Join historians, survivors and experts as they consider one of the great moral dilemmas of the 20th century. Should the Allies have risked killing Auschwitz prisoners and bombed the camp to stop future atrocities?
[ Dog barking ]
-In April 1944, with the outcome of World War II
hanging in the balance,
two Jewish prisoners lay hidden near the outer fence
of the Auschwitz concentration camp.
-It was almost impossible to escape from Auschwitz.
[ Dog barking ]
-So many people were caught
almost immediately and tortured and killed.
[ Dog growls, barks ]
-The dogs didn't sniff them out because they put tobacco
soaked in petrol around the hiding place.
[ Radio chatter ]
They managed to stay there undetected for 3 days.
-On April 10th,
they abandoned their hidingplace and cut through the fence.
-They had to be audacious. They had to be brave.
They escaped in order to warn the world
that Auschwitz was a killing mechanism.
-Their eyewitness account of the mass extermination
of European Jews would lead to one
of the greatest moral questions of the 20th century.
-[ Breathing heavily ]
-This killing complex can turn several thousands
of human beings into ash in just 24 hours.
-The failure to bomb Auschwitz, no one gave a damn.
They didn't care. They didn't want to do it.
-Auschwitz should've had the most outrageous response
while it was happening,
and that's a moral failure of the West.
-The greatest crime in modern history
went on for 2 years unimpeded.
More than one million people perished by gas,
and there was evidence of what was happening.
[ People coughing ]
Rudolf Vrba and Alfréd Wetzler
fled through Nazi-occupied Poland
to the Slovakian town of Zilina,
where they made contact with the Jewish Underground.
-If they were caught, they were dead.
The SS would brutally torture them in order to find out
how exactly they'd managed to get away and then kill them.
-Vrba and Wetzler made it to a safe house.
They were desperate to complete their mission
to let the world know what was happening to Jews in Poland.
Oskar Krasnansky of the Jewish Underground
was sent to interview the two men.
-My name is Krasnansky, from Bratislava.
How do I know you're not fantasists wasting my time?
I asked him, "Why have you put this tattoo on your arm?"
And then he looked at me, and he said,
"Where did you think I have been, in a sanatorium?"
And that's when he told me that he has been to Auschwitz.
-You must tell me everything,
every detail that you know about Auschwitz-Birkenau.
Auschwitz is a killing center.
-Not here, not now. Separately.
-The extermination of the Jews
was carried out in great secrecy.
It wasn't advertised.
Therefore, until then, we had no cogent or clear description
of what went on.
-Auschwitz is not a household name in early 1944.
-There's a lot of confusion over,
"What is this place?"
And so at the beginning, people just knew that Jews
were being taken to Nazi-occupied Poland.
-The Polish Underground had managed
to smuggle some information about the camp outside,
but on the whole, this information is fragmentary
and sometimes contradictory.
-Vrba and Wetzler's interrogation
was meticulously recorded, as if in a court of law.
-How did you escape?
-We kept to the forest traveling only by night.
-How long were you in Auschwitz?
-I arrived there on the 30th of June, 1942.
-We've heard rumors that Jews are killed there
by gas machines and by mass electrocution.
-When you look at the way he did it,
the professionalism, it reflects that this was someone
who knew the information he was getting
was potentially a game changer.
-The interview was done with the idea of,
"We might bring legal charges,
and we are going to get nothing but the facts."
-The perimeter wire is electrified.
-There are gas installations, gas chambers.
-Four gas chambers with crematoria for burning.
The first crematorium opened in March 1943
when prominent guests from Berlin
arrived to see the new installation.
That day, they were able to witness 8,000 Jews from Krakow
gassed and burned.
They were very pleased with that result.
-How do you know all this?
-I worked in the Birkenau section of the camp.
My daily duties including registering the survivors
of each transportation,
meaning those who had survived the train journey
and had not on arrival at Auschwitz
been selected for the gas.
I also got information about the precise operation
of the gas chambers and crematoria
from one of the sonderkommando.
-You really know no nothing, do you?
-The prisoners in Auschwitz-Birkenau
who knew best what happened at the gas chambers
and the crematoria were the members
of the so-called sonderkommando.
These were prisoners who were forced by the SS to assist
in the killing and cremation at the crematoria itself.
-Rudy and Freddie felt that they needed to have facts
that would convince people that this really is happening,
and it was their idea to write a report
that could be distributed and shown as evidence.
-Vrba and Wetzler wanted to include
as much granular evidence as they could in their report,
and that included some drawings.
-Auschwitz is a massive place,
and it builds up over time and in different ways,
so the first camp is Auschwitz I,
which opens in 1940.
Later, they add Birkenau a few miles away,
which is where the gas chambersand the crematorium are located.
-This is an approximate sketch of the dark heart
of Auschwitz main camp and Birkenau.
This is one of the gas chambers and crematoria
that the SS constructed in Birkenau.
It's striking how much Vrba and Wetzler
got right about the layout of the camp,
the mechanics of mass extermination,
and even down to the names of individual prisoners.
-At the end of January, a large convoy
of French and Dutch Jews arrived at Auschwitz,
but only a small proportion of those reached the camp.
-What happened to the rest of them?
-They went straight from the trains to the gas chambers.
-Did you see these selections yourself?
I belonged to a work command that took me
to a place called the Ramp,
which is where the trains came in, sometimes one a day,
sometimes five, sometimes through the night.
My job was to deal with the personal property of those Jews
who'd been selected for the gas
and to collect any dead bodies from the cattle cars.
-He sees how Jews are forced off the trains.
He sees how they have to line up.
He sees how the SS selects them
and sends those deemed to be weak and ill
and not fit for work towards the gas chambers...
...and this really gives Vrba a direct insight.
He becomes an eyewitness of the Holocaust.
-Women, children, old people, people they considered unfit
sent straight to the gas chambers.
The fittest were separated out and kept for labor.
-How many? -It varied.
A small percentage, 5% or 10%.
-All this was done with force?
-Sometimes, but usually without.
These people had no idea where they were going.
I want to emphasize this.
A train would pull in, and those getting off
would have no conception of what had just happened
to those who'd arrived a few hours before.
-They were describing the details of genocide.
How was it done?
You're asking people to believe something
that was literally beyond belief.
-How did the SS deal with these arrivals?
-Some of the groups would be frightened, disorientated.
Others would be almost relieved,
depending on how they'd been greeted by the SS.
Sometimes they could be harsh,
using the sticks, dogs, lots of shouting.
Other times, it would be,"How nice that you have arrived.
We are sorry it was not too comfortable.
Things will change now."
-Vrba's testimony had a horrifying climax --
the Nazi's new plan for Auschwitz-Birkenau.
-They are preparing for the extermination
of the Hungarian Jews.
-How do you know that?
-That is why they have built the new crematorium
and extended the Ramp.
-I said, "How do you know
the intent to kill the Hungarian Jews?"
-The SS, they talk. -To you?
-I am dirt. To each other.
I heard it more than once.
-Are you certain you heard this?
I have to ask. Are you certain?
-I heard it more than once.
It is why I knew I had to escape --
to warn people of what is to come.
-Two days later, on April 27, 1944,
Vrba's warning came true.
-Auschwitz becomes the center of the Holocaust,
and the catalyst for that is the German invasion of Hungary
in March 1944.
-The first 4,000 Jews
were sent by train from Hungary to Auschwitz.
-Hungary had the largest mostly intact Jewish community
in Europe, and the persecution starts almost immediately.
-It was a dress rehearsal for the planned annihilation
of all 800,000 Hungarian Jews.
-I would argue that the Nazis are losing the war,
and therefore, they're trying to win the genocide.
-The Nazis kept their extermination program
a closely guarded secret
to avoid resistance and disruption on the trains,
but it was no longer secret.
Vrba and Wetzler's harrowing testimony
was turned into a detailed report,
"The Auschwitz Protocol."
-"The Auschwitz Protocol" is very scientific.
There isn't a lot of emotion,
and I think that was a deliberate choice
on the part of the escapees.
They weren't going to express their horror.
The horror is there.
