More than seventy-five years after the end of the Second World War, one of its most controversial and complex questions still persists. What exactly did Great Britain and the United States, as well as their European allies and neutral countries, know, or not know, about the ongoing Holocaust? And what exactly did the Allies do, or not do about it? And how, when and why? Code Orange is the inside account, the first book written in English that brings together all elements of the story.
The urgent and persistent questions people have about the Allies and the Holocaust centre around four focal issues: knowing about the persecution of European Jews from the mid-1930s, why didn’t Britain and America allow more Jewish refugees to enter Palestine, America and Britain before the war began? Why did it then take the Allies until 1943 to change their draconian refugee quotas, which had blocked so many Jews inside Europe?
Once the Holocaust was under way, what did the Allies know about it, how did they discover this, and what did they do to try and halt it or interfere with it? And how could its effects have been ameliorated? Crucial questions such as these form the backbone and frame of the book, with each section representing a category of question and each chapter a specific one.
What workable action, for instance, did the Allies take, or not, against the machinery of the Final Solution? British cryptanalysts at Bletchley Park cracked a complex German SS encipherment system as early as spring 1942: they codenamed it ‘Orange.’ It was used to encode messages documenting the horrifying daily mechanics of parts of the Third Reich’s concentration camp networks. The Allies also cracked into three Enigma codings used by the German railway system, which ran the transport logistics of the Final Solution..
Along with reports from the Polish government-in-exile in London, the Allies could work out what was happening in the death-camps, backed up by reports from diplomats in European capitals, from resistance units, camp escapees, the Vatican, and neutral governments like the Portuguese. What happened to this crucial intelligence? Did it reach the ears of Allied leaders?
The book also investigates the Allies’ different operational responses to the Holocaust across each year of the war: these were respectively military, legal, diplomatic, political and intelligence-related. These would include not just war crimes investigations and Allied declarations, but a vast secret conflict underway across Europe, of intelligence and partisan operations, life-saving diplomacy, cryptanalysis, international finance, and muscular humanitarianism.
By 1943-44 the Allies, now winning the war, had the knowledge and the will to make a difference. But knowing what they knew, could they have acted earlier, more decisively, against the Final Solution?
Christian Jennings is a British writer and freelance foreign correspondent, and the author of eight works of non-fiction. Since 1994, across twenty-three countries, he has been writing books and journalism on international current affairs, history, science and subjects such as war crimes investigations, for publications and news organisations ranging from The Economist and Reuters to Wired, The Daily Telegraph, and The Scotsman. He has been based variously in Sarajevo, Pristina, Belgrade, Kigali, Bujumbura, Skopje, Nairobi and Geneva. He now lives...
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