The story behind the Allied Powers’ Response to the Holocaust Conference
The triumph of the Allies over the Nazis in the Second World War was pivotal in preserving for civilization the traditions of freedom, democracy, and human rights forged over previous centuries. The significance of the victory, and the skill, energy, and perseverance of those who brought it about, are rightly celebrated, remembered, and enshrined in history.
But there is another side to the often-repeated war stories and accolades that have proven difficult for both the public and historians to grasp. This year marks the 70th anniversary of the Allied liberation of Auschwitz. In that place and in many others, the Nazis carried out from 1941 to 1944 the systematic imprisonment and extermination of six million Jews. As a teenager of the time remembered it: “I was 14 — and they told us, ‘Your mother is not coming back.’”
The Holocaust, or Shoah, has given rise to prolific academic studies and has inspired countless histories, novels, and films. Scholars have compiled mountains of data, explored multiple points of view on the depth and depravity of Nazism’s Final Solution, and offered stories of the plights and heroism of Jewish victims, including their executions in the death camps and, on occasion, their miraculous survivals. The victorious Allies, on the other hand, have generally been portrayed as conquering heroes who were surprised, shocked, and horrified by what they found when they liberated the Jews remaining in the camps in 1945. Beginning in the 1960’s and 1970’s, Arthur Morse, Henry Feingold, and others questioned this portrayal. In 1984, David Wyman published a landmark study entitled: The Abandonment of the Jews – America and the Holocaust, a work that received numerous awards and made the New York Times Bestseller’s List. These works raised important and controversial new questions about the Holocaust including: What did the Allies know about the Holocaust as it unfolded? Were they somehow complicit in, or at least secondarily responsible for, the great catastrophe?
In the tradition of the foregoing pioneers, twenty eminent teachers and scholars from the United States, Great Britain, Poland, Israel, and China met in conference in Jerusalem in March 2015, to offer new information and insights about the Allied Powers’ Response to the Holocaust. The principal speakers, who are listed on our Presenters page, included established experts as well as fresh talent. Their approaches encompass a variety of academic fields including history, politics, law, and social thought. Their study has aspired to leave no stone unturned and no myth unexploded in this controversial field. Through their efforts, they aimed to stimulate further study and public, as well as academic, discussion of the wartime victors’ complex motivations and their actions in relation to one of the most profound tragedies in human history.
The Conference leaders included Alexander Groth, a survivor of the Warsaw Ghetto and Emeritus Professor of Political Science at the University of California –Davis, Tony J. Tanke, a California attorney and Senior Fellow and Lecturer at the Santa Clara University Law School, and Dr. Lawrence Weinbaum, Chief Editor of the Israel Journal of Foreign Affairs. This Conference was a product of their years of friendship, fellowship, and discussion. We are thankful to all our sponsors and participants, who made possible this singular gathering.
The Conference was held at the Menachem Begin Heritage Center in Jerusalem. Dr. Rafael Medoff of the Wyman Center in Washington D.C. lead off the proceedings with a keynote address on Monday, March 16, 2015, followed by three days of papers, presentations, and panel discussions among the distinguished speakers. Key parts of the conference were streamed live and can be viewed on our video archive page. We are also in the process of producing a DVD of conference presentations.