-Thanks to "The Protocol,"
Jewish activists in Slovakia learned of the Nazis' plans
for the Hungarian Jews, so the duty to act was theirs.
-Everybody who worked as a courier
had to be prepared to lose their own life.
They would've been tortured to reveal
where they'd gotten it.
The last thing in the world Germany wanted to happen
was that this information got out.
-In the first week of May 1944,
"The Protocol" reached Michael Weissmandl,
who secretly worked for the Jewish Underground
in the Slovakian capital.
-Rabbi Weissmandl was a very passionate man.
He's in Slovakia to rescue people.
His sole goal is to take care of his community,
and he does it with whatever means he possibly can.
-Weissmandl was not only among the first
to read these documents,
but he was the first to fully believe these documents.
-"The Protocol" was devastating for Weissmandl.
He had witnessed deportations.
He now realized the full horror that awaited
those who were forced to leave.
-Weissmandl is sending
this report everywhere he can think of.
He's trying to get it to the Jewish Agency in Jerusalem.
He's trying to get it to London, hopefully to the United States.
He's sending them all in the hopes that one cry
in the darkness will be heard.
-Our bedroom door is knocked down,
and two gendarmes are in our bedroom yelling and screaming.
"You have 2 minutes to pack a bundle.
We are taking you away." -"Give up your jewelry.
Give up anything you have in possession."
-My father looked at us as though he wanted
to save this picture in his memory of the family...
-He said, "Get out of the house."
-...and said only this sentence.
"Just stay calm.
Remember, calmness is strength," and they hit him,
pushed him through the door, and he was out.
-The rabbi was an elderly gentleman with a white beard.
He was made to walk in the front of the columns.
It was symbolic.
The Jews are leaving town.
-As the Nazis ramped up their extermination program
in the spring of 1944,
the rest of the worldwas focused on events elsewhere.
The war had reached a critical juncture.
-What was going on at that very time
in the United States and Britain was the preparations for D Day,
on which the total outcome of the war depended.
Now, this took precedence over everything.
-The Pacific war was going on for the Americans,
and that was an immense, Herculean effort.
They knew that as they moved closer to Japan,
the fight was going to get harder and harder
because the Japanese were terrifically fierce fighters.
-On the other side of Europe,
the Soviet Army at the time was working full-steam.
Stalin basically destroyed the entire German Army
in some of the greatest battles of modern history.
-While the Allies concentrated on the battlefield,
"The Protocol" gained momentum.
Weissmandl's transmission reached Roswell McClelland
at the War Refugee Board in neutral Switzerland.
-Is this it? -The War Refugee Board
was established by Roosevelt in early 1944,
and it was the only body anywhere in the world
which specifically had the task of rescuing Jews.
-They were selected for gassing.
-It gives the impression of the antechamber
of a bathing establishment.
It holds 2,000 people.
From there, a door and a few steps lead down
into the very long and narrow gas chamber.
-Roswell McClelland had a very personal reaction
because he had gone to Southern France
working with Jews in internment camps in 1942,
and he knows intimately who these people are.
He had watched them go to Auschwitz,
and now he's reading about what happened to them.
-When Rabbi Weissmandl sent "The Protocol,"
he added a dramatic postscript.
It was an appeal for help
but also a rebuke to those who might refuse.
-And you, our brothers in all the free lands,
what are you doing about the extermination
which swallows 10,000 every day?
For God's sake, do something now and quickly.
-He turned the question of what to do about the death camp
into one of the great moral issues of the 20th century.
He demanded that the Allied air forces bomb Auschwitz.
He was the first to do so.
-His call to bomb Auschwitz was essentially
a call of desperation and a call of despair.
-It's quite remarkable because they're demanding
that they bomb a camp
where their own people are being held prisoner.
It seemed very strange.
-The clock was ticking.
McClelland sent a summaryof "The Protocol" to Washington.
-Switzerland is completely surrounded by Nazi territory.
You can't have a courier go in and out,
so Roswell McClelland sends a cable and said,
"As soon as I can, you'll get the whole thing."
-Since early summer 1942,
at least 1.5 million Jews have been killed.
