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15 October 2014
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Timeline - 1939-1945

Fact File : Bermuda Conference

19 to 29 April 1943

Location: Bermuda
Players: British and US officials, the Jewish Agency executive.
Outcome: The conference agreed to establish a refugee camp for Jews in North Africa.

Jewish civilians are marched down the street during the destruction of the Warsaw Ghetto. The Bermuda Conference began on the same day the Germans made their final assault on the ghetto
Jewish civilians are marched down the street during the destruction of the Warsaw Ghetto. The Bermuda Conference began on the same day the Germans made their final assault on the ghetto©
With an increasing awareness of the Nazis' anti-Semitism and with the German policy known as the Final Solution evidently in effect in France, the Netherlands and Belgium, the Allies agreed to meet in secret to discuss the plight of Jews in Europe.

The worsening situation was highlighted by the death of an estimated 70,000 to 90,000 Romanian Jews and Gypsies who had been transported to Transnistria in the Ukraine under Antonescu's regime. The atrocity was caused by a lack of food and water for the week-long journey, so that thousands starved. Others were shot by German and Russian units.

The Bermuda Conference lasted nine days and began on the same day that the Germans made their final assault on the Warsaw Ghetto. An uprising had been planned in the ghetto as a protest against the Nazis. It was clear to participants that they would be defeated, but the Polish Jews decided to die honourably by staging an armed resistance beginning on 19 April. Against all expectations, they held their ground against German forces into the middle of July 1943.

Back in April, the Jewish Agency executive was the driving force behind the Bermuda Conference, even though the event was sponsored by Britain and the US. The agency acted as an official organisation to form a national home for Jews in Palestine, but only began to trust reports on the Final Solution in 1942, when the evidence could no longer be refuted.

The agency proposed that Hitler should be approached directly to alleviate the plight of Jews in occupied countries, and tried to persuade the British government to abandon policies limiting Jewish immigration to Palestine. Both these proposals were unsuccessful.

The only major outcome of the conference was the decision to open a refugee centre in North Africa. In reality, however, it took more than a year to establish the centre.

The clandestine nature of the Bermuda Conference was confirmed by participants' unwillingness to make public the report on the event, which they argued might have given away intelligence to the Axis powers.

The fact files in this timeline were commissioned by the BBC in June 2003 and September 2005. Find out more about the authors who wrote them.


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