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Gerhart RiegnerWorld Jewish Congress Reports from Switzerland that Hitler has Decided on Final Solution: but is it Genuine?

Source: PRO file FO.371/30917

Right: Riegner at time of his death, 2001

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Mr. Norton. D. 4.48 p.m. August 10th, 1942.
No. 2851.   R. 6.25 p.m. August 10th, 1942.


August 10th, 1942.

Following from His Majesty's Consul General at Geneva No. 174 (Begins).

Following for Mr. S.S. Silverman M.P., Chairman of British Section, World Jewish Congress London from Mr. Gerhart Riegner Secretary of World Jewish Congress, Geneva.


Received alarming report stating that, in the Fuehrer's Headquarters, a plan has been discussed, and is under consideration, according to which all Jews in countries occupied or controlled by Germany numbering 3 1/2 to 4 millions should, after deportation and concentration in the East, be at one blow exterminated in order to resolve, once and for all the Jewish question in Europe. Action is reported to be planned for the autumn. Ways of execution are still being discussed including the use of prussic acid. We transmit this information with all the necessary reservations as exactitude cannot be confirmed by us. Our informant is reported to have close connexions with the highest German authorities, and his reports are generally reliable. Please inform and consult New York. [Ends]




Website Comment:

Tel. Norton (Berne) to FO, No. 2831, Aug 10, 1942, with the text of a telegram from Riegner to Sydney Silverman MP (PRO file FO.371/30917). The 30-year-old Riegner claimed to have the report from a ‘German industrialist,’ whom he has refused to identify. Dr Benjamin Sagalowitz, press officer of the Swiss Jewish community, claimed to have given the name to Leland Harrison, the American ambassador in Berne, to place in a sealed envelope; there is no archival evidence to support this. Walter Laqueur, writing in Encounter, Jul 1980, page 13, expressed doubts that the man was German or an industrialist. Harrison regarded Riegner’s story as a ‘wild rumor inspired by Jewish fears’ (ibid.; NA: RG.226, Berne, folder 2, box 2, entry 4).

[Handwritten Minute, September 9, 1942]
Mr. Silverman having asked if he could see somebody about the cable in C.7853/61/18, Sir Brograve Beauchamp had a talk with him this morning.

1. First, Mr. Silverman said he would let us have some particulars about Mr. Riegner, whom he regards as entirely trustworthy,

2. Secondly, Mr. Silverman stated that he had received reports of transportation of Jews from occupied territories and Germany towards the east which might be a confirmation of the alleged plan.

3. Thirdly, he said that he had repeated the cable to Dr. Weiss (?), President of the American-Jewish Congress in New York.[2] Mr. Silverman said I that he would very much like permission to talk to Dr. Weiss on the telephone in order to find out the reaction of the American Jewish Congress to this story, and to see whether there was any action which could be taken. Mr. Callender is enquiring into the possibility of his being allowed to do this, but considers it unlikely that it could be allowed.

4. Fourthly, Mr. Silverman would like advice as to whether the Foreign Office thought that good would be done by giving publicity to this rumour by getting it into Germany, or whether we could by any means bring some pressure to bear on the Germans, e.g. through the Vatican. He would be grateful to receive the views of the Foreign Office on this point as soon as possible.

Mr. Silverman is proposing to see Mr. Winant[3]


9th September 1942


2. We have also received plenty of evidence that Jews deported from other parts of Europe have been concentrated in the General Government.



  1. Sydney Silverman was a far-Left Member of Parliament (Labour).
  2. Weiss: Rabbi Stephen Wise, New York [see Lord Halifax’s unflattering depiction of Wise]; and his report in The American Hebrew, New York, December 4, 1942.
  3. John Gilbert Winant was US ambassador in London.

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