United Hatzalah program honors our survivors, war veterans with specialized medical care
On a hot August morning in 1944, the Jews imprisoned in the Nazi slave labor camp known as Hasag Pelcery, less than fifty miles from Auschwitz, suddenly heard a roaring sound in the sky above.
“I looked up and saw something unbelievable,” Sigmund Rolat, 79, recalled last week. “American planes, right above us. It seemed like a miracle.” Rolat and his fellow prisoners cheered.
But for the prisoners of Hasag Pelcery, and for the Jews in the nearby Auschwitz death camp, no miracle was at hand. The American planes were on their way to bomb German oil factories, some of them less than five miles from the gas chambers and crematoria – yet they were never sent to strike the mass murder-machinery or the railways leading into Auschwitz.
The reasons behind the Allies’ refusal to attack the death camps will be discussed at “The Failure to Bomb Auschwitz: History, Politics, Controversy,” a one-day conference sponsored by the David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies, to be held Sunday, September 13, at Fordham University Law School, 140 West 62 St., Manhattan.
(Editor’s note: readers interested in attending can call 202-434-8994 to register.)
Rolat today is a prominent businessman and philanthropist in Manhattan who is the moving force behind the forthcoming Museum of the History of the Jews of Poland and leader of the World Society of Czestochowa Jews.
In 1943, at age 13, he and other Jewish children were about to be taken to the Czestochowa cemetery to be executed by the Nazis, when the Polish director of a local munitions factory singled them for work in the plant. One of the other children was a little girl named Marysia Kozak; today her son, David Miliband, is England’s foreign secretary.
Rolat, Kozak and the others were taken to Hasag Pelcery, the largest of three Czestochowa factories used by the Germans. Yisrael Meir Lau, later Israel’s chief rabbi and today the chairman of Yad Vashem, was a prisoner in the nearby Hasag Warta, which manufactured steel products for the German war effort.
Rolat and the other slave laborers lived in crude barracks guarded by Ukrainians.
“If you didn’t move fast enough, they beat you,” he recalled. “If you said the wrong thing, they beat you. If they had any excuse at all, they beat you.”
Every day was a nightmare of violence and degradation. The last thing the prisoners expected to see were American planes overheard.
The next morning, 4,000 miles away, a front-page article in The New York Times matter-of-factly reported that a major Allied air offensive against German oil factories was underway, with the latest targets including “the former Vacuum Oil Company refinery at Czestochowa and the I.G. Farbenindustrie synthetic oil and rubber plant at Oswiecim.…” Oswiecim is the Polish name for Auschwitz.
Five years ago, Rolat tried to shed some light on the Allies’ failure to bomb Auschwitz – with the help of former U.S. senator and 1972 Democratic presidential nominee George S. McGovern. When the David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies learned that McGovern had been one of the pilots in the American planes that flew near Auschwitz in 1944, Rolat, a member of the Institute’s board, traveled to South Dakota to speak with him in person about it.
He was accompanied by Stuart Erdheim, director of “They Looked Away,” a documentary about the U.S. failure to bomb Auschwitz, and Chaim Hecht, an Israel Television producer and radio talk show host who was working on a TV segment called “One Flight for Us,” about the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.
In World War II, McGovern flew a B-24 “Liberator” plane as part of the 455th Bomb Group. Their targets included the oil plants at Monowitz, an industrial section of Auschwitz.
“There is no question we should have attempted…to go after Auschwitz,” McGovern told Rolat. “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.”
McGovern was an ardent admirer of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, but in his meeting with Rolat, he did not mince words about FDR’s response to the Holocaust.
About the Author: Dr. Rafael Medoff is founding director of The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies, in Washington, D.C., and author of 14 books about the Holocaust, Zionism, and American Jewish history. His latest book is 'FDR and the Holocaust: A Breach of Faith,' available from Amazon.
If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.
Comments are closed.
Egypt has been more effective against Gazan smuggling tunnels than Israel’s military operations
She had many names and was many things to many people, but to me she was just Babineni.
Is ISIS in Gaza? “No, but there are ISIS loyalists here..we pray to God they unite under ISIS’ flag”
Iran knows Obama, Putin, and the Europeans don’t have a Red Line beyond which they will go to war
There is no way to explain the Holocaust. I know survivors who are not on speaking terms with G-d. I know many who are the opposite. I have no right to go there…
When a whole side of your family perishes, friends become the extended family you do not have.
“We stand with Israel because of its values and its greatness and because its such a wonderful ally”
Mr. Obama himself inelegantly cautioned members of the Senate to be careful not to “screw up” the negotiations by seeking to have input into the future of the sanctions regime that has been imposed on Iran.
For our community, Mrs. Clinton’s foreign policy record will doubtless attract the most attention. And it is a most interesting one.
Mitchell Bard is nothing if not prolific. He has written and edited 23 books, including “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Middle East” and “The Arab Lobby: The Invisible Alliance That Undermines America’s Interests in the Middle East.” Bard, who has a Ph.D. in political science from UCLA, is also the executive director of both the […]
Understanding the process described in Dayenu reveals deep relevance for us today.
For Rabbi Zvi Yehuda Kook, the tanks, planes, and uniforms of the IDF were implements of mitzvot
Israeli history now has its version of “Dewey Defeats Truman” with headlines from 2 anti-Bibi papers
The long ordeal of the Armenian Orphan Rug, held hostage to fears of angering Turkey, has finally ended. Or has it?
Carter developed a fondness for Arafat believing “they were both ordained to be peacemakers by God”
With generous support from the Egyptian Jewish community, the exiled family built a new life for itself in the Mafruza and Gabbari refugee camps near Alexandria.
While grateful not to be returned to Germany, the passengers understood they were still in the middle of a danger zone.
These “Jewish Amazons” were living proof of the failure of the enemies of the Jewish people.
Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/i-saw-the-american-planes-flying-near-auschwitz/2009/08/26/
Scan this QR code to visit this page online: