Section: Resistance, responses and collaboration


This pamphlet, entitled ‘Stop Them Now – German Mass Murder of Jews in Poland’ was published by Szmul Zygielbojm, a Polish Jewish politician and refugee, in September 1942. The pamphlet contains reports of the Nazi atrocities from the Polish underground movements and eyewitness reports from Polish citizens. Zygielbojm hoped that the pamphlet would raise awareness of the atrocities and therefore inspire action to help save the Polish Jews.
Szmul Zygielbojm’s introduction to the pamphlet. In 1943, Zygielbojm learned that the Uprising in the Warsaw Ghetto, where his wife and son were imprisoned, had been suppressed and as a result they had been murdered by the Nazis. On 11 May 1943 he took his own life, writing in his suicide note that whilst the Nazis were responsible for the mass murder of the Jews, all humans were indirectly responsible for the lack of action to save them.

This section will give an overview of the variety of responses to the Nazis’ persecution – from individuals, groups and countries.

Emigration, 1933-1941

Between 1933 and 1941, many Jews decided to emigrate from the Third Reich in response to the increasing Nazi persecution. By September 1939, approximately 282,000 Jews had emigrated from Germany and approximately 117,000 had emigrated from Austria (which was incorporated into Germany in 1938).

Several thousand Jews emigrated immediately after the Nazi rise to power. These were people who felt that they were at particular risk to Nazi persecution due to their previous outspoken criticisms of the party – such as Alfred Wiener and his family – or people who could not see a future for themselves under Nazi rule. By the autumn of 1933, the panic that had surrounded the Nazis’ appointment to power had somewhat abated, and Jewish emigration slowed. Jews felt that, once the initial terror had passed, they might be able to continue living in Germany.

The rate of emigration increased rapidly in September 1935 following the announcement of the Nuremberg Laws, which removed German Jews citizenship and made them stateless in their own country. This caused many Jews to feel that there was no longer a viable future for them in Germany, and, in turn, meant that they set about making preparations to leave. However, whilst many now desired to leave Germany, emigration had become more and more difficult as countries worldwide pursued restrictive immigration policies, limiting the number of immigrants that they accepted.

For example, the United States of America had a quota allowing the entry of 25,957 German immigrants per year in the pre-war period (increased to 27,370 when Germany and Austria’s quotas were merged in 1938). However, due to the considerable additional requirements, such as citizenship papers, immigrant and transit visas, just 2372 German Jews were actually admitted in 1933. Unused quota slots were not carried forward into the following year. The first year that the quota was completely filled in America was 1939.

In an attempt to make themselves more attractive to prospective countries, many Jews professionally retrained in desirable careers – in 1936 and 1937 over 10,000 individuals undertook such training.  Despite this, emigration remained difficult.

In 1938, the situation for Jews became significantly worse. In March 1938, Germany annexed Austria, and the oppressive policies which had previously been limited to German Jews were now extended to Austrian Jews as well, approximately 180,000 people. In November 1938, a massive series of coordinated antisemitic attacks on synagogues, Jewish homes and property, and people  took place across the Greater German Reich. This became known as Kristallnacht. Following the pogrom the Nazis intensified their policy of ‘ Aryanisation ’ and issued new economic regulations, which further prohibited Jews from conducting business.

Combined, these three measures greatly increased the amount of people attempting to leave Nazi Germany. The Evian Conference of July 1938, organised by President Roosevelt, had attempted to discuss the Jewish refugee problem, but no country was prepared to extend their quotas for immigration or contribute to a practical solution for Jewish refugees.  In addition to this, the Nazis had increased the so-called Flight Tax, which taxed people emigrating from the country, making emigration even more expensive and therefore not an option for people of the working class.

Despite these extensive barriers to emigration, by September 1939, approximately 282,000 Jews had emigrated from Germany and approximately 117,000 had emigrated from Austria. This left approximately 202,000 Jews in Germany and 57,000 in Austria. In Austria especially, as in later occupied countries, there was extremely limited time to emigrate, with just a year and a half between the German invasion and the outbreak of the Second World War.

