of their whereabouts.
The same thing happened in Wilno where the Archbishop Mgr. Jabrzykowski, a great patriot, beloved by his flock, was also arrested and with him the Canons of the Cathedral and the professors and students of the local seminary. In the prisons of Poznan a number of prominent local citizens were tortured to death, additional victims who have been sentenced to death await execution.
To smash the resistance of the railwaymen in the Upper Silesia junction’s gallows have been erected in eighteen Silesian towns. Members of the educated classes, railwaymen and workers, are being hanged there, and simultaneously all the schoolchildren of Upper Silesia are herded there to watch this cruel spectacle.
New concentration camps have been set up in which peasants are herded for their refusal to supply the occupying authorities with their quotas of agricultural produce.
The German authorities, in deathly fear of a Polish rising, sent 1200 officers of the reserve to concentration camps in April of this year. Several scores of Polish war-prisoners were charged and tried, and as a rule, sentenced to death or life-long imprisonment.
In February of this year special lecturers arrived in Poland from Germany, and in confidential German meetings they reviewed the general war situation and explained the necessity for a policy of increased terrorism in the following words: “The war is nearing its end and the final decision will soon be reached.”
The Germans who came to the occupied countries must defend themselves on the spot and must actively co-operate with the occupying armies, as the menace of the enemy is everywhere present. These Germans must rely on their own strength in the first resort, they must be the guardians of the German armies’ rear. They must keep constant watch on their own houses and on those of their neighbours. The front turns its eyes to them and requires sacrifices from them.
The year 1918 cannot be repeated and they are to see to this. The present war is not a war for territories or frontiers but a struggle for the very existence of Germany. In accordance with this view-point which betrays so significant a state of mind, military organisations have been formed to which all civilian Germans belong. They were given arms, they obtained the right to have their own court of law and they were promised complete impunity for any acts of brute force which they might commit against the defenceless population.
Once more, Germany is seeking hostages in mass from amongst well known social and political workers and every class of the nation. A month ago in Warsaw a hundred of them were shot as a reprisal for the shooting of one German and in the Lublin district 400 were executed for the killing of one German henchman.
The Jewish population in Poland is doomed to die out in accordance with slogan: “all the Jews should have their throats cut, no matter what the outcome of this war may be.”
Real massacres of tens of thousands of Jews in Lublin, Wilno, Lwow, Stanislawow, Rzeszow and Miechow have been carried out this year. People are being starved to death in the ghettos. Mass executions are held: even those suffering from typhus are shot.
Finally, the German Reich which is threatened by the gravest shortage of man-power has committed the greatest possible outrage. In Western Poland which was incorporated in the Reich against international law the German authorities are forcibly enrolling Poles in their army. The number of Poles thus enrolled already amounts to 70,000 in Pomerania and to 100,000 in Silesia.
In the so-called General Government the Poles are forced to serve in the auxiliary formations of the German Army. Both these measures are not only a clear violation of the Hague Convention of 1907 and contrary to elementary international usage, they are simply criminal.
The citizens of an occupied country are being compelled by brute force to spill their blood in the cause of the hated invader. They are being forced to fight against their brothers. The determined resistance to and the mass desertions from this press-gang conscription, unheard of in the 20th century, have already lead to numerous death sentences in the home country.
The Polish Government is bringing all these facts to the cognisance of the Allied Governments and to the public opinion of the world. The German terror is also raging in other countries of Europe today. The perpetrators of these crimes must be brought to account and this principle ought to become the guiding policy of the Allies.
Only the announcement of retribution and the application of reprisals wherever possible can stop the rising tide of madness of the German assassins and save hundreds of thousands of innocent victims from certain death.
While I am paying my deepest homage to the memory of the murdered and tortured victims, I wish to assure my country on behalf of the Polish Government that the latter is fully aware of all these crimes and will not omit any one of them from the final reckoning.
Be certain of victory – endure – do not allow yourselves to be deflected by outbursts of despair – do not let yourselves be influenced by false suggestions. Maintain your discipline and determination as heretofore, those qualities which have evoked admiration and respect for the Polish nation throughout the world.
