Section: Responses to the Holocaust

How did the Allies respond?

Myron Taylor, the American representative delivering a speech at the Evian Conference, France, July 1938
Myron Taylor, the American representative delivering a speech at the Evian Conference, France, July 1938 © 2011 Yad Vashem The Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority.

From the Nazi rise to power in Germany during 1933, right through to the outbreak of war, the Allies had full access to information about the Nazi’s actions. Even after the outbreak of war the Allies were building up a dossier of evidence of the Nazi atrocities. However, the response of the Allies left much to be desired.

  • How did the Allies respond to Hitler?
  • How did the Allies respond to the plight of the Jews of Europe?
  • How did the Allies respond to the increased requests for refuge?
  • Why did the Allies not do more?
  • Why did the Allies not bomb the killing centres?


Use this section to start to find answers to these questions.

Allied responses 1939-45

After the outbreak of war, the British government banned all immigration from Nazi-occupied territories. Refugees who had previously arrived from countries at war with Britain were now considered enemy aliens. The thirty thousand who had managed to get into the country were put into camps in places such as the Isle of Man and Sandwich, Kent.

Until the outbreak of World War Two, the British press had full access to the events in Nazi Germany, which they reported. The American press had this access until December 1941 when Germany declared war on America

By December 1942 the Allied governments had built up a dossier of evidence of Nazi atrocities. Yet, despite knowledge of the ‘’ and pleas of help, there was no real effort by the allies to rescue the Jews of Europe.

The allies argued that they did not have the capacity to conduct accurate air raids on Nazi camps. They felt that a speedy victory in the war was the best method to put a stop to the Nazi atrocities and to save the Jews.

Freddie - a refugee in France

Freddie was an Austrian Jew born in Vienna. After the Nazis annexed Austria on 12 March 1938 Freddie escaped to Belgium.

In this video Freddie remembers life as a refugee in Belgium and France before the outbreak of war. He also remembers how life changed when the Nazis invaded during the spring of 1940.

Please note that the lead in take a few moments as the video loads.


The Evian Conference

On 7 July 1938, as a result of American pressure, an international conference was held at Evian, in France, to discuss what could be done to help the German Jews. Whilst each of the 32 delegates expressed their concern about the situation in Germany, the countries concerned offered very little practical help.

During the conference, the British government made it very clear that it would not be able to increase its quota for refugees, citing high levels of unemployment. France also said that they were “at the extreme point of saturation”.

The Australian delegate reported “as we have no real racial problem, we are not desirous of importing one.” Other countries also cited the economic depression and population levels as a reason why they could not increase refugee quotas.

Only the Dominican Republic volunteered to take in up to 100,000 refugees, but then only in return for large amounts of money. In actual fact only 800 refugees entered the country and most of those moved on to the United States.

Hitler noted how ”astounding” it was that, even though these countries criticised Germany for its treatment of the Jews, they nevertheless refused to open their borders to them. The British delegate to the conference apologised to the Germans for interfering. The Evian conference sent Hitler the signal he needed: foreign governments would not interfere in his anti-Jewish policies.

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Freddie - a refugee in France

Freddie - a refugee in France