February 4, 2008
Washington, D.C.- Authors who last year distorted the Allies’ response to the Holocaust have received their comeuppance, with the publication by The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies of its annual list of the “Ten Most Absurd Statements” about how the U.S. and its allies responded to the Nazi genocide.
The list was released in conjunction with last week’s commemoration of International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
“Sadly, a number of authors last year misrepresented important aspects of the Allies’ response to the Holocaust, “ said Wyman Institute director Dr. Rafael Medoff. “This list exposes the most severe errors, so that the public will have an accurate and balanced account of those crucial historical events.”
Topping the Absurdities list for 2007 was a statement by historian Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., which appeared in his posthumously published diaries. Schlesinger claimed the difference between the Allies bombing Auschwitz and the Germans killing the Jews in Auschwitz was that bombing the camp would have killed the Jews more quickly.
Statements exaggerating Winston Churchill’s aid to European Jewry during the Holocaust took three of the ten spots on the list.
The nominees for inclusion on the list were judged by a panel of scholars who have researched the Allies’ response to the Holocaust: Prof. David S. Wyman, author of The Abandonment of the Jews; Dr. Rafael Medoff, author of Blowing the Whistle on Genocide; Prof. Laurel Leff, author of Buried by ‘The Times’; Dr. Racelle Weiman of Temple University, who is founding director (emer.) of Hebrew Union College’s Center for Holocaust and Humanity Education; Prof. Bat-Ami Zucker, author of In Search of Refuge; Dr. Alex Grobman, author of Battling for Souls; and Prof. Judith Baumel-Schwartz, author of Unfulfilled Promise.
Writing About the Allies’ Response to Holocaust:
The Ten Most Absurd Statements of 2007
1. “Within Germany, bombing the camps or the railroad lines carrying people to the camps would only have killed swiftly men and women who would otherwise have died slowly and miserably.”
(Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. , Journals 1952-2000 [New York, Penguin Press, 2007], p. 675)
[COMMENT: In fact, (1) bombing the camps might or might not have resulted in some Jewish casualties, but not in numbers even remotely close to those being killed by the Nazis; (2) bombing the railroad lines in all likelihood would have resulted in few if any Jewish casualties, since the planes would be targeting the railroad tracks and bridges, not the railroad cars moving along them; and (3) the Jews in Auschwitz were not dying “slowly”; during the period when Allied bombing was feasible, they were being gassed at the rate of as many as 12,000 daily. ]
2. “The United States accepted about twice as many refugees as the rest of the world combined, 200,000 out of 300,000.”
(Robert Rosen, Saving the Jews [paperback edition, New York: Thunder’s Mouth Press, 2007], p. 442)
[COMMENT: In fact, “the rest of the world” took in about 365,000 refugees, meaning that the approximately 200,000 admitted by the United States represented about 35 percent of the total, according to the figures reported in widely accepted history texts concerning refugees from Nazism.]
3. “Amid all the pressing concerns of the war on land, at sea and in the air, and the desperate struggle to find the means to challenge the continuing Nazi domination of Europe, Churchill always made time to deal with Jewish issues.”
(Martin Gilbert, Churchill and the Jews: A Lifelong Friendship, [New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2007, p. 196])
[COMMENT: In fact, Churchill refused to deal personally with news of the Holocaust or appeals for rescue, directing all such inquiries to the Foreign Office, which prepared the replies.]
4. “Churchill’s emphatic instruction [in favor of bombing Auschwitz] did not need to be carried out. Three days after he endorsed the bombing of railway lines leading from Hungary to Auschwitz, the deportation of Jews from Hungary to Auschwitz was halted.”
(Martin Gilbert, Churchill and the Jews: A Lifelong Friendship, [New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2007, p. 212])
[COMMENT: In fact, Churchill and his aides did not know the deportations had stopped until fully eleven days after he first made that July 7 “instruction” to bomb Auschwitz; it was not until July 18 that the news of the halt to the deportations reached the Foreign Office. Thus, between July 7 and July 18, the Foreign Office and the Air Ministry were passing the proposal back and forth between them, despite their assumption that deportations were continuing; and Churchill did not pursue the matter in any way during that period, even though he had no reason to believe the deportations had stopped. Even after the Hungarian deportations stopped on July 18, Auschwitz continued to function and approximately 150,000 Jews were murdered there between July 7 and the liberation of the camp six months later. Even though bombing still needed to be carried out during that period, Churchill never revisited the issue.]
5. “During WWII as prime minister, Churchill encouraged more Jewish immigration into Palestine …”
(Michael Makovsky, “Winston Churchill was a Zionist at heart,” Washington Jewish Week, 8 November 2007)
[COMMENT: In fact, Churchill continued the White Paper policy of severely restricting Jewish immigration to Palestine throughout World War Two.]
