Catalogue ref: FO 371/42806
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This is a letter from the Jewish Agency for Palestine to the Foreign Office enclosing plans and descriptions of Auschwitz and Treblinka death-camps. Here is the information that came with the letter regarding the concentration camp at Auschwitz. The resistance movement in occupied Poland would probably have smuggled this information out.
The Jewish Agency for Palestine set was up in 1923 during period of the British Mandate of Palestine. Its role was to represent the Jewish community in Palestine.
In 1942 Hitler’s armies had carved out a huge empire in Eastern Europe. During their invasions German forces had taken a large number of European Jews prisoner. At first they were forced into ghettoes, used in slave labour or simply shot.
From 1942 so many Jews were under Nazi control that the Nazi leaders came up with plans for a ‘Final Solution’. This involved building camps that were used to execute millions of Jews and other groups the Nazis regarded as inferior.
Many Jews tried to escape the Nazis, and many non-Jews helped them. As a result there was a constant stream of information coming back to Allied commanders and Jewish communities about what was happening in Eastern Europe.
The decision not to bomb the camps proved highly controversial then and now. There were major difficulties. The location of the camps meant that bombers would have to fly long distances across well-defended German territory. Losses among bomber crews were very high and this mission would probably have resulted in high casualty rates. Another problem was the difficulty of locating the camps and actually hitting them. Wartime bombing was extremely difficult and bombs were often many miles off target. The Air Ministry had requested information concerning the layout of the camps (see Churchill’s note to his Private Secretary in the source box).
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