Mc Cloy further wrote that bombing the railways was “impracticable” because it would require “the diversion of considerable air support essential to the success of our forces now engaged in decisive operations…” In fact, the Allies were already operating in the skies above Auschwitz and did not have to be “diverted” from elsewhere in order to reach the death camp.
Since April 4, Allied planes had been carrying out photo reconnaissance missions in the area around Auschwitz, in preparation for attacking German oil factories and other industrial sites in the region, some of which were situated just a few miles from the gas chambers and crematoria. Gruenbaum explained the rationale for bombing Auschwitz and the railways leading to it, and asked to send a telegram to that effect to the War Refugee Board.
Long before the first Jewish request for military intervention was made, senior officials of the War Department had decided that they would have nothing to do with aiding refugees.
In response to the creation of the War Refugee Board, the War Department assured the British government (which was opposed to Allied intervention on behalf of the Jews): “It is not contemplated that units of the armed forces will be employed for the purpose of rescuing victims of enemy oppression unless such rescues are the direct result of military operations conducted with the objective of defeating the armed forces of the enemy.” Internal War Department memoranda the following month stated unequivocally that “the most effective relief which can be given victims of enemy persecution is to insure the speedy defeat of the Axis.” This attitude would govern the War Department’s response to Jewish requests in the months to follow.
Lichtheim explained to his Jerusalem colleagues that the information showed the Agency’s previous information about Auschwitz being a labor camp was erroneous.
“We now know exactly what has happened and where it has happened,” Lichtheim wrote.On the other hand, the effectiveness of bombing the tracks depended upon the ability of the bombers to hit their targets–something impossible to determine in advance–and the ability of the Germans to repair damaged track lines.Likewise, with regard to a possible bombing of the gas chambers and crematoria, it was impossible to predict how successful Allied bombers would be in carrying out precision attacks on those targets. The proposal to send ground troops was the most radical.We cannot take on the responsibility for a bombing that could cause the death of even one Jew.” Instead of a vote, Ben-Gurion concluded the discussion by stating that the consensus of the participants was that “it is the position of the Executive not to propose to the Allies the bombing of places where Jews are located.” The Jewish Agency’s position soon changed.On June 19, 1944 the head of the Agency’s office in Geneva, Richard Lichtheim, wrote a five-page letter to Gruenbaum summarizing detailed information about Auschwitz that had been provided by two recent escapees from the camp, Rudolf Vrba and Alfred Wetzler.“There IS a labour camp in [the] Birkenau [section of Auschwitz] just as in many other places of Upper Silesia, and there ARE still many thousands of Jews working there and in the neighbouring places (Jawischowitz etc).But apart from the labour-camps proper [there are] specially constructed buildings with gas-chambers and crematoriums….Beginning in the late spring of 1944, representatives of Jewish organizations in the United States, Europe, and British Mandatory Palestine began urging Allied officials to take military action to interrupt the mass murder of Jews in Auschwitz.About thirty different Jewish officials were involved, at one time or another, in advocating such Allied intervention.On June 18, 1944, Jacob Rosenheim, president of a New York-based Orthodox Jewish organization, Agudath Israel, wrote to the War Refugee Board, urging bombing of the railways.WRB director John Pehle relayed Rosenheim’s request to Assistant Secretary of War John Mc Cloy. officials known to have considered the bombing proposal. Minister to Switzerland, Leland Harrison, sent a telegram to Secretary Hull, recommending the bombing of railways leading to Auschwitz and giving precise locations of desired bombing targets.