There is evidence that from January 1944,
preparations were being made to receive
and exterminate Hungarian Jews in these camps.
-For 3 days and 3 nights, we were locked into that box...
-Every morning, we were traveling.
They opened those shutters, and they threw out dead bodies.
-...with a tiny window for air
and one pail for bodily needs,
which turned out to be
very, very embarrassing and unpleasant.
-Something has always been going around in my mind,
and I can't get rid of it, and I feel so ashamed.
Tell me, how can a 14-year-old child...
...hope people should die
so he'll have room where to sit down?
-It was early in the morning that we arrived.
-The door opened and screams.
[ Speaking German ]
-And through the slits of the cart that we were in,
I saw the word Auschwitz.
I didn't have a clue what it was.
-Nazi soldiers standing there with rifles pointing at us.
Others holding back snarling big dogs
that were barking at us.
-The first thing was... [Inhales]
You breathe in, and it's a very strange smell.
It was sort of sweetish and burning.
-I thought, "It's a bakery, and they're baking bread."
-And then I noticed that to the left
when people older
and with glasses and children and women...
-My mother, my two little brothers,
and my baby in my mother's arm,
my grandfather, grandmother, and my aunt...
-My mother went to the left. -With a flick of his hand
to the left, they were walked off.
-We didn't even have time to say goodbye.
-And that's when I saw my father the last time.
He was 60 years old.
-Roswell McClelland's cable containing a summary of
"The Auschwitz Protocol"
and the plea to bomb the camp traveled from Switzerland
to the headquarters of the War Refugee Board in Washington.
-It is urged by all sources of this information
in Slovakia and Hungary
that vital sections of the rail lines be bombed.
They also urge that the camps of Auschwitz and Birkenau,
especially the gas chambers and crematoriums,
recognizable by their high chimneys,
be bombed from the air.
-The director of the War Refugee Board
was a lawyer named John Pehle.
The decision about what to do with this
startling information fell on his shoulders.
-John Pehle was very measured,
and he was very diligent and dogged.
He's not cynical.
He really does believe that the United States
can try to save people.
-Would you please ask Dr. Akzin to step through to my office?
Oh, and hold all incoming calls until he leaves.
-When people saw the level of detail in this atrocity,
they recognized that this was something different.
This was something horrifying.
[ Knock on door ]
-Ben, I want you to take a look this.
-Benjamin Akzin is a lawyer.
He grew up in Latvia and was an incredibly intelligent man.
He certainly still had family and friends back in Europe.
He sees the War Refugee Board as a place
where he can do some good.
-125,000 a month?
You can go straight to the President with this.
-[ Scoffs ] -What's so funny?
-It doesn't work that way, Ben.
There are procedures. There are rules.
-There are no rules for this, surely.
-If it's true.
We have to be sure. That's all.
-It's very easy for us these days
to close our eyes and imagine Auschwitz.
We've seen photos.
Many of us may have even visited Auschwitz,
and so it's really hard to reconstruct
how chaotic information about Auschwitz was.
-There are eyewitnesses, two of them.
-It is unusual, I grant.
-It's unprecedented, John, and Roswell McClelland
seems to think it's true.
That's quite something, isn't it?
Take a look at this.
It came in with the cable.
It's a list of suggestions made by Jewish groups
from Slovakia and Switzerland fielded by Roswell.
-My first thought is, "They're right."
We should bomb, send them some air mail.
-I don't think the response, "Let's bomb this place.
Can we react to this atrocity?" was at all unusual.
I think all of us would've liked to have thought
that's exactly the response we would have.
-This thing, John, it speaks of industrial slaughter.
-For a lot of people, it was "The Protocol"
that changed their mind,
that in order to stop this mass killing,
you had to take out the instrument of killing,
and the only way to take out the instrument of killing
was to bomb the camp.
-You see, I don't recall ever reading about
or hearing about a proposal like this one,
and I'm talking about in any war,
to bomb friendly civilians,
civilians we're committed to rescuing?
And that's a moral leap into...
I don't know what it is.
-Pehle perceives thatthere's not much that we can do.
The War Refugee Board is constantly trying
to get informationabout what's going on in Europe,
and I think he sees this as information
but not actionable intelligence.
