What did the world know about the Holocaust as it was happening?

This question is specifically aimed at all you seniors who lived during WWII (both who served and those who did not). Tomorrow night I am going to hear a lecture at the college here by Naomi Ban who experienced the concentration camps and lived to tell. I just wanted to know, in case I don't get a chance to ask her, the reason that the world did not intervene to stop the atrocities there earlier. I really don't know. Was it that people didn't know about it, that people or governments didn't care, or that the news didn't describe it for the horror that it was? How come we didn't intervene earlier than we did? Did nations fear Hitler and his henchmen? How come nations like France and England didn't do something earlier? I need several different points of view, too. I am sure that you folks who lived in Europe would have quite a different answer than the Americans would who were home during that time. If you aren't sure of the answer, give me your best guess, ok? Thanks in advance, and thanks to the women and men who served in WWII to keep us safe. Pam C.

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  • 1 decade ago
    Favorite Answer

    The American press reported Nazi violence toward Jews as early as 1933, and by 1938, published reports of anti-Jewish measures such as the Nuremberg Laws, along with other incidents of antisemitic violence, had multiplied dramatically. In 1941, as the magnitude of anti-Jewish violence increased, newspapers began running descriptions of the Nazi mass murder of Jews, some even using the word "extermination" to refer to these large-scale killings. However, it wasn't until late 1942 that the American public received official confirmation of these reports. On November 24 of that year, Rabbi Stephen Wise disclosed in a press conference that the State Department had investigated and confirmed reports about the Nazis' extermination campaign against European Jews. A few weeks later, on December 17, the United States, Britain, and ten Allied governments released a formal declaration confirming and condemning Hitler's extermination policy toward the Jews. Despite the official status of these announcements, most major dailies in the United States minimized their importance by burying them on inner pages. The New York Times, for example, allocated space on the front page for only the latter of these official reports, relegating Wise's press conference to page ten.

    On August 1, 1942, Gerhart Riegner, a representative of the World Jewish Congress in Switzerland, received information from a German source regarding a Nazi plan to exterminate all the Jews in Europe. Due to the shocking and somewhat unbelievable nature of the report, Riegner refrained from passing on this information until he investigated its source. One week later, satisfied with the reliability of the informant - though unable to confirm the news itself - Riegner requested that the American consulate in Geneva cable this information to the American and other Allied governments, along with Rabbi Stephen Wise, president of the World Jewish Congress in New York. However, given the unsubstantiated nature of Riegner's report, the State Department chose not to forward it to Rabbi Wise and instead suppressed it.

    In the months that followed, as reports of massacres of Jews steadily increased, a pile of evidence grew validating the idea that the Nazis were carrying out a plan to destroy the Jews of Europe. Finally, on November 24, 1942, Rabbi Wise held a press conference to announce news of the Nazis' "extermination campaign." A few weeks later, on December 17, 1942, the United States, Britain, and ten other allied governments made this news official, feeling confident enough in the evidence to publicly reveal their knowledge of the Nazis' plan to systematically kill all of Europe's Jews.

    and

    In a highly publicized event in May-June 1939, the United States refused to admit over 900 Jewish refugees who had sailed from Hamburg, Germany, on the St. Louis. The St. Louis appeared off the coast of Florida shortly after Cuban authorities cancelled the refugees' transit visas and denied entry to most of the passengers, who were still waiting to receive visas to enter the United States. Denied permission to land in the United States, the ship was forced to return to Europe. The governments of Great Britain, France, the Netherlands, and Belgium each agreed to accept some of the passengers as refugees. Of the 908 St. Louis passengers who returned to Europe, 254 (nearly 28 percent) are known to have died in the Holocaust. 288 passengers found refuge in Britain. Of the 620 who returned to the continent, 366 (just over 59 percent) are known to have survived the war.

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    Dissemination of the news was not as perfected as it is today. Holocaust was not a coined word until well after the war. Yes, there were probably many people who knew enough about what was going on to warrant something being done about it all. However, the world was involved in an effort to destroy German Nazism and the many atrocities being committed by them. However, had a full disclosure to the people throughout the world, regarding the planned extermination of the jews, made a big difference in the efforts mounted to destroy Natzism ? Have we mounted an all out effort since then when people were being slaughtered. Don't people curse George W Bush for his attacking Iraq ? Have you been concerned enough to do thirty minutes research regarding the number of people Sadam Hussien destroyed in his country ? Have you any idea of how many people Chairman Mau Tse-Tung and his Cultural Revolution starved and murdered ? Does 50 to 70 Million people sound like a lot ? Have you had more than a passing interest in this ?

