George McGovern receives Distinguished
Flying Cross in 1944. (AP Photo/McGovern
by Rafael Medoff
WASHINGTON (JTA) — George McGovern is widely remembered for advocating immediate American withdrawal from Vietnam and sharp reductions in defense spending. Yet despite his reputation as a pacifist, the former U.S. senator and 1972 presidential candidate, who died Sunday at 90, did believe there were times when America should use military force abroad.
Case in point: the Allies’ failure to bomb Auschwitz, an episode with which McGovern had a little-known personal connection.
In June 1944, the Roosevelt administration received a detailed report about Auschwitz from two escapees who described the mass-murder process and drew diagrams pinpointing the gas chambers and crematoria. Jewish organizations repeatedly asked U.S. officials to order the bombing of Auschwitz and the railroad lines leading to the camp. The proposal was rejected on the grounds that it would require “considerable diversion” of planes that were needed elsewhere for the war effort. One U.S. official claimed that bombing Auschwitz “might provoke even more vindictive action by the Germans.”
Enter McGovern. In World War II, the 22-year-old son of a South Dakota pastor piloted a B-24 “Liberator” bomber. Among his targets: German synthetic oil factories in occupied Poland — some of them less than five miles from the Auschwitz gas chambers.
In 2004, McGovern spoke on camera for the first time about those experiences in a meeting organized by the David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies with Holocaust survivor and philanthropist Sigmund Rolat and filmmakers Stuart Erdheim and Chaim Hecht.
McGovern dismissed the Roosevelt administration’s claims about the diversion of planes. The argument was just “a rationalization,” he said, noting that no diversions would have been needed when he and other U.S pilots already were flying over that area.
Ironically, the Allies did divert military resources for other reasons. For example, FDR in 1943 ordered the Army to divert money and manpower to rescue artwork and historic monuments in Europe’s battle zones. The British provided ships to bring 20,000 Muslims on a religious pilgrimage from Egypt to Mecca in the middle of the war. Gen. George Patton even diverted U.S. troops in Austria to save 150 of the famous Lipizzaner dancing horses.
“There is no question we should have attempted … to go after Auschwitz,” McGovern said in the interview. “There was a pretty good chance we could have blasted those rail lines off the face of the earth, which would have interrupted the flow of people to those death chambers, and we had a pretty good chance of knocking out those gas ovens.”
Even if there was a danger of accidentally harming some of the prisoners, “it was certainly worth the effort, despite all the risks,” McGovern said, because the prisoners were already “doomed to death” and an Allied bombing attack might have slowed down the mass-murder process, thus saving many more lives.
At the time, 16-year-old Elie Wiesel was part of a slave labor battalion stationed just outside the main camp of Auschwitz. Many years later, in his best-selling book “Night,” Wiesel described a U.S. bombing raid on the oil factories that he witnessed.
“[I]f a bomb had fallen on the blocks [the prisoners’ barracks], it alone would have claimed hundreds of victims on the spot. But we were no longer afraid of death; at any rate, not of that death,” Wiesel wrote. “Every bomb that exploded filled us with joy and gave us new confidence in life. The raid lasted over an hour. If it could only have lasted ten times ten hours!”
At the time, McGovern and his fellow pilots had no idea what was happening in Auschwitz.
“I attended every briefing that the air force gave to us,” he said. “I heard everyone, from generals on down. I never heard once mentioned the possibility that the United States air force might interdict against the gas chambers.”
Ironically, in one raid, several stray bombs from McGovern’s squadron missed the oil factory they were targeting and accidentally struck an SS sick bay, killing five SS men.
McGovern said that if his commanders had asked for volunteers to bomb the death camp, “whole crews would have volunteered.” Most soldiers understood that the war against the Nazis was not just a military struggle but a moral one, as well. In his view they would have recognized the importance of trying to interrupt the mass-murder process, even if it meant endangering their own lives in a risky bombing raid.
Indeed, the Allies’ air drops of supplies to the Polish Home Army rebels in Warsaw in August 1944 were carried out by volunteers, who agreed to undertake the missions despite the hazards of flying their planes to areas outside their normal range.
McGovern noted that he remained an ardent admirer of President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
“Franklin Roosevelt was a great man and he was my political hero,” he said in the interview. “But I think he made two great mistakes in World War II.” One was the internment of Japanese Americans; the other was the decision “not to go after Auschwitz. … God forgive us for that tragic miscalculation.”
In contrast with his pacifist image, McGovern emphasized that for him, the central lesson of the U.S. failure to bomb Auschwitz was the need for “a determination that never again will we fail to exercise the full capacity of our strength in that direction.”
He added, “We should have gone all out [against Auschwitz], and we must never again permit genocide.”
Rafael Medoff is founding director of The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies and the author or editor of 15 books about the Holocaust and American Jewish history.
WARSAW, Poland (AP) — A spokesman for Auschwitz museum says the last surviving member of a group of prisoners that escaped the German Nazi concentration camp in 1942 has died.
