Auschwitz: Allies and Nazis are both to blame

Printer-friendly versionSend by emailThe commemoration of the anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp is providing the bourgeoisie with a new opportunity to obscure the responsibility of the ‘democratic camp’ in the atrocities of World War II, by bludgeoning us with horrifying images and testimonies, bearing witness to the appalling and all too real horrors of fascism.

Hitherto unpublished documents have been dug out to illustrate once again the abomination suffered by the deportees, and the unimaginable barbarity of their Nazi torturers and executioners. But it is certainly no accident that the search for truth and ‘authenticity’ comes to a grinding halt as soon reality threatens to compromise the ‘democratic camp’. For the Allies, who were perfectly aware of the reality of the Holocaust, did nothing to hinder the execution of the Nazis’ macabre schemes. It is up to revolutionaries to bring this reality to light, as we do here through the republication of extracts from an article first published in the International Review n°89: ‘Allies and Nazis jointly responsible for the Holocaust’.

Moreover, the barbarism of the democratic camp during World War II lived up to that of the fascist camp, in both the horror of their crimes and the cynicism with which they were committed: the bombing of Dresden and Hamburg, or the nuclear devastation visited on an already defeated Japan. This is why we declare, together with our comrades of the Gauche Communiste de France (in their leaflet of June 1945 which we publish below: “Buchenwald, Maideneck: macabre demagoguery”), that it was not the German, American, or British workers who were responsible for a war they never wanted, but the bourgeoisie and capitalism.

From 1945 to the present day, the bourgeoisie has constantly exhibited the obscene images of the heaps of corpses found in the Nazi extermination camps, and the starving bodies of those who survived that hell. By contrast, during the war, the Allies were very discreet about the camps, to the point where they were completely absent from the wartime propaganda of the ‘democratic camp’.

The Allies hide the existence of the camps

This might be explained by the Allies’ ignorance, not of the camps’ existence but of their use for systematic extermination from 1942-43 onwards. After all, spy satellites did not exist in those days... This fairy story, according to which the Allies only found out what was really happening at Dachau, Auschwitz, Treblinka etc, will not stand up to the slightest historical study. The secret services existed already, and were very active and efficient, as we can see from certain episodes of the war where they played a determining role, and the existence of the death camps could not have escaped their attention. This is confirmed by the work of numerous historians of World War II. Thus in the French paper Le Monde of 27th September 1996 we read: “A massacre [ie that perpetrated in the camps] whose extent and systematic nature were contained in a report by the Jewish social-democratic party, the Polish Bund, was officially confirmed to American officials by the famous telegram of 8th August 1942, despatched by G. Riegner, representative of the World Jewish Congress in Geneva on the basis of information supplied by a German industrialist from Leipzig named Edward Scholte. We know that at this time, most of the European Jews doomed to die were still alive”. It is thus clear that the Allied governments were perfectly aware, from various sources, of the existence of the genocide under way by 1942, and yet the leaders of the ‘democratic camp’, Roosevelt, Churchill and their henchmen, did everything to avoid these revelations being given any hasty publicity, and even gave strict instructions to the press to maintain an extreme discretion on the subject. In fact, they lifted not a finger to save the millions condemned to die. This is confirmed in the same article of Le Monde, which writes “(...) in the mid-1980s, the American author D. Wyman, in his book The Desertion of the Jews (Calmann-Lévy) showed that several hundred thousand lives could have been saved were it not for the apathy, or even the obstruction, of certain organs of the US administration (such as the State Department), and of the Allies in general”. These extracts from the thoroughly bourgeois and democratic Le Monde only confirm what has always been said by the Communist Left. As for the loud and virtuous cries of horror - after 1945 - from all the champions of the ‘rights of man’ at the horror of the Holocaust, the Allies’ silence during the war shows just how much they are worth.

Is this silence to be explained by the latent anti-Semitism of certain Allied leaders, as some post-war Jewish historians have maintained? Anti-Semitism is certainly not restricted to fascist regimes but this is not the real reason behind the silence of the Allies’, some of whose leaders were either Jews themselves, or close to Jewish organisations (Roosevelt for example). No, the real reason behind this remarkable discretion lies in the laws that regulate the capitalist system, whether its rule be covered by the banner of democracy or of totalitarianism. As in the enemy camp, all the Allies’ resources were mobilised for the war. No useless mouths, everybody must be occupied, either at the front or in the production of armaments. The arrival en masse of populations from the camps, of children and old people who could not be sent to the front or the factory, of sick and exhausted men and women who could not be immediately integrated into the war effort, would only have disorganised the latter. So the frontiers were closed, and such immigration prevented by every means possible. In 1943 - in other words at a time when the Anglo-Saxon bourgeoisie was perfectly aware of the reality of the camps - Anthony Eden, minister of His Most Gracious and Democratic Britannic Majesty decided at Churchill’s request that “no ship of the United Nations can be affected to transfer the refugees to Europe”, while Roosevelt added that “transporting so many people would disorganise the war effort” (Churchill, Memoirs, Vol 10). These are the real and sordid reasons that led these accredited anti-fascists and democrats to remain silent about what was happening in Dachau, Buchenwald, and others of sinister memory! The humanitarian considerations that were supposed to drive the anti-fascist camp, united against fascist barbarism, had no place in their sordid capitalist interests and the demands of the war machine.

