Why did the Allies refuse to bomb the Nazi gas chambers?

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The terror figures are still surprising no matter how much they have been repeated to satiety. More than 1.3 million innocents were deported to Auschwitz concentration and extermination camp. The historians affirm that, of them, to a minimum of 900,000 they took their lives in the gas chambers. Jews, polish, gypsies… Hundreds of thousands of innocents passed through this death center raised by the Nazis in Poland and very few could enjoy their liberation on January 27, 1945. Since then, there is still a difficult question to answer: why, during the Second World War, the Allied bombers did not reduce it to ashes or attacked the railways that took the victims to the place?

Among the historians who have wanted to respond to this dilemma, the popular Andrew Roberts, one of the great disseminators of the Second World War. In his magnum opus, “The storm of war” (21st century of Spain Editores, 2012), he clarifies that there was an internal debate among the Allied leaders about whether or not to bomb the gas chambers of Auschwitz. In turn, the British confirms that, despite what has been extended, this possibility was plausible at the beginning of 1944. However, the probability of ending hundreds of prisoners during the attack, as well as the amount of money they owed investing in it, made them bet on waiting for the troops to free the concentration camp after the Normandy Landings.

«We fully appreciate the humanitarian importance of the suggested operation. However, after the forced analysis of the problem, it is considered that the most effective way to alleviate the victims (…) is a rapid defeat of the Axis, ”replied the United States Department of War when he received the bombing proposal. To do this, unfortunately, there were still many moons. From the June 6, 1944 (the famous Day D) until the end of January, the soldiers had to cover almost 2,000 kilometers of land covered by Nazi troops. In the end, the impossibility of advancing caused the field to be released by the USSR the day 27. But, by then, the Third Reich had already forced hundreds of thousands of prisoners to leave Auschwitz on calls’Death marches‘to prevent them from narrating the barbarities they had to go through.

Known barbarism

Although there has been much speculation about the ignorance of Allies of the Final solution (the systematic murder of Jews and many other peoples in the concentration camps), the reality is that, in August 1942, the US Department of State. received a report from Gerhart Riegner (of the World Jewish Congress) in which it was explained that the Third Reich He had begun the annihilation of his people in Europe. Already then they refused to spread this information because they were not contrasted. Shortly after, the December 17When they were able to confirm that it was real, the United States, Great Britain and ten other governments issued a joint declaration in which they condemned that brutality and held Germany and Adolf Hitler

A couple of years later, in April 1944, Rudolf Vrba and Alfred Wetzler, two Slovak inmates Auschwitz, the local resistance reported by the Nazis against the Jewish people after starring in an incredible escape from that hell. In his extensive work on concentration camps, the author Henryk Świebocki states that the reports written on the basis of their statements were sent (under the name of «Auschtwitz protocols») To an endless number of organizations like the World Jewish Congress in Geneva, he Vatican, he American War Refugee Council and the different governments that participated in World War II. From then on everything changed and, according to “The Total War” (Plaza and Janés, 2019), “the media also informed many Germans of the atrocities,” as millions of people in the country listened to the BBC .

One of the first to know the testimonies of the two escaped prisoners was the rabbi Michael Weissmandl (who worked for local resistance in the Slovak capital). This religious made an effort to send the Allies the protocols, although with a slight modification: he included an annotation in which he requested, for the first time, the Auschwitz bombing. To be more specific, he demanded that the air forces destroy the gas chambers and crematoriums (in his words, easily recognizable thanks to their high chimneys) even at the cost of ending the lives of some inmates in the process. He knew what it meant, but he also understood that the price had to be paid so that the thousands of Hungarian deportees who had just arrived at the camp were not exterminated.

Feasible solution

In his work, Roberts analyzes the real possibilities of carrying out these bombings by the Allies. At the logistic level, it states that it was plausible because, at the beginning of 1944 (when this sad request was received) the USAAF (the United States Air Force) and the RAF (the Royal British Air Force) had already determined to supply weapons, since the summer and through Italy, «to the Polish army (Polish Home Army) »So that their fighters could carry out the Warsaw uprising (occurred shortly after, between August 1 and October 2 of that same year). In practice, their planes would hardly have had to deviate some 300 kilometers to destroy the gas chambers of Auschwitz.

As if that were not enough, the distance was much smaller in the case of the railways that transported the inmates and the stations from which they departed. This point especially scales Roberts because, in his words, in the early summer of 1944 “French rail lines, stations, depots, detours and maneuver points” were already priority objectives of the air forces to prevent Germans from transporting reinforcements to the beaches of Northern France after the Normandy’s landing.

