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The BBC's Nick Bryant
"No warning was broadcast which might have enabled the Jews to hide"
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Tuesday, 27 June, 2000, 05:08 GMT 06:08 UK
Allies failed to warn Italian Jews
Auschwitz: Visitors pay respects to the Holocaust victims
British and American leaders knew in 1943 that the German Nazis planned to seize Italian Jews, but failed to warn them, according to World War II documents.

Immediate and thorough eradication of the Jews in Italy is in the interests of general security

Order from Berlin to Rome
Intelligence services intercepted coded German messages saying that the 8,000 Jews were to be taken from Rome and transported to the Auschwitz concentration camp.

One from Berlin on 11 October 1943, said the "immediate and thorough eradication of the Jews in Italy" was in the interest of "general security in Italy".

Nearly 6 million Jews died in the Holocaust
Historians who have studied the documents say Allied leaders may have been reluctant to reveal that they had broken Nazi codes.

There was a gap of five days before the order was carried out, but no warning was broadcast which might have enabled the Jews to hide.

The documents, made available at the US National Archives in Washington, included messages between Nazi secret service officials in Rome and Berlin.

The Holocaust

Jews murdered/% of Jewish population

Austria 50,000/27%
Italy 7,680/17.3%
Belgium 28,900/44%
Lithuania 143,000/85.1%
Luxembourg 1,950/55.7%
Germany 141,500/25.0%
Poland 3,000,000/90.9%
France 77,320/22.1%
Greece 67,000/86.6%
Yugoslavia 63,300/81.2%

Source: Simon Wiesenthal Center
The story of the extermination of Italian Jews goes back to July 1943 when Italian dictator Benito Mussolini was overthrown.

Although Mussolini had officially introduced anti-Semitic policies, they were mostly ignored or bypassed by the reluctant population.

The first German and SS troops entered Rome in September that year and a short time later, the Nazis set up Mussolini as a puppet ruler in northern Italy.

Radio traffic showed that by 6 October, a German official, Theodor Dannecker, was sent to Rome to seize all Italian Jews.

1,200 seized

It is clear that had a statement been made on the radio ... this might well have had an effect on decisions made by people to get out

Historian Timothy Naftali
One message from Berlin on 11 October 1943 said: "The longer the delay, the more the Jews ... have an opportunity (to escape) by moving to the houses of pro-Jewish Italians," and ordered the deportation "of the Jews without further delay".

A message intercepted five days later from Rome said: "Actions against Jews started and finished today" and reported the seizure of more than 1,200 Jews.

Timothy Naftali, a University of Virginia historian said wartime British and US leaders Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt should have made a statement warning the Jews.

"It is clear that had a statement been made on the radio to the effect that Allied forces feared for the safety of Romans, and particularly the Jews of Rome, this might well have had an effect on decisions made by people to get out," he said. But he also warned against a "rush to conclusions".

He and others said it was unclear in hindsight whether taking action on the information would have compromised British intelligence gathering.

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Fresh look at Holocaust
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