    Source(s): Texan
  • Anonymous
    5 years ago

    "The world" is a rather large generality, but fear of the Jews and other groups created within Germany by Hitler and the Nazis through extensive propaganda campaigns was the first step. Then ignorance due to the deliberate suppression of the facts about what was really going on. (Also murdering all those who could expose the atrocity was part of the plan) Don't forget that there was no Internet or World Wide Web back then and the media was and still is controlled to a large degree. But the real reason ultimately, when the facts finally did start to leak out and circulate across the world, was disbelief. The fact is that EVIL is the hardest thing for mankind to confront. When faced with it he looks away and refuses to see it or believe it. He then justifies this by looking into his own heart and says this cannot be happening because it is not a thing that I could ever do, therefore it cannot be. When all the evidence and facts were finally in plain view there were and are still people who could not or would not believe it, or who chose to remain in fear of other human beings in order to justify what was done by the Nazis. The ability to CONFRONT something is directly related to the ability and willingness to DO something about it. Similar atrocities go on in the world today but the true instigators of this evil are much more hidden and insidious and rely on our inability to confront evil in order to continue. Hitler and the Nazis were an obvious target finally, but actually there were hidden evil influences that helped put them into power who used them for their agenda. Recommend reading the book " The Men Behind Hitler" Hope this helps answer your question.

  • ?
    Lv 7
    1 decade ago

    I was not alive during WWII, but my mom grew up in Germany during the time of the war. As far as what the world knew about the atrocities, well, I'm sure that more was known than what was let out to the public. Media was a lot different back then, and much of it was propaganda. From what I have heard from my mom's side of the family, well, life was not easy and they went without more than most of us can imagine now days. I honestly don't think that most of the Germans knew what was going on in regards to the concentration camps and the mass murders. Those things were taken away from the cities and into other bordering countries where they would not be noticed so much. People were afraid to speak out, and they knew that if they did then they would be shot, along with all of their family.

    I would love to hear the lecture you are attending, and I'm sure that it will open your eyes and encourage you to read more in regards to this chapter in our world.

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  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    I'm not that old but I heard from my Uncles what they saw there.

    I don't think the world at large had any idea. Hitler's grab for the world had everyone pretty much occupied.

    I spent a year in Germany and made some older friends that lived through it. I believe them when they said they didn't know anything about it and still don't.

    Which is worse the Fascists that thought it up or the idiots that will sit in that audience and heckle and deny it happened.

  • 1 decade ago

    The entire world knew of the Nazi actions! The Vatican did NOTHING, (Pope Pius XII went down in infamy as a lacky to the Facist's in Italy over this very issue!) Why do you think the world (Allied Forces) were in such a hurry to destroy German forces???? This does NOT need a point of view, yours..mine, anyones....it is fact, not story! A more important story is Muslims in total denial of the Holocaust! This is a preposterous stand on an issue so well documented! Totally preposterous!

  • 1 decade ago

    My mother-in-law was a citizen of Hungary during WW11. She was a young married women of 22 with a two year old child. Her husband was drafted into the army and she was left with her baby and elderly mother to worry about.

    She spent the better part of two years hiding with her baby in a celler since no decent young women could be on the streets with Russian, German, Hungarian and American soldiers about.

    She and the other people in the celler were not Jewish but they were also starving and had little food, many small children died in the celler, my sister-in-law barely made it out alive.

    I really don't think the average German or Hungarian citizen knew or could do much to help those in concentration camps since most were just trying to survive themselves.

  • 1 decade ago

    I once knew a lady who lived in Germany and she said they could smell the smoke! They were afraid to do anything or say anything about it because they would go right in with the ones they were trying to save.

    In reality, we don't know how many there were that may have TRIED to do something, but it would have been no big deal for them to be tossed in the fence with the rest of the prisoners.

    She married a soldier and came over here to live in the 'land of milk and honey.' I bet she has nightmares, tho.

  • 1 decade ago

    Hitler controlled the newspapers and the radio in Germany so it was never reported, however I dont believe the German people didnt know, I believe they chose not to. Many were hiding and protecting the Jews, others had to see them being rounded up - as for the slaughter of Jews I suspect only those living very close to the camps could have known about them

    Source(s): relative and friends in Germany at the time and I asked them what they knew and how it happened
  • -
    Lv 7
    1 decade ago

    I worked at night in 1984 and one evening I was eating my supper in the office area, I talked to my supervisor about many things. He told me our boss had some old college newspapers from the 1930's that someone had found in a building and discarded and he let me look at them. The US definitely knew that Germany was building up it's military and was a threat in the late 1930's, that is what I learned from reading those dozen or so newspapers. I believe there was business or trade with Germany and it was helping our economy and allowing World War II to happen helped rebuild the economy after the Great Depression.

  • Dave M
    Lv 7
    1 decade ago

    Something to think about in a round about answer to your question, "how many Americans knew certain agency's in our government were using torture as part of there interrogation process during the Iraq war?" Allot of Germans didn't know what was going on in those concentration camps and especially the German solder fighting on the fronts.

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