September 6, 2017

"If I had the time I would gin up a parody version of this that will give us the computational-modeling algorithmic counterfactual analysis of John J McCloy’s decision not to bomb the Auschwitz ovens in 1944."

"I’m sure we could concoct the fucking algorithms for that, too," said Leon Wieseltier.

Quoted in the Tablet article "Holocaust Museum Pulls Study Absolving Obama Administration for Inaction in Face of Syrian Genocide/Abrupt decision comes in wake of sharp rebukes, bafflement, and concern about politicization of Shoah memory."
Using computational modeling and game theory methods, as well as interviews with experts and policymakers, the report asserted that greater support for the anti-Assad rebels and US strikes on the Assad regime after the August 2013 Ghouta chemical weapons attack would not have reduced atrocities in the country, and might conceivably have contributed to them.

The intervention of the Holocaust Museum in a hot-button political dispute—and the apparent excuse of official US government inaction in the face of large-scale mass murder, complete with the gassing of civilians and government-run crematoria—alarmed many Jewish communal figures. “The first thing I have to say is: Shame on the Holocaust Museum,” said Leon Wieseltier, the literary critic and fellow at the Brookings Institution, who slammed the Museum for “releasing an allegedly scientific study that justifies bystanderism.”
ADDED: Notice that some of the outrage is about using computers and mathematics to analyze the problem. Is it a sacrilege to analyze problems of human life and death with algorithms and computer modeling? Or is it only wrong when the computers say it's best not to act (as opposed to, say, the computer models that are used to justify action to fight global warming)? Or is the problem that the Holocaust Museum is aligning itself with "bystanderism"? (That is, if military experts know doing nothing is the best approach, the Holocaust Museum should be a bystander to the doing of nothing and withhold moral support.)

Here's the page at the Holocaust Museum website about why Auschwitz was not bombed in 1944. Excerpt:
In the summer and fall of 1944, the World Jewish Congress and the War Refugee Board (WRB) forwarded requests to bomb Auschwitz to the US War Department. These requests were denied. On August 14, John J. McCloy, Assistant Secretary of War, advised that “such an operation could be executed only by the diversion of considerable air support…now engaged in decisive operations elsewhere and would in any case be of such doubtful efficacy that it would not warrant the use of our resources.” Yet within a week, the US Army Air Force carried out a heavy bombing of the I.G. Farben synthetic oil and rubber (Buna) works near Auschwitz III—less than five miles from the Auschwitz-Birkenau killing center.

For prisoners in the Auschwitz complex, the bombs dropping nearby gave hope. One survivor later recalled: “We were no longer afraid of death; at any rate not of that death. Every bomb that exploded filled us with joy and gave us new confidence in life.”

86 comments:

Tarrou said...

Add this to the list of supposedly historic groups like the Anne Frank center whose primary purpose appears to be to stand on the atrocities committed by germans against jews, slavs and gypsies eighty years ago in order to score partisan political points in the current day.

3rdGradePB_GoodPerson said...

Presumably we can, w/o speculation and modeling, point out that, when he sought it, BHO was not given congressional approval re Syria. BHO was all constitutional-y. Presumably cons wanted him to ignore the congress and proceed anyway.

BTW, an example of BHO moving forward regardless of having been rebuffed by congress is the point of Althouse's post re the NYT Daily.

traditionalguy said...

Modern Nazis still want to exterminate all remaining living Jews. But they now do it for allah instead of for odin. That is not hard to see after 60 years of facing up to it. The CONFUSION is how we should react to the extermination of all living Christians. Surprisingly, bystanderism was Mullah Obama's answer.

Rabel said...

Models say an Obama attack on Syria would not have stopped the chemical weapon attacks and might have made them worse.

Reality says that Trump's attack on a Syrian air base stopped the chemical attacks.

Hagar said...

An allied bombing raid on a concentration camp full of prisoners?
And just how would that have played out in history?

James Graham said...

The Nazis killed many thousands of Jews before the gas chambers were built.

Machine guns are very efficient.

Blaming the Allies for not bombing Auschwitz is, in my opinion, a time waster.

Mike Sylwester said...

The US Intelligence Community has been disgracing itself in recent years, under the corrupt leadership of James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence.

Before Clapper concocted his RussiaGate nonsense, he concocted a series of false findings that the Syrian Government used chemical weapons to bomb civilian populations.

Below is a link to a recent article, titled "NYT Retreats on 2013 Syria-Sarin Claims", published by Consortium News, about the incident in Ghouta, Syria.

https://consortiumnews.com/2017/04/06/nyt-retreats-on-2013-syria-sarin-claims/

T J Sawyer said...

Models simply show logical consequences of many assumptions. Show me all your assumptions or don't bother to show me your model

Nonapod said...

Is it a sacrilege to analyze problems of human life and death with algorithms and computer modeling? Or is it only wrong when the computers say it's best not to act (as opposed to, say, the computer models that are used to justify action to fight global warming)? Or is the problem that the Holocaust Museum is aligning itself with "bystanderism"?

