Dr. David Silberklang

Placing the Allies in the context of the “bystanders” in the Shoah, the lecture examines their responses on the basis of their understanding of the war, their national interests, and the differing time frames of the Shoah and World War II. Two questions are examined in depth: information about the Shoah vs. knowledge; and the willingness to try to do something about the murder of the Jews, vs. the ability. Whereas antisemitism in Allied government circles played some role in the degree of seriousness with which some Allied officials addressed the subject, other factors came into play. The Jews’ stateless and powerless condition made them less of a distinct entity to be taken into account. Regarding the question of the bombing of Auschwitz in 1944, the Allies argued that it was technically impossible and that the only way to rescue Jews and others would be through victory, which necessitated that there be no diversion from the war effort. Of the many factors that influenced Allied responses, their lack of understanding of the Shoah was one that needs to be taken into account.