How the Holocaust Slowly Reached the Front Page of Haaretz

In an era when news reporting was far more cumbersome, it took time before the horrific reality sunk in.

Ofer Aderet
Ofer Aderet
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Haaretz report from October 8, 1942, headline reading: "Planning the annihilation of Europe's Jews?"
Haaretz report from October 8, 1942, headline reading: "Planning the annihilation of Europe's Jews?"Credit: Haaretz archives
Ofer Aderet
Ofer Aderet

Seventy-two years ago this week, on Thursday October 8, 1942, the first report of the extermination of Europe’s Jews appeared on page 2 of Haaretz under the headline “Plotting to annihilate all of Europe’s Jews?” A month later, the reports had reached the front page.

The article, whose byline was listed as Palcor, the news agency of the Jewish Agency, stated: “Reports are growing from reliable non-Jewish sources that the entire process of the deportation to Eastern Europe of Jews from Germany and the various countries it has occupied is not intended at all to employ the deportees as forced labor, but rather to execute them en masse.”

The report continues: “News of such horrors are coming from all areas of Nazi government and from the lands subjugated to it to aid societies working in Europe, helpless and in despair because of their inability to do anything to save the Jews. These groups have expressed the fear that the Nazis have embarked on a comprehensive plan to physically annihilate the Jews throughout Europe.”

This was not the first report of the murder of European Jews, but it was the first time the possibility was raised, albeit with a question mark, of the “annihilation of all of Europe’s Jews.”

On June 28, 1942, an article by the Palestine Telegraphic Agency confirmed reports that had been published in the Daily Telegraph of mass killings among the Jews of Poland and the murder of 700,000 Jews. Two days later, Haaretz reported on the Daily Telegraph article, mentioning the killing of 700,000 Jews in Poland, with detailed figures for various cities and descriptions of the ways the murders were carried out. The headline was: “The massacre of the Jews of Nazi Poland.”

On July 28, Haaretz published a special report under the headline: “6,800 Jews of the Warsaw Ghetto – to execution?” The article stated that “The Germans have begun mass deportations of Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto with the intent of annihilating them, according to reports received from the Polish government in London.”

Only in November did the extermination of the Jews reach the main headline in Haaretz and other newspapers. Examples are given in the 2002 book “Jewish Press in Eretz Israel in the Holocaust,1939–1945” by Prof. Dina Porat and Dr. Mordechai Naor. The book states that on November 23, 1942, an article in a black frame, in the style of an obituary notice, described “Himmler’s annihilation conference, which condemned all the Jews of Poland to deportation and murder.” The article went on to say that the Jewish Agency in Jerusalem had received reliable reports of the murder of Jews in Poland. The next day, the lead article in Haaretz was entitled “Annihilation” and thereafter, for a month, almost every lead article was devoted to the subject.

From November 25, for a week, various slogans appeared above the newspaper’s masthead, such as “Revenge for revenge for the blood of a little child – has yet been devised by Satan,” a quote from Haim Nahman Bialik’s poem “On the Slaughter”; “Wherefore should the nations say: Let the avenging of Thy servants’ blood that is shed be made known among the nations in our sight,” from Psalm 79:10, and “Save the condemned, Open the Gates.”

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