There's nothing wrong with using computer models to analyze "problems of human life and death", as long as you understand all of their limitations and contextualize them properly. Relying solely on computer models to make a decision in such circumstances is almost certainly very dangerous and idiotic. But generally when dealing with complex problems, having more information is better than having less.

Ken B said...

These fantasies about pin-point bombing the gas chambers always seem to me more about making a gesture than doing any good. Surely stopping the trains would have been more effective than bombing the camp. Did trains use fuel? Shortening the war would do good. Did the war effort require fuel and rubber? Would gestures have shortened the war?

Unknown said...

Is this seriously about Computers aiding the math that would be done by hand or abacus regardless?
Algorithms don't reply with certainty and direction on their own; they are the product of the designer.
The moral issue is never determined by raw data. The moral issue pre-exists and the data is then used by whomever selectively to either support or deny, depending upon the previously determined position.

Seriously people.

And why in the world would the Holocaust Museum take such a political ass-covering stand for anyone of any politocal stripe? It demeans and dilutes the essential and valuable work it has done in simply being a museum about that most horrible, tragic time.

Waste. Waste. Waste

Ignorance is Bliss said...

Is it a sacrilege to analyze problems of human life and death with algorithms and computer modeling?

No, it is quite proper to analyze any kind of problem with algorithms and computer modeling. However, at this stage in computer modeling, it should be understood that the only valid purpose of such modeling is to analyse our ability to do computer modeling.

As such, there is no point in modeling counterfactuals. We should model what is happening to predict future outcomes, then compare the predictions to what actually happens. Once we get to the point of modeling problems of human life and death accurately and consistently, then we can start looking at counterfactuals. I'm not expecting such accuracy in my lifetime.

Jupiter said...

Computers are apparently very good at predicting what won't happen.

chuck said...

Is it a sacrilege to analyze problems of human life and death with algorithms and computer modeling?

No, but it is dumb to assume that the results of such an analysis are anything other than garbage. First, no one knows how to build reliable models of such things, they can't even validate them because the "true" facts on the ground are not known, and cannot be replicated in any case. Second, given that the models are based on unicorn farts, the results are likely determined by politics rather than science. The best that can be done with such things is to publish them on amazon as alternative history fiction and see how many five star reviews they garner. That will at least give one a guide to their entertainment value.

John Nowak said...

I suspect that bombing a concentration camp was never going to happen. It's more likely the suggestion was to bomb the rail lines around the camp.

I'm not sure what that would have accomplished. I doubt the SS was going to go, "Oh noes! Now we have to feed them instead of sending them to a death camp."

rehajm said...

GIGO has reverted to being an unacknowledged problem. Equating policy disagreement with the rejection of high mathematical probability is a relatively new thing.

Probabilistic prediction models mean never having to say you're wrong.

Luke Lea said...

Leon Wieseltier has become quite deranged in recent years. The first time I remember is when Mel Gibson's The Passion of Christ came out. His review was so intemperate that I wrote a letter-to-the-editor complaining that I had never heard such passion except out of the mouths of anti-Semites. It caused me to discontinue my subscription to The New Republic, which had been on my family's coffee table for 70 years.

Hagar said...

There was no such thing as pin-point bombing in WWII. That was just fantasy in some airplane advocates' mind, and after Eisenhower's experience in Normandy no Army general would have listened to it again.

Earnest Prole said...

That algorithm already appears in the Coen Brothers' A Serious Man -- "the writings of Gopnik's unemployed brother Arthur, who scribbles equations and Hebraic letters into a densely-packed composition book titled 'The Mentaculus,' a probability map of the universe . . . "

The Cracker Emcee Activist said...

The one thing Obama got right. For all the wrong reasons, no doubt, and after clowning himself babbling about "red lines".

Nonapod said...

We're already modeling to at least manage problems of life and death. The ECMWF model may well have saved a lot of lives. It's seemed pretty dead on when it came to Harvey at least.

Achilles said...

Chemical/Biological attacks are downright humane compared to burning to death or dying of asphyxiation because your lungs are internally seared. If you actually see it happen it changes your thought process.

Over-pressure does some wacky unpleasant shit too.

Just wanted to throw that out there.

chuck said...

Once we get to the point of modeling problems of human life and death accurately and consistently

Let's start with a simpler problem, predicting the outcome of US presidential elections.

Achilles said...

"...John J McCloy’s decision not to bomb the Auschwitz ovens in 1944.""

Do they think they could have bombed the ovens and not everyone else in the camps? You know how large the effective target radius was using unaided gravity bombs from 5000 feet?

Everything within square miles would have to be destroyed to effectively "bomb the ovens."

Greg Hlatky said...

Blaming the Allies for not bombing Auschwitz is, in my opinion, a time waster.

