Bush apologizes for not bombing Auschwitz

President Bush toured Israel's Yad Vashem memorial to the Holocaust yesterday and made an emotional remark that the US should have bombed Auschwitz. Maybe so, but if guilt is to be assigned, how about the USSR?

Speaking as someone whose mother survived Auschwitz (she worked at an aircraft parts subcontractor there) and whose grandfather did not, I say the following. I am, in general, a lot more concerned about Iran's president Amadinejad's attempt to create the next Auschwitz than about some political platitudes about the last one now. But I will play armchair general here for a bit and discuss all the parties involved. 

There have been many conflicting arguments about why there were no concerted efforts by the Allies to bomb Auschwitz. The distances were too great, some say, or the inadvertent killing of inmates would have been a impermissible battle cost, one that few US airmen wanted on their conscience. There was, in fact, one US air raid that did attempt to bomb the military target factories adjacent to Auschwitz (it hit some Nazi military housing), but a repeated bombing campaign would have probably been required to destroy the factories (of I.G. Farben and Buna Rubber, amongst others) and crematoria.

All authors and casual commentators I've heard -- even Ed Asner, on some public television show many years ago -- chose to put blame on the West alone for not destroying Auschwitz. But the headquarters of the international socialist world at that time, the USSR, has been given a free pass from media analysis and criticism on this subject, even though they had air bases a mere one hundred miles or so from that death camp.

In Donald Miller's great
book  Masters of the Air: America's Bomber Boys Who Fought The Air War Against Nazi Germany, there is a detailed analysis of the US and Britain's considerations involving plans to bomb Auschwitz in 1944. On page 323, it discusses the distances involved, the proximity of Soviet air bases to the east of Auschwitz it states:

"The Eighth Air Force could conceivably have carried out the mission from newly operational bases within easy range of Auschwitz. That June it had begun to fly "shuttle missions" to the Soviet Union, under the code name Frantic. Leaving from England, bombers hit targets deep inside the Reich and, instead of returning home, proceeded to airfields provided by Stalin near Kiev, in the Ukraine. From there they were able to strike targets in Eastern Europe and fly south to Italy and then, after rest and refueling, back to England, conducting bombing operations on every leg of the journey. But Stalin had tight control over what the Fortresses on Operation Frantic bombed, and he made sure that they concentrated on targets that directly aided the Red Army's summer offensive."
Joseph Stalin was no friend of the Jews, as has been well documented in many places. And it is reasonable to assume he would not have helped the US in attempts to bomb the death camp. Stalin would also have no control over what targets the US bombed. The Soviet Premier would not have wanted to lose the opportunity to grab some modern (at that time) German factories for his own use. He would want, I suspect, to either disassemble them for reconstruction in Russia or operate them in place under a postwar Soviet-controlled Polish government. But I can say, without speculating, that Stalin did not send any bombers to destroy the killing machine at Auschwitz himself, even though the distance was less than 200 kilometers, one way.

On page 326, author Donald Miller discusses Stalin's October 1944 refusal to allow his air bases to be used as a landing area for US bombers flying in support of the Polish rebellion against the Nazis in Warsaw:

"Roosevelt ordered another Frantic airlift, but on October 2, Stalin withdrew permission for Americans to use Frantic bases to support a rebellion he considered dangerous to his own interests, an uprising led by anit-communist forces tied to the Polish government-in-exile in London. A few days later, the Polish rebellion was crushed."
Had Stalin allowed the air bases to be used in support of Polish rebellion, partisans, as part of a general Polish uprising, might well have reached Auschwitz and even liberated it.

This history recalled by President Bush this Friday in Israel is also very similar to the apologies for slavery that are often discussed in America. No apologies are demanded from the descendants of the Arab slave traders of Africa, just the current governments of the West. Third World "people of color" and Second World "people of socialism" never have to say they're sorry, in the liberal worldview.

In either case, these one-sided apologies do not serve any of us well going into the Twenty-first Century. They are a band-aid for myopia, blocking our current vision - and a sop to political correctness.

(Jack Kemp is not the politician of the same name.)
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