-I'll make the suggestions to the War Department,
but I know what they'll say.
-It's a diversion.
-On June 29, 1944,Pehle passed the recommendations
to bomb Auschwitz up the chain of the command to John McCloy,
the Assistant Secretary of War.
-But McCloy is not inclinedto divert resources from the war
because the war was at such a critical moment
at that point in time.
-Allied forces had landedsuccessfully in France on D Day.
The supreme effort was now to drive toward Germany,
reach Berlin, and force
the unconditional surrender of the Nazis.
Round-the-clock bombing missions against German targets, urban,
military, and industrial, were intensifying.
On the Eastern Front,
the Soviet Army was advancing westward toward Poland.
-No one really grasps that this was part of an effort
to wipe out an entire people
from one end of Europe to the other and beyond.
-437,402 Jews were shipped primarily to Birkenau
on 147 trains.
147 trains during 54 days
meant an average of 2.7 trains a day,
an average of 2,975 Jews per train.
You can't say, "We shall win the war,
and then we'll worry about the refugees."
You can't go on with business as usual.
You can't imagine not doing something about it.
-This is the period in the whole history of Auschwitz
where the killing reaches its frenzied climax.
Never before have so many Jews been killed
so quickly in Auschwitz-Birkenau
as in the period between May and July 1944.
-I didn't know what a crematorium was.
I didn't know what a gas chamber was.
I didn't have a clue, but we soon found out.
It didn't take us long to find out.
-Somebody asked me, "Was your mother with you?"
I said, "No, she went left,
probably with the older women now in another block."
-And we learned finally what happened,
all those who went to the left.
We didn't want to believe it.
-And they said only this sentence.
"That's where she went. She went through the chimney."
-So we all look back at these chimneys, and I keep thinking,
"How does a person go through a chimney?"
-What, they going to burn my mother, my brother?
I didn't believe it.
-We were absolutely incredulous.
"It's not true. It's not true. It can't be."
-We got to know next day that it is true.
They were burning the families.
-"The Protocol" may have stalled in America,
but it reached the desk of Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden
The Jewish Agency representatives in London,
Chaim Weizmann and Moshe Shertok,
arranged an urgent meeting to make their plea directly.
-Chaim Weizmann was the president
of the World Zionist Organization,
and Weizmann understood very well the situation of the Jews.
Moshe Shertok was later thesecond prime minister of Israel.
-And we think some kind ofreprisal needs to be considered,
something that will act as a deterrence to Germany.
If the Auschwitz camp continues to function
as a killing center, then...
The aim being to dislocate
the machinery of annihilation and hope to save the remaining
300,000 Hungarian Jews from extermination.
-It's bold. It has imagination.
It may even work.
-And Mr. Churchill?
-Also in favor, in principle.
What we should need to do now
is examine its feasibility with the Air Ministry.
-Yes. [ Chuckles ]
Yes, of course.
-In a memo to Eden, Winston Churchill
wrote about Auschwitz,
"There is no doubt that this isprobably the most horrible crime
ever committed in the whole history of the world."
-Churchill's instincts are genuine.
He was one of the first to recognize the full gravity
of what had been going on.
-He said to Eden, "We should do something."
Then he said, "Get anything out of the Air Force you can
and invoke me if necessary."
-Eden would've interpreted it as, "Act quickly.
Act decisively, and you have my blessing."
-Two of the most powerful men in Britain
now supported the bombing of Auschwitz.
Eden summoned the head of the Air Ministry,
Sir Archibald Sinclair,
to discuss the feasibility of a raid.
-Well, it was quite a surprise, receiving this.
I mean, it hasn't been raised at cabinet, so far as I know.
-Unnecessary, according to Winston.
Well, there's a feeling in the ministry
that we shouldn't be disrupting the Normandy campaign
right now with an operation of this nature.
-There is? -Yes.
Yes, there's quite a strong feeling.
Also, isn't this a thing for our Soviet allies, anyway,
being much closer to theintended target than us, I mean.
-This is all very interesting, Archie,
but I asked you to examine the feasibility
of a bombing raid on Auschwitz-Birkenau.
