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Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Auschwitz and today's world - Part 2

It has been argued that Auschwitz lay too far to the southeast to be within range of UK-based bombers. But, if that was ever true, by April 1944, at least, it was no longer. This was publicly proven recently when an RAF aerial surveillance photo of the camp came to light. Such photos were made to prepare bombing runs. The photo clearly shows the prisoner barracks, the gas chambers and the crematoriums. It is known that Allied intelligence received reports from two escapees from Auschwitz that month, and two more the following month.

Auschwitz was approaching its infernal climax. Poland was emptied of Jews. The trains brought 440,000 Hungarians, half of the country’s Jewish population, to their deaths over the course of only a few weeks in May and June. The U.S. and Britain merely watched.

In August and September of that year, the U.S. Air Force staged bombing runs on an industrial complex less than five minutes by air away from the Birkenau gas chambers. An Auschwitz survivor speaking in a recent BBC documentary bitterly recalls how she and other prisoners watched hundreds of warplanes pass over their heads. They said to each other, Why don't they bomb this place? Even if they kill many of us, that's the only chance any of us have to live.

October 1944 saw one of the known prisoner revolts at Auschwitz. Hundreds of prisoners attacked the guards with axes and rocks. They used smuggled explosives to blow up a gas chamber and set a crematorium on fire. The Allies were considering air-dropping guns on the camp. They never did.
In fact, the camps continued running without outside interference until 27 January 1945, when the Soviet Red Army arrived at its gates. They found about 7,000 survivors, all too weak to walk. The Nazis had taken another 58,000 with them on a death march as they fled to the west. They were determined that even if they were defeated, no Jews would remain alive.

The crimes of the U.S., however, did not stop on that date. Very few Nazi leaders and executioners were ever brought to justice for the simple reason that the U.S. protected them. Shortly after the war, the U.S. recruited many former leading Nazis as allies against the Soviet Union.

The Allies identified three million Germans as having committed crimes during the war. A million were tried. Eleven were sentenced to death. A few received short prison sentences. Most of the rest had to pay a fine or were briefly ineligible to hold public office. In 1951, almost all of them were amnestied. Big capitalists like Krupp whose factories had used concentration camp labour were given their fortunes back.

The Nazi commandant at Auschwitz was hung. But of the 10,000 members of the elite Nazi SS who administered the murders there, only about 750 suffered even the slightest punishment.

As recently reaffirmed by the book US Intelligence and the Nazis by Norman J. W. Goda, based on official American archives, thousands of Nazis and SS officers were brought to the US where "they could be useful in countering communist leanings in immigrant communities," as an Associated Press article put it. The Catholic Church and American military intelligence worked together to smuggle some of the most notorious Nazis out of Germany. In fact, Goda says, the CIA took a group of German officers who had been responsible for intelligence on the Eastern Front and used them as the core around which to build West Germany’s future intelligence service, still at work today.

In our time historians who defend Roosevelt and Churchill's conduct make two contradictory arguments. One is that the two men were fearful that if the war became identified with saving Europe’s Jews, anti-Jewish "public opinion" in their own countries might hurt the war effort. In other words, this account blames the people of the Western countries, who were kept in ignorance of what the Nazis were doing. This is putting the truth upside down.

The other, more commonly made by military experts, is that if the truth about the extermination camps became known, public pressure to do something about it would have interfered with their freedom to set military priorities according to their overall war aims.

If you want to know what the U.S.'s aims were, look at what came out of it when they won: America became the chief imperialist power, able to fatten on exploitation around the world. The UK, although taken down a peg from its former position, survived as a major power and became the U.S.'s chief partner. Germany and Japan, which had tried and failed to achieve the kind of global dominance the U.S. did achieve, had no choice but to become associate members in the U.S.-led crime syndicate. The U.S. and UK could not spare a single bomb to save Jewish lives because they had other aims. They protected Nazis after the war for the same kind of imperialist reasons.

It is worth thinking about what political and ideological reasons fuelled the Nazi genocide against the Jews, and why the Western powers chose to ignore it.

The Nazis always associated Jews and communism, not just for demagogic purposes, but as part of their overall outlook. Of course anti-Semitism flourished long before modern times, but that doesn't explain why it took the virulent, genocidal form the Nazis gave it as they prepared for what they considered the inevitable conflict with the USSR, a cause they hoped would win the support or at least neutrality of the Western allies. The Nazi's murderous hatred of the Jews turned especially acute as the eastward-moving German armies found themselves first stalemated and then pushed back by the "Bolshevik Jew".

Many Jews had good reason to hate the existing world order. They were strongly represented in the communist movement, and a great many looked to the Soviet Union as a beacon of salvation. The Soviet Union, in fact, was a beacon to the Jewish people as well as to the oppressed in general. The Bolsheviks emancipated the Jews in a country, Tsarist Russia, which had been a hellhole for them for centuries. They welcomed Jews into the revolutionary movement and the public life from which they were previously banned. In the course of World War 2, the Red Army saved the lives of 1.5 million of the 4 million Jews in German-occupied or invaded territory, according to the well-known American historian Arno Mayer.

Like other forces in the war, the American and British rulers had their own political and ideological agendas. One reason why they were anxious to limit a Jewish presence was precisely because of the influence of the socialist Soviet Union and revolutionary Marxism among many Jews. Further, they wanted to win public opinion to fight this war on the most backward basis possible. They wanted to weaken anti-imperialist and pro-Soviet public opinion and fan patriotic and chauvinist sentiments instead. They wanted this war waged in a way that would serve their imperial plans and prepare to confront the then-socialist USSR even as they were compelled to ally with it to defeat Germany.

The clearer it is that all the world’s top reactionaries allowed the Nazi genocide, the clearer it is that today's rulers are trying to use this experience once again to further their present aims. Many of them are for example trying to use that experience to excuse or even justify Israel's oppression of the Palestinian people. But opposing this is not enough. The question of why such a crime happened also needs to be addressed. Was it because there is "evil" lurking in human hearts, as many people say, or instead because of real political, economic and ideological forces at work in the world? It was an evil that took a particular form in a particular global context. It was a world configured differently than the one we live in today, but one in which the imperialist powers were driven no more and no less by the same motives as now: the quest for empire in a capitalist system whose inevitable product is the constant division and redivision of the globe.

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