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Old 08-16-2012, 09:14 AM
 
Location: Wisconsin
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This was brought up in the thread about the atomic bombings, but was off topic, so let's discuss this here.

Did America and the allies just disregard the plight of the Jews in Europe, or was this just never a practical option? Of course, the question disregards that Auschwitz was just one of many concentration camps scattered throughout Europe.
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Old 08-16-2012, 09:32 AM
 
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Quote:
This was brought up in the thread about the atomic bombings, but was off topic, so let's discuss this here.

Did America and the allies just disregard the plight of the Jews in Europe, or was this just never a practical option? Of course, the question disregards that Auschwitz was just one of many concentration camps scattered throughout Europe.
In hindsight, it seems clear that they should have been. It might have slowed down the Holocaust a bit.

I suspect the reasons that it did not happen at the time were these:

1. Bombing campaigns are highly organized and planned. A "target portfolio" is developed by military people before a single bomb falls. The idea is something like this: You have a limited number of pilots, a limited number of airplanes, a limited number of bombs, and limited aviation fuel available to fly missions. Therefore, you want every bomb to have maximum effect at destroying the enemy's ability to make war against you. In short, bombing railroad tracks leading to concentration camps was unlikely to do much to shorten the war. Therefore, it was better to direct efforts against targets such as POLs (Petroleum, Oils, and Lubricants) which would do more to stop Germany from being able to make war. Secondary targets would include factories and particularly those that made munitions. Tertiary targets might include agricultural and irrigation systems to halt food production and distribution. As others have spoken about in earlier posts that dealt with the bombing of Germany it might also include workers' housing.

2. We know all about the Holocaust today. Certainly, by 1944 much was known about it by the Allied Powers. However, a lot of it was rumor that was hard to directly substantiate. The scale of the Holocaust was not clear. Finally, it was known that during World War I that some atrocities that were alleged to have been committed by German soldiers in Belgium and other places had been exaggerated. I think there was a certain amount of caution involved in not blaming Germans this time around until all the details were known.

3. There was a belief (not illogical at all) that the best way to stop the Holocaust was simply to win the war. The war could be won more quickly by following the precepts I stated in #1.
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Old 08-16-2012, 11:17 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MaseMan View Post
This was brought up in the thread about the atomic bombings, but was off topic, so let's discuss this here.

Did America and the allies just disregard the plight of the Jews in Europe, or was this just never a practical option? Of course, the question disregards that Auschwitz was just one of many concentration camps scattered throughout Europe.
Were the presence of, and atrocities in, the concentration camps known to the Allies? I was friends with an old WW2 vet (now deceased) who was in the first wave of GIs to go into Auschwitz. They had absolutely NO idea what had been going on "behind closed doors." Perhaps the higher ranking military knew, but do we have evidence of that?

Second, assuming that the military brass knew about the concentration camps, bombing the tracks going to them may have been impossible and/or not feasible. It would have done little good to destroy train tracks to the concentrations camps without defeating the Germans. First things first.
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Old 08-16-2012, 11:21 AM
 
Location: Miami, FL
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There were always more targets necessary for the war effort than there were heavy bombers. Even in 1945. Bombing the camp RRs would have not lessened the war.(Poor use of bombers as well. Their forte would have been the RR centers) The war was to defeat the Axis powers not save a specific group of people.

Bombing was not a precision panacea and RR tracks proved to be quickly repaired by the Germans.

Last edited by Felix C; 08-16-2012 at 11:35 AM..
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Old 08-16-2012, 02:01 PM
 
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I put this link in the other thread, because it is from a Jewish Holocaust site and takes a rather balanced approach to the topic including the history of how it became a "controversy".

Auschwitz Bombing Controversy

Long story short there were a few things that made the idea impractical:

1. Bombing rail lines doesn't accomplish much. Even if they had been able to hit the lines, any damage done would have been minimal compared to the resources to do it. It is also incredibly easy to repair rail lines, so the damage would have been short lived anyway even if multiple hits had been delivered.

2. The accuracy of the bombing was never that great. Even if the Allies had correctly determined where the crematoria were and launched an attack, there was a very high likelihood of the bombs falling all over the complex and most likely killing thousands. The Jewish authorities in Palestine led by Ben Gurion at the time were entirely against the bombing on the grounds that it would most likely kill Jews. It was a splinter group that brought the information to the British and Americans about what was going on.

3. The only window of time that existed for bombing the sites was in late 1944. By then the worst of the Holocaust had already happened. Given that stage of the war and the plethora of targets that could impact the war effort, it was an unnecessary expenditure of resouces for something that would most likely have little impact.

