I know there's a lot of talk about whether Allied forces during World War II could have / should have taken military action directly against the Holocaust. I'm not opening that can of worms here.

One of the options suggested was "they could have bombed the railroad tracks leading to Auschwitz"; another one is "they could have bombed the extermination camp itself."

For theory's sake: would halacha permit bombing the camp (and thus directly killing several thousand innocent people in it right now) so the Nazis couldn't use it to kill millions more?

One similar question is the halacha regarding shooting down a hijacked airplane. After some very complicated discussion, Rabbi J David Bleich concludes that halacha would prohibit it, but:

  • I'm not sure everyone agrees (see comments there; I recall hearing about a teleconference shiur for rabbis given by ... I think Rabbi Dr Moshe Tendler ... several days after 9/11, concluding otherwise on this issue).

  • I've heard that some halachic ethics apply differently in times of war, not sure how that influences this.

  • Is the hijacked-plane case completely analogous to the extermination-camp case?


2 Answers 2


I know that one (perhaps the foremost one) urging that the Allies bomb the tracks was R' Michael Dov Weissmandl zt"l. If I recall correctly, he also urged that the camps themselves be bombed too; if that's true, then there you'd have a notable halachic authority who would permit (indeed advocate) this course of action.

  • 5
    From what I read he only urged bombing the tracks. I would be interested in a source quoting that he urged bombing the camps themselves. Oct 22, 2010 at 18:07
  • 4
    I don't have his sefer Min Hametzar, but the English adaptation (The Unheeded Cry, Artscroll, 1984, pp. 169ff) quotes several letters of his from 1944 where he urged the bombing of the gas chambers and crematoria. Necessarily, that would have resulted in the deaths of some of the Jews there - even nowadays with pinpoint "smart bombs" there is often collateral damage, and all the more so with 1940s technology - but we see that this concern didn't faze him if it would prevent the deaths of many other Jews.
    – Alex
    Oct 24, 2010 at 4:46

There's a difference between bombing Auschwitz and shooting down a hijacked airplane. The former would have been done during a time of war (when, halachially, there is some license to kill and the question is one of friendly fire), and the latter would have been done during peacetime (when the question is rodef). (I'm not sure what the differences are between wartime and rodef, but there probably are many.)

  • 3
    Chanoch, contrary to PC spin, we were/are at war! If the people attacking consider it a war, then that is exactly what it is!
    – Yahu
    Oct 24, 2010 at 17:19

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