WASHINGTON – Seventy years ago last Saturday, the first gassing of prisoners was carried out in the Auschwitz death camp. Now researchers have found evidence that Golda Meir, a future prime minister of Israel, tried to persuade the United States government to bomb the camp.
On Sept. 3, 1941, the Nazis gassed to death 850 prisoners in Auschwitz, one of the most infamous death camps of the Shoah. During the next three years, an estimated 1.75 million prisoners, most of them Jews, were murdered in its gas chambers.
A number of Jewish leaders in 1944 asked the administration of President Franklin D. Roosevelt to bomb the camp, or the railway lines leading to it. What was not known until now is that one of those who sought the bombing was a young Zionist leader in Palestine named Golda Myerson (she had yet to change her name to Meir).
|Golda Meir, in 1944 a Zionist official in Mandatory Palestine, had a letter delivered to the Roosevelt administration calling for the bombing of Auschwitz, researchers now say.|
Researchers from The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies, based in Washington, D.C., recently discovered documents in American and Israeli archives revealing the role of Mrs. Meir in the bombing controversy.
A report on the documents, “Golda Meir and the Campaign for an Allied Bombing of Auschwitz,” by Wyman Institute director Rafael Medoff, has been posted on www.WymanInstitute.org
The documents were also provided to the TALI Education Fund in Israel, for inclusion in its forthcoming curriculum on Israel-diaspora relations, “Friends Across the Ocean.” The curriculum will be used in 90 Israeli public schools, with 40,000 students, as part of a new educational track emphasizing the responsibility of Jews in Israel and abroad to help each other.
“These documents shed new light on efforts by Labor Zionists in Europe and Palestine to bring about the bombing of Auschwitz,” said Henry Feingold, author of “The Politics of Rescue: The Roosevelt Administration and the Holocaust, 1938-1945,” according to the Wyman Institute. “This information needs to be included in accounts of the Jewish response to the Nazi genocide,” Feingold is quoted as saying.
In the 1940s, Golda Myerson was a senior official of the Histadrut, the powerful Jewish labor federation in British Mandatory Palestine. She and her colleagues received many harrowing messages from their Labor Zionist colleagues in Europe about Nazi atrocities.”
In an exchange of correspondence uncovered by the institute, Myerson forwarded one of the European messages to the Histadrut’s U.S. representative, Israel Mereminski, in July 1944 together with an appeal to ask U.S. officials to undertake “the bombing of Oswienzim [Auschwitz] and railway transporting Jews” to the death camp. Her appeal was cosigned by another Histadrut official, Heschel Frumkin.
Mereminski replied that he contacted the U.S. government’s War Refugee Board, which in turn submitted “to competent authorities” the Meir-Frumkin request for “destruction gas chambers, crematories, and so forth.”
Curiously, the August 1944 issue of “Jewish Frontier,” the U.S. Labor Zionist journal, featured an unsigned editorial calling for “Allied bombings of the death camps and the roads leading to them….” The editorial was highly unusual; almost all appeals for bombing the death camps were made through private channels, not in public forums.
Jewish leaders who requested the bombing of Auschwitz invariably received a stock reply from Assistant Secretary of War John McCloy, claiming it was “impracticable” because it would require “diversion of considerable air support essential to the success of our forces now engaged in decisive operations.” Research by Prof. David S. Wyman has sought to demonstrate that it would not have been a “diversion” to have U.S. bombers attack the mass murder facilities. In fact, Wyman has argued, U.S. planes in 1944 repeatedly bombed German oil targets adjacent to Auschwitz.