6. “[A]fter the war began, virtually nothing could be done to rescue or even assist the Jews of Nazi-occupied Europe, who were prisoners of a madman who was bent on killing all of them as his life’s mission and who was dictator of a continent.”
(William D. Rubinstein, “Response to the David Wyman Special Issue,” Journal of Ecumenical Studies 40:3–4 [dated Summer–Fall 2004, but published in June 2007])
[COMMENT: In fact, there are numerous examples of Jews being “rescued or assisted after the war began.” About 26,000 European Jewish refugees reached Palestine between 1941 and 1944 in transports organized by Zionist activists. An estimated 27,000 Jewish refugees escaped to Switzerland and were granted haven during the war years, though thousands were turned away. More than 7,000 Danish Jews were smuggled out of Nazi-occupied Denmark to safety in Sweden in 1943. Bulgaria’s Orthodox Church, in partnership with its right-wing government, refused the Nazi attempts to deport its 60,000 Jewish citizens. Thousands of Jews escaped France in 1942 by fleeing to Spain. Thousands of Jewish refugees managed to reach Allied-liberated Italy. Pressure by the U.S. government’s War Refugee Board in 1944 played a key role in Rumania’s agreement to move 48,000 Jews of Transnistria out of the path of the retreating German Army and into Rumania’s interior, saving their lives. The WRB also financed a variety of operations to help refugees survive in France, Germany, Italy, Czechoslovakia, and Hungary, including bribing German officials, providing supplies and forged documents, and sustaining some 8,000 Jewish orphans hidden in France. The War Refugee Board mobilized the international diplomatic pressure that stopped the deportation of Jews from Budapest to Auschwitz in 1944, and through Raoul Wallenberg saved many thousands from the Nazis in Budapest. As a result, some 120,000 Jews were still alive in Budapest at war’s end.]
7. “[E]ven had American Jews acted in complete solidarity, they could not have altered American policies in an era when the nation was consumed by the Great Depression and the Second World War.”
(Beth S. Wenger, The Jewish Americans: Three Centuries of Jewish Voices in America. New York: Doubleday, 2007, p.217)
[COMMENT: In fact, even though they were divided, Jews did succeed in altering America’s rescue policy. The Bergson Group played a major role in generating the public outcry and Congressional pressure in late 1943 that helped bring about President Roosevelt’s creation of the War Refugee Board. Wenger mentions the creation of the Board (p.215), but depicts Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau, Jr. as being single-handedly responsible for its establishment, without any reference to the role of the Bergson Group or Congress.]
8. “Nor did notable or important Jewish leaders or organizations in America or Palestine request that American forces bomb Auschwitz at a time when bombing might have accomplished something.”
(Robert Rosen, Saving the Jews [paperback edition, New York: Thunder’s Mouth Press, 2007], p. 404)
[COMMENT: In fact, numerous important Jewish leaders or organizations in America and Palestine asked the Allies to bomb Auschwitz in 1944, when it might have saved many lives, including Nahum Goldmann, co-chairman of the World Jewish Congress; Maurice Perlzweig, head of the British section of the World Jewish Congress; Chaim Weizmann, president of the World Zionist Organization/Jewish Agency; Moshe Shertok, head of the Political Division of the World Zionist Organization/Jewish Agency; Yitzhak Gruenbaum, chairman of the Rescue Committee of the Jewish Agency Executive, in Jerusalem; and the Jewish Agency representatives in Cairo, Budapest, and Geneva.]
9. “Nine days after meeting with Wise [i.e. December 17, 1942], Roosevelt induced Churchill and Stalin to join with him in a Declaration on Jewish Massacres …”
(Jean Edward Smith, FDR [New York: Random House, 2007], p.609)
[COMMENT: In fact, the British Foreign Office, not President Roosevelt, proposed the idea of the declaration. Roosevelt administration officials actually watered down the wording of the original British draft.]
10. “[W]hile accusations have long been made about [the New York Times’s] failure to publish news about events related to the Holocaust, the record shows that articles about the [American Jewish] Conference, appeared at least six times from August 31 to September 3, 1943, twice on the front page.”
(Bette Roth Young, “The American Jewish Response to the Holocaust–a Reconsideration,” Midstream, March/April 2007, p.33)
[COMMENT: In fact, the Times sought to undermine the American Jewish Conference by ‘balancing’ its front-page coverage of the Conference with a half-page story about the alleged increase in Jewish support for the anti-Zionist American Council for Judaism.]