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Eastern Europe 1939-1945: Camps

Why didn’t Britain bomb the death camps?

A reply from the Foreign Secretary to a request by an MP to take part in a plan to evacuate Jews from Nazi territories, February 1943

Catalogue ref: FO 371/36653

Government statement on proposed evacuation of the Jews, FO 371/36653

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What is this source?

This is a response to a question by one MP, Mr. W. Brown that the Foreign Secretary would have read out in the House of Commons.


The basic request was to negotiate with the German government for the release of Jews. Similar questions had also been asked by other MPs earlier in 1943.

What's the background to this source?

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.


There were many demands for the government to take action on the Jewish issue. Some called for an evacuation programme. Others wanted the RAF to bomb the camps (see the starter source to this investigation).

It's worth knowing that...

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.

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  3. Would it be an unfair judgement to say that this source shows that the British government did not care about what was happening to the Jews?
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