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George Bush, George McGovern, And The Failure To Bomb Auschwitz

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Senator Claiborne Pell (D-Rhode Island), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said in a radio interview in 1987: “The more you read [about America’s response to the Holocaust], the more you realize that we did not bomb the railroad lines that brought the Jews into Auschwitz, the more you realize that we did not bomb the camps themselves and the incinerators – which we could have done…”

President Bill Clinton, in his remarks at the opening of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., on April 22, 1993, said: “For those of us here today representing the nations of the West, we must live forever with this knowledge – even as our fragmentary awareness of crimes grew into indisputable facts, far too little was done. Before the war even started, doors to liberty were shut and even after the United States and the Allies attacked Germany, rail lines to the camps within miles of militarily significant targets were left undisturbed.”

More recently, former senator (and 1972 Democratic presidential nominee) George McGovern weighed in on the issue, when he was interviewed by Stuart Erdheim of the David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies (Erdheim is director of the acclaimed documentary “They Looked Away,” about the bombing issue) and Haim Hecht of Israel Television.

McGovern was one of the pilots who bombed the German oil factories near Auschwitz in 1944. He said, “There is no question we should have attempted … to go after Auschwitz. 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…Franklin Roosevelt was a great man and he was my political hero. But I think he made two great mistakes in World War Two.”

One of those mistakes was the internment of Japanese-Americans; the other was the decision “not to go after Auschwitz … God forgive us for that tragic miscalculation.”

President Bush has now focused important new attention on the issue, and significantly strengthened the bipartisan consensus that America should have, and could have, bombed Auschwitz.

About the Author: Dr. Rafael Medoff is the founding director of The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies and coeditor of the Online Encyclopedia of America's Response to the Holocaust.

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