Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Obama's Auschwitz Mistake

The comments and emails have been coming in. They all want to know what did I make of Obama's statement that his "uncle" [great uncle] helped liberate Auschwitz.

The fact is that Auschwitz was liberated by the Soviets.

This is typical family lore where one camp is substituted for another. Had Obama thought about it he probably would have known the story has a historical mistake.

Turns out he meant Ohrdruf, one of the Buchenwald sub-camps. [He apologized for his mistake.]

The RNC has pounced. You can almost hear it licking its chops. It should save its energy. This is a matter of historical ignorance not anything diabolical.

Fact is that most Jews -- including those who are strongly identified -- would get it wrong. Witness the number of people who fell -- and continue to fall -- for the apples over the fence story. [Which I hear is being made into a movie.... fiction I hope.] That is a far more dangerous distortion.

I would say to them, before you beat up on Obama, make sure all the stories you tell are true.


makalu said...

If it was merely a slip of the tongue then there's nothing to it.
Isn't it possible, however, that Obama didn't know that the Soviets liberated Poland. Maybe decades of Hollywood fiction has led Americans to believe that they won the war all by themselves. A recent film (U-571) had them and not the British getting their hands on an Enigma machine. There has been a lot of "misspeaking" in this campaign.

Deborah Lipstadt said...

No I think this is something different. Obama knows the Soviets liberated the east. Does he know how far they got and how far the Americans got? Probably if he thought about it.

The Auschwitz comment is reflective of how "family stories" become fixed and, despite being historically untrue or highly unlikely, they take hold.

It even happens among survivors. It's done out of pain and confusion.

Historians are often resented when they point out the truth.

Roman Werpachowski said...

"Obama didn't know that the Soviets liberated Poland"

"Liberated" is not the most fitting word...

"A recent film (U-571) had them and not the British getting their hands on an Enigma machine."

While in reality it were the Poles who first cracked it.

auroranorth said...

What if He is not lying but actually believes the fairy tales he comes up with ?the left is quick to cite the lack of funding for mental health issues, we do know that several social diseases can damage the mind to the point of delusional behavior. What if this guys is simply NUTS ! and these addle minded liberals so quick to want to make things right elect a mentally challenged person to the White House where he will have his finger on the buttons that could end our world. Can we risk this ? We have already seen that Hilary was allowed to imagine she was under fire when a girl scout was giving her cookies ! If we allow a man into the white House who has auditory and threatening hallucinations, would this not be the biblical anti Christ ?

Roman Werpachowski said...

"If we allow a man into the white House who has auditory and threatening hallucinations"

But you've already did it, 8 years ago!

Sharon from WI said...

There are many people who are unaware that, likely because of the Cold War, the Soviets were our allies during WWII.

Obama misspoke, there certainly was no malice or mendacity involved in his comments.

He indeed had an great-uncle who witnessed the horrifying scenes from Ohrdurf.

Ohrdurf was no Auschwitz, but lacking comparison at the time, I'm sure what those GIs saw was horrific.

Lord knows we've had more than enough examples coming out of George Bush's mouth during the last 8 years.

Sharon Gibson

ahmad wiyono said...

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Toby Katz said...

The story of the girl with the apple comes signed by real people in Miami Beach, named Herman and Roma Rosenblat. Urban legends don't usually come signed by real people. This couple have appeared on TV and been interviewed in various places. Although it's always possible they made the story up or embellished it, it's a real story in the way that the typical urban legend is not. There is no reason not to believe them or not to pass on a story told by actual survivors about their own lives.

Snopes says it's still investigating -- they don't say the story is false.

Unknown said...

I tend to agree this was simply a family story that has been repeated without being examined. Also, for many of the WWII generation -- and many since -- "Auschwitz" is a catch-all concept, a stand-in for all concentration camps, a potent symbol of the Holocaust as a whole. The general public -- meaning the 99% of people who do not study the history of the Holocaust either professionally or as an avocation -- typically fails to discriminate between extermination camps such as Sobibor and Treblinka, mixed extermination/concentration/forced labor camps such as Auschwitz-Birkenau and Maidanek, and concentration/forced labor camps such as Ravensbruck and Belsen. Because Auschwitz was so enormous and its reputation and fixation in the public imagination is correspondingly huge, it often is referenced mistakenly, though -- as I believe in this case -- innocently. I bet if you asked 100 Americans which army took control of Auschwitz in 1945, 90 or more would answer "the U.S. Army."

Besides, what possible "angle" would Obama have in knowingly misrepresenting his grandfather's WWII service record?