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Knowledge of concentration camps

A comprehensive picture soon emerged from the prisoners' conversations about the extent of the Nazi programme to annihilate the Jews of Europe in 'The Final Solution'.

Some prisoners began to discuss their first hand experience of the concentration camps. Others doubted their existence or whether it was as bad as described. Such details were picked up from all ranks of prisoners, including the German Generals at Trent Park. One General, von Choltitz said to General von Thoma: 'The worst job I ever carried out–which however I carried out with great consistency–was the liquidation of the Jews.' This was recorded by the secret listeners in the M Room. British Intelligence steadily gathered information about all the major concentration camps, including Buchenwald, Auschwitz, Bergen-Belsen and Dachau.

One prisoner in 1941 was the first to tell British Intelligence about the use of lampshades made from tattooed human skin in the Belsen concentration camp. From 1944, the interrogators were instructed to ask the prisoners about atrocities during an interrogation. Those with a detailed knowledge of particular concentration camps were asked to draw maps of the sites. All this was at least six months before the camps were liberated and the world knew the full extent of the horror.

In subsequent decades, it has been debated just how much the Allies knew about the concentration camps. The importance of these transcripts shows exactly what was known and when.