Even President Eisenhower’s visionary brilliance wasn’t enough
In this horrific time, which sees us witness a resurgence of anti-Semitism in both the United States and globally, we should remember the unflinching action of then-General Eisenhower, Supreme Commander of Allied Expeditionary Force in Europe, who retired as a five-star General of the Army.
As the wartime leader carrying the fight directly to the Nazi war machine, when he gave his combat briefings on the carnage of death and destruction sweeping across Europe to destroy pure evil, they inevitably included acknowledging the worst consequences of modern air-ground combat. However, the Allies understood that total war was necessary to force an unconditional surrender. The Allies, with Ike at the military helm, held firm because they knew that Allied sacrifices were necessary to save humanity from unspeakable evil.
However, when Allied troops reached the death camps, and Eisenhower learned the actual details about the evil, he knew what needed to be done: He had to preserve evidence of these acts lest they be forgotten or, worse, denied so that they could be repeated. As the US Holocaust Memorial Museum explained,
While Supreme Allied Commander Dwight D. Eisenhower had studied his World War II enemy, he was unprepared for the Nazi brutality he witnessed at Ohrdruf concentration camp in April 1945. Bodies were piled like wood and living skeletons struggled to survive. Even as the Allied Forces continued their fight, Eisenhower foresaw a day when the horrors of the Holocaust might be denied. He invited the media to document the scene. He compelled Germans living in the surrounding towns and any soldier not fighting at the front to witness the atrocities for themselves.
Image: General Eisenhower and other officials viewing murdered prisoners at Ohrdruf concentration camp. US Holocaust Memorial Museum collection.
Ike’s judgment about individuals in future generations trying to deny the very existence of the Holocaust was made evident in a very famous libel trial in England: Irving v. Lipstadt. What undercut Irving’s insistence that the Holocaust never occurred was Eisenhower’s foresight and understanding of base human nature:
David Irving was a Holocaust denier who had written many books on the Third Reich. Deborah Lipstadt was a history professor who had written, among other works, a book about Holocaust denial, Denying the Holocaust. It described Irving as a Holocaust denier. He did not care for the description, because he understood it to mean that he was something less than a reputable historian. Therefore he sued Lipstadt and her publishers, Penguin Books, for defamation.
The judge decided the case in favor of the defendants, Lipstadt and Penguin. Irving's falsifications and distortions were so egregious, and his animus towards Jews so plain that he won the case for them. They had proved the truth of their allegations against Irving by demonstrating Irving's manipulation of the historical record (which became the issue in the case).
As in the 1930s and 1940s, on October 7, Jewish civilians again found themselves being killed or kidnapped by death-loving fanatics, only this time they called themselves Hamas, not Nazis. The documented images of the day, many of which the Hamas soldiers proudly filmed, are much like WWII German “final solution” raids on European villages. Those raids also killed innocent Jewish men, women, and children in the most ugly, personal way.
Tragically, what happened in Israel has again lit the fuse of anti-Semitism, with special venom at many of America’s top-rated universities, including among them my graduate school, the Cornell Johnson School. There, Cornell acknowledged a PR misstep and argued, not for morality, but for neutrality:
Yesterday, (article published October 11 2023) a diversity, equity, and inclusion officer at the graduate business school posted, let’s just be honest, an unhinged rant calling the unspeakable horrors committed by Hamas “resistance.”
Cornell quickly swept the incident under the rug, saying the official in question has been on leave for many months and does not represent the perspectives of the university. However, the juxtaposition of this official’s behavior and Cornell’s statement is horrifying: here we have Cornell forgetting to call Hamas terrorists, while a DEI director in their employ played whataboutism with that terrorism and Israeli government actions.
The great insight about inflammatory words by those who should know better is that those speaking, while not personally engaging in deadly violence, can encourage others to kill. Sure enough, that is exactly what happened at Cornell. Vicious, deadly threats were posted on social media accounts, along with spray-painted graffiti on our beautiful campus.
Enough is enough. I cannot imagine what is going through the minds of my Cornell friends and classmates, many of whose parents defeated Nazi Germany or suffered at Nazi hands or who are themselves proud Israeli citizens. One student understood what was happening: “It doesn’t feel like we’re living in 2023. Feels like we’re living in Nazi Germany.”
The truth is the truth; America should take a lesson from General Eisenhower and accept the Israel Defense Forces’ verified documentation of what occurred on October 7. That is the way to face down the unrelenting perniciousness of anti-Semitism, along with its deadly, ugly consequences. In this case, “whataboutism” is a pure BS canard.