The start of the Second World War stopped emigration to most Western countries. Whilst some destinations remained open – such as Shanghai which accepted approximately 17,000 refugees – emigration became almost impossible for all but the very lucky few. In October 1941, emigration was forbidden by the Nazi government, as the policy of ghettoisation and deportation to concentration camps was instigated. At this stage, 163,000 Jews remained in Germany.

The creation of The Wiener Holocaust Library

The Wiener Holocaust Library, then called the Jewish Central Information Office (JCIO) was founded by Dr. Alfred Wiener in Amsterdam in 1933 as a response to the rise of the Nazis. The JCIO collected and shared information about the Third Reich and the Nazis’ persecution of Jews.

Alfred Wiener was a German Jew from Berlin. Having fought in the First World War, Wiener returned to Germany in 1919. He was horrified by the surge of right-wing antisemitism which blamed Jews for Germany’s defeat in the war. As a result of this, Wiener began working for the Central Association of German Citizens of Jewish Faith (CV), an organisation working to combat antisemitism.  From 1925, Wiener perceived the Nazis to be the greatest threat to Jews. Under his influence, an archive was started at the CV to collect information about the Nazis. This archive was then used as the basis of campaigns to undermine the Nazis’ activities.

After the Nazis were appointed into power in 1933, Wiener fled Germany with his wife and three daughters. He settled in Amsterdam in The Netherlands. His first archive, which remained in Berlin, is believed to have been destroyed. Later that year, Wiener founded the Jewish Central Information Office (JCIO). The JCIO continued the work Wiener had begun in Berlin, collecting and sharing information about the Nazis and the persecution of the Jews in Germany and Europe.

Following the November Pogrom of 1938, also known as Kristallnacht, Wiener prepared to bring his collection to the UK. It arrived the following summer and opened around the time the Nazis invaded Poland.

Throughout the War, the JCIO served the British Government as it fought the Nazi regime. Increasingly the collection was referred to as ‘Dr Wiener’s Library’ and eventually this led to its renaming.

Post-war, the Library assisted the prosecutors at the Nuremberg War Crimes Trial, amassed early survivor testimony and helped to shape the emerging academic study of the Holocaust.

Today, the collection is among the largest and most respected in the world and continues to grow. The Library relocated to new premises in Russell Square in 2011, and now also offers an educational programme, exhibitions, and regular talks and events. In 2016, the Library took over the management of this website, The Holocaust Explained.


Margarethe, Ruth, Eva and Mirjam Wiener

Alfred Wiener managed to escape with the JCIO’s collections to London in 1939. His wife and three daughters were unable to get visas in time and therefore remained in Amsterdam. On 10 May 1940, the Nazis invaded and occupied the Netherlands. The remaining Wieners were trapped and soon became subject to the Nazi persecution.

On 20 June 1943, Margarethe Wiener and the three girls were detained and sent to Westerbork transit camp. Conditions inside Westerbork were extremely poor, with insufficient food and unsanitary conditions. As they were classed as adults, Margarete and Ruth were also subject to forced labour.

In January 1944, after seven months in Westerbork, the family were deported to Bergen-Belsen. Conditions in this camp were considerably more harsh, and Margarethe’s health quickly deteriorated.

In January 1945, a rare opportunity to be part of a prisoner scheme between the Nazis and the United States of America appeared. The Wieners were chosen for this exchange as they were in possession of fake Paraguayan papers that Alfred Wiener had managed to send them before they were deported to Westerbork. That month, the family were transported to Switzerland and exchanged. At this point, Margarethe Wiener was seriously ill from the appalling conditions of their imprisonment in the camps.

On 25 January 1945, she was taken into a Swiss hospital and died just a few hours later. Only Ruth was permitted to attend her burial, where she said her final goodbyes to her mother alone.

Shortly after Margarethe’s death, Ruth, Eva and Mirjam boarded a Red Cross ship, the M.S Gripsholm, for New York, where they were reunited with their father, who they hadn’t seen since 1939.

