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.