On this day in 1942, the Polish government-in-exile delivered Raczyński’s Note – an official report on the Holocaust – to 26 Western governments engaged in WWII. Polish resistance member Jan Karski had smuggled secret information documenting Nazi war crimes to London, where it was reviewed by horrified Polish leaders. Diplomat Edward Bernard Raczyński quickly drew up a brochure detailing the plight of Jews in Europe. It was no secret that Nazis – and the German 3rd Reich at large – intensely disliked Jewish people. But most assumed that Jews were merely being expelled from Axis Europe. Raczyński’s Note confirmed the unthinkable: that there was a deliberate German effort to systematically murder Jewish people in occupied Europe. In his brochure, the Polish diplomat pleaded for help not only in recognizing “…crimes committed by the Germans and punishing the criminals… “, but also in stopping Germany from “…continuing to apply her methods of mass extermination.”
Raczyński’s Note was significant for being one of the first detailed bits of evidence of the Holocaust; it was also the first plea from a European government for the Allies to save all Jews, not just citizens of their own country. As many sources indicate – Soldaten, a collection of secret recordings of German prisoners-of-war in particular – the Holocaust may have been a Nazi effort, but it was enabled by and carried out with the implicit understanding of many “ordinary”, non-radical German soldiers and citizens. Even today, it’s difficult to imagine the scale and extent of the Holocaust – but that doesn’t excuse the fact that Allied forces should have acted more aggressively to put an end to the Shoah of Jews in Europe during WWII.
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