4. In reality the Allies had little actionable intelligence on what was going on. What they did know was basically rumors from Jews in Hungary who smuggled out a report about what was going on. Allied reconnaissance flights over the camps were inconclusive, other then it was a large prisoner camp. The ability of the Allies to magnify and study the photos they did take was limited. It wasn't until more advanced processes were applied 30 years or so later that the photos revealed evidence of the extermination.
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Old 08-16-2012, 03:22 PM
 
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Originally Posted by Big George View Post
I was friends with an old WW2 vet (now deceased) who was in the first wave of GIs to go into Auschwitz.
My father had a friend who went into Auschwitz. I never heard his stories first-hand but from what my father told me those men would have ripped up the tracks with their bare hands had they known what was going on.
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Old 08-16-2012, 03:39 PM
 
Location: Parts Unknown, Northern California
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Big George View Post
Were the presence of, and atrocities in, the concentration camps known to the Allies? I was friends with an old WW2 vet (now deceased) who was in the first wave of GIs to go into Auschwitz.
.
Auschwitz was liberated by the 322nd Rifle Division of the Red Army on January 27, 1945.

I wasn't aware of any waves of American GI's going into Auschwitz. When did that happen?
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Old 08-16-2012, 04:08 PM
 
Location: Scranton Pa
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Whats the difference if they bombed the tracks anyways? The Nazi's would've just marched them from the point the tracks were useles to their deaths.
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Old 08-16-2012, 04:37 PM
 
Location: Cushing OK
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Big George View Post
Were the presence of, and atrocities in, the concentration camps known to the Allies? I was friends with an old WW2 vet (now deceased) who was in the first wave of GIs to go into Auschwitz. They had absolutely NO idea what had been going on "behind closed doors." Perhaps the higher ranking military knew, but do we have evidence of that?

Second, assuming that the military brass knew about the concentration camps, bombing the tracks going to them may have been impossible and/or not feasible. It would have done little good to destroy train tracks to the concentrations camps without defeating the Germans. First things first.
The American and British govenments knew, and had seen smuggled pictures. They did not consider it a priority. Consider there were thousands of Americans who had been in Europe who could not get out who went missing and this was never dealt with either. Some were women who had children born in Europe to European fathers, and as passports were suspended the children could not come so the mothers stayed. Most of these people were detained and many had vanished by the end of the war. If they could not be concerened with American citizens and their fate, why be worried about foreigners. Sadly that often WAS the attitude of those in charge.

The troops were not in the communications link, but rumors of camps sometimes preceeded their discovery.

If you want to read a deeply moving book about those who made the discovery I reccomend

The Liberators America's Witnesses to the Holocaust by Michael Hirsh. Its written mostly with the words of the soldiers, and those of the survivors of Berga, where 350 American pow's were put to slave labor in the satalite camps of Buchenwald.

Actually, there would have been a strategic advantages to bombing the tracks. Hitler had as a pririty the Final Solution. When German troops were stranded and sometimes captured as a result becasue of the lack of railroad cars to transport them, the cars used by the SS were never in short supply and damage to tracks feeding the camps would have been repaired immediately over that of combat damage.

Even when suppplies grew thin, the camps were kept supplied. In a sense it was like maintaining a needed industry. They used everything they could out of the camps so shutting a major center like the Auschwitz complex down would have been equal to flattening a major manufactuing area.

I read there was a plan to bomb the front of Auschwitz but it was called off in fear it would kill a large number of the prisoners. The comments of those who might have died were simple, that if they died and the camp was destroyed it would have been for the good.
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Old 08-17-2012, 08:30 AM
 
Location: Coastal New Jersey
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Big George View Post
Were the presence of, and atrocities in, the concentration camps known to the Allies? I was friends with an old WW2 vet (now deceased) who was in the first wave of GIs to go into Auschwitz. They had absolutely NO idea what had been going on "behind closed doors." Perhaps the higher ranking military knew, but do we have evidence of that?

Second, assuming that the military brass knew about the concentration camps, bombing the tracks going to them may have been impossible and/or not feasible. It would have done little good to destroy train tracks to the concentrations camps without defeating the Germans. First things first.

This is a good point. I suggest that if anyone truly has an interest in this aspect of WWII that they read the book The Liberators: Americas Witnesses to the Holocaust. It came out in 2010, and the author interviewed a number of American soldiers, all now in their mid-80s to 90s, who were the first on hand to see the concentrations camps as the Allies rolled into Europe. They had no idea what they were going to find. I could not put this book down.

Amazon.com: The Liberators: America's Witnesses to the Holocaust (9780553807561): Michael Hirsh: Books

Edit: I see the post above me also mentioned this book.
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