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The Holocaust Could Have Been Avoided

Dublin Core


The Holocaust Could Have Been Avoided


Holocaust, Jewish (1939-1945).


Oral history video clip featuring Yehuda Bauer, Professor, Hebrew University of Jerusalem. This video was originally produced by Media Entertainment, Inc., for the 2000 documentary The Genocide Factor.


Media Entertainment, Inc.


Genocide Factor Collection, Oral History Program, Tampa Library, University of South Florida, Tampa, Florida.


Tampa, Fla. : University of South Florida Tampa Library.


Bauer, Yehuda


Tape number: 4241D


video / mp4




Oral History


Holocaust, Jewish (1939-1945)

Oral History Item Type Metadata


Bauer, Yehuda


My answer to the question why the great powers -- especially the Western great powers, because the Soviets were simply not interested in the whole thing -- did very little to rescue the Jews during the Holocaust may not be terribly popular. You see, the Holocaust could have been avoided by the major powers before it ever happened -- in their own interest, not because of the Jews. In the end, all the major powers paid a terrible price for letting Nazi Germany expand during the 1930s. They could have stopped them at any point. They chose not to, because of ill-perceived self-interest. In their own best self-interest, they could have avoided huge numbers of casualties, terrible destruction of their own countries and their own people: including several hundred thousand American soldiers who died, including huge numbers of British and French, and of course vast numbers of Soviet soldiers and Soviet civilians who died in the war, and German soldiers and civilians who died in the war.

Had the great powers stopped Nazi Germany as late as June 1939, when Britain and France were negotiating with the Soviets for a military treaty against Germany, and because of jealousies and political considerations, they broke those negotiations off. And then the Germans made a neutrality agreement with the Soviet Russians, which enabled them to open World War II. So, the Holocaust could have been avoided before it happened. Once the Germans decided to murder the Jews -- which happened not in one go but in stages, in 1941 and early 1942 -- there was nothing America and Britain could have done to save the millions, nothing at all. American and Britain didn't have the military power in 1941, '42, or '43 to stop the German war machine and the police organs for murdering the Jews. They could have saved thousands, maybe tens of thousands, I don't know.

They consciously refused to do so because they thought any kind of diversion of military means from the effort to defeat Nazi Germany was bad, and any kind of diversion to what they call "civilian aims" -- rescuing people under Nazi rule was a "civilian aim" -- they wouldn't do that. And they made, actually, quite a clear decision not to do anything. In April 1943, the Anglo-Americans meet at Bermuda, far away from prying journalists, in order to discuss this question. And they came up internally, as we now know, with an answer: "We can't do anything, because we have to win the war first." Now, they could have rescued, but they said, "on the margins only."

I'd like to add something there. The situation changes in mid-1944, because then the Americans can bomb Poland. Until that time, there was no way they could reach the Polish death camps -- not the Polish death camps, the death camps that were placed in Poland. They were not done by the Poles; they were done by the Germans. And in fact, the commander of the American Air Force in Italy, General Spaatz, was in favor of such a bombing, but he never received the political order to do so. There was a political decision, again, not to bomb a place like the extermination camp of Auschwitz.

Now, had they bombed Auschwitz, they wouldn't have saved many people. And I doubt very much whether the Nazis would have stopped murdering the Jews, because even if the bombing was successful, some of these gas chamber installations had been eliminated, they would have reverted to other ways of murdering Jews. But it would have made a moral statement, you see, and that is what was missing.

Original Format

Beta tape




Media Entertainment, Inc., “The Holocaust Could Have Been Avoided,” USF Library Special & Digital Collections Exhibits, accessed October 22, 2020,