Margarethe, Ruth, Eva and Mirjam Wiener

Margarethe Wiener on her wedding day in 1921.

The Kindertransport

The Kindertransport was the rescue of around 10,000 mainly Jewish child refugees from Nazi Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia and Poland. The scheme was entirely financed by private charitable organisations.

After the Kristallnacht pogrom in November 1938, several prominent British Jews arranged a meeting with the British Prime Minster Neville Chamberlain where they asked for permission for a programme allowing the entry of Jewish child refugees from Nazism. The programme would be financed mainly by Jewish community organisations in Britain. The programme was debate in Parliament on 21 November 1938, where it was agreed that an unlimited number of child refugees were to be allowed temporary refuge in Britain, as long their care was privately financed and they would not become a financial burden on the British state.

Very shortly afterwards, representatives from the relief agencies such as Central British Fund for German Jewish Relief, the Children’s Inter-Aid Committee and The Society of Friends arrived in Germany and Austria to arrange the transports. They were helped by Jewish organisations inside the Third Reich, such as the Reich Representation of Jews in Germany, and the Jewish Community Organisation in Vienna.

As 60,000 children were at risk in Germany and Austria alone, there was an extremely high demand for a place on the transports as parents desperately sought to ensure their children’s safety. To acquire a space, children needed a guarantor in Britain to sponsor them for £50. Vulnerable children were given priority, for example if they were orphans or homeless. However, children with disabilities or sickness were usually excluded from the scheme. Parents were not allowed to travel with their children on the transports. For many Kindertransportees, it was the last time they saw their parents and sometimes siblings.

Just two weeks after the programme was approved by Parliament, the first group of 200 children from a Jewish orphanage in Berlin arrived in the UK. Once they had arrived, children were placed in children’s homes and temporary camps, pending a wait for a foster family, although this was not guaranteed. Once placed with a foster family, many children settled down and led happy lives under the circumstances. However, some Kinder found it extremely difficult and traumatic to settle in a new country, without their friends, family, or even a familiar language to fall back on.

After the start of the Second World War in September 1939, transports from Germany and Austria were stopped. The last Kindertransport departed from The Netherlands on 14 May 1940, shortly before the country’s surrender to German forces. Throughout its existence, the scheme saved 10,000 children.

After the war, many of the Kinder discovered that their parents had not survived the Holocaust. Most became British citizens or emigrated to countries such as Israel, Canada or the United States.

The Kitchener Camp

The Kitchener Camp, also known as the Richborough Camp, was a camp for male Jewish refugees between the ages of 18-40 which opened on 20 January 1939 near the town of Sandwich, Kent. The camp was intended to be a temporary camp for the refugees – a safe place to stay while they waited for permission to emigrate elsewhere.

Following Kristallnacht, the pogrom of November 1938, between 25,000 and 30,000 Jewish men were arrested and imprisoned in concentration camps such as Buchenwald and Sachsenhausen. Most of these men were released in the following weeks and months on the condition that they left Germany immediately. However, this was not an easy task. Emigration was difficult because most countries were unwilling to take large numbers of refugees. One barrier to entry to Britain was that refugees needed to find a sponsor to show that they would not be a burden on the British state.

Relief organisations attempted to help. In early 1939, the Council for German Jewry secured permission to establish a camp for Jewish men in a derelict First World War army base on the outskirts of Sandwich, Kent. The camp was managed by Jonas and Phineas May, who had previously run summer camps for the Jewish Lads Brigade, a Jewish youth organisation.

Under the Kitchener camp programme, the Council arranged the rescue of just under 4000 Jewish men – most of whom came directly from imprisonment in Nazi concentration camps.

Life inside

The men who found refuge in the Kitchener Camp often had to leave their families behind in the Third Reich. While some were able to arrange for their wives and children to join them, through schemes such as the domestic service visas and the Kindertransport, many of the Kitchener Camp inhabitants’ family members were trapped in Germany. This situation became even more difficult after the outbreak of the Second World War, and many of the men struggled to adjust to camp life and separation from their families.

