Seventy years ago, on April 19th, 1943, the governments of the United States and the United Kingdom convened a conference in Bermuda with the intent of dealing with public outcry against the Nazi’s extermination of millions of Jews in Europe. Note that the intent was NOT to help stop the extermination.
Both nations wanted to fix their PR problem but neither wanted to face the option of having to deal with the possibility that Hitler would change his policy from extermination to exporting Jews to the UK or US – an option that neither nation found acceptable.
Both nations worked very hard to make sure that neither nation would have to do anything. The conference was held in Bermuda which under wartime restrictions was inaccessible to the press. No Jewish organizations were allowed to attend even as observers.
The agenda explicitly prohibited referring to the Nazi "Final Solution" and, in fact, prohibited discussing the Jews any differently than other refugees not targeted for extermination.
Neither nation increased their tight restrictions on Jewish refugee immigration. The US sent as a representative a man explicitly prohibited from actually signing anything that would bind the US. The British explicitly refused to lift, even partially, the blockade of Jews attempting to flee death by going to the "Jewish Homeland" in the British Mandate of Palestine promised by British Foreign Minister, Lord Balfour 25 years earlier. Neither nation was willing to bomb the rail lines or gas chambers or crematoria already known to exist.
As a PR move it failed. The response to the conference included protests, condemnations and suicide. The result did not save a single Jew targeted for death.
And after seventy years, we of both nations either have no knowledge and have accepted the rewritten history that "nobody knew it was happening" that protects the images of Churchill and Roosevelt or we hide this history away and pretend it didn’t happen.
But ignorance and willful self-deception do not prevent future genocides, only learning the hard reality of history does.
To learn some of that history see:
- The PDF report on the Bermuda Conference from Yad Vashem
- The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies report
- PBS’ "American Experience" page on the conference
- The entry in Wikipedia
- A report from Bermuda itself