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John J. McCloy, Assistant Secretary of War, explains to John W. Pehle,
Director, War Refugee Board, that the War Department cannot authorize the
bombing of Auschwitz, November 18, 1944.
Mr. John W. Pehle, Executive Director
War Refugee Board
Treasury Department Building, Rm. 3414
Dear Mr. Pehle:
I refer to your letter of November 8th, in which you forwarded the report of
two eye-witnesses on the notorious German concentration and extermination camps
of Auschwitz and Birkenau in Upper Silesia.
The Operation Staff of the War Department has given careful consideration to
your suggestion that the bombing of these camps be undertaken. In
consideration of this proposal the following points were brought out:
a. Positive destruction of these camps would necessitate precision bombing,
employing heavy or medium bombardment, or attack by low flying or dive bombing
aircraft, preferably the latter.
b. The target is beyond the maximum range of medium bombardment, dive bombers
and fighter bombers located in United Kingdom, France or Italy.
c. Use of heavy bombardment from United Kingdom bases would necessitate a
hazardous round trip flight unescorted of approximately 2,000 miles over enemy
d. At the present critical stage of the war in Europe, our strategic air forces
are engaged in the destruction of industrial target systems vital to the
dwindling war potential of the enemy, from which they should not be diverted.
The positive solution to this problem is the earliest possible victory over
Germany, to which end we should exert our entire means.
e. This case does not at all parallel the Amiens mission because of the
location of the concentration and extermination camps and the resulting
difficulties encountered in attempting to carry out the proposed bombing.
Based on the above, as well as the most uncertain, if not dangerous effect such
a bombing would have on the object to be attained, the War Department has felt
that it should not, at least for the present, undertake these operations.
I know that you have been reluctant to press this activity on the War
Department. We have been pressed strongly from other quarters, however, and
have taken the best military opinion on its feasibility, and we believe the
above conclusion is a sound one.
Assistant Secretary of War
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