However, a supportive community flourished inside the camp. The camp had its own post office, school, cinema, newspaper and orchestra, and the inhabitants were kept busy with a range of activities. The inhabitants of the camp also interacted regularly with the local townspeople, and, with the exception of a few far-right fascists extremists in the town, enjoyed their company and friendship.

Following the outbreak of the Second World War, approximately 887 of the men in the camp volunteered to join the British army as part of the Auxiliary Military Pioneer Corps. At that time, the Pioneer Corps was a non-combatant unit, which primarily undertook tasks in Kent such as shelter making.


After the Nazi invasion and occupation of Holland, Belgium and France in May 1940, public opinion towards the camp soured. Governmental fears about Nazi spies meant that all male refugees (who were now termed ‘ enemy aliens ’) that were not involved in the military or had not already emigrated were interned on the Isle of Man.

After just sixteen months, the thriving camp, which – although not without its problems – had been a haven to so many, was disbanded and closed.

British Policy of Internment

Internment is the act of imprisoning a person or a group of people without charge or trial. Internment usually occurs for political or military reasons. During the Second World War, the British government interned several different groups of people, including German, Austrian and Italian nationals.

Development of Internment Policy

Following the outbreak of the Second World War, immigrants from the enemy countries of Germany, Austria and Italy who had been in Britain for less than twenty years were labelled ‘enemy aliens’. Some of these migrants were Jewish refugees from Nazism. No enemy alien could live in a ‘protected area’ – areas deemed by the government to be of military significance.

To determine the level of danger that each individual ‘enemy alien’ posed to national security, they were sorted into three categories by tribunals: high (A), medium (B) and low (C). Initially, only those identified as high risk were interned, and medium risk ‘aliens’ faced restrictions. Jewish refugees from Nazism were in the main identified as low risk and did not face these measures.

However, following Nazi Germany’s dramatic military successes in France, Belgium and the Netherlands in the spring and summer of 1940, there was increasing concern that ‘enemy aliens’ in Britain would form a ‘ fifth column ’. These concerns were amplified by the British press. As a result of this growing fear, the British government interned approximately 27,000 ‘enemy aliens’, including those assessed as low risk, supposedly in the interests of national security. Those interned were predominantly men between the ages of 16 and 60, but 4000 women and children were also interned.

Experiences of Internment

Internment was stressful and confusing for those affected. Arrests were conducted by the police and usually took place in the morning. People were not told where they were going or how long they would be detained for. Many were held for short periods of time in poorly equipped temporary holding camps, often without food.

The government quickly established several more permanent camps, the largest of which were on the Isle of Man. Here, most internees were housed in boarding houses or hotels, a vast improvement on their previous conditions.

In the summer of 1940, the British government faced two pressing issues relating to internees. The first was the lack of space to hold internees, and the second was the risk of an imminent invasion from Nazi Germany. To tackle these issues, the British government decided to deport enemy aliens deemed to pose the highest security risk.

Canada and Australia agreed to hold some internees, and in total approximately 5,000 internees were transported overseas. While the initial intention of the government was to send those catagorised as the highest possible security risk, in fact anyone available at short notice was transported. Conditions on board the ships transporting the prisoners were poor. The situation on The Dunera, a ship carrying 2546 people – many of whom were Jewish refugees – to Australia, was particularly bad. The British guards looted the internees’ possessions (including wedding rings) and they were only allowed on deck for one hour a day.

On 2 July 1940 the ship The Arandora Star carrying 1564 men (of whom 734 were Italian), was torpedoed by a German U-Boat. Over 650 of the passengers died.


Although most internees were released within a year of being detained, initially releases were uncommon (just 616 people had been released by the end of August 1940). As the year drew to close the rate of release increased dramatically, and by the end of 1940 approximately 10,000 people had been freed.

The process of release was slow and often complicated. In Australia and Canada, there were very few spare ships during wartime to transport prisoners home and thus many internees faced additional delays to their return. To expedite their release, many internees volunteered to join the Pioneer Corps and helped with the British war effort.