Flying Fortress B-17
Flying Fortress B-17

That it was feasible to send airplanes until Auschwitz became apparent shortly after, in August 1944, when the United States Air Force bombed the company’s industrial complex I. G. Farben (located in Monowitz, at a ridiculous distance from the center of death because it sought to feed on slave labor) and ended the life of 40 Jewish inmates and 15 members of the fearsome SS. «During the bombing the planes were able to clearly photograph the cremation facilities of Auschwitz-Birkenau“, Add Álvaro Lozano in «Nazi Germany» (Marcial Pons, 2008). That day, in Roberts’ words, the prisoners of the concentration camp celebrated the swastika blow “in spite of the almost three to one ratio between oppressed and oppressors.”

For his part, the British historian Michael Burleigh affirms in his work «Moral combat. A history of the Second World War »(Taurus, 2011) that the British knew about the existence of gas chambers and crematoriums firsthand because their reconnaissance aircraft had« lenses that increased by four or seven times » the images captured on reconnaissance flights over the concentration camp. In his words, his interest was in the complex’s synthetic fuel factory I. G. Farbenm for the advantages it gave the Nazis to move their armored vehicles, and not to save the inmates.

The Allies debate

The «Auschwitz Protocols» They were received very differently in the different Allied countries. In the United States the War Refugee Council studied, at least in principle, several possibilities to end the Nazi presence in the complex. Among them were bombing the concentration camp, nourishing gun prisoners by air or even launching airborne units (by then the 82nd and 101st divisions) about the place to release it. This body delivered a report with the conclusions reached between the July 10 and 15, 1944. However, the document in question did not reach the military status because they considered all of them unfeasible.

John McCloy "width =" 220 "height =" 220
John McCloy

Shortly before, the June 26 of that same year, the main Jewish organizations of the United States had insisted on the need to end gas chambers, crematoriums and seven railway tracks of Auschwitz. The answer was blunt. He Department of War He explained that, although he understood the hardships to which the prisoners were subjected, the reality was that the mission could fail. «We fully appreciate the humanitarian importance of the suggested operation. However, after the forced analysis of the problem, it is considered that the most effective way to relieve victims (…) is a rapid defeat of the Axis, ”the agency determined. His maxim was that the liberation should be carried out by the troops that had stepped on France. In their favor they argued that the battle for Normandy It wasn’t over yet (which didn’t happen until the fall of fall, July 9).

Another of the detractors against which the crashed «Auschwitz Protocols» was the deputy secretary of war John McCloy, who was opposed to the bombing because “it could only be executed by diverting considerable air support, essential for the success of our forces in operations, decisive in other places.” This soldier added that, even if it were feasible, “its effectiveness would be so doubtful that it would not justify the use of our resources.” On paper the data supported him since, in the incursions made on enemy territory from the August 20, 1944 From southern Italy, the Area Force had lost a whopping 127 Flying Fortresses B-17.

McCloy, as the BBC explains in its article “The Auschwitz Protocol: the bold escape that revealed to the world the horrors of the extermination camp (and the moral dilemma that it caused)”, was also screened at the possibility that the mission failed and the Nazis will charge, in retaliation, against the prisoners. “There has been a considerable opinion that such an effort, even if possible, could provoke even more vindictive action by the Germans,” he added. To all this was added the high probability of killing hundreds of prisoners because of the lack of precision with which superbombarderos they threw their explosives.

Railroad tracks to the countryside
Railroad tracks to the countryside

The British received the reports in a different way. The impulsive Winston churchill gladly accepted that the RAF be diverted to rain bombs on Auschwitz. But, in the end, his advisors managed to change his mind. Once again, and always according to Roberts, the figures made the mission difficult. “The provision of the Warsaw uprising by air had been costly for the RAF: in the 22 missions carried out in six weeks, until mid-August 1944, 31 of the 181 planes had not been able to return“, Explain. For its part, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs He refused to carry out “missions that cost lives and British planes for nothing.” Hard words of an organism that, during Second World WarHe called the Jews “complaining.”

In the end, and as well narrated in the BBC article, Auschwitz was bombed, although by mistake, the September 13, 1944. Already then, when the explosives fell on the barracks of the camp, the inmates gave thanks because they considered that the Allies came to save them. For them, the 2,000 bombs that destroyed the area were synonymous with freedom. They did not know that their goal was, again, I. G. Farben. In any case, the debate is still open today.


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