While the Supreme Court recently invalidated the Stolen Valor Act, which imposed criminal penalties on Americans who falsely claim medals for combat bravery, prominent Democrats – including Jesse Jackson, Charles Rangel, Robert Morgenthau and Eric Holder – have repeatedly distorted World War II and Holocaust history for purposes of ethnic politics.
This sordid affair began in 1978 when Jimmy Carter established the President’s Commission on the Holocaust, chaired by Auschwitz and Buchenwald survivor Elie Wiesel, to recommend a suitable national memorial for the 6 million Jewish and 5 million other victims of the worst genocide in history.
But as historian Edward Linenthal points out in Preserving Memory: The Struggle to Create America’s Holocaust Museum, Carter was also using – or misusing – Holocaust remembrance to “reach out to an increasingly alienated ethnic constituency.”
In October 1980, one month before Carter’s crushing defeat by Republican Ronald Reagan, a Democratic-controlled Congress adopted the commission’s main recommendations to create a U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council, whose members are appointed by the president and Congressional leaders, and to build a national Holocaust museum. In the November election, Carter received 45 percent of the Jewish vote, a sharp drop from the 65 percent he won in 1976.
The first major event sponsored by the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council and chairman Wiesel was a 1981 International Liberators Conference at State Department headquarters. Though it occurred during the first year of Reagan’s presidency, the conference was planned by Wiesel and other Carter appointees, who in the summer of 1979 traveled to Europe and met liberators from the Soviet Union and other World War II allies.
At that event, Leon Bass, an African-American veteran and a member of the official U.S. delegation, was presented to national and international audiences as a liberator of Buchenwald (which, with 21,000 prisoners, was the first large concentration camp freed on the Western Front).
A front-page article in The Washington Post of October 28, 1981 mischaracterized Bass as a “high school principal from Philadelphia who liberated Buchenwald with an all-black unit.”
Another veteran of the 183rd Combat Engineers Battalion at the conference was William Scott III, who likely was acquainted with President Carter, the former governor of Georgia, as Scott was a top executive at the family-owned Atlanta Daily World, the South’s most influential black newspaper. In reality, the “heroism” of Bass and Scott consisted of a tour of Buchenwald on April 17, 1945, six days after liberation, during which Scott took some photographs.
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On the 40th anniversary of the liberation of the Western concentration camps, Elie Wiesel and Leon Bass again propagated the myth of the African-American liberators of Buchenwald in a New York Times “news” article on April 14, 1985, “For Survivors and Liberators: A Commemoration.”
Ironically, Wiesel, in his classic Holocaust memoir Night, first published in English in 1960, doesn’t mention black liberators, but his book does conclude with a story concocted by East German Communist leaders, many of whom were Buchenwald survivors, that the camp’s prisoners liberated themselves in an armed uprising before the arrival of American soldiers on April 11, 1945.
From 1950 until 1990, the former concentration camp was controlled by East Germany, whose leaders employed it as a nationalistic indoctrination center. On the same day the Wiesel/Bass article appeared, the Times also published a front-page article, “At Buchenwald, Ceremony of Bitter Memory,” that repeated the Communists’ “self-liberation” fabrication.
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During the 1988 Democratic presidential primaries, Jesse Jackson enlarged the myth of black liberators to include Buchenwald and Dachau. A Jackson campaign speech on Memorial Day in Jersey City was dutifully reported in The New York Times on May 31, 1988:
“Placing the wreath on a statue called ‘Liberation,’ which depicts an American soldier carrying a survivor of the Holocaust, Mr. Jackson said that the first American soldiers to liberate Dachau and Buchenwald were black men who served in the United States Army Corps of Engineers.”
Jackson also falsely identified Paul Parks, a close associate and appointee of the eventual Democratic presidential nominee, Massachusetts governor Michael Dukakis, as an African-American Dachau liberator.
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On November 9, 1992, New York City Mayor David Dinkins was the keynote speaker at the Lincoln Center world premiere of PBS’s soon-to-be notorious “Liberators: Fighting on Two Fronts in World War II,” which further expanded the “black engineers liberated Buchenwald and Dachau” myth to include the 761st Tank Battalion.
