Could The US Have Saved Tens Of Thousands Of Jews From The Holocaust? Maybe Not
Scholars who believe that FDR and the U.S. Jewish establishment missed the chance to stop the annihilation of the Jews often express admiration for [the Irgun’s] Hillel Kook… [who] adopted the name Peter Bergson and worked in America on behalf of the European Jews.….Bauer's opinion concerning the impact of the "Bergsonites,"… "Sadly, it was zero."…
Historian Tom Segev writes in Ha'aretz about a discussion he recently had with 87-year-old Hebrew University Emeritus Professor and Israel Prize winning historian Yehuda Bauer about the popular contention, fueled primarily by Israel's political needs, that President Roosevelt and the US could have saved the lives of many Jews during the Holocaust if they had chosen to do so.
The touchstone of this claim is that the US could have bombed Auschwitz or the rail lines leading to Auschwitz, and that alone would have saved more than 10,000 Jewish lives each day.
But is that really true?
Are the allegations against Roosevelt true?
Bauer used to believe they were, at least partially, true.
But after decades of research and reams of evidence calling those allegations into question, he's changed his mind:
…The United States knew the real story of the Holocaust only much later [then 1942], and to a lesser degree than is commonly thought, Bauer says now. There may have been some sporadic opportunities to save a few thousand Jews, but essentially, only the ultimate defeat of Nazi Germany could end the annihilation of the millions.
In an article now appearing in the quarterly of the Israel Council on Foreign Relations, [Bauer] writes: "Had I stuck to the same positions for 44 years, after having scoured archives all over the world, learning a few languages and writing 14 books on the Holocaust - I should have been dismissed from the university. Just as every responsible historian does, I change my views in accordance with the evidence that I find."
The shift in Bauer's views began to crystallize four or five years ago…In his article, he disagrees with an American historian named Rafael Medoff…over who knew what, and when, about the Holocaust and whether, if a person had known something, he could have [saved Jews]. Contrary to conventional wisdom, Bauer states that there was no possibility of saving a significant number of Jews [by bringing them to] the Land of Israel, because there was no way of extracting them from occupied Europe and bringing them there.…there was no real opportunity to destroy Nazi annihilation mechanisms by aerial bombings, except [by killing] many Jews. The Jewish Agency objected at the time to bombing Auschwitz…. It may have been possible to bomb the railroad tracks leading to the camps, but the Germans would have rebuilt them.
Similarly, had the Allies bombed the gas chambers, the annihilation would have continued via other means, including the "death marches." …[About] 50 percent of Jewish war victims were not murdered in the death camps.
…Bauer…writes: "One may rightly ask why the United States did not intervene along with its British allies when some two million Indians died of starvation in 1943, and why it did not even make any statements about it."
…"Was Jewish blood any redder than the blood of others?" Bauer asks. His answer is that the Jews were an unusual case, deserving of special attention and recognition, because the crime committed against them was unique and few people had understood that in real time….
[Like Medoff,] scholars who believe that FDR and the U.S. Jewish establishment missed the chance to stop the annihilation of the Jews often express admiration for [the Irgun’s] Hillel Kook… [who] adopted the name Peter Bergson and worked in America on behalf of the European Jews.….Bauer's opinion concerning the impact of the "Bergsonites,"… "Sadly, it was zero."…
I know of a specific document case showing that one particular haredi rabbi acted very badly after reaching safety during the Holocaust. He even took money he raised for pikuach nefesh, saving the lives of Jews in Nazi-ravaged Europe, and instead using almost all of it to build a yeshiva in Brooklyn.
This haredi rabbi corresponded with President Roosevelt during the war, but never raised the issue of the Holocaust. He never asked Roosevelt to rescue Jews or bomb the rail lines to Auschwitz.
This is especially important to note because this rabbi's followers originally presented this haredi rabbi to Roosevelt and the US Government as the leader of all traditional Jews worldwide. (The actual phrase used was, I think, "the Pope of all protestant Jews," and was written at a time of anti-Catholic bias.)
That evidence has been documented and academically published for six years already, but Medoff won't write about it or reference it all.
I've asked Medoff, who I know, several times over the years to write about it, cite it or to at least publicly acknowledge that it exists.
He never has.
Because, if he does, his attacks on Roosevelt and the US become almost moot, and Medoff isn't in the business he is in as the head of the David S. Wyman Center, to really write history. He's in the business he's in to promote a political agenda in Israel and in the US, one closely aligned with the more right wing parts of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's coalition.
When Netanyahu recently spoke at the AIPAC convention, in the context of the Iran crisis, he complained about the 'refusal' of the US to bomb Auschwitz.
However, like Medoff, Netanyahu is selective with his history.
Netanyahu didn't tell AIPAC that the Jewish Agency, the pre-state quasi government of the Jewish community in Palestine, opposed the bombing of Auschwitz.
That Netanyahu is a dishonest man is not news to people who have dealt with him over the years.
That the David S. Wyman Center is cooking the Holocaust books in part to favor Netanyahu and his allies is news to most people.
Unfortunately, knowing what I know about Medoff, I'm inclined to favor Bauer.