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Awareness to the Holocaust in the United States

Dublin Core

Title

Awareness to the Holocaust in the United States

Subject

Holocaust, Jewish (1939-1945)
United States.

Description

Oral history video clip featuring John Loftus, president of the Florida Holocaust Museum. This video was originally produced by Media Entertainment, Inc., for the 2000 documentary The Genocide Factor.

Creator

Media Entertainment, Inc.

Source

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

Publisher

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

Date

1999-04-23

Contributor

Loftus, John

Relation

G36-00064
Tape number: 4000B

Format

video / mp4

Language

English

Type

Oral History

Coverage

Holocaust, Jewish (1939-1945)

Oral History Item Type Metadata

Interviewee

Loftus, John

Transcription

: When I was a kid, I always thought that we didn’t know about the Holocaust against the Jews until 1945, when the Allied soldiers liberated the concentration camps. But, for two years I had the highest security clearance in almost anyone in the U.S. government, and I read our intelligence files for the period: much different story. The British Secret Service had broken one of the Nazi codes: they called it the ULTRA secret; it was the most important secret of the British government. And the first Nazi code that they deciphered was for the Einsatzgruppen, the SS mobile killing units in Eastern Europe. And every week, all these decoded telegrams would be handed to Winston Churchill in a little red box, the ULTRA box. So Churchill was getting accurate weekly totals of the number of Jews being killed as early as September 1941. The body counts were verified by the Polish underground, the British Secret Service, and the Vatican. There was no doubt that the decryptions were authentic. So, the irony was that Churchill was actually reading the orders to kill the Jews before they were carried out in the fields on some occasions. Now, because of the nature of the overwhelming organization of these early experiments in mass killing in 1941, the British code breakers are getting overworked, so they wrote a memo to Churchill. I’ll never forget it. It said that “It is now clear beyond any doubt that that the German police are killing every Jew they can lay their hands on. Therefore, unless directed otherwise, we won’t bother reporting on this issue in the future.” And Churchill agreed, and so the official decision to ignore the Holocaust was made on October 1941. Now, President Roosevelt learned about the British code breaking and about the Holocaust a few months later, in early 1942. Now, Roosevelt had a mixed record with the Jews. He, you know, sponsored the Évian Conference before the war trying to find some nation of the world to take Jews in; but no one would, except the government of Haiti, which wanted money for it. And Roosevelt knew that he was powerless to admit Jews on his own. Under the American Constitution, only Congress can do that, and Congress didn’t want Jews in ’38 or ’39. In fact, there was a headline in the Los Angeles Examiner in September 1939 that said, “Hitler says if West will not admit Jews, he will kill them.” And yet, the last bill to admit Jewish refugees died in the Senate subcommittee a few months later. The Gallup Poll showed that before World War II, nearly 40 percent of the American public would have voted for a Nuremberg Law banning Jews from owning any real estate in America. So the climate in the country and in Congress was hostile to Jewish immigration. But, when Roosevelt heard about the British decoding and about the organized killing going on in ’41 and ’42, he was appalled. Roosevelt begged the British to join him in a public appeal to Hitler to release the Jews from the concentration camps. And the British wrote back, “If we press Hitler too hard, he might do it.” And where, the British wanted to know, would the Jews go? The British wouldn’t permit them to go to Palestine; it might upset the Arabs, interfere with the oil supply. Roosevelt knew he couldn’t let the Jews land in America; they’d already turned away the St. Louis, a whole luxury liner full of Jews attempting to flee Europe. So Roosevelt pushed for the rescue attempt, but met with major resistance. Could we have rescued the Jews? Yeah. I mean, we were sending supply ships to Europe that were coming back empty. In fact, we relocated hundreds of thousands of German prisoners of war to the United States during the war. We had the room for them, for the Jews. We certainly could have used the labor. Our mothers and daughters were working in arms factories during World War II—just a huge shortage of manpower. So, yeah, we could have saved them, but there were objections from the other Allies. So, rather than risk a split with the Allies in the middle of World War II, Roosevelt agreed to a compromise. He would agree that the Jews would be expendable to the war effort if, in return, the British and the other Allies would agree to a trial after the war to hold those responsible for their crimes. And so, as the inmates of Auschwitz watched in horror, Allied planes flew overhead and dropped their bombs on routine industrial targets. No one bombed the crematorium or the gas chambers; those, unlike railroad tracks, could be rebuilt overnight. If you had bombed the gas chambers, those were hard to replace. It would have taken months, in some cases, to replace some of the special equipment at those places. They were killing 4,000 and 5,000 Jews a day. Think of the lives that would have been saved just by bombing them. But nothing was done. No, it was worse than nothing. Under Roosevelt, the American State Department lied to the American people and to the American press. The Allied leaders told us that they had no confirmation that the mass killing of Jews was under way. Now, the Jewish community knew it was happening. They had—word had been smuggled out. There was even Jan Karski, a Pole, who told what had happened, but there were even American Jews that couldn’t believe it. Karski spoke to Supreme Court Justice Goldberg, told him what you had seen at Auschwitz. And Goldberg said, “I know that you believe this, but I cannot. Who would believe that the most civilized nation in the world, Germany, would resort to the slaughter of infants?” But it happened.

Original Format

Beta tape

Duration

6:18

Citation

Media Entertainment, Inc., “Awareness to the Holocaust in the United States,” USF Library Special & Digital Collections Exhibits, accessed August 24, 2019, http://exhibits.lib.usf.edu/items/show/582.