The screening was co-sponsored by WNET, PBS’s local affiliate and the film’s primary financial sponsor, and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council. Directed by William Miles and Nina Rosenblum and with narration by Denzel Washington and Lou Gossett Jr., “Liberators” was broadcast two days later on Veterans Day on “The American Experience,” with Leon Bass in a starring role.
On December 17, 1992 at the Apollo Theater in Harlem, Jesse Jackson, Congressman Charles Rangel and Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau hosted another showing of “Liberators” for an audience of 1,200 influential blacks and Jews.
This screening, which was also broadcast on WNET, was actually a Democratic campaign rally for Mayor Dinkins, who was facing a difficult re-match in November 1993 against Republican Rudy Giuliani. Elie Wiesel, who wasn’t in the film, sent a videotaped message to the Apollo and WNET audiences.
But on February 11, 1993, after vociferous protests from the genuine liberators of Buchenwald (Sixth Armored and 80th Infantry divisions) and Dachau (42nd and 45th Infantry divisions), and the superb reporting of print journalists Arnold Fine of The Jewish Press, Christopher Ruddy, Jeffrey Goldberg and the late Eric Breindel, along with radio talk show hosts Bob Grant and the late Barry Gray, WNET withdrew “Liberators” from the airwaves and commissioned an independent investigation.
My late father, Barney Schulte, recipient of the Bronze Star, fought with General Patton’s crack Sixth Armored Division between November 1944 and May 1945, and my first of many articles about the scandal was published in The New York Jewish Week on February 19, 1993.
In September 1993, WNET released the results of the “Liberators” investigation, which conceded that black GIs did not participate in the liberation of Buchenwald or Dachau. However, the 761st Tank Battalion did assist in the liberation of Gunskirchen, a subcamp of Mauthausen. (Two months later, Giuliani narrowly defeated Dinkins, whose support among Jewish voters declined from 40 percent in 1989 to 35 percent in 1993.)
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In 1999, Steven Spielberg, a major Democratic donor in Hollywood, produced “The Last Days,” about the genocide of Hungarian Jewry. The film misrepresented the aforementioned Paul Parks, who had a cameo in “Liberators,” as a Dachau liberator. In the New York Post, the Forward and The Jewish Press, I presented unimpeachable evidence against the veracity of Parks’s claims.
In October 2000, The Boston Globe, which for many years had disseminated Parks’s World War II fabrications, published a series of investigative articles, partly based on my research in the National Archives, that shredded his credibility.
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In a May 2008 interview with The Atlantic’s national correspondent Jeffrey Goldberg of “Liberators” fame, Democratic presidential frontrunner Barack Obama alluded to the loss of the “natural affinity” of the African-American and Jewish-American communities and their leaders that existed during the “early civil-rights movement but that has been estranged for a whole host of reasons that you and I don’t need to elaborate.”
Here was the perfect interviewer to whom Obama could demonstrate his “post-racial” bona fides. Goldberg, who at the time of the “Liberators” controversy wrote for the Forward, was one of the few journalists in the media capital of America with the courage to expose the many black and Jewish leaders who were promoting one of the biggest lies in American military history.
But Obama, who was mentored by Jesse Jackson before his successful 2004 Senate campaign, proved incapable of criticizing the machers from the two communities who for a half-century have been twin pillars of the Democratic Party.
A few weeks later, in a Memorial Day campaign speech, Obama claimed his (white) great-uncle Charles Payne helped liberate Auschwitz. After a huge public outcry – Auschwitz was in fact freed by the Soviet Army – Obama’s campaign admitted he meant Ohrdruf, a Buchenwald subcamp. In reality, there was no liberation of Ohrdruf, as the prisoners had been either summarily executed by SS guards or forcibly removed on a death march to Buchenwald a few days before the arrival of the Fourth Armored and 89th Infantry divisions on April 4, 1945.
The Buchenwald Report, a 350-page history of the camp written by the survivors in the weeks after their liberation, provides harrowing accounts of Ohrdruf’s last days and subsequent death march. This critical document in Holocaust historiography has multiple accounts of liberation day, but none mentions black GIs.
During speeches at Buchenwald in June 2009 neither President Obama nor Elie Wiesel identified the American liberators from the Sixth Armored and 80th Infantry divisions, nor remembered the 28,000 casualties they incurred in the brutal fighting between Normandy in July 1944 and Germany or Austria in the spring of 1945. (The 80th Infantry also liberated Ebensee, another Mauthausen subcamp.)
