Israeli historian Shlomo Aronson not only sees World War II and the Nazi
takeover of Germany that preceded it through Israeli eyes, but also the military
operations dictated by Adolf Hitler.
He believes that the elimination of
German Jewry as a legitimate component of German society and the subsequent
annihilation of six million European Jews was Hitler’s highest priority,
exceeding all the tactical objectives of his armed forces.
American and British counterparts, among them William L. Shirer and H.R.
Trevor-Roper, Aronson contends that Hitler regarded the Jews as his most
dangerous enemy and believed that all of the armed forces that fought against
his Wehrmacht were obeying orders that came from Jewish leaders, especially
those in the United States.
A professor-emeritus of Jerusalem’s Hebrew
University, Aronson is the author of Hitler, the Allies and the Jews, which was
published by the Cambridge University Press in 2006. It was preceded by several
other important works that analyze modern German history before, during and
after the Nazi episode.
He was the first correspondent based in post-war
Germany by Kol Yisrael (his reports were broadcast by Israel Radio from 1961 to
1966). During that stint he came into contact with many major figures there
including Fritz Bauer, the German-Jewish jurist who played a major role in
preparing the cases against wartime mass murderers, and Albert Speer, the Third
Reich’s minister of armaments and war production.
Aronson maintains that
Hitler’s obsession about the Jews stemmed from his belief that they not only
were to blame for Germany’s entry into World War I in 1914, but also for its
defeat in 1918.
Therefore, he went on in a recent wideranging one-on-one
conversation, Hitler’s initial goal was to deport four million Jews to the
island of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean where he expected them to die of
starvation and disease. When Great Britain emerged as his initial military
nemesis – its naval superiority rendered the Madagascar scheme unworkable – he
opted for systematic mass murder in the death camps of Eastern
“This genocide persisted until the very last days of World War
II,” Aronson stressed, noting that it was neither slowed nor stopped by the
retreat of German forces from Western and Eastern Europe.
seemingly irrational decision to invade the USSR, on June 22, 1941, was
motivated by Hitler’s desire to kill as many Soviet Jews as possible. The
Waffen-SS and the Wehrmacht executed hundreds of thousands of Jews. They were
slain along with suspected Communists and Marxists who, according to Hitler,
also were the architects of WWII.
Aronson’s research extends to the
United States, which refused to open its doors to most of the European Jews who
tried to take refuge there. He mentions a prominent State Department official,
Breckinridge Long, as having kept the US off limits to these desperate
In June 1940, Long wrote (according to Wikipedia): “We can delay
and effectively stop for a temporary period of indefinable length the number of
immigrants to the US. We could do this by asking our consuls to put obstacles in
It was not until 1944 that president Franklin D. Roosevelt
took a seemingly positive, but largely ineffective, step to admit Jews fleeing
Nazi persecution and prospective annihilation. Acting at the behest of secretary
of the Treasury Henry Morgenthau Jr., FDR established the War Refugee Board as
the agency meant to fulfill this objective. However, it lacked the
administrative and legislative powers to fulfill its mandate.
prime minister Winston Churchill proposed in 1942 that the Allies publicize the
extent of the then-ongoing genocide so that the Free World would realize how
depraved the Nazis were, he was opposed by senior military and civilian
They contended that disclosure would strengthen the notion
that the war effort was essentially meant to rescue the Jews and that it would
be exploited by anti-Semites in the United Kingdom and the United
As a result of his detailed research, Aronson came to the tragic
conclusion that the Jews of Europe were in “a trap” from which they could not
escape. This was because every conceivable way out was effectively closed to
them. In short, they were doomed.
One of the most interesting aspects of
Aronson’s historiography is that it focuses primarily on the status and plight
of European Jewry throughout WWII. This distinguishes his work from that of his
American and Western European counterparts who treat the situation the Jews were
in as a subject worthy of sympathy, but did not ascribe the same magnitude or
importance to it that they gave the overall war effort.
recalls a telling comment made by Benzion Netanyahu in his seminal work, The
Origins of the Inquisition in Fifteenth- Century Spain. In it, Netanyahu
contends that historians generally see Jewish aspects of the developments about
which they write as secondary or tangential whereas in his view, they deserve
much more extensive analysis and evaluation.
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