It looked like a major exposé, The Guardian’s headline on Tuesday blared “Opening of UN files on the Holocaust will rewrite chapters of history” while the Times of Israel echoed the prevailing sentiment, “Allies knew of the Holocaust in 1942, 2 years before previously assumed, UN documents prove.” International headlines presumed the Allies had little or no knowledge about the millions of Jewish children, women and men being murdered in Nazi death camps.
Nothing could be further from the truth, according to the United Nations War Crimes Commission (UNWCC) dating back to 1943. The archives are supposed to officially open to researchers today – just three days before Yom Hashoah. In an Op-Ed, my colleague and “Nazi Hunter,” Efraim Zuroff wrote “What a scandal!! Imagine what they could have done to stop the murder once they found out, think of all the lives which could have been saved.”
True, the Allies were informed and therefore allowed the genocide to happen, if not complicit through non-action. Zuroff writes that “in the summer of 1942, reports about the specific Nazi plan for the mass annihilation of all the Jews of Europe reached the West.”
And as any Holocaust expert will attest, historians had revealed this truth decades ago. In fact, my colleague in New York, Mark Weitzman, said these documents were opened decades ago and that he had looked into them at Simon Wiesenthal’s request in 1991. As a result of looking into them, Weitzman uncovered critical information about Haj Amin al-Husseini, “the notoriously anti-Jewish grand mufti of Jerusalem [who] sought Adolf Hitler’s help for an Arab version of the ‘Final Solution'” (JTA, July 22, 1991).
As early as 1941, al-Husseini wanted Germany and Italy to “accord to Palestine and to other Arab countries the right to solve the problem of the Jewish elements in Palestine and other Arab countries, in accordance with the interest of the Arabs and, by the same method, that the question is now being settled in the Axis countries” (JTA).
Given the extent of the atrocity committed by the the Nazis and the silence of the lambs (the allies in this case), it is indeed scandalous that the archives remained relatively closed to the public. This was hardly the intent (I am sure) of Mr. Alfred Wiener who fled Germany in 1933 and had the foresight to found The Wiener Library to document evidence of Nazi persecution of the Jewish people. New revelations (at least for me) include that Adolf Hitler was indicted for war crimes at least seven times and that some Eastern Bloc countries, particularly Poland, were collecting evidence for war crimes charges.
Interestingly, according to reports, the Polish government in exile supplied detailed descriptions to the UNWCC of concentration camps such as Treblinka and Auschwitz, where millions of Jewish people and others were gassed and died horrific deaths. By 1945, six million Jews and millions of others were murdered by the Nazis. Similarly, the Czech government in exile collected more than 300 pages detailing Hitler’s orders and responsibilities, particularly in coordinating and controlling massacres carried out by Nazi units in Czechoslovakia.
It is believed that the UNWCC was closed and suppressed in the late 1940s to essentially end war crimes trials, as West Germany became a key ally of the West and Nazi war criminals immigrated to North and South America. There was a massive cover up – “In the West (Germany), many convicted Nazi perpetrators were pardoned, and those who had initially escaped attention were prosecuted ever less frequently. Doctors who had participated in the murder of patients continued to practice medicine, Nazi judges continued to preside over courtrooms, and former members of the SS, SD, and Gestapo found positions in the intelligence service or, like many members of the Nazi Criminal Investigation or Order Police, joined the police force” (Topography of Terror, 2014;379).
Thus, the opening of the UNWCC files is only one more demonstration of a conspiratorial mass cover up instituted to protect the perpetrators, never the victims. Why should it have remained inaccessible for more than seventy years? To protect those with blood on their hands or those who remained silent during the murders. With evidence sealed, many Nazi war criminals and their collaborators literally got away with murder.
We will never forget. On Monday April 24th, FSWC will be holding a Yom Hashoah memorial at its office at 5075 Yonge Street, 9th floor in the evening.