US institute raps historians over Allied response to Shoah

US institute raps historians for "distortion and misrepresentation."

world war 2 plane 63 (photo credit: )
world war 2 plane 63
(photo credit: )
An American Holocaust institute has criticized US and British historians for "distorting and misrepresenting" the Allied response to the genocide of Europeans Jews by Nazi Germany. The criticism of the authors by the Washington-based David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies comes after President George W. Bush said on January 11 that the US should have bombed Auschwitz during World War II, in the first such public statement by an American president. Those the Wyman Institute singled out for censure included American historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr, who opposed the bombing of Auschwitz, as well as statements exaggerating Winston Churchill's aid to European Jewry during the Third Reich, some of which were made by his official biographer, British historian Martin Gilbert. In his posthumously published diaries, Schlesinger claimed that the difference between the Allies bombing Auschwitz and the Germans killing Jews in Auschwitz was that bombing the camp would have killed Jews more quickly. Schlesinger's statement topped the Wyman Institute's listing of the "10 most absurd" statements of 2007 about how the Allies responded to the Nazi genocide. "In fact, 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, and 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," the Wyman Institute said. The US had detailed reports about Auschwitz toward the end of WWII from escaped prisoners, but chose not to bomb the camp, or the rail lines leading to it, on the grounds that it would have diverted military resources. But respected Holocaust historians say the Allies' decision not to bomb the camp or the railway lines, even as they bombed German oil factories less than 8 km. away, stemmed from indifference to the plight of the Jews, and that the Allies could have saved hundreds of thousands of Hungarian Jews gassed during 1944. Two statements by Gilbert on Churchill's relationship with the Jews contained in the historian's Churchill and the Jews: A Lifelong Friendship were also faulted by the Wyman Institute as being inaccurate, including when Gilbert wrote that Churchill always made time to deal with Jewish issues. "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," the Wyman Institute said. "Since the late 1960s, a significant amount of serious scholarly research has been done concerning the Allies' response to the Holocaust, and as new records are made available, important new work is being done in the field," said Prof David S. Wyman, author of The Abandonment of the Jews: America and the Holocaust, 1941-1945. "Yet, sadly, errors and distortions - many of them severe - also continue to appear in some books and articles, sometimes motivated by partisanship, sometimes by just plain carelessness," he said. "Historians of the Holocaust have a solemn obligation to delve deeply into the archives and produce works that are based on original and impartial research," said Dr. Rafael Medoff, director of the Wyman Institute. "The public is counting on us to shed light on these difficult subjects, so that today's generation can learn the lessons of the Allies' apathetic response to the Holocaust," he said.