Blaming the US, you mean. Auschwitz was much closer to the Russian front. Why didn't the Red Air Force bomb the camps?

Michael K said...

"Blaming the Allies for not bombing Auschwitz is, in my opinion, a time waster."

Yes, it is blaming the US and also avoiding any criticism of Obama .

Bay Area Guy said...

It's an interesting important historical question. Did we have an opportunity to bomb the Nazi concentration camps, and if we didn't, why not?

It is not urgent though.

75 year old debates on what could or should have been done during a horrid war can be sober and enlightening.

However, many of these historical debates are simple stratagems to influence some policy (usually a liberal policy) today. Example: America was soft on Nazis and indifferent to Jews in 1944, therefore, Trump is wrong! in Charlottesville. Or something like that.

Greg Hlatky said...

The question might also be put: why didn't the 21st Army Group liberate Holland in 1944 and prevent the Hongerwinter that killed thousands? The short answer is, like with Auschwitz, it wasn't a strategic target.

MikeR said...

No one has a problem with mathematical analysis. The problem is with Obama supporters ginning up reasons why Obama Was Right. Trump already demonstrated a better way: When Assad is his usual awful self, do little. If he suddenly ups the ante, we slap him hard. He goes back to being his usual awful self. People die, but hopefully fewer.
Mr. Obama claimed that there was a Red Line. That meant, same as what Mr. Trump did, but Obama didn't follow through.
We can't really be the world's policeman. But maybe we can prevent some of the worst crimes.

JHapp said...

Not thinking very hard but an attack on those concentration camps would not have made a dent in the total German forces, and would have used scarce resources better spent elsewhere. By comparison, the military options we choose not to impose on Assad are near limitless.

MikeR said...

In practice, some of the American Jewish community pressed very hard on the US administration to do whatever they could to prevent or mitigate the Holocaust. Allow more entry visas early on, bomb rail lines to the concentration camps later. They made very little headway; Roosevelt wasn't interested and neither were most of his people.
And there were parts of the American Jewish community, major parts, that tried to prevent this from being a major issue at all. They weren't willing to risk their relationships with the government, felt that the war effort took precedence, and/or didn't care enough about the people dying.
I've heard that during the war, there was no such thing as a synagogue in the US that didn't say the weekly prayer for the government. After the war, it kind of fell away in many shuls (not all); a lot of people were bitterly disappointed at the US government's inaction and hard-heartedness.
As for those commenters who don't think that bombing rail lines would have helped, you might be wrong. The Nazis made concentration camps for a reason: they could kill a lot more people a lot more conveniently. They were fighting a war, but this was a high priority for them.

traditionalguy said...

FDR was a politician and a status conscious Episcopalian who accepted antisemitism dog whistle. Bystanderism is the key element in effective antisemitism. Why lift a finger for the Jews.

General George Marshall, was another status conscious Episcopalian. He probably demande that decision. Three years later as Secretary of state Marshall threatened to resign if the classless southern Baptist from Missouri named Truman dared to lift a finger for the Jews in 1947. But Harry had no problem with Jews. He loved them.

Jay Vogt said...

Okay, I'm just going to say this: having spent a lot of time on it and more importantly having watched a lot of really smart people work on it for a long, long time: return attribution (why things turned out the way they did) in a dynamic, multi-variate, open system with minimal data populations and sketchy data quality is flat out impossible.

Impossible.

You can not tease out reasons that things occurred with numerical precision to any meaningful level of confidence. It can't be done for interest rates, and it can't be done for human behavior.

I'm not saying that algorithms and models are not useful, but they don't deserve the shamanic reverence they enjoy in certain circles. It becomes flat out dangerous.

kevino said...

RE: "Is it a sacrilege to analyze problems of human life and death with algorithms and computer modeling?"
"Strange game. The only winning move is not to play." -- "War Games" (movie)

hombre said...

Obots are cockroaches. Why shouldn't they infest and discredit the Holocaust Museum?

rhhardin said...

Holocaust memory is already itself political. It has interest groups.

The is our memory and not yours.

rhhardin said...

Computer modelling gives you a nominal victory on points; the original assignment of points to this or that may not be sensible carried to logical extremes. You have to check.

rhhardin said...

You may be able to pick up extra cash by selling your home insurance policy back to the insurance company, if you live in Florida. I just gamed it out.

Anonymous said...

A no-fly zone imposed over Syria in 2012 would have saved tens of thousands of innocent lives. But by 2016, you had Russia present in force, also blowing up innocents in their homes. Obama didn't have the courage to do it in 2012, even if he wanted to. So what was media talking about while this present day holocaust was playing out in plain view ?

Crimso said...

"Is it a sacrilege to analyze problems of human life and death with algorithms and computer modeling?"

Ask Harvey or Irma.

Ralph L said...

The whole study was supposed to cover Obama's bloody ass with science and math.

Larry J said...

