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1. Barring U.S. Doors To Aliens/Refugees
2. News Of Extermination Reaches U.S.
3. President Roosevelt's Apparent Reluctance To Help Europe's Jews
4. Bermuda Conference
5. Something Can Be Done: War Refugee Board
6. Bombing Railways And Auschwitz

1. Barring U.S. Doors To Aliens/Refugees

Memo from Assistant Secretary of State Breckinridge Long to State Department Officials dated June 26, 1940, outlining effective ways to obstruct the granting of U.S. visas

Letter from Margaret E. Jones, an American Quaker working with European Jews hoping to emigrate to the U.S., expressing her distress at the impact of Breckinridge Long's memo

Visa Application of U.S. State Department, Visa Division, January 1943
The visa application process was extremely complicated. The double-sided form itself was more than four feet long.

2. News Of Extermination Reaches U.S.

U.S. State Department receives information from Switzerland regarding the Nazi plan to murder the Jews of Europe
In August 1942, the representative of the World Jewish Congress in Switzerland, Gerhart Riegner, heard about a German plan to annihilate the Jews of Europe. His source was a German industrialist with access to top Nazi circles. Riegner immediately took the information to the American consulate in Geneva, where he asked the Vice-Consul Howard Elting Jr. to send the information to Washington and other Allied governments.

Cable from London to Rabbi Stephen Wise regarding the "Final Solution"
The State Department decided that the information passed on by Gerhart Riegner was nothing more than a "fantastic" war rumor. It did not pass the telegram to American Jewish leaders. However, Riegner had also informed the British consulate, who cabled the information to the Foreign Office in London, where it was passed on to a member of Parliament, Samuel Sydney Silverman. On August 28, 1942, Silverman sent it to Rabbi Stephen Wise.

Undersecretary of State Sumner Welles tells Rabbi Stephen Wise he has information confirming that the Nazis plan to kill all of Europe's Jews
Stephen Wise was extremely distressed by Gerhart Riegner's information. Not realizing the State Department had already received Riegner's message he passed it on to Undersecretary of State Sumner Welles. Welles asked Wise not to release the message to the press until the State Department had been able to confirm it. This process took more than two months.

In January 1943, the American legation in Switzerland sends information to Sumner Welles, Undersecretary of State, confirming reports of mass executions of Jews in Poland

The State Department sends a memo to the American legation in Bern, on February 10, 1943, stating that in the future they not transmit reports to private citizens, since they "circumvent neutral countries' censorship"
As more information about the progress of the Holocaust continued to arrive in the U.S. from Switzerland, the State Department tried to prevent news of this sort from reaching U.S. citizens. The ban on information from Europe imposed by this memo lasted two months.

3. President Roosevelt's Apparent Reluctance To Help Europe'S Jews

Entry from Assistant Secretary of State Breckinridge Long's diary in which he notes that President Roosevelt supports his policy of encouraging consulates to "postpone and postpone and postpone" the granting of visas

A report written by Adoph Held, the president of the American Jewish Labor Committee recounting President Roosevelt's 29-minute meeting on December 8, 1942 with a small delegation of American Jewish Leaders
After the State Department confirmed reports that Hitler was planning to murder all the Jews in territories under German control, several American Jewish leaders including Rabbi Stephen Wise managed to arrange an audience with President Roosevelt. At this meeting, the only one FDR had with Jewish leaders about the Holocaust, the President was presented with a document outlining the Nazi plan to annihilate European Jews. As this report of the meeting indicates, the president was acquainted with details of the atrocities being committed by the Nazis.

Memorandum of Conversation by Mr. Harry L. Hopkins, Special Assistant to President Roosevelt regarding a meeting with Anthony Eden March 27, 1943
Four months after the State Department confirmed the dimensions of the Holocaust, British Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden met in Washington with President Roosevelt, Secretary of State Cordell Hull and Undersecretary of State Sumner Welles. At this meeting, Eden expressed his fear that Hitler might actually accept an offer from the Allies to move Jews out of areas under German control. No one present objected to Eden's statement.

"Washington Times Herald" report on the march of 400 Orthodox rabbis to the White House
On October 6, 1943, 400 Orthodox rabbis marched to the Capitol where they handed Vice-President Henry A. Wallace a petition for a government rescue agency. Later that day they walked to the White House and handed the document to a presidential secretary. The rabbis had tried for weeks to arrange a meeting with FDR in person. The White House claimed the President was unable to see them because of "pressure of other business." FDR's appointment diaries show that he had a light schedule that day.

4. Bermuda Conference

program announcement
Memorandum: "Views of the Government of the United States Regarding Topics Included in the Agenda for Discussion with the British Government" [March 1943]
The 12-day Bermuda Conference, which opened on April 19, 1943, grew out of concerns in the British public about news reports that the Nazis were slaughtering Europe's Jews. The U.S. agreed to hold a closed-door conference with Britain to discuss the issue. But American delegates arrived with secret directives from the State Department to accomplish little or anything.

Excerpt from a plan for rescue of refugees that was submitted to the Bermuda Conference by Jewish leaders
American Jewish leaders tried to push for a small Jewish delegation to make a case at the Bermuda Conference, but this idea was rejected. As a final effort to influence the conference, Jewish leaders sent a list of specific rescue proposals.