Germany has always worshipped brute force and has stained her path with rivers of blood. The Germans will certainly not overturn the Nazi regime of their own free will, as this regime is ideally suited to their innate characteristics.
Therefore the year 1918 will not be repeated in this war. But Germany who, as Goering has said, has been raised high by the genius of her Fuhrer, will fall into a bottomless abyss when the power of the German Army and of the Nazi Party have been broken.
Germany cannot escape her defeat. This is clearly shown by the events on all war fronts and by the gigantic raids of the Allied Air Forces, which bring the German nation only a foretaste of the just and well merited retribution she will undergo.
From Washington to Foreign Office
September 4th 1942
1. Polish Ambassador left with me this afternoon following memorandum.
Mr. Jacob Rosenheim, President of the World Orthodox Organisation “Agudas Izrael” had received disturbing news about the evacuation of the Ghetto of Warsaw from a trust-worthy informant.
According to this information, the German authorities have brutally murdered 100,000 Jews and further annihilation is continuing. These mass murders are carried out also on Jews deported from other occupied countries. It is alleged that soap and artificial fertilisers are being produced from the bodies of the murdered persons. Similar information has been reaching also the American authorities, which are conducting an investigation with a view of establishing the authenticity of these reports.
Mr Rosenheim has addressed a telegram to the President of the United States, asking for his intervention and a delegation of prominent Jews is planning to call upon the President and present to him this unprecedented act of cruelty perpetrated upon innocent people.
2. He had seen Atherton, who said that United States Government had received similar information at the beginning of August, and were trying to ascertain degree of veracity.
To: Jewish World Congress
From: Abraham Stupp
Yours 24 exchange people mostly Palestinian, some Polish with visas they report deportations started April after Himmler’s visit. First came Lublin 70,000 deported out those 7,000 sent camps Majdany, 63,000 no trace left, presumably murdered Stop.
Krakow in May only 6,000 Jews remained –others deported, unknown direction. Tarnow deported 10,000 – 7,000 shot Railway Station. Stop
Warsaw deportations since 22 June 7,000 daily, once 20,000 Stop By October 36,000 remained. Stop. Deported carried Treblinka there everyday trainloads Jews arrive –they are stripped naked – clothes given tailors be cut through search jewellery.
All heaps clothes lie about then Jews taken so-called Bath-house hermetically closed chamber, air pumped away people suffocate, other reports say Jews killed poison gas. Fact is no one left alive, dead bodies burned ashes continually carried out. Stop.
From part Poland annexed Germany deportations started January 1942. Jews sent village Chelma there murdered as follows. Taken to barn and ordered undress, then truck with specially built iron superstructure brought close
–Barn door – people packed into then truck hermetically closed – driven neighbouring wood there common graves dug –truck brought edge of pit and opened – dead bodies fell into pit arranged layers and poured upon lime and sand. Stop.
Note: Chelmna should read Chelmno (Kulmhof in German)
Piotrkow deportations October special detachments Germans Ukrainians surround ghetto – Jews driven out houses to big square outside ghetto
– selection followed picked up with Labour certificates remained others packed cattle trucks over 90 persons each – 18,000 deported Piotrkow that way when loading trucks Germans stripped Jews. Stop.
Before leaving many shot by soldiers. Stop. Jewish policemen ordered take bodies away – Jews driven through streets frantic pace, old men, women, sick, cripples lag behind and were shot. Stop. Children torn off parents, One trainload entirely of children. Stop.
Schwarzbart cabled in addition Gestapo men asked payment for quicker killing. Stop.
We beg you cable immediately to what extent those facts were known to you since when and from what sources. Stop. Here common mourning outcry of despair demand civilised world Governments put end crimes. Stop.
Approach Silkorski – influence Allied Governments to rescue Polish Jewry – we cabling our appeal Heads Democratic Nations representation Polish Jewry
To: Jewish Congress
330 West – 42nd Street
New York City
From: Ignacy Schwarzbart
Special Official envoy Gentile escaped and arrived here left capital this October – saw Warsaw Ghetto on last August and September witnessed mass murder of one transport six thousand Jews at Belzec.