Internees' Responses to Internment

Although many of those interned were not a danger to the security of Britain, and were therefore interned for little reason, very few harboured ill feelings towards the British government for their treatment, and many remained grateful for the refuge Britain had provided them from Nazism.

As the historian Rachel Pistol writes ‘While internees mostly did not enjoy the experience there was, and continues to be, a sentiment that Britain did what was necessary in a time of war…. The most common reaction to internment, however, was to attempt to suppress the memories and simply not mention it’ [Rachel Pistol, Internment during the Second World War: A Comparative Study of Great Britain and the USA (Bloomsbury, 2017), 100-101].

Relief organisations

Relief organisations played an important role in helping victims of Nazi persecution.

At the turn of the twentieth century, there were approximately 140 charitable organisations who focused on helping refugees to immigrate and emigrate . After the Nazis rose to power in 1933, more organisations attempting to help victims of the Nazis persecution appeared across the world, such as: Jewish Colonialization Association (JCA), Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society of New York (HIAS), German-Jewish Aid Committee.

The isolationist stance of countries made the work of relief organisations particularly pressing. As various countries stopped allowing the entry of Jews from Nazi Germany, relief agencies focused on trying to help Jews work around this so that they could still escape. They offered support with emigration, gave legal advice, sent food packages, initiated training programmes and language courses, and for those who were successful in escaping, helped refugees settle into their new countries and lives.

Jewish organisations led the way in offering this relief. However, other non-Jewish organisations also offered help. One example of this was the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA), who campaigned to address public antisemitism and anti-refugee feeling in America – hoping to change the tide of public opinion and exert pressure on the government to take in more refugees. The Red Cross was also instrumental in assisting refugees and others prior to and throughout the war: whether through food packages, or helping families to communicate through telegrams, which they sent through neutral countries.

As well as helping Jews and others escape persecution in the 1930s, relief organisations also aided refugees throughout and following the Second World War. Wartime conditions often made deploying help difficult and dangerous, but relief operations continued to operate where they could. In Shanghai, where approximately 17,000 Jewish refugees sought refuge during the war, the American Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) and others ran a vital relief operation offering the refugee community leadership, food, money and supplies – resulting in the survival of almost all of the refugees in Shanghai.

Following the end of the Second World War, relief organisations played a key role in helping the newly established United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNNRA) and then, from 1947, the International Refugee Organisation (IRO) care for the millions of displaced persons (DPs) and concentration camp survivors.

The Jewish Relief Unit (JRU) was one of these organisations. The JRU focused on providing welfare and rehabilitation services for survivors in the DP camps across Germany, such as medical, educational, and cultural services, family tracing and the acquisition of identity documents, which many survivors no longer possessed. These services helped survivors to rebuild their lives or start afresh.

International response

The international response to the Nazis’ persecution and genocide of Jews was minimal. No country responded decisively to the Nazis’ policies of persecution.

Response to pre-war persecution

Between 1933 and 1939, many countries, such as Britain, regarded the Nazis’ persecution of the Jews as a matter of internal German politics. Whilst overall, at a governmental level, there was little active condemnation of the Nazis’ antisemitic policies, there were widespread protests amongst the Jewish communities and to specific events or laws, such as the boycott of the 1936 Berlin Olympics.

In 1938, the international community responded to the growing Jewish refugee problem caused by the Nazis’ antisemitic policies at the Evian Conference. The conference was set up by the US President Franklin D. Roosevelt, with the aim of discussing and finding solutions to the German Jewish refugee crisis. Few practical solutions and no real action emerged from the conference. The Evian Conference made it clear to the Nazis that although other countries did not approve of their antisemitic policies, they were not willing to actively help the persecuted Jews or punish the Nazis.

Just four months later, in November 1938, the Nazis instigated a series of violent antisemitic pogroms known as Kristallnacht. These unprecedented attacks shocked the world, and were widely condemned in the international press, but there were no international sanctions placed on Germany for the event. The Jewish community in Britain, with the help of other charitable organisations such as the Quakers , responded to Kristallnacht by organising the Kindertransport, which ensured the safe emigration of 10,000 unaccompanied children.

