“When they came for the gypsies, I did not speak, for I am not a gypsy.
When they came for the Jews, I did not speak, because I wasnt a Jew.
When they came for the Catholics, I did not speak, for I am not a
And when they came for me, there was no one left to speak.”
-On the Wall at the Holocaust Museum in Washington
It is impossible to learn about the Holocaust and the Second
World War without the question of how it possibly could have happened
arising, and along with that question comes another. The question of
whether or not the Western World did enough to help the Jews in Europe.
What was their reaction to the campaign of systematic persecution,
robbery and murder the Third Reich inflicted upon the Jewish people?
During the time leading up to the outbreak of World War II, the
Western Press consistently carried numerous reports of the Germans
anti-Jewish policies and their purposeful victimization of the Jews
living in Nazi Germany as well as the annexed territories. The general
public cannot claim that they did not know what was going on, that they
were uninformed. Whether or not they chose to believe it however, is a
completely different story. The public were indeed outraged in many of
the cases but the governments of the major European democracies felt
that it was not for them to intervene for they felt that the Jewish
problem classified as an internal affair within a sovereign state. The
truth behind this is simply that the governments were anxious to
establish cordial relations with Germany and didnt want to cause any
hostility. Thus they stood idly by and remained silent as Hitler went
from denying the Jews of their civil rights to denying them of their
means of earning their daily bread.
As much as they wanted to remain neutral, the countries of the
Western World were finally forced to take a stand on the issue of
emigration of Jews from the Reich who were seeking refuge. The United
States maintained strict immigration quotas which severely limited the
number of Central and Eastern Europeans admitted to the country each
year. Even under such extreme circumstances, the US insisted on adhering
to these policies and refused to modify them even slightly. Great
Britain proved to be merciless as they blocked entry into Palestine and
limited the amount of entry permits. The states that had the ability to
absorb the immigrants such as Australia, Canada and most countries of
South America, accepted agricultural workers but denied entry to
professionals, merchants and skilled artisans. There were actually
protests in the US and Britain organized against the admission of
The President of the United States initiated the Evian
Conference in 1938 in an attempt to find a means that would aid
emigrants from Germany and Austria and enable their absorption
elsewhere. Thirty-two countries sent delegates with hopes that a
solution would be found however, it quickly became clear to all that the
even the great powers who had initiated the conference were not willing
to take any significant steps towards accepting the refugees. Despite
the speeches and the appeals, no one country was willing to commit
themselves to practical measures, the smaller countries following the
example of the larger ones. An international committee was set up in
London for refugee affairs but it lacked funding as well as a place
towards where they could direct the refugees. It is evident here that it
is not a lack of knowledge that something had to be done, but rather an
unwillingness that prevented the Western World from helping the Jews.
Words are just that, mere words, unless they are put into action. As a
result, the Evian Conference is regarded as a complete failure.
Once the war began, the comprehensive information regarding the
conditions in Germany that the Western World had at one time been
provided with, ceased. Still, news of the Einsatzgruppen s activities
and the mass killings in the death camps found its way to the west. Up
until the middle of the year 1942, the general tendency was to regard
the consistent persecution of the Jews as just one part of the complex
of oppression in the occupied countries. By the mid-1942 the horribly
terrifying rumors about Hitlers Final Solution as well as the
operations and atrocities being conducted were confirmed.
Once again the reactions of the United States and Britain, who
were the major countries of the anti-Nazi alliance, were of horror and
anger. The Jews put forth plans to combat the Nazis persecution of their
people such as a demand for the exchange of Germans for Jews or the
launching of retaliation strikes against the Germans until the murders
ceased. Not only were these proposals refused simple consideration, but
there was not even a willingness to halt the formal procedures governing
the transfer of dollars abroad which may have saved the lives of many
Jews. All proposals which, if out into action, could have saved
thousands of children and other victims, were submitted to
administrations that merely contemplated rather than decided and thus,
produced no tangible results.
As Jews were fighting for their lives in Warsaw Ghetto, a
conference of the major allies convened in Bermuda to consider the
“problem” of refugees. As with the Evian Conference, no practical
solutions were proposed, The only thing it did accomplish was an attempt
at reviving the International Committee for Refugee Affairs, which had
no executive powers.
Finally, the conclusion of the Allies was that rescue would only
be accomplished through a final victory over the Nazis. It was decided
that in the meantime, no military action should be taken which was not
part of the purely military-strategic plan. This policy was strictly
adhered to and therefore no operation for relief or rescue was
undertaken, even if such an action did not conflict with military
objectives or require the use of military power.
“He who preserves one life, it as if he has preserved an entire
world.” – The Talmud. Anytime the world stands idly by and remains
silent as 6 000 000 worlds are shattered, not only did they fail to come
up with a solution, but they became a part of the problem. Hitler
attempted to erase an entire race of people, because of him there was a
generation lost. My entire grandparents family was murdered and many of
their friends still bear the numbers that were etched into their skin.
They have endured nightmarish atrocities not fit for the world of the
awake. They have been witness to ideas, thoughts and actions one would
deny human beings capability of even imagining. Their eyes have been
robbed of their innocence after seeing sights that would cause anyone to
shut them in fear and disgust but this was an option they did not have.
Now you look into those eyes and you tell them that the Western World
did all they could to help the Jews.