Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu speaks to AIPAC 390 (R).
(photo credit: REUTERS/Joshua Roberts)
On his return from the US last week, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu made a
serious effort to bring home – literally and figuratively – one of the most
tragic phases of the Nazi Holocaust: The World War II Allies’ rejection of the
World Jewish Congress’s plea that their warplanes bomb
Unfortunately, obtuse or disinterested Israeli TV producers
and news directors prevented him from achieving this goal.
When he held
up two crucial messages on that issue for all to see, the cameras did not
provide the requisite close-ups and the letters disappeared from view in less
than 30 seconds.
One of them from was from A. Leon Kubowitzki, who headed
the Congress’s rescue department during WWII. It was addressed to John J.
McCloy, the American assistant secretary of war. McCloy was asked to authorize
the bombing of Auschwitz, the infamous death camp.
In an explicit reply
dated August 9, 1944, McCloy wrote: “Such an operation could be executed only by
diverting considerable air support essential to the success of our forces
elsewhere... and in any case could be of such doubtful efficacy that it would
not warrant use of our resources.... Such an effort might provoke even more
vindictive action by the Germans.”
Actually, only the text’s first
sentence was composed by McCloy, according to Hebrew University Professor
Emeritus Shlomo Aronson, who interviewed McCloy on this subject in the
then-former official’s Wall Street office in the 1970s. By then, McCloy’s memory
was somewhat fuzzy on this subject.
The original idea came from Ernest
Frischer of the wartime Czechoslovak National Council and evidently was relayed
to the War Refugee Board which president Theodore Roosevelt had created to help
Europe’s endangered Jews.
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Surprisingly, there was a great deal of
controversy about it mainly because some analysts feared that the bombing would
kill many of Auschwitz’s innocent inmates and because it might prompt the Nazis
to speed up their ruthless genocide there.
In the end, no outside force
intervened on behalf of the doomed Jews.
This was in keeping with the
pattern that had been set by the Western Allies and their Soviet comrades in
The valiant Warsaw Ghetto fighters whose heroic revolt against the
Nazis that broke out on April 19, 1943, fought alone, without any outside
assistance from any quarter. Even their counterparts in the Polish underground
who were based just outside the ghetto’s walls failed to
Ironically, when the non-Jewish Poles revolted, August 1, 1944,
they too were bereft of armed allies. The Red Army, which was advancing toward
Warsaw at the time, did not commit any of its combat units to the Polish
Among the other death camps and ghettoes in which there was
well-organized and partly successful Jewish resistance were Treblinka, Sobibor
and Bialystok, but there too the Allies and the Soviets failed to
This perhaps is the most relevant reason for Netanyahu’s
attempt to present the Israeli public with the Auschwitz letters insofar as
Israel’s contemporary predicament vis-a-vis Iran is concerned.
knows better than the prime minister how diabolical the Islamic Republic of Iran
would become if it tried to implement the threats against Israel made by its
leaders, especially those of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Ayatollah Ali
Netanyahu’s undeclared conclusion was that Israel will have to
face its arch-enemy alone. Today’s Israel and its leaders cannot rely on the
sublime or idealized prospect of divine intervention if the Tehran regime
unleashes nuclear-armed missiles in a possible if not probable showdown over
Israel’s right to exist.
And like the situation that existed during the
bleakest days of the Nazi genocide, there is no friendly, sympathetic or
diplomatically-committed foreign power that can be expected to pull Israel’s
chestnuts out of the fire. Bibi evidently understands this very well, but he was
unable to amplify it properly this time around.
changed his surname to Kubovy and used his Hebrew first name, Arieh, when he
settled in Jerusalem after WWII. He was appointed chairman of Yad Vashem, the
Heroes’ and Martyrs’ Remembrance Authority, and served in that capacity during
the 1950s and 1960s.The writer is a veteran foreign correspondent.
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