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© The Boston Globe 2001.  Used by permission.
The Secret History of World War II

by Mark Fritz / Globe Staff / July 1, 2001

Page 1 of 8

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - A newly discovered document that reads like a rough draft of the Final Solution provides the earliest evidence yet that the United States knew the Nazis planned to eradicate the Jews, and that Hitler's executioners vowed to speed the slaughter ''in proportion to the USA increasing its attacks on the Reich.''

The November 1941 document, a pilfered German order sent to Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia, clearly signals Hitler's intent to broaden the persecution, plunder, and ultimate extermination of Jews. It also suggests that the US entry into the war influenced the timetable for terminating an entire people.

Because it is an actual snapshot of German policy evolving to embrace a specific strategy of genocide -- six months earlier than previously known -- the dispatch is one of the most significant discoveries from the nearly 3 million pages of US intelligence records that have been released under the Nazi War Crimes Disclosure Act of 1998, said Holocaust historian Richard Breitman.

''It's the earliest document I've seen, not in terms of killing of Jews, but about overall Nazi policy,'' said Breitman, chief historian on a commission created by President Clinton in 1999 to oversee the largest declassification project in US history. ''They [the Allies] were able in 1941 to draw conclusions about Nazi plans.''

The commission plans to release a report on the significance of the document this week.

Though many might think there would be little left to learn about the century's most cold-blooded act of collective human depravity, questions remain unanswered and, perhaps, unanswerable. The trove of records already has the large community of Holocaust historians scrambling to fit the new revelations into their often diametrically divergent theories about when Hitler decided to kill the Jews, when the Allies realized it, and what they could have done to save, warn, or rescue them - other than simply win the war.

The records contain other surprises, including previously undisclosed details of a 1942 US intelligence operation to sabotage a movement to create a Jewish state in what was then the British colony of Palestine.

In letters to prominent people who signed a petition supporting the Zionist cause, a top American intelligence official persuaded many to change their positions, in part by arguing that nothing could keep the world's 350 million Muslims ''from making a fanatically religious issue of this question of a Jewish state in Palestine.''

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