Jun 8, 2009 8:37 pm


John Rosenthal argues that Obama flunked history again

“Tomorrow, I will visit Buchenwald,” Obama said in Cairo, “which was part of a network of camps where Jews were enslaved, tortured, shot and gassed to death by the Third Reich. Six million Jews were killed – more than the entire Jewish population of Israel today.” Buchenwald was indeed part of the network of concentration camps established by Nazi Germany, both in Germany proper and the occupied territories. And it is indeed true that some Jews were interred at Buchenwald and that many of those that were died there. According to the estimate of the Buchwald Memorial, from 1937 when the camp was established until its liberation in 1945, altogether some 11,000 Jews died at Buchenwald. 11,000. That’s roughly the number of Jews that were killed at Auschwitz in a single week. In total, not 11,000, but over one million Jews are estimated to have been killed at Auschwitz.

Rosenthal explains the discrepancy and concludes:

Analyzing the political purpose of Obama’s Buchenwald visit, Peter Frey of Germany’s ZDF television writes:

In Buchenwald, Obama wants to send a signal to the Jewish community in the USA and to the Israelis: we may be involved at the moment in a political conflict over the [Israeli] settlement policy, but we are well aware of the history of the Jewish people and of the origins of the Israeli state.

But in fact the Buchenwald visit demonstrates precisely the contrary. It shows that Obama knows precious little about the Holocaust and even less about the full scope of Nazi Germany’s crimes.

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mary lili jory - 8/16/2009

I like very much the writings and pictures and explanations in your adress so I look forward to see your next writings.
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Elliott Aron Green - 6/9/2009

Is Obama's concern over the Holocaust any more than a trick to disarm the Jews? In other words, we/I are/am really your friend/s. Just because we take the racist position --like the British White Paper of 1939-- that there are places where Jews must not live, that doesn't mean that we don't really love you. Dead Jews deserve copious sympathy. We are ready to give them all the sympathy that you think they need. But Live Jews who want to live in the wrong place do not deserve sympathy. They are an "obstacle to peace." lll

Ken Waltzer - 6/7/2009

Rosenthal is technically correct but substantively wrong and also tendentious. Think again.

Buchenwald was indeed a part of the larger system of camps -- death camps and concentration camps -- where Jews were enslaved and gassed. Thousands of Jews were brought to Buchenwald in 1944-1945 especially, after Himmler's order in March 1944 that 100,000 Jews could be reintriduced into the Reich for slavery. Thousands came in spring and summer 1944 after being selected on the ramp at Birkenau. Thousands more came from German factory camps in the Radom and Cracow districts of Poland in summer and fall. And then thousands were brought from the evacuation of Auschwitz and its satellites -- Buna, Blechhammer, Jawisowice, and the farms (Babitz, Budy, Plawy, etc.) -- and then from Gross Rosen in January-February 1945.

Yes, they were not gassed in Buchenwald, but they were sent to 130 aussenlager where many were worked to death. Or they remained at the bottom of the racial hierarchy placed down the hill in Buchenwalod[s cesspool kleine lager (little camp). Buchenwald did have a different function than Birkenau and other death camps like Treblinka and Belzec but that does not mean it was not implicated and part of the larger Nazi destruction of the Jews.

And since the Americans liberated it and we ave a special relationship with it, but could not go there when it was in East Germany, what Obama did was creative and smart. Is the Holocaust Memorial Museum wrong when it starts its Holocaust exhibit with pictures from Buchenwald? THat is the first thing Americans see getting off the elevator.

Ken Waltzer