The Auschwitz bombing debate continues…

February 21, 2020 by  
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Duelling academics Bill Rubinstein and Rafel Medoff continue their debate on the bombing of Auschwitz. Today Dr Medoff writes from Washington…

Dear editor:

Dr Rafael Medoff

Over the years, William Rubinstein has advanced a number of rather unusual claims concerning the Holocaust. What all these claims have in common is that they fly in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

Rubinstein’s assertion that David Ben-Gurion opposed bombing the Auschwitz death camp (J Wire, Feb. 16 and Feb. 19) is only the latest of these peculiar allegations. Ben-Gurion’s closest colleagues in the United States, Europe and the Middle East—including Chaim Weizmann and Golda Meir—spent months lobbying the Allies to bomb Auschwitz, and in many cases reported directly to Ben-Gurion on their efforts, without him ever uttering a single word of reprimand or even disagreement; this obviously disproves Rubinstein’s theory.
Now, in his Feb. 19 J Wire letter, Rubinstein presents another novel claim—that “there is no real evidence” that the U.S. government’s War Refugee Board “saved the lives of any Jews.” How, one might wonder, can he make such a claim, when the Board’s activities included sending Raoul Wallenberg to Nazi-occupied Budapest and providing financial support for his legendary rescue work there? Simple—by dismissing or minimizing Wallenberg’s achievements. “Virtually all the claims made [about Wallenberg’s rescue work] appear to be exaggerations,” Rubinstein wrote in his book. “Whatever success Wallenberg enjoyed came, at base, from the ending of the Nazi policy of mass deportation to Auschwitz…” So it was the Nazis, not Wallenberg, who saved those Jews!
This is reminiscent of Rubinstein’s outrageous claim, in 2004, that England and France provoked Germany to enter the war. Here is what he wrote: “Hitler planned to begin the war in 1943, and blundered into it in September, 1939, when Britain and France unexpectedly declared war on Germany after it invaded Poland. Had the war been delayed until 1943, there is not the slightest doubt that every Jew in the German Reich would have successfully emigrated, with the largest share certainly coming to the U.S.”
So, in Rubinstein’s view, Hitler—who obviously initiated World War II by swallowing up Czechoslovakia and invading Poland—in fact “unexpectedly blundered” into the war. Therefore –according to his reasoning– Britain and France are really to blame for the Holocaust, since by going to war against the Nazis, they in effect prevented millions of Jews in Nazi-occupied Europe from reaching the United States.
This preposterous argument goes hand in glove with the theme of Rubinstein’s book— that there was no possibility of rescuing any Jews from the Holocaust, because they were all “prisoners,” who were “unreachable without directly liberating Nazi-occupied Europe.” In fact, Hitler’s Europe was not hermetically sealed. We know that many Jews could have been rescued before the Allies liberated Europe, because many Jews did escape or were rescued before the Allies liberated Europe.
For example, more than 26,000 European Jewish refugees reached Palestine between 1941 and 1944 in transports organized by Zionist activists. An estimated 27,000 Jewish refugees escaped to Switzerland and were granted haven during the war years, though tens of thousands more reached the Swiss border but were turned back. More than 7,000 Danish Jews were smuggled out of Nazi-occupied Denmark to safety in Sweden in 1943. Thousands of French Jews escaped the 1942 deportations by fleeing to Spain. Thousands more reached Allied-liberated Italy. And the list goes on.
It all makes for colourful discussion to claim that Ben-Gurion opposed bombing the Auschwitz death camp when he didn’t; to accuse the Allies of provoking Hitler to enter the war, when they didn’t; to allege that Raoul Wallenberg rescued very few Jews when he rescued tens of thousands; and to assert that no European Jews could have escaped Hitler, when so many did. But oddball theories and overheated allegations are no substitute for serious historical scholarship.
Cordially,
Rafael Medoff, Ph.D.
Director
The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies
Washington, D.C.

Comments

One Response to “The Auschwitz bombing debate continues…”
  1. William Rubinstein says:

    This is a total distortion of what I said in my book, as anyone who reads it can see. There is no point in continuing this exchange. I would only make the central point that neither wishful thinking nor hindsight are historical evidence.

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