The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Tuesday, February 24, 2004

The bombing Auschwitz counter-factual - online materials

A filler piece in the Observer on Sunday got me looking to see what of substance there was online that might set the layman like me on the right track.

Two to start off with (comments on the basis of a first read through):

First, a 1996 thesis [130pp (PDF - 8MB)] by Rondall R Rice called Auschwitz and Anglo-American Air Power: Historical Debates and Military Capabilities [1].

In the first half, Rice gives a detailed historiography of the issue. In the second, he takes on the task of ascertaining, by a painstaking analysis of the material available to planners at the time, whether an effective bombing raid on the camp could have been made, giving the available technology and prevailing conditions. He concludes that such a raid would have been technically possible.

Second, a 2002 piece (PDF) by Joseph R White in Holocaust and Genocide Studies entitled Target Auschwitz: Historical and Hypothetical German Responses to Allied Attack [2].

The paper takes as a given at the outset that a raid such as that considered by Rice had in fact been mounted by the Allies in the summer of 1944; its purpose is to consider the likely reaction of the Germans to such a raid in the light of their response to Allied raids on the neighbouring IG Farben factory and elsewhere.

After a brisk, name-laden dozen pages (followed by the same again of footnotes), White concludes that there was
little room for retrospective optimism about the life-saving prospects of an Allied bombing of Auschwitz

The fact that there was no such raid is, of course, grist to the mill of those seeking to portray us Europeans as The Eternal Anti-semites - the Americans, who were in charge of the Allied war effort in Europe at the time, get tarred with the same brush; but then, even Glorious Allies need keeping in line.

So far as I'm aware, Rice's workings have yet to be fully analysed by experts in the relevant fields - to the layman, they look pretty thorough and his conclusion is correspondingly plausible.

The point is this: if the raid was not technically possible, that would throw out the case against the Allies on summary judgement, without the need to get into the messier political and strategic questions - consideration of which allows in arguments whether anti-semitism played a role in the decision not to bomb, either primary (actors were anti-semitic) or secondary (the effect of antisemitism in the general population - avoiding confusing the perception of war aims [3]).

To judge from Rice's historiography, White's piece is the first to look at the thing from the German side. No doubt, a full-length book will be forthcoming, if it hasn't already been produced.

The calm and businesslike approach of both pieces is a welcome relief for any who might suppose that matters in this area can only be discussed with the open-mindedness - and at the decibellage - of Kyle's Mom delivering her harangue about Canadians!

  1. A colonic title, neither half of which gives much of a clue to the content! The file size is so big because of the maps and photos - which, ironically, mostly don't reproduce so well! It's also been scanned as an image: no copy/paste, nor is it picked up by any search engine: I got it here.

  2. The bastard thing is copy-protected - so, again, no copy/paste!

  3. Just as a lot of Northerners in 1861 would fight for the Union but not to abolish slavery.

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