June 26, 2000
Knew Of Danger To Italian Jews
info could have saved some from death
camps. Knowledge came from intercepted
Nazi messages. 400,000 pages of
WASHINGTON -- June 26,
2000 (CBS) British and American
intelligence agents had information in
1943 that could have been used to save
some Italian Jews from the Nazis'
death camp, historians said Monday.
At a news conference releasing some
400,000 pages of newly declassified
documents at the National Archives,
historians said Western officials might
have been able to warn Jews in Rome that
they were about to be rounded up and
Some 1,000 Roman Jews died in
Auschwitz, reports CBS News Correspondent
Eric Engberg. It is clear now that
they could have been warned. U.S.
President Franklin Roosevelt and
British Prime Minister
faced with the problems of running the
war, apparently never discussed that.
In October 1943, American and British
forces landed in Italy and were moving in
on to Rome.
In coded radio messages to SS leaders
in Rome, Hitler ordered the slaughter.
A message dated October 6, 1943, read:
"...take to Northern Italy the 8,000 Jews
living in Rome. They are to be
Another, dated October 11, ordered,
"...the immediate and thorough eradication
of the Jews in Italy."
The orders were intercepted by the
British and shared with the Americans in
London at the time.
Using the super-secret code breaking
methods known as "Ultra," the British were
tapping into German message traffic, and
passing it to the Office of Strategic
Services (OSS), the World War II
forerunner to the CIA.
Some of the messages went right to
Historian Timothy Naftali says,
"There was a fear that if you let the
Germans know you could read their mail,
they would tighten their cipher security
and all of their communications would
become more difficult to decipher."
The 1998 War Crimes Disclosure Act
seeks to make public intelligence
information that countries often refused
to relinquish even years after the
Michale Kurtz, of the National
Archives says: "These records are filled
with what are called sources and methods:
the names of agents and intelligence
gathering methods. (They are) also filled
with foreign government information."
Some 400,000 pages were de-classified
on Monday, and more are coming, almost
surely revealing more controversial
decisions by the leaders who fought
The declassified documents from the OSS
also included conversations among German
POWs secretly recorded by the British and
information gathered by the OSS using an
anti-Nazi German informant.
"The release...raises the historical
question once again of what Allied
governments knew about the Holocaust
during World War II and might have been
done with information they possessed,"
said historian Richard Breitman in
a report he co-authored for the U.S.
government's Nazi War Criminals Records
Interagency Working Group.
Naftali, the co-author of the report,
said perhaps Churchill or Roosevelt should
have made a statement warning the
"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,"
"I find it disheartening that there was
no more use of some of this information at
the time," said Breitman.
But Naftali also warned against a "rush
to conclusions." He and others said it is
unclear in hindsight whether taking action
on the information would have compromised
British intelligence gathering.
Others said it was unclear whether Jews
could have acted on the information had
they received it.
The interagency working group was
established in January 1999 to coordinate
a large-scale effort by U.S. federal
agencies to find, declassify and release
U.S. records relating to Germany's Nazi
Federal agencies have resisted opening
their files for half a century, saying
national security was at stake. Supporters
say the panel's work provides an insight
into how U.S. intelligence agencies and
others used Nazi war criminals in the Cold
Historians said this was the most
significant finding by the panel, which
has released more than one million pages
of documents gathered from the Department
of Defense, the OSS, Justice, State, FBI
and other agencies.CBS Worldwide Inc.
All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press
contributed to this
Knew of Plan for Italy's Jews