Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Obama's Auschwitz Moment

On Memorial Day, the Washington Post reported that St. Barack of Obama told us:

I had a uncle who was one of the, who was part of the first American troops to go into Auschwitz and liberate the concentration camps. . .
Well, that's interesting. But what actually happened was:

The Soviets gained the grimy wealth of the Upper Silesian Industrial Region on 29 January [1945]. . .Also in the possession of the Russians was probably the most terrible place there has ever been on earth -- the death camp at Auschwitz, which had been uncovered by the Sixtieth Army a couple of days before. If the Soviet soldiers needed any justification for why they were fighting, they found it in the skeletal corpses, the bones and the grey mud which were all that remained of the victims. . .
Christopher Duffy Red Storm on the Reich: The Soviet March on Germany, 1945 (Da Capo Press 1993, p. 93).
I don't think that St. Barack meant to imply that his uncle was in Stalin's army. The Washington Post piece notes that the Obama campaign organization hastily clarified Obama's remarks, pointing out that his great uncle had actually been present for the liberation of Ohrdruf, a sub-camp of the more well-known Buchenwald, another concentration camp in Thuringia (central Germany), liberated by the US Third Army on 4 April 1945. This is far away from Auschwitz, in Silesia, which was then part of eastern Germany.
Clearly, St. Barack just remembered vaguely that his uncle, or great uncle had been part of liberating some Nazi concentration camp, and, wanting to tell a story on the stump, just dumped Auschwitz out there. Name a Nazi concentration camp. . .
Maybe a slip's understandable, and maybe El Jefe is playing history bingo unfairly with the Savior of the Nation. But, remember, Obama's the fellow who wants to have his hand on the nuclear button, and use "tough, direct presidential diplomacy with Iran without preconditions."
Still, it's hard to use "tough, direct presidential diplomacy" if your line of diplo-speak is weak, and your knowledge-base inferior. Obama's a Harvard Law graduate, so he's reckoned to be pretty smart, right ? Now, a Harvard Law graduate who is a candidate for President of the United States ought to have read up enough to: (1) know enough basic Euro geography to mentally locate Auschwitz (now Oświęcim) in southern Poland; (2) know generally that the US Army didn't come that way in World War II, so that uncle or whoever probably didn't get to Auschwitz (and basic knowledge of communist-bloc history should clue him in that the Soviets got there first); (3) know that the fact-checkers and history nerds were going to be all over him; so, it follows that (4) winging this family tale was a bad, bad idea.
That's just the kind of guy I want doing my country's "tough, direct presidential diplomacy" -- the fellow who is sure he knows everything, doesn't know anything and cannot BS very well. I really, really want to play poker with this guy. . .Lucky for us that he probably can't even find Iran on the map, so he won't be selling the Mullahs the store anytime soon.
Still, it's not all bad. Maybe he can make Democratic Party peace by accompanying Hillary on her next trip to Bosnia.


louielouie said...

imo, and i'm sure EJM I the historian will correct me, but auschwitz is simply NOT buchenwald.
buchenwald was established to hold political prisoners.
you know, where people like me will be sent when hussein is coronated.
auschwitz, birkenau, majdanek, theresienstadt, were extermination camps. created primarily as part of the final solution.
Dachau, Buchenwald and Bergen-Belsen became death camps LATER in the War. but only due to conditions in the camp and people simply being worked to death.
now another point if i may.
hussein has constantly criticized people who are critical of his past associations.
what, he asks, does something that someone did twenty years ago have to due with me today?
simply put, what does something that someone he didn't even know that was done 60 years ago have anything to do with him today?
he's a jooish pandering empty suit.

El Jefe Maximo said...

Buchenwald was primarly a forced-labor camp and held, as you say, quite a few political prisoners.

Interestingly, the place wound up in the Soviet occupation zone, and was handed back to them by the US -- and the Soviets used it for its own political prisoners from 1945-50. . .which in a few cases might have had a certain amount of poetic justice.

Buchenwald was not explicitly an extermination camp, but 60,000 or so people died there, mostly of starvation (the forced laborers -- who were pulling 20 hour work days at hard physical work with the German 4F guards and other kapos standing over them with stock-whips -- were not fed much and essentially worked to death). About 9,000 Soviet POW's were shot there.

Things did get worse near the end, but I don't know if I'd distinguish meaningfully among the camps in terms of general lethality -- the prisoners were beyond the reach of law and the SS killed them, tortured them or performed medical experiements on them (lab for that purpose at Buchenwald) as it found convenient.

The extermination camps proper -- designed and built for mass murder (although Auschwitz, the biggest, also had a slave labor section) -- were all in Poland proper (the so called "General Government" part) or parts of Poland annexed to Germany. They were: Auschwitz-Birkenau, Chelmo, Belzec, Majdanek (this one had factories also), Sobibor and Treblinka. There were some others, but these were the biggies, and the German paperwork and bureaucracy distinguished between these camps and the other, regular camps, that could still kill you just as dead.

Auschwitz was huge. The death camp itself was started around a former Austrian cavalry barracks. Besides the death camp there was a vast factory complex, all folded into something called the "Auschwitz Interest Area," and probably the largest construction/industrial project in German occupied Europe. The SS used it -- and the slaves -- to become a serious economic player. The Germans built from scratch a big chemical complex there -- largest synthetic rubber plants in Europe, among other things. All built and run by slave labor, beyond the range of the allied bombers.

Synthetic rubber is still produced in the plants there - was something like 5 percent of world totals postwar, for a good period.

I have never ever thought they hung anywhere near enough of the people who built, administered and ran this system.