Excerpt from "Report to the Governments of the United States and the United Kingdom from Their Delegates to the Conference on the Refugee Problem Held at Bermuda, April 19 -29, 1943"
The delegates to the Bermuda conference came up with almost no concrete proposals. Perhaps because of this they decided to keep their report secret.

5. Something Can Be Done: War Refugee Board

"Report to the Secretary on the Acquiescence of this Government in the Murder of the Jews," initialed by Randolph Paul for the Foreign Funds Control Unit of the Treasury Department, January 13, 1944
In the summer of 1943 members of the U.S. Treasury Department became aware of the State Department's obstructionist attitude towards rescuing European Jews. Gerhart Riegner, the World Jewish Congress representative in Geneva, had recently proposed a plan to save Rumanian and French Jews that involved Jewish organizations in the U.S. transferring funds to frozen accounts in Switzerland. When approached with this plan, the State Department took no action for 11 weeks. But when Treasury Department officials became aware of the plan, they quickly issued the licenses that were required during World War II for funds to be transferred overseas. Even so, for months more the State Department secretly continued to hold up the licenses. Near the end of the year, Treasury Department staffers discovered the State Department's obstructions, and they prepared the following damning indictment, in which they asserted the State Department was "guilty not only of gross procrastination and willful failure to act, but even of willful attempts to prevent action from being taken to rescue Jews from Hitler." A condensed version of the report was presented to the President by Secretary of the Treasury Henry Morgenthau, Jr. on January 16, 1944.

Executive Order No. 9417 Establishing a War Refugee Board
Within days of receiving the Treasury Department's indictment of the Government's failure to rescue Jews from the Nazis, President Roosevelt established the War Refugee Board. Among other things it was charged with "the rescue, transportation, maintenance and relief of the victims of enemy oppression," and with "the establishment of havens of temporary refuge for such victims." Although the WRB was not adequately funded and some of its programs met with very limited success, board representatives managed to help save the lives of approximately 200,000 European Jews.

6. Bombing Railways And Auschwitz

Summary of the Auschwitz escapees report by Gerhart Riegner, World Jewish Congress, Geneva, sent under cover of R.E. Shoenfeld, U.S. chargé to Czech government in London, to Cordell Hull, Secretary of State, July 5, 1944
On April 7, 1944, two Slovakian Jews escaped from Auschwitz. By the end of the month they had reached the Jewish underground in Slovakia, where they gave a detailed account of the mass murder operations at the camp. The two men also warned that preparations were underway to murder the Jews of Hungary. Their report initiated a series of requests that the U.S. bomb the crematoria at Auschwitz and key rail links that would be used to transport Hungarian Jews to Poland.

Henry Morgenthau, Jr., Secretary of the Treasury to Assistant Secretary of War, Jan 28, 1944, asking that Theater Commanders be advised to cooperate with WRB rescue operations
Shortly after the establishment of the War Refugee Board, Henry Morgenthau, Jr. Secretary of the Treasury asked the War Department to advise theater commanders that they would be expected to cooperate with the Board in aiding "Axis victims to the fullest extent possible." No message to this effect was ever sent to military commanders.

Thomas T. Handy, Assistant Chief of Staff, Memorandum for the Chief of Staff, February 8, 1944, on reassuring the British that military forces will not be used to rescue refugees

Cable from Switzerland to Agudas Israel World Organizations, New York June 12, 1944 describing situation of Hungarian Jews and calling for bombing deportation railways
As the Nazis began deporting Jews from Hungary to the Auschwitz death camp in Poland, requests to bomb the deportation railways were sent to the United States.

Jacob Rosenheim, Agudas Israel World Organization, New York, to Henry Morgenthau, Jr., Secretary of the Treasury, June 18, 1944, asking that deportation rail lines be bombed

Thomas Handy, Assistant Chief of Staff, War Department, to Director, Civil Affairs Division, June 26, 1944, conveying the Operations Division's conclusion that bombing the deportation railways is "impracticable"
In line with its undeclared policy not to aid in the rescue of refugees, the War Department routinely turned down requests to bomb deportation railways. No studies were ever conducted to check the feasibility of such bombing raids.

Benjamin Akzin, War Refugee Board, to Lawrence S. Lesser, War Refugee Board, June 29 1944, urging the bombing of Auschwitz and Birkenau

The World Jewish Congress in New York asks the War Department to bomb the crematoria at Auschwitz, August 9, 1944. The War Department turns down the request (August 14, 1944)

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
The War Department received several requests to bomb Auschwitz, but it turned each down claiming that the raid would divert air support from the war effort. The Department also claimed that the camp was beyond the maximum range of bombers located in Britain, France or Italy.
These assertions were false: In July of 1944, the Allies began a series of air raids on Germany's synthetic-oil industry which was based in Upper Silesia near Auschwitz. On August 20, 127 Flying Fortresses dropped thousands of pounds of high explosives on the factory areas of Auschwitz which were less than five miles from the gas chambers. Three weeks later, the U.S. targeted those same sites. This time two bombs accidentally fell near the killing installations and one actually damaged a rail line leading to the gas chambers.

Extracts from the U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey, summarizing 15th Air Force bombing attacks in August and September 1944 on Oswiecim (Auschwitz)