However, contrary to the laments of this bourgeois paper, the ‘democratic camp’ was not an accomplice to Holocaust merely out of ‘bad faith’ or bureaucratic sloth. As we will see, this complicity was wholly conscious. At first, the deportation camps were essentially labour camps, where the German bourgeoisie could benefit from a cheap labour force entirely at its mercy, directed entirely to the war effort. Although the extermination camps existed already, at the time they were more the exception than the rule. But after its first serious military reversals, especially against the terrible war machine set in motion by the USA, German imperialism could no longer properly feed its own troops and population. The Nazi regime thus decided to rid itself of the excess population in the camps, and from then on the gas-ovens spread their sinister shadow everywhere. The abomination of the executioners carefully gathering their victims’ teeth, hair, and finger-nails to feed the German war machine, was the fruit of an imperialism at bay, retreating on every front, and plumbing the depths of the irrationality of imperialist war. But although the Nazi regime and its underlings perpetrated the Holocaust without a qualm, it brought little benefit to German capital, desperately trying to gather together the wherewithal to resist the Allies’ inexorable advance. In this context, there were several attempts - in general conducted directly by the SS - to make some profit out of these hundreds of thousands, even millions of prisoners, by selling them to, or exchanging them with the Allies.

The most famous episode of this sinister bargaining was the approach made to Joel Brand, the leader of a semi-clandestine organisation of Hungarian Jews, whose story has been told in the book by A. Weissberg, cited in the pamphlet on Auschwitz, the Great Alibi. He was taken to Budapest to meet the SS officer in charge of the Jewish question, Adolf Eichmann, who instructed him to negotiate with the British and American governments for the liberation of a million Jews, in exchange for 10,000 trucks, but making it clear that he was ready to accept less, or even different goods. To demonstrate their good faith, and the seriousness of their proposal, the SS even proposed to release 100,000 Jews as soon as Brand obtained an agreement in principle, without asking anything in exchange. During his journey, Brand made the acquaintance of British prisons in the Middle East, and after many delays which, far from being accidents were deliberately put in his way by the Allied governments to avoid an official meeting, he was finally able to discuss the proposal with Lord Moyne, the British government’s representative in the Middle East. There was nothing personal in the latter’s utter refusal of Eichmann’s proposal: he was merely following the instructions of the British cabinet. Nor was it a moral refusal to bow to a revolting blackmail. There is no room left for doubt when we read Brand’s own account of the discussion: “I begged him to give me at least a written agreement, even if he failed to keep to it, which would at least save 100,000 lives. Moyne then asked what would be the total number. I replied that Eichmann had spoken of a million. ‘But how can you imagine such a thing Mr Brand? What would I do with a million Jews? Where would I put them? Who would take them in?’. In desperation, I said that if the earth no longer had room for us, there was nothing left for us but to let ourselves be exterminated”. As Auschwitz, or the Great Alibi so rightly says of this glorious episode of World War II, “unfortunately, while the supply was there, the demand was not! Not just the Jews, but even the SS had been taken in by the Allies’ humanitarian propaganda! The Allies did not want these million Jews! Not for 10,000 trucks, not for 5,000, not even for nothing”.

Democratic propaganda to mystify the proletariat

Some recent historiography has tried to show that this refusal was due above all to Stalin’s veto. This is just another attempt to hide the direct complicity of the ‘great democracies’ in the Holocaust, revealed in the misadventure of the naïve Brand, whose veracity nobody seriously contests. Suffice to say in reply that during the war, neither Churchill nor Roosevelt were in the habit of being dictated to by Stalin, while on this particular point they were on the same wavelength as the ‘little father of the peoples’, demonstrating the same brutality and cynicism throughout the war. The thoroughly democratic Roosevelt refused other, similar attempts by the Nazis, for example when at the end of 1944 they tried to sell Jews to the “Organisation of American Jews”, demonstrating their good faith by deporting 2000 Jews to Switzerland, as is detailed by Y. Bauer in his book Jews for Sale (published by Liana Levi).

None of this is an accident, or the fault of leaders rendered ‘insensitive’ by the terrible sacrifices demanded by the war against the ferocious fascist dictatorship - the explanations usually put forward to justify Churchill’s ruthlessness, for example, of certain inglorious episodes of the 1939-45 war. Anti-fascism never expressed a real antagonism between on the one hand a camp defending democracy and its values, and on the other a totalitarian camp. This was never anything but a ‘red rag’ waved before the workers to justify the war by hiding its classically inter-imperialist nature as a war to divide up the world between the great imperialist sharks. The Communist International had already warned that this war was inevitable as soon as the Treaty of Versailles was signed; anti-fascism made it possible to wipe this warning from the workers’ minds, before enrolling them for the biggest slaughter in history. While it was necessary, during the war, to keep the frontiers firmly closed to all those who tried to escape the Nazi hell in order not to disorganise the war effort, once the war was over it was another matter entirely. The publicity suddenly given to the camps’ existence after 1945 was manna from heaven to the bourgeois propaganda machine. Turning the spotlight on the awful reality of the death camps allowed the Allies to hide their own innumerable crimes, and to attach the proletariat firmly to the defence of a democracy presented by all the bourgeois parties, from the right to the Stalinists, as a value common to working and ruling classes, something defended against the danger of new Holocausts.

See also :