Response to wartime genocide

As more Jews came under Nazi control during the war, persecution escalated and eventually became genocidal. Allied governments’ were aware of the Nazi atrocities against Jews shortly after they began. Reports of persecution and murder also appeared in the Allied press, although the information in these reports was often fragmentary. Many found the crimes described to be incomprehensible, and as such attributed them to wartime propaganda.

On 10 December 1942, the Polish government-in-exile, which was based in London throughout the war, published a pamphlet on the developing genocide entitled The Mass Extermination of Jews in German Occupied Poland. The pamphlet contained reports and statistics about the mass murder of Jews in Poland, including notes on deportations from the Warsaw Ghetto, mass shootings and extermination camps. Some were shocked at the information, others found it difficult to believe.

The Polish government-in-exile’s report, along with other newspapers and accounts, prompted the United States and Great Britain to call a conference to discuss the issue. The conference was held between 19-29 April 1943 in Bermuda, but no effective plan was agreed. Whilst the conference was, ultimately, a failure, it did acquiesce anger from Jewish communities that nothing was being done to help the Jews of Europe.

Throughout the next two years, the Allies maintained that the most effective way to help the Jews was by winning the war, and, following this, they would punish the Nazis as war criminals. This approach did little to help the millions who were killed between 1943-1945.


Dutch Strike 1941

In February 1941, there was a general strike across Holland as Dutch people stood up in protest against a series of Nazi pogroms and arrests of Dutch Jews in Amsterdam.

The strike was organised by the banned Communist Party and started on 25 February 1941. It lasted for two days by which time approximately 300,000 people joined the strike.

On 27 February, the Nazis brutally supressed the strike. Nine people were killed during the strike itself and the Nazis arrested a further eighteen people, who were later executed.

Whilst the strike was ultimately suppressed, it was a rare and therefore important large-scale action in defence of the Jews.

British response

Response to pre-war persecution

The British response to the pre-war Nazi persecution of the Jews was varied.

On one side, following the Great Depression of the early 1930’s, there was a spike in support for fascism, and in turn antisemitism, in Britain. In 1932, this support culminated in the founding of a new political party, the British Union of Fascists (BUF) by Oswald Mosley . The BUF quickly grew to a membership of 40,000. Their policies were pro-Nazi and antisemitic. However, by 1936, the party’s popularity was declining. At a rally in east London on 4 October 1936, the BUF were stopped in their tracks by counter-protesters consisting of communists, socialists and others. This became known as the Battle of Cable Street . Whilst the BUF did not become a mass political party, their existence demonstrates the popularity of, and sympathy for, fascism across Europe at the time.

Meanwhile, at a government level, there was little official protest to the Nazis’ persecution of the Jews from Britain. Until 1939, the British government followed a policy of appeasement towards Nazi Germany’s aggressive foreign policy in an attempt to avoid another world war. This policy did little to help the Jews’ plight, and encouraged Hitler to make more demands, such as those made over the Sudetenland in 1938.

In the meantime, refugees from Nazi Germany continued to arrive in Britain as they sought to escape persecution. This influx worried the British government, and led to the adoption of an increasingly strict and restrictive official policy towards Jewish refugees.

Until 1938, border control officials determined whether political refugees or those escaping ethnic persecution could enter Britain. Refugees had to meet various criteria or be privately sponsored or self-supporting. Eligibility was not based upon the refugee’s experience of persecution, and the British Government provided no funding for refugees. It was easier to obtain entry to Britain if one was wealthy or had what was deemed a ‘useful’ profession. Following Anchluss and the large upsurge in the numbers of refugees, a visa system was introduced to regulate those who wished to enter.

Despite this official restrictive policy, many refugees still managed to enter Britain after 1938, through domestic service visas, the Kitchener Camp scheme, or the Kindertransport. By 1939, approximately 80,000 refugees had successfully entered Britain of the approximately 500,000-600,000 refugees who attempted to.