T J Sawyer said...
Models simply show logical consequences of many assumptions. Show me all your assumptions or don't bother to show me your model


Precisely. Computer models are used for many useful functions. The usefulness of the models depends upon how well the problem being modeled is understood and the working assumptions. For example, aerospace companies use Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) to do a lot of their design work. However, there are limits to CFDs when it comes to turbulent flow where they still end up using good old wind tunnels to get the data they need. Fluid dynamics in non-turbulent flow is very well understood but turbulence tends to be chaotic and difficult to model.

Things like election results still catch the modelers by surprise. Despite decades of work by serious weather professionals, the computer models can't definitively state where Hurricane Irma is going to hit landfall four days from now or the path it'll take afterwards.

Models based on possible human behavior are unlikely to be reliable predictors of outcomes. They're more likely to just be computerized implementations of the modelers' biases.

Sam L. said...

It was not possible to precisely hit only the ovens from 25000 feet.

Michael K said...

Fluid dynamics in non-turbulent flow is very well understood but turbulence tends to be chaotic and difficult to model.

In my engineer days, I worked in the Douglas AC wind tunnel in El Segundo CA.

We had a 4 foot wind tunnel that could get close to Mach 1.

One day a model that had been designed by a affirmative action engineer was run. Just kidding there was no AA then,

Anyway, the engineer had gotten his calculations wrong and the central inlet cone of the engine nacelle broke its attachments and started up into the throat of the tunnel when it was running mach 1.

Everybody in the tunnel building grabbed something to hold onto and the inlet cone came back down the tunnel at Mach 1 and hit the window for Scleiren photos which broke releasing the air stream into the building.

The roof was on rails for just this eventuality. It rose about 3 feet while the wind in the building hit about 100 mph.

Nobody was killed but I think that engineer was a long time between bonuses.

Models are funny.

Big Mike said...

What Rabei commented upthread, what TJ Sawyer commented upthread, and what chuck commented upthread.

There are two problems with many mathematical models today. The most serious is lack of validation. If you think about it, the laws of physics are mathematical models, but we accept them as "laws" because there have been any number of observations (called experiments) which agree with with the model and none which disagree. Many other models, AGW being among the most egregious, do not agree well with observations.

The problem with models along the lines of bombing Auschwitz or not bombing Assad is that there is no way to valid the model. We cannot go back to 1944 and rerun events. Can't even go back to last April in Syria.

My other complaint is that laypeople get too impressed with a model's complexity. The more complex the model the more likely you will have unexpected behaviors from simple perturbation of parameters -- the butterfly wings effect (named after an apocryphal story about an atmospheric model where rounding off a pressure parameter by the equivalent of the pressure generated by s butterfly flapping its wings produced wildly different results from the original run with the correct pressure). The best models are very simple. Think E = mc^2. When you hear a mathematician describe something as "elegant," he or she means that it is simple, and it is an expression of praise.

buwaya said...

Bombing Auschwitz might have done done good, or rather, this may have required bombing all the Death Camps at once. Mid-1944 might have been rather late for this, but who knows.

There would not have been any way to bomb those infrastructure bits of the camps precisely, nor would bombing the specific railroads have worked. The entire camp would have had to be the target, and the true target would have been the prisoner-workforce - i.e., those survivors, so many of whom ended up being rescued in 1945. The railroads were poor targets and easily repaired even if damaged. In WWII, railroad targets for strategic bombers were the extensive railroad yards in major cities, not some track to a particular facility.

There is also the matter of excess capacity. These camps were very specialized systems, but there were more than one of them and they could easily have substituted for each other. So all would have had to be destroyed.

Anyway, if these camps, and their tens of thousands of workers, had been erased by bombing in mid-1944 it is likely that the Germans may have been dissuaded from their last few roundups, the Hungarian Jews say. The Hungarian State was persuaded to deport them so that they were no longer their responsibility, but would probably have been loathe to kill them on the spot. But no Death Camp, no "clean" place to send them, especially without diverting resources to set up some new camps, resources that were extremely short by that time. And these were not some small number, we are talking of a half-million in Hungary alone, which started deporting them in mid-1944. This is speculative, but considering the alternative, something was better than nothing.

The direct cost, besides the inevitable loss of crews and aircraft (at least 5% of all sorties for any raid into Germany and Eastward by 1944; we are probably talking of 1000-2000 sorties for all these targets, 50-100 aircraft, 500-1000 aircrew), would have been at least ten thousand or so prisoners, the "staff" of the camps.

rhhardin said...

When you hear a mathematician describe something as "elegant," he or she means that it is simple, and it is an expression of praise.

He.

Static Ping said...

As others have mentioned, models in general and computer models in particular are as only good as (1) the assumptions and (2) the data entered. Simple models that simulate phenomenon that are well understood and well measured work very well, though they still have flaws. Complex models with lots of unknowns have a tendency to spit out garbage. Trying to model an event that is still ongoing when information is often unavailable or unreliable, featuring at least a half dozen major actors and plenty of minor ones, seems like folly to me. Any decent model would have to make assumptions of the mindsets of various dictators and irrational religious fanatics, which is a dumb thing to do. Simple tweaks in assumptions can result in wildly different results.

