Morgenthau argues for direct action to help the Jews

Although the Allies had substantial evidence of the Holocaust by 1944, the true scale of what the Nazis were doing was not fully realised until the camps were liberated and pictures emerged.  Starved prisoners, nearly dead from hunger, pose in concentration camp in Ebensee, Austria. The camp was reputedly used for "scientific" experiments. It was liberated by the 80th Division. May 7, 1945. Lt. A. E. Samuelson. (Army)

Although the Allies had substantial evidence of the Holocaust by 1944, the true scale of what the Nazis were doing was not fully realised until the camps were liberated and pictures emerged.
Starved prisoners, nearly dead from hunger, pose in concentration camp in Ebensee, Austria. The camp was reputedly used for “scientific” experiments. It was liberated by the 80th Division. May 7, 1945. Lt. A. E. Samuelson. (Army)

While Roosevelt was setting out his objectives for post war security, not every member of his administration was was confident that they were doing all they could to prevent current Nazi crimes against the Jews.

When US Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau, the only Jewish member of Roosevelt’s cabinet, tried to establish mechanisms to assist Jews to leave Europe he ran into perceived obstruction from the State Department

Treasury officials John Pehle, Randolph Paul, and Josiah DuBois presented Morgenthau with an 18-page memorandum entitled “Report to the Secretary on the Acquiescence of This Government in the Murder of Jews” on January 13, 1944. The report formed the basis for Morgenthau’s discussion with Roosevelt on 16th January:

One of the greatest crimes in history, the slaughter of the Jewish people in Europe, is continuing unabated.

This Government has for a long time maintained that its policy is to work out programs to serve those Jews of Europe who could be saved.

I am convinced on the basis of the information which is available to me that certain officials in our State Department, which is charged with carrying out this policy, have been guilty not only of gross procrastination and wilful failure to act, but even of wilful attempts to prevent action from being taken to rescue Jews from Hitler.

I fully recognize the graveness of this statement and I make it only after having most carefully weighed the shocking facts which have come to my attention during the last several months.

Unless remedial steps of a drastic nature are taken, and taken immediately, I am certain that no effective action will be taken by this government to prevent the complete extermination of the Jews in German controlled Europe, and that this Government will have to share for all time responsibility for this extermination.

Although only part of the facts relating to the activities of the State Department in this field are available to us, sufficient facts have come to my attention from various sources during the last several months to fully support the conclusions at which I have arrived.

(1) State Department officials have not only failed to use the Governmental machinery at their disposal to rescue the Jews from Hitler, but have even gone so far as to use this Governmental machinery to prevent the rescue of these Jews.

The public record, let alone the facts which have not as yet been made pubic, reveals the gross procrastination and wilful failure to act of those officials actively representing this Government in this field.

(a) A long time has passed since it became clear that Hitler was determined to carry out a policy of exterminating the Jews in Europe.

(b) Over a year has elapsed since this Government and other members of the United Nations publicly acknowledged and denounced this policy of extermination; and since the President gave assurances that the United States would make every effort together with the United Nations to save those who could be saved.

(c) Despite the fact that time is most precious in this matter, State Department officials have been kicking the matter around for over a year without producing results; giving all sorts of excuses for delays upon delays; advancing no specific proposals designed to rescue Jews, at the same time proposing that the whole refugee problem be “explored” by this Government and Intergovernmental Committees. While the State Department has been thus “exploring” the whole refugee problem, without distinguishing between those who are in imminent danger of death and those who are not, hundreds of thousands of Jews have been allowed to perish.

The full text of the report can be found at PBS American Experience Primary Reference.

As a consequence of the meeting President Roosevelt issued an executive order establishing the War Refugee Board (WRB) on January 22, 1944.

It is the policy of this government to take all measures within its power to rescue the victims of enemy oppression who are in imminent danger of death and otherwise to afford such victims all possible relief and assistance consistent with the successful prosecution of the war.

The War Refugee Board is estimated to have save the lives of around 200,000 Jews from eastern Europe by funding emigration.

The railway entrance to Auschwitz in January1945.

The railway entrance to Auschwitz in January1945.

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