Death marches?

U.S. requested that Germany evacuate Auschwitz Jews back to the Reich
Published: 1998-01-01

Mass-murder denials:

On at least one occasion, Germany publicly denied any intention to murder concentration camp inmates. An October 12 1944 letter talks of Germany's "press denial" of rumored intentions to murder Birkenau inmates. This letter has never been released to the public by the U.S. government.

It is almost certain that in 1943, and in particular after the U.S. War Refugee Board started work in January 1944, there was a continual exchange of top-level telegrams between the U.S. and Germany through Swiss and Irish consulates discussing mass-murder rumors and the safety of camp inmates.

Evacuation Guarantee:

Germany also guaranteed to the Allies that inmates of the Auschwitz area camps would be evacuated before the Soviet Army advance.

As discussed in the January 20 telegram from the US Consul in Switzerland, two Jewish women who had been Birkenau inmates from July to October 1944 described the following evacuations to German camps:

  1. September 1944 - "sizeable convoys" left Birkenau, each with "3,000 to 6,000" inmates,
  2. Late September 1944 - 3,500 Hungarian and Slovak women inmates left in one convoy, and
  3. October 31 1944 - 500 women inmates left Birkenau for Germany with the two eye-witnesses.

The letters also show the U.S. accepted confirmation from spies and previous inmates about what was actually occurring in the camps. The last sentence of what the two women reported states:

"The natural mortality rate in all such work camps is high, due mainly to under-nourishment, unhygenic conditions, and especially to exposure from lack of sufficient clothing."

Bombing Decisions:

These newly released letters indicate that the U.S. attempted to verify mass-murder rumors in a number of ways, including communicating with the German government. Their decision not to bomb Birkenau was made because they could not confirm any of the extermination rumors.

Telegram 1

From: HUDDLE, Bern, Switzerland
Dated: January 20, 1945, 3 p.m.
Rec'd: January 20, 11 p.m.

As reported in Legation's 6818 October 12 Germans issued press denial of any intention to exterminate inmates of Tuwiecim and Birkenau following contrary report brought out by Polish circles in London that time.

I have never been able to receive reliable confirmation of reports circulated that orders have gone out to SS controlling Jewish camps to kill all internees who cannot be evacuated in front of Allied advance.

(8 more paragraphs talk about Birkenau September and October, 1944 evacuations)

Telegram 2

From: STETTINIUS acting for Department of State and War Refugee Board, Washington, D.C.
Dated: January 22, 1945, 10 p.m.
For: HUDDLE and McCLELLAND, Bern, Switzerland
Rec'd: January 22

Reference Department's 192 of January 13, Irish Department of External Affairs, confirms that it inquired of German authorities concerning the rumor that Germans intended to liquidate the inmates at camps Oswiecim,Hoss, and Birkenau, and that the Germans replied that the rumor that it is their intention to exterminate the Jews in these camps is pure invention devoid of all foundation and that if the camps were to be abandoned their inmates would be evacuated.

Please request Swiss Political Department to inform German Government that the above reply of German authorities to Ireland has been noted by theGovernment of the United States, and that this Government accordingly expects that Jewish and other survivors of these and other concentration, detention, and labor camps in Germany and German-controlled territory will be kept alive by German authorities.

In view of the nearness of Oswiecim and Birkenau to the front, it is urgent that the above communication reach German authorities with the greatest possible speed.


WRB: 1/22/45

Allies assured themselves that Germany was not murdering inmates

Germans publicly denied murdering inmates and the Allies confirmed that they safely evacuated them ahead of the Russians, per requests by the U. S. State Department.

After careful study the Allies confirmed the Germans were not murdering the inmates, and so bombing of Birkenau and other camps was never ordered.

Reference: Letters on file at Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, Hyde Park, New York, N.Y., U.S.A.

These documents first appeared on the Website Air-Photo Evidence, once maintained by John C. Ball.
The text above is adapted from the more extensive coverage there.

Additional information about this document
Property Value
Author(s): John Clive Ball
Title: Death marches?, U.S. requested that Germany evacuate Auschwitz Jews back to the Reich
Published: 1998-01-01
First posted on CODOH: June 29, 1998, 7 p.m.
Last revision:
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