Friday, May 30, 2008


Thanks to Dana over at En Tequila Es Verdad for referring me to this article.

It was "merely" a Nazi slave labor camp

On Wednesday, Republicans collectively went completely berserk after Obama said a great-uncle had helped to liberate the Auschwitz death camp at the end of World War II. Once they realized Obama had a great-uncle who had actually helped to liberate Buchenwald, the first camp liberated by Americans, and Obama just misspoke about the Nazi camp in question, conservatives slinked away, waiting for the next manufactured outrage to come up.

But before we leave this non-story altogether, it’s worth pausing to consider what else Obama’s GOP detractors said about this.

Fox News, for example, was even more shameless than usual. One of the hosts of “Fox and Friends” said, “It wasn’t Auschwitz. It was a labor camp called Buchenwald.” As part of the same segment, Fox News ran this all-caps message on its bottom-of-the-screen ticker: “Ohrdruf was a work camp, rather than an extermination camp.”

In other words, Obama’s great-uncle may have served in the 89th Infantry Division, and may have played a part in the liberation of a Nazi camp, but let’s not suggest that this was too important. After all, Ohrdruf was only a Nazi slave labor camp.

It wasn’t just Fox News. John Cole highlighted a post from a far-right blogger, who argued:

Buchenwald, on the other hand, while atrocious beyond normal human understanding, was merely a slave labor camp, and not historically abnormal in a time of war. The people who died there did so under the stress of work and disease, rather than as a deliberate attempt to wipe them off the planet. [emphasis added]

I honestly can’t begin to relate to such a twisted worldview. I can appreciate the temptation to criticize politicians they disagree with, but how far gone does one have to be before they think it’s appropriate to diminish the atrocities at Buchenwald because Obama had a family member who helped liberate the camp? How rabidly partisan must one be to disrespect the bravery of U.S. troops in the 89th Infantry Division?

Sadly, No had an item about right-wing bloggers finding a website dedicated to preserving the history of the 89th Infantry Division of World War II. The conservatives contacted the site’s owners in the hopes of finding dirt that could be used to attack Obama some more. The reply was a message more conservatives need to hear more often:

Please crawl back under the rock you came out from.
Good day
Raymond Kitchell, veteran 89th Inf Div

And before we leave the topic on the pile of stupid campaign “controversies,” I thought I’d also mention Menachem Rosensaft, founding chairman of the International Network of Children of Jewish Survivors and a leader of the Second Generation movement of children of Holocaust survivors, who was not at all pleased with Republican smear efforts this week.

I never thought I’d see the day when the Holocaust would be used as a tool for “gotcha” politics. But over the last two days, we have seen John McCain’s supporters at the Republican National Committee and at Fox News launch tasteless attacks on Barack Obama. In their attempt to score a few political points, they have diminished the experience of those who suffered and died at Buchenwald, and disrespected the service of the heroic American troops who liberated them. […]

Here are some facts about Buchenwald, which is one of the most notorious Nazi concentration camps. At this “work camp,” prisoners were often worked, starved, tortured, or beaten to death. Sometimes they were simply murdered. Roughly 250,000 people were imprisoned there between 1937 and 1945, many of them Jews. Over 50,000 people lost their lives.

At Nuremberg, the world was shocked to learn that some of Buchenwald’s victims were skinned, and the human skin was then used to make lampshades, book covers, and other keepsakes. Buchenwald was also a site for the infamous Nazi “medical experiments” on prisoners, which were often nothing more than crude and horrific forms of torture.

To take just one anecdote about the “work” done at Buchenwald, prisoners had to build the camp road, and camp guards used to shoot those who were not carrying stones that were heavy enough. In the final days before liberation, some 10,000 prisoners from Auschwitz and Gross-Rossen were marched to Buchenwald, adding to the horrific scene that awaited American troops.

On April 4, 1945, Ohrdruf became the first Nazi concentration camp to be liberated by American forces. U.S. troops — including the 89th Infantry Division — found a scene that was vividly described by the Eisenhower Memorial Commission: “The scene was an indescribable horror even to the combat-hardened troops who captured the camp. Bodies were piled throughout the camp. There was evidence everywhere of systematic butchery. Many of the mounds of dead bodies were still smoldering from failed attempts by the departing SS guards to burn them.” […]

The men who liberated Buchenwald were heroes, plain and simple. That includes Barack Obama’s great uncle. In their march across Europe, the 89th Infantry Division suffered over 1,000 casualties, with over 300 men killed. In their liberation of Buchenwald, they put an end to one of the most horrible concentration camps of the 20th century. We must honor them, just as we must remember each and every victim of the criminal Nazi regime.

To those who continue to use this story to damage Barack Obama, I have a simple question: have you no shame? You attempts to diminish his uncle’s service for your own political gain says a lot more about you than it does about Barack Obama.

If some of the right-wing critics who pounced on this are capable of feeling shame, now would be a good time for it.

As DragonScholar said in the comments:

An odd thought - in many cases, we’ll hear Republicans talk about “values.”

However, in the urge to justify their candidates, their worldview, and their policies, they’ll go to great extents to disregard history, people, or rewrite history itself.

Thus where ARE their values.

I find the Nazi activities atrocious. If someone liberated one of their death camps, I’m glad. I’m not going to nitpick which part of the Nazi Death Machine was only horrible as opposed to totally horrible. I’m not going to downplay the soldiers that liberated them. Those are values.

The Republicans have given us a strain of cultic thought where they must always Be Right as opposed to Do The Right Thing. Thus they are valueless.

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