Spokesman Pawel Sawicki said Monday that August Kowalczyk died Sunday at a hospice he helped found in the town of Oswiecim in southern Poland where the former camp is located. He was 90 years old.
Kowalczyk was brought to Auschwitz in December 1940. In June 1942 he was among 50 Polish inmates who tried to flee the camp while working in the fields. Most were killed in the attempt and only nine escaped. Kowalczyk was the last known survivor.
Kowalczyk became a popular actor and spent his lifetime telling his story to younger generations.
Some 1.5 million people, mostly Jews, were killed at Auschwitz from 1940-45.
The German’s are as anti-Semitic as they were during WWII. Here is the sobering report.
In December 1972 the terrorist Ulrike Meinhof, who was under trial for the Rote Armee Fraktion’s activities, was questioned on the support issued for the massacre of Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics. The questioning led her to say:
“Auschwitz means that six million Jews were murdered and carted on to the rubbish dumps of Europe for being that which was maintained of them — Money-Jews”.
Lady Meinhof was proud of her antisemitism. Unfortunately, many German leftists who have never committed acts of violence today take positions approaching hers. Echoing Karl Marx’s observation that “the evil in the world is the Jewishness in the world”, communism in East Germany sought to eradicate Judaism in general and after the Six Day War adopted an anti-Zionist stance.
Now we read that forty-seven percent of Germans are of the opinion that “Israel is exterminating the Palestinians”, according to a poll undertaken by the University of Bielefeld for the Friedrich Ebert Foundation, affiliated with the German Social Democratic Party.
In another 2004 poll conducted by the University of Bielefeld, 51% of German respondents agreed with the statement that:
“What the state of Israel does today to the Palestinians, is in principle not different from what the Nazis did in the Third Reich to the Jews”.
The German greedy-business with Teheran, the anti-Zionist ideology and the abuse of the Holocaust are part of a new anti-semitic wind that is on the rise in Germany. All the governments gave anti-Zionist and anti-Israel personalities prizes and speaking engagements to spread criticism of Israel.
In 2008 the German government was deeply involved in funding a conference where then Iranian deputy foreign minister Muhammad Larijani called for the destruction of the Jews.
In 2009 former German chancellor Gerhard Schroder met with President Ahmadinejad in Teheran. Schroder had meetings also with Foreign Minister Manuchehr Mottaki, who opened the “World Without Zionism” conference in Teheran and cast doubt on the “official version of the Holocaust”.
Last year, then-German president Horst Kohler issued the Federal Merit Cross, one of the country’s most important awards, to the lawyer Felicia Langer, who has equated Israel with Nazi Germany and the South African apartheid regime.
Several months ago, the city of Frankfurt invited Alfred Grosser to deliver a speech at commemoration of Kristallnacht. Grosser has compared his treatment by the Nazis in the early 1930s with Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians.
In today’s Germany, leftists who Nazify Israel and characterize it as the world’s most evil country have simply opened the door to proclaiming Jews to be evil people in general.
Norman Paech, the foreign policy spokesman of Germany’s third largest party, The Left, favors nuclear weapons for Iran and employs Nazi terminology against Israel.
At an academic conference in Gottingen, Professor Arnd Kruger said that the Israeli athletes butchered at the Olympic Games in Munich sacrificed themselves to prolong financial restitution from Germany and to preserve guilt among Germans due to the Holocaust.
These are only a few examples of this new radical hatred for the Jews.
Tel Aviv Municipality’s stand at Europe’s largest gay pride parade, set to take place in Berlin in June, won’t include any Israeli symbols or markers in an attempt to severe the connection between the German’s capital and the Jewish State.
The German public opinion contains once again elements that envision a world cleansed of the Jewish state. Germany’s State TV reported once about Itamar’s massacre saying: “Five dead after attack on settler family”. The neutral terminology paves the way to accept killing of the Jews. Last summer, in Hanover, a group of Muslims attacked an Israeli dance troupe, yelling “Juden raus” as they hurled stones at them. During the Israeli military operation against Hamas, “death to the Jews” was a common chant in the German protests.
In Germany today anti-Zionism — which is not mere criticism of Israeli policies, but the denial of the Jewish people’s right to live in their own state — links leftists, Islamists and rightists. Videos promoting “martyrdom” are shown daily in German houses, fueling anti-Semitism among Muslim youth in Germany. The programs are fed to Germany on Egyptian and Saudi Arabian satellites.
Despite the fact that Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government continues to support the Jewish State, German public opinion has a demonizing view of Israel, as does most of Europe. And Germany’s support for Israel, normally unwavering, is not automatic. It can change tomorrow.
Along with Italy, Germany is also the most important Iranian partner for import and export. The German powerhouse economy must be viewed as contributing to Iran’s nuclear revenue base and Ahmadinejad’s financial support for his regime’s satellite terror entities, Hizbullah and Hamas.