There was no upside for the museum here. If the model found that Obama should have intervened, that's not particularly interesting since it is essentially an anti-genocide museum so obviously they would support stopping genocide and oppose the use of poison gas. If the model found that Obama should not have intervened, it puts the museum off mission and it leaves itself to absolutely valid criticism that the model is dubious at best. In addition, it makes what is basically a non-political issue (genocide bad, poison gas bad) into a political issue which compromises the institution's objectivity and goodwill. It was a stupid thing to do. The fact that many Obama supporters have become involved in the institution and they have a biased reason to make their boss look good makes it stink even worse.

JPS said...

Maybe we could have severely damaged the death camps. Maybe this would have resulted in fewer Jews (and other targeted victims) dying at Nazi hands before the war was won. But I'm inclined to cut some slack to the president (for all his faults) and to the generals and other planners, who focused on destroying the enemy's offensive capabilities, and beating the life out of that monster. It worked, and it's just too easy for me to say, You should have done it better.

William said...

Models can't predict anything. Most of them are anorexic chainsmokers with no real grasp of the world's problems.

dbp said...

Even if bombers could accurately hit the ovens, what would this achieve? Does anyone think the Germans would have stopped gassing Jews because they lacked the ability to cremate the bodies?

As it is, the bombers are not that accurate and all which would have been achieved is doing with allied bombs what the Germans were already doing with Zyklon B.

William said...

I don't mean to stereotype models. I think Kate Moss is kind of stupid and self indulgent, but Kate Upton is someone with real gravitas. I'd like to hear her opinions on this issue.

buwaya said...

" the bombers are not that accurate and all which would have been achieved is doing with allied bombs what the Germans were already doing with Zyklon B."

Ah, but you have to understand what a Death Camp was. It was a factory.
It did not really house the bulk of the victims. These came in by rail, were processed by the workforce, were killed, and the remains were also processed by the workforce. They were residents of the camp for just a a few hours, for the most part.

The people actually living in the camp were the workforce, all victims also, but these were a small minority of those who were processed. These all had been chosen out of earlier streams of victims.

The entire camp, with its workforce, could have been destroyed, and this certainly would have disrupted things.

The point of having a Death Camp was to exterminate "cleanly", with the minimum use of resources and especially minimum use of non-victim personnel.

tim in vermont said...

et within a week, the US Army Air Force carried out a heavy bombing of the I.G. Farben synthetic oil and rubber (Buna) works near Auschwitz III—less than five miles from the Auschwitz-Birkenau killing center.

I hate this second guessing of people who won a horrible war we could have lost, and put an end to a conflict that had cost a hundred million lives. Of course the Soviets kept the killing going, and the Chinese had barely begun. It's not like we had the precision munitions then that we do now, either.

HoodlumDoodlum said...

Ann Althouse said...Or is the problem that the Holocaust Museum is aligning itself with "bystanderism"?

The problem is the Holocaust Museum allowing itself to be used--allowing its own respect and status to be used--as a partisan political tool to excuse the in-hindsight-questionable decisions of the Obama Administration.


Unknown said...And why in the world would the Holocaust Museum take such a political ass-covering stand for anyone of any politocal stripe? It demeans and dilutes the essential and valuable work it has done in simply being a museum about that most horrible, tragic time.

Yes, exactly correct.

buwaya said...

"It's not like we had the precision munitions then that we do now, either."

Precision weapons would not have been required. These were fairly extensive area targets, facilities were lightly constructed and the personnel (the prisoner-workforce and guards) were unprotected.

Richard Dolan said...

"Is it a sacrilege to analyze problems of human life and death with algorithms and computer modeling?"

It's usually called economics, and modern economists (the very best!) can't get enough of algorithms and computer models (to say nothing of unsolvable differential equations). Economic analysis is often wrong, always secular but rarely sacrilegious. They wouldn't have it any other way.

Jupiter said...

This whole lie-fest is predicated on the "Duty to Protect" nonsense that has become fashionable among the Harvard-trained clowns who imagine themselves to be serious thinkers about foreign affairs. Why didn't America stop the Armenian genocide? Why didn't America prevent Stalin's purges? Mao's? Pol Pot's? Rwanda? We may eventually do something about the 60-year-old concentration camp called North Korea, but if so, it will be because Whoa Fat is threatening us, not because he tortures and murders North Koreans. If the German Government was inclined to waste its resources on massacring some of its most productive citizens, why on Earth would the Allies try to stop them? We were spending lives and treasure to accomplish that same goal. If Hitler decided to kill everyone in Berlin, he would have been saving American lives. The religious views of his unfortunate victims do not change that simple calculus.

Michael K said...

