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  • Print publication year: 2005
  • Online publication date: February 2010

1 - OSS Knowledge of the Holocaust


Information about nazi shootings of Jews started to leak out shortly after they began during World War II. At first, however, U.S. media coverage indicated that large numbers of people in different Nazi-occupied countries were suffering terribly, and there was little distinction between the fate of Jews and that of other groups. In any case, the military situation and the fate of friends and relatives on the battlefronts were the central collective concerns in the United States. The Allies seemed to be struggling to cope with one Axis conquest after another in the early phases of the war. Given this focus, many Americans did not recognize what we have come to call the Holocaust even after an Allied statement in December 1942 that Nazi Germany was carrying out a policy of mass extermination of Jews.

Did American intelligence officials know more, or know earlier? The small office of the Coordinator of Information (COI), and its successor, the new Office of Strategic Services (OSS), both headed by General William J. Donovan, attempted to capture as much information as possible about Nazi Germany, particularly about its military, economic, or sociopolitical weaknesses. As a by-product, the COI and OSS accumulated substantial intelligence about Nazi measures against Jews.

In memoirs and other retrospective accounts, however, a number of former OSS officials have disclaimed recognition of the Holocaust at the time.

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U.S. Intelligence and the Nazis
  • Online ISBN: 9780511618178
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