There are also terrible historical resonances. The Basf chemical industry is one of the thousands of German firms based in Teheran. Basf was formed out of the assets of IG Farben in 1952, the same company that produced the pesticide Zyklon B for the gas chambers.
A few days ago, an Israeli delegation from Judea and Samaria went to speak to Germany. The mayor of Cologne called them “settlers”, persona non grata, preventing them from entering the City Hall. The mayor denied that the Jews of Samaria ever existed at all.
Bar Ilan University Professor of Literature, Hillel Weiss, handled him a beautiful “lamentation” written by Rabbi Yoel Halevi, whose family and community were murdered during one of the first European pogroms. The lamentation tells of Jewish souls that “like incense rise” to the heavens.
The mirror of the German’s rotten conscience is the Museum of the Holocaust built by the postmodern architect Daniel Libeskind. The building is emblematic of what Alvin Rosenfeld, in his new magisterial forthcoming book, has called “The End of the Holocaust”. Old suitcases, dishes, photographs, glasses, violins and postcards left by the dead Jews serve to transmit the impression of a lost history. An empty space in the basement at the end of a large, dark corridor, neither heated nor air-conditioned, lit only by a shaft of natural light at the top, produces the spectacularization of the Holocaust.
Next time for these good Europeans it will be easier to “digest” the extinction of the Jews as it will be a Kristallnacht transposed to Israel.
About the author,
Giulio Meotti, a journalist with Il Foglio, writes a weekly column for INN. He is the author of the book “A New Shoah”, that researched the personal stories of Israel’s terror vicitms, published by Encounter. He lives in Italy. His writing has appeared in publications, such as the Wall Street Journal, Frontpage and Commentary.
It took him more than 60 years to break his silence, but in a new book 92-year-old Denis Avey tells the story of how he broke into Auschwitz concentration camp twice to witness for himself the horrors of the Holocaust.
Avey was a British soldier captured during World War Two and sent to a labor camp close to Auschwitz where he worked at the IG Farben plant alongside inmates from the concentration camp, nicknamed “stripeys” after their uniforms.
While Avey, a headstrong, battle-hardened soldier, was told about the mass extermination of Jews and experienced the sickening smell from a nearby crematorium, he wanted to see for himself what was happening in Auschwitz.
While conditions in his own labor camp were appalling, the food was better and treatment less harsh than in Auschwitz.
And as a prisoner of war, Red Cross packages occasionally made it through containing chocolate and cigarettes, which could then be bartered for better provisions and aid survival.
After weeks of preparation, including bribes to a guard, Avey twice swapped uniforms with a Dutch Jew of roughly the same height to sneak into the camp where he spent the night.
On both occasions the men managed to change back into their own clothes, despite the risk of discovery and certain death.
“I did my homework over weeks and weeks, but the common denominator of all that was a tremendous amount of luck,” Avey said in an interview to promote his biography “The Man Who Broke Into Auschwitz,” co-written by Rob Broomby and published in Britain by Hodder & Stoughton.
“My life depended on 50 cigarettes — 25 in, 25 out. He (the guard) could have shot me easily.”
His motivation for risking his life was twofold: to “put one over on the enemy” and to see what was happening so he could tell the world afterwards of the atrocities.
He recorded seeing piles of “vaguely human” corpses of workers who died each day. They were carried away by fellow inmates who showed no emotion. Body carriers collapsed, earning them a beating and almost certain death.
TOO WEAK TO RESIST
Men were pulled from lineups and taken away to be gassed, but there was no protest, so weak and dejected had they become.
Avey described the “foul air” of the sleeping area and putrid “soup” the men were served which he dared not eat.
He held whispered conversations with the inmate lying next to him who was in on the plan, finding out what he could about the concentration camp.
“Auschwitz III was like nothing else on earth; it was hell on earth. This is what I had come to witness but it was a ghastly, terrifying experience.”
After surviving the camp and the “death march” at the end of the war, Avey tried to tell the army about his experiences, but when he came up against what he called the “glazed eye syndrome,” he gave up and kept silent for 60 years.
Even his mother did not know what he had been through, and never asked why he was so emaciated when he returned to England.
For six years Avey had regular nightmares and woke up in a cold sweat. He still recalls his experiences today.
Then, during a radio interview a few years ago he opened up and told his story, and since then has gained recognition for his bravery from Holocaust organisations and politicians.
The International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation has honored Avey with a diploma, and a spokesman in Israel said: “We feel that his story is genuine,” adding that a fellow survivor corroborated his account to the foundation’s satisfaction.
Avey said his book was relevant today.
“The difference between right and wrong is fast receding. Awareness is being diluted, people are just saying ‘such is life’. People are like this now.”
Despite its dark content, the story ends on a note of hope.
Avey recently discovered that a Jew called Ernst survived Auschwitz and recorded his testimony on video.
In that testimony he talked about a soldier — Avey — who arranged for him to get 10 packs of cigarettes from England which he swapped for food and new soles on his shoes without which he said he would not have survived the death march.
“I thought he was dead,” said Avey. “I couldn’t believe it.”