President Bush Is Right: U.S. Should Have –And Could Have– Bombed Auschwitz

News Release
January 11, 2008

WASHINGTON, D.C.- A leading Holocaust research institute has praised President Bush for his statement that the United States “should have bombed” the Auschwitz death camp in 1944.

“The Roosevelt administration’s refusal to bomb Auschwitz was an appalling moral failure,” said Prof. David S. Wyman and Dr. Rafael Medoff, historians who have written extensively on the bombing issue. “President Bush is right–the United States should have, and could have, bombed the Auschwitz death camp and the railway lines leading to it.”

While visiting the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial, in Jerusalem, on Jan. 11, 2008, President Bush “viewed aerial photos of the Auschwitz death camp and called [Secretary of State Condoleeza] Rice over to discuss why the American government had decided against bombing the site, [Yad Vashem director Avner] Shalev said. ‘We should have bombed it,’ Bush said, according to Shalev.” (Associated Press, Jan. 11)

Dr. Medoff, who is director of The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies, pointed out:

“The photographs that President Bush viewed were taken because U.S. planes flew right over Auschwitz in 1944, taking surveillance photos in preparation for bombing–not for bombing the gas chambers or crematoria, but for bombing German oil factories less than five miles away. [SEE ATTACHED PHOTO]

“The Roosevelt administration knew about the mass murder going on in Auschwitz but rejected proposals to bomb it on the grounds that bombing would have required a diversion of military resources. In fact, U.S. planes were already in the skies over Auschwitz. In one of the raids on the oil factories, stray U.S. bombs accidentally struck an SS barracks and part of the railway line leading into the death camp. But the gas chambers and crematoria were never targeted.

“The refusal to bomb Auschwitz was part of a broader policy by the Roosevelt administration to refrain from taking action to rescue or shelter Jewish refugees during the Holocaust. Tragically, the United States turned away from one of history’s most compelling moral challenges.”


* President Bill Clinton, in his remarks at the opening of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., on April 22, 1993, said: “For those of us here today representing the nations of the West, we must live forever with this knowledge–even as our fragmentary awareness of crimes grew into indisputable facts, far too little was done. Before the war even started, doors to liberty were shut and even after the United States and the Allies attacked Germany, rail lines to the camps within miles of militarily significant targets were left undisturbed.”

* U.S. Secretary of State Cyrus Vance (Carter administration), visiting Yad Vashem on Feb. 16, 1977, “showed particular interest in a letter written by a deputy U.S. defence secretary stating that he would not allow the bombing of Auschwitz which had been called for to save the concentration camp inmates. ‘Even my country didn’t act,’ Vance said with emotion.” [Jerusalem Post, Feb. 17, 1977]

* U.S. Senator and 1972 Democratic Presidential Nominee George McGovern was one of the pilots who attacked German oil factories near Auschwitz in 1944. In an interview with Israel Television and the Wyman Institute on December 20, 2004, McGovern 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…Franklin Roosevelt was a great man and he was my political hero. But I think he made two great mistakes in World War Two.” One was the internment of Japanese-Americans; the other was the decision “not to go after Auschwitz … God forgive us for that tragic miscalculation.”

* U.S. Senator Claiborne Pell (D-Rhode Island), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee: “The more you read [books about America’s response to the Holocaust] the more you realize that we did not bomb the railroad lines that brought the Jews into Auschwitz, the more you realize that we did not bomb the camps themselves and the incinerators–which we could have done…” [WHJJ Radio, Providence, RI, March 9, 1987]