The recent commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the Liberation of Auschwitz – Birkenau death camp by Russian Forces on January 20, 1945 and the gathering of 50 world leaders at the World Holocaust Forum at Yad Va Shem in Jerusalem brought new focus on the question of why didn’t the allies Bomb Auschwitz? A BBC/PBS documentary, “Bombing Auschwitz” was accused of being a “whitewash” of FDR’s betrayal of the six million European Jewish men, woman and children murdered in unspeakable ways during the Holocaust. Those accusations and more were the comments of a frequent guest on Israel News Talk Radio – Beyond the Matrix, Dr. Rafael Medoff, executive director of the David S. Wyman, Institute of Holocaust Studies. Rod Bryant and Jerry Gordon discussed these issues with Dr. Medoff.
Dr. Medoff is the author of more than 20 books on this and related topics; the most work being “The Jews Should Keep Quiet: Franklin D. Roosevelt, Rabbi Stephen S. Wise, and the Holocaust”. The title stems from conversations between President Roosevelt and Rabbi Wise, a leading American Jewish Leader of both the World and American Jewish Congresses to pressure American Jews not to pursue rescue of European Jews as a ‘diversion’ of the war against Nazi Germany. A major chapter in Medoff’s latest book deals with the bombing Auschwitz controversy.
Medoff had been approached by the BBC production team for a possible interview. He balked at the opportunity after reviewing the re-enactments portrayed in the documentary which did not reflect the realities. Among these were the facts that American Jewish leaders had approached both the Secretary of State Hull and Secretary of War Stimson with requests to bomb the rail network and bridges on the approaches to the Auschwitz – Birkenau killing center. The BBC production portray a false moral quandary confronting FDR and leading figures in his Administration that bombing the death complex would have killing innocent inmates. Instead FDR adopted the theme rescue could only be achieved through victory against Hitler’s Nazi regime on the battlefield. That his Administration refused opportunities to rescue Jews when it would not constitute a “diversion” of the war effort.
In this Israel New Talk Radio – Beyond the Matrix interview, Medoff reveals a filmed documentary was made with 1972 Democrat Presidential Candidate, the late South Dakota Senator George McGovern. McGovern during WWII piloted B-24 Liberator missions with the USAAF 740th Bombardment Squadron over the IG Farben Artificial Rubber complex, less than 5 miles from the killing center at Birkenau. The chimneys of the crematoria at Birkenau were used as waypoints on the final approaches to the targets at the Auschwitz 1 industrial complex where later Nobel Laureates Primo Levi and Elie Wiesel worked as slave laborers.
McGovern confirmed the feasibility of conducting missions against the rail net and bridges, a common target for US Army Air Force missions to disrupt troop and equipment transportation. Medoff cites McGovern saying that while FDR was his political hero, he faulted him for two failures; the incarceration in concentration camps in the American West of 120,000 Japanese Americans under Executive Order 9066 and the failure to undertake bombing of the Auschwitz – Birkenau complex that might have rescued Jews. Especially, tens of thousands of the more than 437,000 Hungarian Jews murdered in the gas chambers whose remains burned to ashes in the four crematoria at Birkenau from May to July 1944.
Medoff and a colleague Thane Rosenbaum wrote an article for The New York Jewish Week, “Every Generation Needs to Bomb Auschwitz.” a reference to facing the moral question of using military force to prevent genocide. They cite among examples: the Clinton air campaign in the Balkans; the Obama Administration bombing of ISIS to rescue the Yazidis in Iraq and the Trump Administration missile strikes against Syrian chemical sites. To make those decisions, Medoff says we must first learn the facts from history about why Auschwitz – Birkenau could have been bombed to disrupt the deaths of over 1.1 million at the death complex; 90 percent of whom were Jews.
Medoff noted that the official newspaper of the Palestinian Authority had published an article during the recent World Holocaust Forum urging violent attacks at the gathering of World leaders at the Yad Va Shem Holocaust Remembrance Center in Jerusalem. He authored a letter co-signed by more than 150 holocaust historians calling for the PA leaders to fire the author of the article. Among those who didn’t sign the letter were the historians of the staff of the US Holocaust Memorial Museum who created the controversial exhibit America and the Holocaust, seeking to absolve FDR and his Administration of failure to rescue Jews during the Shoah.
Medoff noted that it was Jewish activists who aroused Congressional in late 1943 to pass a Resolution requesting the Roosevelt Administration to rescue European Jews. That pressure led to Roosevelt creating the War Refugee Board with minimal staff and funding to accomplish this task. Nevertheless, with largely private Jewish organization funding, the WRB wrought “miracles”. Foremost among these was the magnificent effort by the valiant Swedish Diplomat Raoul Wallenberg who spared the lives of over a hundred thousand Hungarian Jews in Budapest with the aid of Foreign neutral government consuls. Medoff estimates the WRB initiatives saved more than 200,000 Jewish lives.