Spoke to him yesterday 3 hours confirm all most horrible mass atrocities- still living all remnants of Jews facing death Stop. Brought desperate appeal of this remnant to World Jewry sending report Stop
Constantly negotiating Raczynski Jewish Joint Committee for diplomatic and rescue action settled details shortly – Governments published full report sent inform representatives but press only without
Censors Note: Mentioning
NLT International Colour Co Broad St London
15 December 1942
Horrified and shocked by the wholesale systematic slaughter and extermination of Jews innocent children and women by the Nazi beasts in Poland. Stop.
Imploring your appeal relatives Friends and Public Opinion to awake human feelings and conscience
Your enquiry regarding the Polish Government’s note on the persecution of Jews in Poland.
The Polish Government’s note summarised and confirmed information which had already reached me from reliable Polish and Jewish sources indicating the intensification of German anti-Jewish measures in Poland.
As I informed the War Cabinet on December 7th, I proposed early last week to the United States and Soviet Governments that we should issue a joint Declaration condemning these German measures, expressing sympathy with the victims and reminding those responsible of the retribution awaiting them.
The Allied Governments in London and the French National Committee subsequently wished to be associated with this Declaration. The Dominions Office are also in communication with the Dominion Governments.
The United States Government and the Soviet Government have agreed to the above and it is proposed to issue the Declaration on Thursday, December 17th.
In view of parliamentary interest I think our statement should be made in Parliament. I have throughout been in touch with representative Jewish spokesmen.
14 December 1942
The attention of the Governments of Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Greece, Luxemburg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, the United States of America, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, Yugoslavia and the French National Committee has been drawn to numerous reports from Europe that the German authorities, not content with denying to persons of Jewish race in all the territories over which their barbarous rule has been extended, the most elementary human rights, are now carrying into effect Hitler’s oft repeated intention to exterminate the Jewish people in Europe.
From all the occupied countries Jews are being transported, in conditions of appalling horror and brutality, to Eastern Europe. In Poland, which has been made the principal Nazi slaughterhouse, the ghettos established by the German invaders are being systematically emptied of all Jews except a few highly skilled workers required for war industries.
None of those taken away are ever heard of again. The able-bodied are slowly worked to death in labour camps. The infirm are left to die of exposure and starvation or are deliberately massacred in mass executions. The number of victims of these bloody cruelties is reckoned in many hundreds of thousands of entirely innocent men, women and children.
The above mentioned Governments condemn in the strongest possible terms this bestial policy of cold-blooded extermination. They declare that such events can only strengthen the resolve of all freedom loving peoples to overthrow the barbarous Hitler tyranny. They re-affirm their solemn resolution to ensure, in common with the Governments of the United Nations, that those responsible for these crimes shall not escape retribution, and to press on with the necessary practical measures to this end.
54 Egerton Crescent
December 8 1942
The present position as regards my proposed broadcast about the Jews in Poland is that McLaren is negotiating with the BBC, for me to be allowed to give a regular talk of 10 to 12 minutes – in English of course.
I enclose a copy of the draft talk I have prepared which would, I think, take just about 10 minutes to deliver. McLaren has not seen it in its present form but he has seen, and approved, earlier drafts which did not differ materially from the present version.
F.K. Roberts Esq
Draft of Talk
The Warsaw ghetto is being liquidated. For 3 years I have looked forward to the day when the Poles, free once more, would throw open the gates of the barbarous monstrosity which the German New Order had imposed on their capital, but now in the light of the latest news, some of which you will have read in your daily papers, I ask myself how many Jews will be left to profit by the day of liberation.
I lived for 20 years in Poland: I know Warsaw and Cracow as well as I know any English town and for that reason I should like to talk to you today about the Jews in Poland, their life before the war and their life under the German occupation.
Probably many of you who are listening to me have visited Whitechapel. You know how full of life it is but can you imagine what it would be like if it were surrounded with a high wall and all the Jews from the rest of the British Isles driven pell-mell to live inside it, after first being robbed of their property.
Before the war about 300,000 persons of Jewish race lived in Warsaw. Many of the well-to-do lived in the best residential quarters side by side with the Poles, but there was a well defined quarter of the city, occupied almost exclusively by Jews who lived and worked in it.
Some of the streets, being densely inhabited by very poor people, were sordid, but not more so than some of the streets inhabited by Poles or than slum streets in any large town.
There was nothing either grim or picturesque in Warsaw’s Jewish quarters, but none the less I was often asked by visiting Britisher’s to show them round it. My charge returned without any thrilling experiences but usually with many parcels, the fruit of shopping in the quite first-rate Jewish shops of the Nalewki and the Bielanska.
Personally I was glad if an errand took me through some Jewish streets. The impression of life in them was very pleasant. The business of buying and selling was conducted with plenty of vivacity. Work was humming in the innumerable, usually small, workshops.
And the children on their way to and from school were just as lively as Polish or English children. In Poland as everywhere else Jews are the most devoted of parents. How ever poor a family might be, a sick child would be taken as a matter of course to a first-class doctor, and parents half-starved themselves to pay their children’s school fees.
The apostles of the New Order began by turning what used to be a quarter inhabited by Jews of their own free will into a real Ghetto. The Ghetto, which under the Polish rule was not in the least separated from the rest of the town, was surrounded by a high wall, through the few gateways piercing which Jews could not pass without special permits.
Passengers in the tram, which in one place traverses a stretch of the Ghetto, could see beyond high barbed –wire entanglements the Ghetto dwellers prowling along the pavements, starved not only of bread but of work.
For what used to be a hive of industry soon became a city of the dying. Many of the physically fit were transferred to distant labour camps; others were daily escorted to workshops to work at starvation wages for the German authorities. Most of the other inhabitants of the Ghetto had to live by illicit buying and selling – if they had anything left to sell.
In March of this year according to the Germans there were 433,000 persons in the Warsaw Ghetto. The Germans justified their herding of the Jews into separate closed quarters by the assertion that they live in filth and spread diseases.
But, if cases of spotted typhus rose from 2 a month in the whole of Warsaw in 1938 to 15,000 in the Jewish quarter alone in 1941, the fault was with the Germans who herded 500,000 Jews into a space barely large enough for half the number. The death rate, especially among the children, was appalling but nonetheless until recently the population remained about the same. New candidates for death from all over Europe were thrust in before there had been time to bury the dead.
But worse will still to come. The ghetto was too good for those Jews, old people, women, children and invalids, who had not the strength and health to work in factories for the Germans. By September 1st last, about 250,000 Jews had already been sent away. The number of food cards for Jews was reduced from 120,000 in September to 40,000 in October.
The deportations have been carried out so as to entail as many deaths as possible before the destination is reached and there is only too much reason to fear that for all except a few able-bodied men the destination has been death in some form or other.
Among those who have disappeared is Janusz Korczak, well-known in Poland as the author of charming stories for children and still better known in Warsaw as the director and animating spirit of an orphanage for Jewish children.
I saw him last in the spring of 1939 when he came to tell me with a truly Franciscan glee and gratitude of the help his beloved orphanage had received from the Society of Friends in London. And now the Germans have deported the orphans in his home and all that is known for certain that he and the matron refused to abandon the children and left Warsaw with them.
Before I close, just one recollection of happier times...
In Polish days there was no more charming sight than Friday evening after sundown in the streets round the famous medieval synagogue of Cracow. Through the windows one could see the tables laid and the candles lighted for the Sabbath meal.
Along the streets towards the synagogue were walking men and boys wearing spotless gabardines of black satin and broad brimmed black hats. Poland is a profoundly religious country but not even in the village churches or in the great shrines of Our Lady at Wilno or Czestochowa have I seen a more beautiful and touching expression of piety than in the Jewish quarters of Galician towns.
Brothers and sisters of another faith, may God support you in your hour of trial and agony and may I live to see Poles and Jews once more living freely side by side as they lived for 700 years at least.
The History of the Second World War – published by Purnell London 1966
Holocaust Historical Society
Polish Library London
Copyright Chris Webb & Victor Smart 2009