August 9, 2005
The author of a book cited by Harry Belafonte in presumed defense of his controversial statements about Jews and Hitler has denounced Belafonte for distorting his work.
Belafonte had dismissed the presence of African-Americans in the Bush administration on the grounds that there were “a lot of Jews high up in the hierarchy of [Adolf Hitler’s] Third Reich.” (CNS News, August 5, 2005)
After Belafonte’s baseless statement was strongly criticized by The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies, he changed his position–but continues to distort the historical record. Belafonte subsequently admitted that “Jews weren’t ‘high up'” in the Hitler regime, but he then claimed: “Jews did have a role, some did, in the demise and brutal treatment of the Jewish people.” (Jerusalem Post, August 11, 2005) To support his allegation, Belafonte cited the 2002 book Hitler’s Jewish Soldiers, by Prof. Bryan Mark Rigg.
Rigg, who teaches history at American Military University, today issued the following statement of response, via the Wyman Institute:
“Belafonte continues to distort history. My book Hitler’s Jewish Soldiers shows that a number of people of partial Jewish ancestry served in the German military, but they did not even consider themselves Jews. Moreover, the vast majority of them were drafted–they were forced to serve Hitler just as other Jews were forced to become slave laborers in Auschwitz and elsewhere. In fact, many of them were later dismissed from the German military and sent to forced labor camps where they themselves were persecuted and some were murdered. Belafonte should take the trouble to read the books he cites, before claiming they support him. My book doesn’t support him.”
(Note: Prof. Rigg can be reached at: Bryan.Rigg@aya.yale.edu or 972-239-3476.)
In his Jerusalem Post interview, Belafonte also reiterated his claim that the policies of the Bush administration are “very much similar to the things that were done when Hitler was on the rise.” The Post reported that Belafonte also said that the criticism of his remarks about Jews and HItler was due to the fact “that ‘sometimes the Jewish people have laid claim to such a high and pure morality’ that they take great exception to facts which challenge that claim, despite that theirs ‘is a DNA that sits within the entire human family’.”
Wyman Institute director Medoff responded: “Hitler and his regime murdered six million Jews and launched a world war that caused more than forty million deaths. How can that be compared to current U.S. government policy?” Dr. Medoff said that Belafonte’s remark about “the Jewish people claim[ing] a high and pure morality” smacks of bigotry, and he urged Belafonte to retract and apologize for his remarks.