It will come as no surprise that Glenn Beck's broadcast biography of George Soros last week has triggered a vast brawl concerning his interpretation and treatment of the topic.
The uproar revolves around Beck's portrayal of Soros' role in the Holocaust. Beck repeats the widely known story concerning Soros' involvement in handing deportation orders to Jewish families on behalf of the Nazis. He emphasizes that Soros was only fourteen at the time and does not condemn the activity, asserting that the matter remains "between Soros and God."
I happen to have researched the episode in depth for my upcoming book, Death by Liberalism, and I can state here that Beck's narrative is completely accurate. His treatment of it is commendable, in particular his statement that no one has a right to judge the efforts of Jews to survive in Nazi-occupied Europe.
All the same, the segment has triggered a firestorm among the usual suspects, who appear to view Soros as sharing in Obama's divine status. In a hagiographic fresco dealing with the Advent of the One, the Soros halo would only be slightly smaller than that of Obama himself. In this regard, he must be defended at all costs.
The piece from Mediaite can serve as an example. Both the text and the comments are revealing. They express three major objections to Beck's treatment:
- 1) The incident never happened.
- 2) Its import and meaning are quite different that what is implied.
- 3) Beck is throwing around Nazi associations in much the same way that the left do when they assert (one example out of thousands), that Prescott Bush "assisted the Nazis."
First off -- as stated above, there's no question that the incident occurred. In fact, there's considerably more to it. Soros also assisted in the collection of Jewish chattels -- clothing, furniture, and the like -- for shipment to Germany. We have this on the highest authority, from an eyewitness of unimpeachable status: Soros himself. During a 1998 "60 Minutes" interview, Soros admitted to the entire story without hesitation. He also stated that he felt no guilt, adding that the situation cannot be understood be anyone who was not there. Then, in what might be called typical Soros style, he concludes by comparing his cooperation with the Nazis with his later activities in the markets.
As to the import of the episode -- many of the comments draw very close to Holocaust denial. How do we know, they ask, that the Jews in question were being sent to the death camps? They could have been going anywhere -- "to Hawaii," one thoughtful commentator states.
This is a standard trope of the Holocaust-denial industry. "Revisionists," as they fancy themselves, have given up complete denial of the exterminations in favor of minimizing Nazi crimes by shaving away at the margins. So we get claims that not all the victims died in Auschwitz, Treblinka, Belzec, and the other camps, but instead were "sent" somewhere -- nobody knows quite where. In the 1980s, one insightful little scholar suggested that a large proportion of the missing six million could be found in Israeli retirement homes. The odious David Irving, a legitimate historian who slid into denial for reasons unknown even to himself, blithely insisted that he had "no idea" what happened to the European Jews, even though he had access to the largest private archive of Nazi documentation ever assembled.
The truth is simple: every Jew deported from the European ghettos went directly to the camps. Most of them were gassed immediately and then -- as the survivors put it -- went up the chimneys. There is no denying this, or eliding it, or making it mean anything else other than what it is. Holocaust denial is a crime. Anyone denying the exterminations is engaging in criminal activity -- particularly if it involves, as it does here, an attempt to silence a political opponent.
On to the claim that Beck is slandering Soros as a Nazi. This type of smear is not uncommon, and it is usually seen headed from the left in a rightward direction, under the assumption that both conservatism and Nazism are "right-wing" doctrines. The Prescott Bush libel is instructive here. Apparently the bank on whose board Bush sat loaned money to Nazi Germany during the 1930s. This is enough for him, his son, and his grandson to be damned from here to eternity as Nazi collaborators of the foulest type, according to the American left.
In truth, Bush was in no way involved in the day-to-day operations of the bank. He may not have been aware of the loans, he may not have voted on them, and he may well not have been asked his opinion. Many international banks loaned money to Germany during that period. We can judge none of them by hindsight. In the early to mid-'30s, Hitler was considered a strongman much like Mussolini or Ataturk, a man whose stern policies and harsh ways were required by the needs of the moment. His attacks on Jews were dismissed as crowd-pleasing rhetoric. Such lofty figures as Franklin D. Roosevelt, Rexford Tugwell, Adolf Berle, Evelyn Waugh, and Wyndham Lewis all expressed admiration for Hitler and Nazism in the early 1930s. Even Winston Churchill, Hitler's deadliest enemy, wrote that if Britain was ever caught in the same predicament as Germany, he hoped that a figure as strong as Hitler would appear to lead her out of it.
That attitude began to fade with Hitler's intervention in Spain in 1936, and it vanished entirely when 1938's Kristallnacht fully revealed his monstrous intentions. Hitler's previous admirers turned away in horror, leaving only mad, capering Ezra Pound to sing his glories.
That's how such slurs work -- a nugget of fact wrapped in endless layers of distortion and innuendo. That is not what Beck is involved in. As we've seen, he retails the story straightforwardly, with no embellishment or speculation. He withholds judgment on grounds of moral discretion and implicitly encourages others to do the same.
Then why mention the story at all? Because it's necessary. An honest portrayal of George Soros would be incomplete without it. There's an aspect of Soros' behavior that has gone unexamined and virtually unmentioned: the complete disconnect between his activities as a businessman and his ambitions as a philanthropist. Soros has, at the very least, skirted financial regulations in most or all of the countries in which he has operated. He has done worse in France, Malaysia, and Thailand -- the French fined him millions, while the Southeast Asian states are reportedly very interested in speaking to him in private. He has caused enormous misery through his currency manipulations. He evidently feels no guilt concerning these matters, either.
Yet this same man professes to be the greatest living champion of the "open society," the bearer of the legacy of Karl Popper (one of the few liberty-loving political philosophers of the last century), and the architect of a true people's democracy, working together with his protégé, Barack Obama.
There's something terribly wrong here. This is not the way a benefactor of humanity actually behaves. It's as if Gandhi financed his independence movement through a network of casinos, or if Martin Luther King sat on the councils of Murder Incorporated. What can the explanation be?
I believe that it can be found in Budapest in 1944. The Holocaust left deep and lasting scars on all who survived it, scars that often acted to cripple their psyches for decades afterward, if not for their entire lifetimes. It's highly unlikely that George Soros is an exception. Did the brutalization of those days find a response in buccaneer raids on the financial markets? Did the memories of what he was forced to do transform him into one of those creatures who "loves humanity and hates human beings"? Is he now little more than a shattered clockwork figure attempting in his twilight years to "do good" without the vaguest notion of what such a concept might entail?
I think the argument could be made. I await Glenn Beck's interpretation with interest. One thing we can be sure of: the left will not be any happier about it than they are with what they've already heard.
J.R. Dunn is consulting editor of American Thinker and will edit the forthcoming Military Thinker.