But I'm inclined to cut some slack to the president (for all his faults) and to the generals and other planners, who focused on destroying the enemy's offensive capabilities, and beating the life out of that monster. It worked, and it's just too easy for me to say, You should have done it better.


I think is more justification to criticize him and the State Department for not allowing more Jews to escape.

There was a lot of anti-Semitism then but the Democrats were worse what with the Klan and all. He could have done something.

Jupiter said...

"The problem is the Holocaust Museum allowing itself to be used--allowing its own respect and status to be used--as a partisan political tool to excuse the in-hindsight-questionable decisions of the Obama Administration."

Which is just a tiny splinter of the much larger problem, that any income stream devoted to any legitimate purpose will be targeted, subverted, and redeployed by fast-talking hand-waving Leftist hacks. O'Sullivan's Law. Why exactly does a "Holocaust Museum" employ failed academics to design computer models of Syrian politics? Because the lying vermin who have managed to take control of that "museum" believe that will further some or other of their shabby little machinations.

buwaya said...

" If the German Government was inclined to waste its resources on massacring some of its most productive citizens, why on Earth would the Allies try to stop them? "

But for the most part the German Government was not killing its most productive citizens. Most (75%) German/Austrian Jews got away before the killing started. Of the 6 million, only 200K or so were German/Austrian, 600K survived. The other large group were from the German allies, mainly Hungary and Romania (@800K+).

The German Government was mostly killing Allied citizens. Over half the Jews they killed were Poles (3 million), and the next largest group were Russians (1 million), and then there were the various Dutch, French, Czechs, Yugoslavians, Greeks, Lithuanians, etc. (700K+).

And this does not count, of course, the millions of other Allied citizens they killed in the same system, from Russian POW's to the Polish bourgeoisie.

Crimso said...

I have a recollection of reading somewhere that the majority of people killed by the Nazis (not counting combat operations or collateral civilian deaths) were killed by simply shooting them and dumping them in mass graves. Not nearly as many were gassed and/or cremated. No amount of bombing, short of completely leveling the camp and killing or injuring everyone in it, would have stopped that. Probably the only thing that might have done any good would have been something like Son Tay on a much greater scale.

Rusty said...

maybe so, Crimso. But since you're condemned to die anyway wouldn't it be nice to see the terror in your jailers face while the bombs fall.

buwaya said...

By 1944 shooting was right out.
Required too much manpower and caused problems with the troops.
The camps were there for a reason.

And there were still many hundreds of thousands yet to be processed in the camps.

And yes, I think the camps would have had to be destroyed along with their workforce of inmates - who were far fewer in number than the streams of people being processed. A great number of innocent people would have had to be killed in order to save, maybe, a larger number of innocent people.

The Drill SGT said...

In the fall of 1944, only seven percent of all bombs dropped by the Eighth Air Force hit within 1,000 feet of their aim point.

USAAF Strategic Bombing Study. 1946

The only way to "bomb the Ovens" would have been to kill every inmate and person within 3 miles of the ovens.



buwaya said...

"The only way to "bomb the Ovens" would have been to kill every inmate and person within 3 miles of the ovens."

True. And thats what the target really was, not the ovens. The ovens were easily replaced.
The organization of the camp, its chosen inmate personnel, along with their guards and minders, were what made it work, and would have taken months to replace out of recruits into a very "special" service, plus chosen persons out of the stream of victims.

A well-conducted attack by a few hundred Allied bombers on this area target would have slaughtered a great many of them.

Bob Loblaw said...

Presumably we can, w/o speculation and modeling, point out that, when he sought it, BHO was not given congressional approval re Syria. BHO was all constitutional-y.

Oh yes, Obama was "all constitutional-y" when it could prevent him from doing something he didn't want to do. But maybe you'll recall DACA, where the president invoked the little known "because I want to" clause of the US constitution which allows him to ignore laws when Congress doesn't act in a way he finds satisfactory.

Jonathan Graehl said...

Bragging about how one can employ tech-razzle-dazzle-sophistry to exploit the Shoah for modern political ends is indeed incredibly unseemly and frankly reeks of mental illness. It's not a pleasant topic.

Ingot9455 said...

Crimso, the death camps were on the Western Front, in Poland and other such places. On the Eastern Front, in Russia, they had no such fripperies. That's where the executions were done by shooting and ditching. (And why the count is exact on the Western Front where Jews had paper documents of their citizenship, but estimated on the Eastern Front where the peasant jews had no documents and the Nazi commanders just guessed at how many they shot.)

Bob Loblaw said...

The only way to "bomb the Ovens" would have been to kill every inmate and person within 3 miles of the ovens.

Attempting to bomb the actual ovens would have been stupid. But the could have bombed the rail lines and nearby rail infrastructure.

buwaya said...

"Crimso, the death camps were on the Western Front, in Poland and other such places."