-That's what I've done, Anthony.
-Well, no, you haven't done that, you see.
You have merely listed the objections the Air Force
might have to such a mission and come up with a couple
of fanciful suggestions of your own.
What we need to discover, you and I,
is whether the bombing raid on Auschwitz is actually feasible.
I think you should coordinate your thinking
with the Americans.
-Sinclair, I think he did look at it and said,
"Better hand it off to the Americans.
They're in a better position to do it than we are."
-Eden's request for a feasibility study
into bombing Auschwitz reached General Carl Spaatz,
one of the most powerful men in the Allied Air Force.
-Spaatz says, "Yes, this sounds like something
I would be willing to do."
I can't imagine that anyone like Carl Spaatz
would not have been outraged
and would not have wanted some kind of retribution
or attempt to get at this with the instrument
that was available to him,which was the long-range bomber.
-The moral question of, "Should we bomb Auschwitz?"
became a technical one.
Could we bomb Auschwitz?
-Every target that was attacked was attacked
after specialized intelligence was applied to it.
Where is it located? What does it look like?
What would be the best routes?
-The Allies had been gathering intelligence about the area
since spring 1944.
Spy planes did fly over Auschwitz-Birkenau,
but they were lookingfor factories, not a death camp.
-They had been photographing all around IG Farben in order
to support hitting the industrial areas
that were producing synthetic fuel for the Germans,
which was a critically important target.
-The photos were taken to RAF Medmenham,
where they were analyzed in 3-D.
By chance, three of them showed Auschwitz-Birkenau.
These were the images General Spaatz
-The photographs covered a wide area,
more than just the IG Farben site itself.
They were picking up Birkenau.
They had the crematoria in photographs.
They just didn't know they had them.
-By August 1944,the tide of the war was turning.
The Allies finally had supremacy in the air.
American bombers were attacking targets deep in Eastern Europe,
-They were flying to many targets right
in the vicinity of Auschwitz,
so these airplanes were, in fact,
within range of attacking the crematoria at Birkenau.
-One must remember that the idea of bombing Auschwitz
is to destroy the gas chambers without killing the people.
Now, this is extremely difficult.
The gas chambers at Auschwitzwere the size of a tennis court.
-There was nothing even remotely like precision
bombing in the Second World War.
-The American B-17s flew over 30,000 feet
at 300 miles an hour,
and the bombs they had then were extraordinarily primitive.
-If one bomb was going to hit each of the crematoria,
you would need to send roughly 220 bombers,
each of them dropping 10 bombs to have a high chance
of one bomb landing on that building.
It's very hard.
It's very hard to do this.
-The word they used is, "Bombs away"...
...and where they land, nobody knows,
and consequently, there were mistakes.
-All the options were bad options in a way
because even a small misscould've killed a lot of people.
-Despite the risks,
General Spaatzwas ready to carry out the raid.
He needed aerial photos of the camp,
but no one knew the images of IG Farben
also showed the location of Auschwitz.
Meanwhile, pressure to act came from a new source.
Rumors about Auschwitz were stoking public outrage.
-Rabbi Stephen Weisz, the head of the World Jewish Congress,
organizes a rally in Madison Square Park
in New York City on July 31, 1944,
and about 40,000 Americans attend this rally.
-It's a call for the bombing of Auschwitz,
and I think it's a striking commentary
on the level of public knowledgeand the level of public concern.
-Trains to Auschwitz continued relentlessly.
With "The Protocol,"
Jewish leaders now knew the fate of the deportees.
They demanded a meeting with John Pehle
at the War Refugee Board.
-Leon Kubowitzki of the World Jewish Congress
and Bezalel Sherman of the Jewish Labor Committee
had very different views on the bombing of Auschwitz.
-We're torn. -Of course you are.
-They were divided, and they were fearful.
One fear that they had was,
they didn't want to turn the war into a Jewish war
because the future of the world was at stake.
-We are faced, it seems, with a monstrous determination
from Nazi Germany to pursue this criminal murder
of the Jews of Europe to its bitter end.
-Hence the call to bomb these installations ourselves.
