From The Long Way Home Beth Hatefutsoth disdain had meshed with Germanic viciousness to liquidate European Jewry. Wyman’s charges abruptly reoriented Holocaust studies. But for reasons of polemic, his argument was also swiftly embraced \(beginning a decade before the pubof American Jews. When, in May of 1978, Commentary first published Wyman’s condemnation of the Roosevelt Administration for not targeting Auschwitz, the article appeared precisely at that moment when the magazine \(the organ of the American Jewhoretz, were rejecting New Deal liberalism in favor of neo-conservativism. Ignoring Roosevelt’s staunch anti-Fascism and playing up his anti-Semitism were important steps in this calculated move to the right. How absurd that Ronald Reagan, the antihero of Bitburg, who assiduously courted the neo-conservative vote, would become the beneficiary of a reinterpretation of Holocaust guilt. Now, finally, we know just how offthe-wall that reinterpretation was. As William Rubenstein, a historian who teaches at the University of Wales, argues in his stunning new book, The Myth of Rescue, Wyman “is not merely wrong, but egregiously and ahistorically inaccurate.” In a mere 216 pages of text, Rubenstein then demolishes the interpretative framework and political agenda of The Abandonment of the Jews. On the matter of bombing Auschwitz, for instance, Rubenstein dismisses Wyman’s claims with the crucial reminder that hindsight is not an appropriate methodology by which to study the past: the reason why it was not attacked was that at the time “virtually no one in the United States proposed bombing it, or any other extermination camp, while significant numbers of Jews were imprisoned there, or were being sent there.” Even had such a proposal been made, there were immense technical problems that would have complicated such an attack for one, it would require bombing seven rail lines to stop the cattle cars rolling into Auschwitz; for another, high altitude bombardment was notoriously inaccurate; how would we now come to terms with imprisoned Jews blown apart by their presumed liberators? Rubenstein is just as dismissive of any realistic prospects of rescue. What Wyman neglected to recall is that those in Nazicontrolled Europe, let alone those in the camps, were not refugees, but prisoners, at the mercy of “a psychopath who was going to kill all of them if he could.” In this context, negotiations with Hitler and his allies were pointless, a diplomatic impasse negating Wyman’s notion for the neutral naticas to serve as halfway stations; besides, would the Swiss or Swedes, surrounded on all sides by German armed might, have flaunted their neutrality? What then of the Wyman allegation that the United States and Britain raised paper walls to block the migration of Jews out of pre-war Germany? Here too Rubenstein offers a devastating rebuttal. A careful analysis of German exit visas, and American and British immigration figures between 1933 and 1939, indicates that approximately 72 percent of German Jews \(and more than 80 before war erupted. During those years, moreover, as Jews streamed across the Atlantic, their numbers constituted one-third of all those entering the United States; between 1938 and 1940, Jews accounted for one-half of all legal immigrants. Figures such as these lead Rubenstein to conclude that the emigration of Germany’s Jews “constituted one of the most successful and far-reaching programs of rescue of a beleaguered and persecuted people ever seen up to that time,” an observation that reinforces his larger revisionist claim: “[T]he responsibility for the Holocaust lies solely with Hitler, the SS, and their accomplices, and with no one else. In searching for a rational explanation of modern history’s greatest crime, it is important that we not assign guilt to those who were innocent.” As if to clinch Rubenstein’s argument, Maidanek burst back into the headlines of The New York Times early this March, when prosecutors in Stuttgart, Germany arrested a man believed to be Alfons Goetzfried, one of its former low-ranking Gestapo officers. Years earlier, he had admitted to British and Soviet investigators that during two days in November, 1943, he personally shot to death 500 people. His actions had been coordinated with “Operation Harvest Festival,” during which more than 80,000 Jews were slaughtered at scattered sites throughout Poland a grim reminder of just how intent the Germans were on eliminating the Jews. Only the destruction of the Nazis’ war-making capacity took the revolver out of Goetzfried’s hand. Observer contributing writer Char Miller teaches history at Trinity University. APRIL 10, 1998 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 27
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