Saturday, February 04, 2017

American Knowledge of Grafeneck in 1940

Author: Jonathan Harrison
Back in 2009, I posted this New York Times article from 1999, which had explained how Vice Consul Paul H. Dutko in Leipzig had cabled the the American Embassy in Berlin and the State Department in Washington about killings in Grafeneck. The NYT article also cited a "Feb. 23, 1940, memorandum to Secretary of State Cordell Hull from Assistant Secretary Adolf A. Berle Jr." noting "reports from the embassy in Berlin that Jews were being sent to ''unnamed concentration camps'' in Poland." Below I post a highly relevant document, casting light on these matters, which I have scanned from the NARA collection, Records of the Intergovernmental Committee on Refugees, 1938-1947, which is available to me here via the Gale Digital Collections resource, Archives Unbound.

On March 27, 1940, the US Consul in Stuttgart, Samuel W. Honaker, sent report no. 347 to Donald R. Heath, the First Secretary at the U.S. Embassy in Berlin. This concerned the alleged transfer of mental patients from an asylum in Rottweil to concentration camps where they were allegedly being subjected to experiments with poisoned gas. When this is checked against other sources, the allegation is true to the extent that 45 persons were transferred from Das Vinzenz von Paul-Hospital in Rottweil (a location also known as Rottenmünster due to its religious origins as the Zisterzienserinnenkloster Rottenmünster) on February 3, 1940, to Grafeneck. On July 2, in his report no. 353, Honaker passed on far more detailed information about Grafeneck from "a source believed to be thoroughly reliable." These details are pasted below.

Figure 1: Dispatches. N.d. Records of the Intergovernmental Committee on Refugees, 1938-1947, pp.146-148. U.S. National Archives. Archives Unbound. Web. 4 Feb. 2017.
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Conclusion: It appears that the US Embassy was receiving reports from at least two sources: Dutko in Leipzig and Honaker in Stuttgart. Honaker appears to have been the first who had someone on the inside who was able to confirm that the victims were being sent to Grafeneck, not to concentration camps. Dutko, by contrast, was drawing inferences from the dubious death notices in local newspapers. Moreover, Dutko's cable cited by the NYT was dated October 16, 1940, almost seven months after Honaker's first report and three months after his second. 

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