-The War Refugee Board
fully appreciates the motives behind the idea.
We know it wasn't suggested lightly,
but the fact is that the War Department still believes
that such a bombing mission can be achieved
only with considerable diversion of resources.
-I'm sorry, Mr. Sherman?
We've read the testimony of these two men
who escaped from the Auschwitz camp, the things they saw.
We've been given corroborative evidence, too.
-As have we. -So we all know.
A picture is forming of something off the human scale.
Isn't that so?
The Germans have created a factory in Poland
whose sole purpose is the eradication
by gas of an entire race of people.
I say divert.
Let's just say for a minute that the United States
or Great Britain bombs this place.
Can we know how many...
-How many Jews will be killed by our bombs?
-That's right, Mr. Sherman.
Hell, if we miss the gas chambers,
we destroy 30,000 prisoners instead.
Wouldn't that give the Nazis a great alibi?
I can hear it now.
"The Western Allies hate the Jews more than we do."
-The Germans took anything
they could grasp for propaganda purposes,
so there would've been a struggle over the narrative
of who was being more brutal.
-I believe in [Speaks foreign language]
I believe in saving those actually living.
-I don't understand what follows from that.
-You cannot kill the innocent
in order to prevent a catastrophe.
-There was a genuine debate that went on.
There were very good people
who were directly affected by the Holocaust,
who had lost members of their family,
who weren't sure that the bombing was a good thing.
-Thank you. Mr. Sherman.
-All the excuses for not bombing Auschwitz
omit the most compelling reason for bombing Auschwitz.
It would've been recognition that what was happening
there was totally evil
and unacceptable to the world itself.
-We keep repeating the line that bombing Auschwitz
would constitute a diversion, but how do we know that?
-Pehle might have said to himself, "He may be right,
and now the ball is in my court,"
and that's an awesome responsibility.
-Oh, I would bomb this infernal place.
You know I would, and the railroads too.
-That's what my gut is telling me also,
but we know it's not about the gut, is it?
It's about what the War Department wants.
-Then bypass them.
Go tell the president.
Acquaint Roosevelt with the facts, and he'll act.
-There is no evidence that Roosevelt is ever approached
about the question of whether the United States
should bomb Auschwitz.
-FDR was not well to begin with.
He was fighting polio.
He was very subject to the flu.
He had congestive heart failure.
He didn't stop working,
but he had to kind of come out of the public eye for periods.
-At the same time, Churchill'ssupport for the plan was waning.
Chaim Weizmann of the Jewish Agency was informed
by the British Foreign Office
that technical difficulties prevented the bombing.
One official dismissed the idea as fantastic
and concluded it should be dropped.
Another complained that a disproportionate amount of time
is wasted dealing with these wailing Jews.
-We're not going to believe atrocity stories.
These stories are just being told to get us
to let refugees in, to get us to let children in,
and that level of anti-Semitism
that creeps into so many decisions --
"Ah, those Jews are carping again."
-Despite being written off asa diversion from the war effort,
on September 13, 1944,
the Allies did bomb Auschwitz-Birkenau.
-Some 2,000 or so bombs rained down.
Dozens of prisoners are killed.
Hundreds more are injured.
-However, it wasn't intentional.
The target was the nearby IG Farben factory.
-Auschwitz was never a priority.
Synthetic rubber was a priority.
Synthetic gas and oil was a priority.
IG Farben was a priority.
-If there was a target that they were intended
to bomb was 4 miles away,
and this inadvertently bombed Auschwitz,
that shows how, you know, how amateurish the bombing was.
-All of a sudden, the air is full of noise.
-I'm sure that some people were hoping
they're going to bomb us or at least the gas chambers,
but I can't say I did. -We didn't care.
We were hoping that they should bomb that place.
-I said, "My God, you know, finally they have arrived,"
and I said, "Keep bombing
the hell out of this place no matter what happens."
-In April 1944, Vrba and Wetzler
escaped from Auschwitz to warn the world
about the extermination of the European Jews.
By September, still nothing had been done.
-The American army reaches the border of Switzerland
at the end of September, freeing, for the first time,
all of the people inside Switzerland
who can now send messages to the wider world.
