Clip | Bombing Auschwitz - The Great Moral Dilemma of the 20th Century

In May 1944, Rabbi Michael Weissmandl sent the Auschwitz Protocol, along with a plea for help and a demand for Allied air forces to bomb Auschwitz, to Roswell McClelland at the War Refugee Board in Switzerland.

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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 the bathing establishment. It holds 2,000 people from there a door and a few steps lead and 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 airforces 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 summary of 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 one and a half 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.'