The War Refugee Board was an organization established by Roosevelt in January 1944. It was the result of Secretary of the Treasury Henry Morgenthau lobbying for an official government agency assisting minorities, in particular Jews, persecuted by the Third Reich. This would have been within the area of responsibility of the State Department. Morgenthau pushed the U.S. administration to officially recognized that the Third Reich was pursuing a policy of mass extermination against the Jews, in particular by means of gas chambers. The U.S. State Department was reluctant to follow Morgenthau with this, not the least because Anglo-American intelligence could not confirm gas-chamber and mass-murder rumors. As late as August 1943, the Chairman of the Allied Joint Intelligence Committee had strongly recommended not mentioning anything to this effect in a public declaration. (See the entry Propaganda, section “United Kingdom.”)
This reluctance to accept the echoes of their own propaganda as true was washed away in July 1944 at the latest, when the Red Army conquered the Majdanek Camp. The subsequent Soviet and Polish gas-chamber and mass-extermination propaganda set an example to be repeated when other camps were captured.
In November 1944, the War Refugee Board collected three essays written by five Auschwitz escapees. With a few editorial changes, they published these texts together as one report, the so-called War Refugee Board Report (WRB Report). It is also sometimes misleadingly called the “Auschwitz Protocols,” although it is not a protocol of anything. These texts allegedly confirm that Auschwitz was an extermination center where Jews were being mass murdered in gas chambers using Zyklon B. The three contributing sets of refugees were:
- Jerzy Wesołowski, who later assumed the name Jerzy Tabeau. He escaped from Auschwitz in late November 1943, and wrote his essay at the turn of 1943/1944. It was included in the WRB Report anonymously as written by a “Polish major.”
- Alfred Wetzler and Walter Rosenberg, who escaped on 7 April 1944, and wrote their essay in May 1944. After his escape from Auschwitz, Rosenberg had assumed the pseudonym Rudolf Vrba, which he kept for the rest of his life.
- Czesław Mordowicz and Arnošt Rosin, who escaped on 27 May 1944. Their text was not fully included in the WRP report, but only its main parts as a sequel to Wetzler’s and Vrba’s text.
With the WRB Report, the U.S. government officially adopted the orthodox Auschwitz narrative as spread since 1942 by the Auschwitz Camp’s underground movement.