Poland, and Hungary, Romania, etc., were in the "Eastern Front", not the Western. The Germans staged Barbarossa from these places in 1941 and their Eastern Front logistics ran through them. The Soviet armies advanced through these places in 1944-45.

Most of the Jews killed in 1941-45 were "Eastern", but especially Polish, Hungarian, Romanian, etc. The Polish Jews at least (half the total, 3M out of 6) at least, AFAIK, had the benefit of, it seems, very complete civil records.

Feste said...

The article in Tablet is a non-starter because it changes the subject away from a presentation of war game metrics (no matter who is or isn’t justified) and switches focus to the cheaper game of domestic “audience costs” that ends up repressing the objective maths.

buwaya said...

"But the could have bombed the rail lines and nearby rail infrastructure."

Not very effectively from heavy bombers at high altitude, or at night.
These camps, or the big ones, were mostly in Poland.
These would have been long range missions that would have to cross all of Germany with all its air defenses. So heavy bombers would have been it, at high altitude or at night.
No pin point accuracy.

And broken rail lines were hard to hit and easy to fix, and poor targets unless one was close enough to use tactical aircraft.

The Drill SGT said...

Bob Loblaw said...
Attempting to bomb the actual ovens would have been stupid. But the could have bombed the rail lines and nearby rail infrastructure.


Given the accuracy of the times, tracks were hard to hit. And they were easy to fix.

Trying to cut the tracks would require regular re-visits. The Camp was a deep target. Losses would be very high

The Drill SGT said...

buwaya said...

I agree

Roughcoat said...

The majority of Jews who were murdered in the Holocaust were dead by the end of 1943.

In 1943 long-range bombing missions by the U.S. Army Air Forces consistently suffered huge losses. The strategic bombing campaign was failing. E.g., the Schweinfurt-Regensburg missions of 17 August 1943 resulted in catastrophic losses and achieved nothing substantive or meaningful. The theory that heavily armed bombers flying in formation in daylight raids could protect themselves from fighter attack had been proven wrong, tragically so. The average life span of American bomber crews was 12-14 missions. Emphasis on average. In 1943 bomber crews were living on borrowed time and they knew it.

The odds were seriously stacked against them. If they made it to 12 missions they were almost certain to get shot down, which meant that they would either be killed, wounded, or captured and sent to a prison camp after baling out over enemy territory. The U.S. aircraft had NO fighter escort over targets in Germany in 1943, they were on their own, and their formations were regularly decimated by German fighters and antiaircraft artillery. It was a slaughter. Tens of THOUSANDS of American airmen were killed in the course of these missions. The theory of strategic bombing developed by Giulio Douhet and articulated by Stanley Baldwin that "the bomber will always get through" proved to be bloody nonsense. And even those bombers that did get through did negligible damage to the German war effort in 1943. In fact the German economy (industrial output and war production) was expanding at a precipitous rate in 1943 and would continue to do so into late 1944, despite the pounding Germany was taking from Allied bombers. Germany would not reach peak production until the final six months of the war.

In other words, the stated belief of strategic bombing theorists and advocate, that relentless bombing could quickly bring about the collapse of the German economy at a relatively low cost, was shown to be utterly false. The German economy did not collapse until the final months of the war, in the spring of 1945.

Thus it is doubtful that Allied heavy bombers could have done significant damage to the railroad lines and associated targets in the vicinity of the Nazi death camps in Poland. The Germans would have simply repaired the lines at night, or repaired any other infrastructure as circumstances warranted; and they would have done so quite swiftly, as demonstrated by the ability to repair industrial facilities in Germany that had been damaged in air raids.

continued . . .

Roughcoat said...


In 1943 the distances from the Allied air bases in southern England and northern Italy to the death camps in Poland were prohibitively far. Bomb loads would have been drastically reduced as a result. They long journeys over mostly enemy territory without fighter escort would have amounted to suicide missions for many of the Allied aircrew. The distances to targets in Germany were shorter and the bomber forces were still taking huge losses on those missions.

During the Warsaw Uprising of August-October 1944 by the AK (Armia Krajowa, Polish national resistance force) American bombers did fly one mission over Warsaw to airdrop supplies to the beleaguered Polish fighters, but that was a one-off thing, not to be repeated, and scarcely repeatable.

Besides, by then -- and this bears repeating -- the Holocaust, with the exception of the murder of half a million Hungarian Jews, was winding down . . . because most of the Jews of Europe were dead.

Simply put, the Allies did not have the ability to halt or even slow the Holocaust in 1943 via strategic bombing.

Had the bombing missions been carried out against the death camps regardless of the catastrophic losses the Allied air forces were sure to suffer in that endeavor, they would have scarcely affected German efforts to annihilate European Jewry. The Germans would have murdered the Jews at night. They would have murdered them outside the camps, in the forests. They would have set up newer, smaller, more dispersed camps and murdered them in those facilities. The Germans were determined to kill all the Jews in Europe and nothing was going to stop them from pursuing this objective. They would find a way, and they did. The Holocaust was largely a success from their standpoint. By the time the Red Army overran the death camps late in the war, the camps had been shut down and abandoned because there few Jews left to kill.

