click here to jump to start of article
Join Our Newsletter

Get latest articles and videos with Jewish inspiration and insights​

Allied Rescue Efforts

Allied Rescue Efforts

In spite of the war effort, nothing was done to halt the transports to the camps.


Aerial photo of the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp that was available to Allied forces during the war.

Classified papers released in 1978 clearly show that as early as 1942, world leaders – particularly the Americans and the British – definitely knew details of the ongoing destruction of European Jewry.

The question is often asked: Why didn’t the Allies bomb the railroad tracks to Auschwitz, to stop the deportations and killings? Without the railways, the masses of Jews could not reach the camps.

The response: "We can’t spare any planes because of the war effort.”

In 1944, Jews were being murdered at Auschwitz at a rate of 20,000 per day. The Allies were bombing German factories within a mile of the camp at that time.

In the French documentary, "Shoah," a German locomotive driver who took trainloads of Jews to the camps was interviewed. He said, "In those days, all the trains drivers wanted to get the run to Auschwitz. Because the only run in the entire war that wasn’t bombed by the Allies was the main line to Auschwitz."

In 1944, as news of mass deportations of Hungarian Jews began to reach the States, the Union of Orthodox Rabbis and Agudath Israel pleaded with the U.S. government to bomb the railway lines headed to Auschwitz.

Despite claims that reaching Auschwitz would require diverting planes from elsewhere in Europe, Allied bombers repeatedly attacked German oil factories close to the death camp throughout the summer of 1944. On August 20, for example, a squadron of 127 U.S. bombers, accompanied by 100 Mustang aircraft, struck Nazi oil factories less than five miles from the gas chambers. In August, Britain's Royal Air Force flew 23 sorties between Italy and Warsaw that took the planes within a few miles of Auschwitz.

To reach these critical rail lines, the pilots only had to nudge their crosshairs.

Furthermore, destroying the crematoria at Birkenau would have eliminated nearly all of its killing capacity at a time when it would have been difficult, if not impossible, to rebuild them. The Nazis would then have to resort to other, less efficient means of killing and body disposal.

Various scholars have argued that the failure to bomb the camp was a result of the Allies' indifference to the fate of the Jews rather than the practical impossibility of the operation.

Historians note that given the moral courage the Allies exhibited throughout the war, it is plain that the failure to bomb Birkenau, the site of mankind's greatest abomination, was a missed opportunity of monumental proportions.

Former U.S. Senator George McGovern piloted a B-24 Liberator in December 1944, and his squadron bombed Nazi oil facilities less than five miles from Auschwitz. In 2005, he said “There is no question we should have attempted ... to go after Auschwitz. There was a pretty good chance we could have blasted those rail lines off the face of the Earth, which would have interrupted the flow of people to those death chambers, and we had a pretty good chance of knocking out those gas ovens.”

The focus on the question ‘why didn’t the Allies bomb Auschwitz’ broaches the broader question of ‘why wasn’t more done to help the Jews?’ For in truth, the Allies did not move with any enthusiasm to assist large numbers of persecuted Jews.

To further complicate matters, many American Jewish leader refrained from pushing the cause of European Jewry for fear that it would intensify domestic anti-Semitism.

Indeed, the bombing of Auschwitz has come to stand for broader questions such as Allied unconcern for Jewish suffering and Jewish reluctance to stand up for themselves politically.

December 31, 1969

Article 12 of 13 in the series Holocaust Overview

Give Tzedakah! Help create inspiring
articles, videos and blogs featuring timeless Jewish wisdom.
The opinions expressed in the comment section are the personal views of the commenters. Comments are moderated, so please keep it civil.

Visitor Comments: 10

(9) Billy, January 15, 2011 3:13 AM

This is amazing information. I think that sometimes it might even be unbelieveable that such things could happen, and people would "not care"?????! Thank you all for the amazing information

(8) matt, June 7, 2010 6:57 PM


thanx for info amazing info ty to all

(7) Waldemar Keller, October 22, 2007 5:32 AM

No German Sixth Army in Russia

In the spring of the next year, another German offensive was launched especially around the approaches to Stalingrad. What followed can only be described as a nine-month titanic battle, with the result that the German Sixth Army in Russia was almost completely destroyed. That was the beginning of the end for Germany, but it would take three more years of desperate fighting, and millions and millions of people dead before it was all over.

Kein Krieg

(6) Dan Kelley (Kalish), July 8, 2007 7:25 AM

How many jews don't know they are because of jewish history?

I was raised as a gentile and only found out as an adult that my family had changed there name to get out of Europe. The treatment they received in the U.S. was not much better. If you were a jew you were shunned and in the southern part of the U.S. The Ku Klax Klan was the American Gestapo. The family went underground again just to get some peace. My wife discovered some old family writings and traced my heritage back to judaism, thank G-d. When will the hatred end?

SamtheShamus, June 29, 2011 1:45 PM


Dan....The "HATRED" will never end. Just as the present residues of the pre-bicameral mind has been so slow in maturing due to....???? All that can be said is by studying the many scholarly works on the rise and fall of empires throughout humanity's known history, ADVERSITY APPEARS TO STRENGTHEN THE VICTIM. Even though we may see ourselves as the peak of the universes' development, we are still in the playpen!

See All Comments

Submit Your Comment:

  • Display my name?

  • Your email address is kept private. Our editor needs it in case we have a question about your comment.

  • * required field 2000
Submit Comment