Response to the Holocaust

Following the start of the Second World War, most official channels of emigration from Nazi controlled Europe were closed. Britain also blocked moves to allow more Jewish immigration to Palestine during and after the war, and would not assure neutral countries that it would take Jewish refugees. Many refugees became stranded and continued to be subject to the ever-increasing persecution.

From late 1941-1942 onwards, information about the mass murders of Jews in Nazi-occupied Europe seeped out and reached Allied governments. Following the growing body of intelligence on the subject, the British and US governments issued a joint declaration on behalf of the Allies on 17th December 1942, in which they described the Nazi persecution of the Jews in Europe. The British Foreign Secretary, Anthony Eden MP, read the declaration in the House of Commons and in the following days it was widely reported in the press.

In March 1943, the persecution of European Jewry was raised again after a proposal from Washington that the British and US governments should describe possible means of helping the persecuted. The Allies convened a conference in Bermuda but failed to propose any meaningful solutions.

The British government undoubtedly recognised the implications of the unfolding destruction of the European Jews. However, in the midst of fighting an ongoing war, the government continued to follow the strategy that considered winning the war the only and ‘most effective’ way to save Jewish lives.

The Bermuda Conference

The Bermuda Conference was held between 19-30 April 1943 by the British and American governments. After awareness of the mass murders of Jews by the Nazis and their collaborators grew in late 1942, the Allies came under intense public pressure to react to the unfolding genocide and help trapped and persecuted Jews in German-occupied Europe.

The conference took place on the island of Bermuda in the North Atlantic Ocean, a location chosen because it was remote. This meant that, although there was widespread global interest in the conference, very few people were able to actually attend.

Before the conference began, both the British and American governments made a pact not to push the other into any major  concessions such as changes to the US  immigration quotas or the 1939 British White Paper on Palestine . This policy meant that no significant or meaningful rescue options to save Jews trapped in Europe were properly discussed.

Options that were considered included the lifting of the Allied blockade , which would have allowed extra food and supplies to reach Europe and those trapped there (but also potentially the Nazis and their collaborators) and the exchange of  Axis prisoners for Jews or others incarcerated by the Nazis. Both of these options were ultimately dismissed.

Throughout the conference, the Allies used the ongoing Second World War to justify their lack of action to save Jews and rejection of the suggested rescue proposals.  The Allies believed that winning the war was the most effective way to end the genocide, and that taking any other action in the meantime would delay victory and continue the Nazis’ persecution for longer.

In the end, after twelve days of discussion, two concrete agreements came out of the conference.

The first was the idea to remove a small number of refugees from Spain and establish another refugee camp in North Africa (the North African Refugee Centre ), in order to create more space in Spain for refugees escaping Nazi Europe over the Pyrenees Mountains. The second was the revival of the Intergovernmental Committee on Refugees , which had been largely defunct since the 1938 Evian Conference.

Despite these small achievements, the conference was widely regarded as a failure.


The term 'Holocaust'

The word ‘Holocaust is derived from the Latin term ‘holocaustum’ and the Greek word ‘holokaustos’, both of which mean something which has been wholly burnt or destroyed. These terms derive from a translation of Hebrew word ôlāh, which was used to refer to a whole burnt offering or sacrifice.

Although the term ‘Holocaust’ was first used to describe the unfolding Jewish genocide in a 23 May 1943 New York Times article (which discussed the plight of Zionists in Palestine following the disappointment of the Bermuda Conference the previous month), the Nazis’ genocide of the Jews was not widely referred to as ‘The Holocaust’ until the late 1970s and 1980s.

In the immediate aftermath of the war, the Nazis’ mass murder of the Jews was categorised as a ‘genocide’ by Raphael Lemkin. In this early postwar period, some used the Nazi term ‘the final solution’ to describe the tragedy, while Jewish groups often used the Hebrew term ‘Shoah’ meaning ‘catastrophe’. The term ‘Holocaust’ began to gain traction in the 1960s, in part stimulated by the coverage of the Eichmann Trial in 1961 and became widely used by the end of the 1970s, with the widely watched American NBC mini-series ‘Holocaust’ airing on in 1978.

Continue to next topic
The Kindertransport

The Kindertransport

What happened in July