Jupiter said...

Just to add to what Roughcoat has said, the reason the USAAF continued to conduct disastrous raids even as they saw the appalling cost was essentially a matter of inter-service rivalry. Because of the inaccuracy of "strategic" bombing, they decided that you don't really need to hit the factory, it is enough to destroy the workers' housing nearby -- and presumably the workers and their families as well. Then Curt LeMay figured out how to destroy entire cities by creating a firestorm. This didn't really have much military effect, but by this point the USAAF was essentially a terrorist organization, hoping to force Germany's surrender by a horrendous wholesale massacre of her citizens. Sorry, but that's what "terrorism" means - attacking civilians to influence their government. There it is.

LeMay then took his firestorms to the Pacific, and eliminated all of Japan's large cities. The military effect has been debated there as well, but at least the American casualties were fewer, as the B-29s could set Japanese cities on fire at night from high altitude.

rcocean said...

Its amazing how you lie about History and get a lot of half-educated boobs to believe anything you wish.

I could push back about this, but what would be the point?

Hiroshima was a war crime, we should have bombed Auschwitz, American Indians all died in a Genocide, JFK was killed by the CIA, etc. etc.

Dummies want to be dummies.

Roughcoat said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Roughcoat said...

a horrendous wholesale massacre of her citizens. Sorry, but that's what "terrorism" means - attacking civilians to influence their government.

Disagree. Germany and the U.S. were in a state of formally declared war with each other. Being in a state of formally declared war obviates the notion that the strategic bombing campaign was a form of terrorism. You may find it morally objectionable but it was not terrorism. Total war entails the mobilization of the populace which means that the populace is taking part in the war effort. Which means that civilians as participants in and enablers of the war effort may legitimately and necessarily be targeted for destruction. Everyone is a de facto combatant; there are no civilians in any real sense, not in the age of total war. I have no objections to the wholesale destruction of German and Japanese cities and to the mass killing of civilians in those cities. There is as well in all this the question of punishment and retribution which is also a legitimate reason for waging total war against an enemy. The Germans deserved what they got and so did the Japanese. They cruel and genocidal and they needed to be utterly crushed and flattened and thus be made to understand that they couldn't go down the same path again. They could not be left in doubt about this as, say, the Germans were in 1919.

Btw, the B-29s bombed Japan from very low altitudes.

buwaya said...

It wasnt Curtis Le May who discovered firestorms as a tactic, or first took to bombing housing, that was the British, under "Bomber" Harris.

Its the Americans who kept on daylight bombing and trying for accuracy. By late 1942 the British were almost purely night-bombing city targets. They also figured out the procedure and ordnance mix to create firestorms.

Big Mike said...

There was precisely one successful air attack on a prison or concentration camp during Worlf War II: Operation Jericho conducted by the British against Amiens prison in France using DeHavilland Mosquitos in a low level raid. The raid was set up because word had reached the Allies that 100 French Resistance fighters were going to be executed. The raid was timed to catch the guards at lunch (the mess hall was a target) and the fighter-bombers knocked down an entire wall. Of 700+ prisoners, 100 were killed in the raid and 258 escaped.

Zach said...

"I’m sure we could concoct the fucking algorithms for that, too," said Leon Wieseltier.

This is one of the few cases where a quote is actually much more eloquent for using profanity. Wieseltier is casting scorn on the exact part of the study that he disagrees with -- he wants to say that a computer model is just an elaborate way of explaining away nonaction. So he doesn't curse the paper, or the authors, or the Obama administration, he curses the f*#$%#%ing algorithms.

Marine Corps drill instructors could learn from this man.

Abdul Abulbul Amir said...

If you can't analyze the code that implements the algorithm you ate accepting results on faith.

Rich Rostrom said...

As noted above - any Jews under German control could be murdered by them at will with guns or bayonets or bludgeons. It was more convenient for the Germans to kill Jews in the death factories at Treblinka, Sobibor, Maidanek, Belzec, and Auschwitz. But that was all. If the US and Britain had diverted bombers from attacks on German war factories, oil facilities, and rail yards to attacks on the death camps - it would have two effects: it would moderately increase the cost to the Germans of Jew-killing, and it would substantially reduce bombing damage to the German war economy.

The main German murder effort was in 1941-1943, when the RAF was doing the bombing, and could strike into eastern Europe (where the death camps) only at high cost and with little effectiveness. By 1944, when the USAAF was also attacking in force, nearly all the Jews were dead, and only Auschwitz was still in operation. Even Auschwitz was a difficult target. Every strike on Auschwitz would displace more effective strikes on high-value industrial and transportation targets. The German army would have fought harder and longer, giving the SS killers more time to conduct low-tech murders.

Thus it is highly unlikely that such a bombing campaign would have saved lives.