It was left to German Chancellor Andrea Merkel, who lived her first 36 years in East Germany, to speak of the “sacrifice made in blood of the United States of America” in the defeat of Nazi Germany.
* * *
In April 2010, Attorney General Eric Holder was the featured speaker at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council’s annual dinner, which was honoring American liberators on the 65th anniversary of the liberation of the concentration camps in Germany and Austria.
Holder, however, singled out only Leon Bass, misidentifying him as a Buchenwald liberator. Bass, First Lady Michelle Obama and Harvard Law School Dean Martha Minow, another Obama mentor, have been active in an organization called Facing History and Ourselves, an organization headquartered in a Boston suburb whose website currently sells DVDs of “Liberators.”
Liberal power brokers in the Boston metropolitan area, like their counterparts in New York City, Washington and Los Angeles, have been leading disseminators of the African-American liberators myth. On February 8, 1993, three days before WNET pulled the plug on “Liberators,” Harvard hosted an on-campus screening initiated by Jesse Jackson and supported by the university’s president Neil Rudenstine, the Afro-American Studies Department and chairman Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Harvard Law professor Charles Ogletree (another Obama mentor).
Despite the publication of two articles in the student-run Harvard Crimson citing Jeffrey Goldberg’s pivotal New Republic article (“The Exaggerators”), which provided definitive evidence the film blatantly lied about the participation of black GIs in the liberation of Buchenwald and Dachau, Harvard foolishly went ahead with the event.
While Barack Obama graduated from Harvard Law School in 1991 and was not present at this screening, he and the university’s 1993 brain trust never heeded the sagacious advice of the late former Harvard professor and senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who said that intellectuals are entitled to their own interpretations but not their own facts.
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In a Forward opinion piece in October 2011, “How FDR Helped Save Jews of the Holy Land,” Robert Morgenthau, of “Liberators”/Apollo Theater infamy, and Frank Tuerkheimer ludicrously claimed that President Roosevelt was the “one man more than any other” responsible for rescuing “500,000 Jews in Africa and Asia” from Hitler’s genocidal plans.
In fact, 1.5 million Jews lived in the Middle East and North Africa during World War II, including nearly 500,000 in Palestine. Between April and September 1941, before America’s entry into the war in December, British Commonwealth and Empire forces, deployed by Winston Churchill, vanquished the Germans, Vichy French and their local allies in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Iran.
Curiously, Morgenthau and Tuerkheimer, former United States attorneys appointed by Democratic presidents, didn’t mention Operation Torch, the Anglo-American invasion of Morocco and Algeria in November 1942, which sealed the defeat of the Germans and Italians in North Africa and rescued 600,000 Sephardic Jews.
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In February 2012, Elie Wiesel joined with liberal media outlets including The Washington Post and MSNBC to attack Mitt Romney, who was surging in the Republican presidential primaries, for not denouncing the Mormon Church’s despicable practice of baptizing deceased Jews, including victims of the Holocaust.
Wiesel, however, has chosen not to publicly lambaste another prominent Mormon politician, Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, on similar grounds.
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Eric Holder, in a speech in February 2009, less than a month into the Obama presidency, provoked a national outcry by calling Americans a “nation of cowards” for allegedly not engaging in candid dialogues about race and not seriously studying African-American history. But with the attorney general’s efforts in propagating the discredited myth of the black liberators of Buchenwald, and Obama’s disgraceful failure to honor the genuine liberators during his June 2009 visit to the former concentration camp, it is the Obama administration that is dispensing the same racial wine that was already rancid nearly three decades ago.
For their key role in spreading politically convenient myths concerning the liberation of Buchenwald and Dachau, and for shortchanging the heroes who really freed the survivors of Hitler’s concentration camps, Democrats have earned the ignominious title of the Stolen Valor Party.
Mark Schulte has written about World War II and the liberation of the concentration camp for two decades for The Jewish Press, New York Post, Weekly Standard, New York Daily News and other publications.
About the Author: Mark Schulte is a prolific writer whose work has appeared in a number of publications including The Weekly Standard, New York Post, New York Daily News, and The Jewish Press.
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