Allies warned of Nazi genocide plan in 1941

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The Independent US

Newly released papers have thrown fresh light on the question of how much the West knew of Adolf Hitler's plans to try to exterminate the Jews.

A US intelligence document released yesterday shows that by November 1941, diplomats knew of such a plan. The US was certainly aware of Hitler's intentions by March 1942.

The document is a translated copy of a November 1941 dispatch filed by a Chilean diplomat, consul Gonzalo Montt Rivas, who was working in Prague. It reads: "It has been decided to eradicate all the Jews and send some to Poland and others to the town of Terezin, whilst looking for a more remote place."

By March of the following year, a "surreptitiously obtained" copy of the document appeared in the files of the US coordinator of information – a predecessor of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) and the CIA. The document was released yesterday, along with 400,000 pages of OSS files, by the Interagency Working Group, a body that organises the government-wide effort to declassify and release federal material relating to Nazi war crimes.

IWG spokesman Thomas Baer said: "Warnings from the allies to the Jews of Europe of a planned genocide never came. The Nazi murders depended on secrecy and subterfuge. Warnings would not have stopped the Holocaust, but they could have saved lives."

During the German occupation, Prague was no longer the capital of an independent country and most foreign diplomats had long left. Chile was an exception to this general rule because of its friendly relations with Berlin.

The archive note attached to the consul's statement, highlights this situation. It says: "His location and good connections provided a unique vantage point for discerning the Nazi agenda and actions in Nazi-occupied territories."

Officials said that the consul's dispatch to Chile was prompted by a decree by the Nazis on 25 November, 1941, announcing that Jews who had left Germany to live abroad would lose all their assets.

A copy was delivered to David Bruce, head of the secret intelligence branch of the coordinator of information. It was forwarded to the coordinator, William Donovan, but it is unclear who else saw it.