-John Pehle at the War Refugee Board
finally received the full "Protocol" in early November.
What he read shocked him to his core.
-This version of "The Protocol" is much longer.
It reads more like a testimony.
"This is what Auschwitz is.
It is a place where horrific things are happening."
-The difference when the full report is released is stunning.
You can put them side-by-side,
and you see a striking difference.
-Gassing took place as follows.
The unfortunate victims were brought into the hall,
where they were asked to undress.
-Each person receives a towel and a small piece of soap
issued to them by two men clad in white coats.
They are then crowded into the gas chambers in such numbers
that there is only standing room.
-When they were all inside, they closed this heavy door...
...and there was a short pause.
-After which SS men in gas masks climbed the roof,
opened the traps, and shake down a preparation in powder form
from tin cans labeled, "Zyklon. For use against vermin,"
manufactured by a Hamburg concern.
-It's a cyanide mixture that turns to gas
at certain temperatures,
and after 3 minutes,
everyone in the chamber was dead.
-When Pehle saw the entire report,
his conscious could no longer allow him to be tentative
or to sit quietly.
-Mr. McCloy, good morning, sir.
John Pehle here.
I have something I think you must see.
It's a report from Auschwitz.
-His reaction was, "It's worse than I thought.
I thought it was extraordinarily evil.
This is by a magnitude even more than that."
-He goes back to John McCloy.
He sends him a copy of "The Protocols"
with a cover note that says,
"I am now convinced that we need to use direct bombing action
to destroy the gas chambers
and crematorium in Auschwitz-Birkenau."
-Pehle was told conclusively by Assistant Secretary
of War John McCloy that bombing Auschwitz
was not feasible from a military standpoint.
-He says, "There is considerable opinion to the effect
that such an action, even if practicable,
might provoke a more vindictive response
on the part of the Germans."
What's more vindictive than Auschwitz?
-The officials who made the decision
that this shouldn't be done,
they weren't concerned about the people in the camp.
From everything we know,
the vast majority of them just sloughed it off.
-Pehle couldn't force the War Department to act.
Instead, he leaked the full version of "The Protocol"
to newspapers with a cover letter.
-So revolting and diabolical are the German atrocities
that the minds of civilized people find it difficult
to believe they've actually taken place.
-Pehle understood his responsibilities,
and that was his greatness.
I regarded John Pehle as one of the great American heroes,
and he said, "We did too little, and we did too late."
-Pehle knew what he was doing,
and he played the media card very, very well.
It got a great deal of attention.
It was all over the newspapers.
-This is front-page news nationwide.
The Washington Post publishes
an editorial entitled "Genocide."
It's the first time that wordappears in a national newspaper.
The day that this information isreleased to the American people,
the Nazis destroy the gas chambers.
-It was an attempt to destroy the evidence,
but it didn't work.
Two months later, on January 27, 1945,
Auschwitz was liberated by the Red Army.
-The Soviet soldiers who entered Auschwitz were moved
and shaken by what they saw.
They understood that they had come across something unique,
that they had seen somethinghorrific beyond the imagination.
-I wish the British or the Americans
had pushed for this target
to have been bombed as a statement of principle,
as a statement to the Nazis that this is atrocious,
and we as the human species will not stand for it.
-It's one of the most emotive things that's ever happened
in modern history.
You could say this is a great failure,
but one has to understand that they're fighting a world war
and the fate of the surviving Jews of Europe
largely depended on liberating Nazi-occupied Europe
and destroying the Nazi regime.
-I would advocate bombing
as a statement of profound moral outrage,
but do I think it would've solved the problem?
No, and I think the critics who say
that it would have haven't read the history well.
But moral protest in the wake of genocide is much better
than nothing, much, much better than nothing.
-I think it's important when people
are being subjected to genocide for the world to say,
"We do give a damn,"
because you don't knowwhere it's going to happen next.
-We came to the position that we had to recommend this
and that it should be done,
and not only should the rail lines be bombed,
but the crematoria should be bombed too.
It's tragic that we didn't take this position
in the first place, but that is the fact.