Jan Peczkis has reviewed another two books (he must be quite a speed-reader …and writer!).
Here are two reviews of mine, recently appearing at Amazon. The attention given to the Holocaust to the neglect of the Nazi genocide of Poles is usually justified by the argument that all Jews were uniquely targeted by the Nazis for extermination. The argument is fallacious, as shown in two different settings described below.
Review of Untold Valor: Forgotten Stories of American Bomber Crews Over Europe in World War II, by Rob Morris. 2006. Potomac Books, Inc., Washington D. C. Reviewer: Mr. Jan Peczkis
Includes the Surprising Nazi Tolerance of American Jewish POWs
Instead of repeating other reviewers, let’s focus mostly on seldom-mentioned content. Interestingly, Werner Goering, the nephew of Hermann, fought on the American side. (p. 136-on). Though both Sweden and Switzerland were neutral, the latter tilted strongly towards the Germans (p. 173), and treated downed American flyers accordingly. There is a brief account of the evacuation of Stalag Luft III in the face of the advancing Red Army (p. 203)—an evacuation that took place several months after the famous GREAT ESCAPE.
Although much has been written, in recent years, that bemoans the plight of German civilians killed by Allied bombing, this book reminds us that the bomber crews themselves faced heavy casualties in their campaigns. At one point in the book, there is a quoted discourse in which the Nazi killings of the Jews (and–not mentioned—that of millions of non-Jews) is equated with Allies and their killings of German civilians through bombing. (p. 212). Some readers may find this false comparison offensive.
The most fascinating part of the book deals with American Jews. Morris writes: “There were tens of thousands of Jewish airmen flying over the Reich in World War II. An unknown number, certainly several thousand, were shot down and ended up as prisoners of war in German Stalag Lufts, or prisoner camps.” (p. 77). The Nazi treatment of American Jews was far from monolithic. Morris writes: “Some Jewish airmen who ended up as POWs reported that their experiences as guests of the Germans were nearly devoid of anti-Semitism or mistreatment…However, there were instances of Jews being mistreated.” (p. 78).
In early 1945, towards the very end of the war, the Nazis did separate the Jewish POWs from non-Jewish ones, and made other moves against them. (p. 84-on). However, nothing more was done against them. [The reader familiar with Holocaust history may recount that this, ironically, occurred after the Birkenau crematories had been shut down—in November 1944—two months before the arrival of the Red Army would have forced this development.]
There were American Jews in Nazi captivity for quite a few years. But when all was said and done, the Nazis did not, in fact, extend the Final Solution to American Jewish POWs. Morris comments: “Though the Third Reich was a system dedicated to the complete destruction of the Jewish race, almost all the Jewish aircrew POWs lived to tell the tale of their captivity.” (pp. 78-79).
All this is counterintuitive. We had been led to believe that the Nazis would spare no effort to kill every single possible Jew within reach, even if it went against German military, economic, and political interests. We see from this book that such was not necessarily the case. [The reader who is a student of WWII POWs may recount the fact that the Germans murdered over 3 million Soviet POWs, mainly through starvation. The USSR had not signed the Geneva Convention; the Americans had done so. Clearly, the Germans put observance of the Geneva Convention ahead of their plans to exterminate all possible Jews. It is sobering to realize that the American Jewish POW had a greater right to live, in Nazi eyes, than did the Byelorussian-gentile or Ukrainian-gentile Soviet POW.]
Review of Desperate Mission: Joel Brand’s Story, as told by Alex Weissberg. 1958. Criterion Books, New York. Reviewer: Mr. Jan Peczkis
A Proposed Nazi Amnesty of 100,000 and Eventually 1,000,000 Jews; 18,000 Jews Spared
It was the last year of the war. The Allies smelled victory and the Nazis faced defeat. Over 5 million Jews were already murdered, but there was still a large community of Hungarian Jews in existence. Could most of them have been saved?
Unlike modern Holocaust-uniqueness advocates, Hungarian-Jew Joel Brand did not suppose that the extermination of Europe’s Jews was inevitable under Nazi rule, even after the proposed Jews-to-Madagascar scheme had been dropped, and even after the extermination of the Jews was already in progress. He wrote: “The Germans wished to be rid of the Jews, and whether they went abroad or into the gas chambers was largely a matter of indifference. At the very most only fifty [thousand?] men could be sent abroad each month, but twelve thousand could easily be gassed each day. The Germans chose gas simply because it was the more efficient method of achieving their ends.” (p. 43).
The 1944 release of nearly 1,700 Jews through the Kastner-Eichmann deal is discussed in some detail. (p. 116, 229, 272-273, 295-299). It proved that the Nazis were not obsessively interested in killing every single Jew in their grasp, and it proved that the Nazis were in fact willing to release a non-trivial number of Jews under the right conditions.
Eichmann met with Joel Brand (p. 90-on), and made a fantastic offer: 1,000,000 Jews to be amnestied in exchange for Allied goods. Ten thousand trucks were requested in exchange for the Jews. (p. 104). As proof of the genuineness of his offer, Eichmann offered to release 10% (that is 100,000 Jews) without any Allied goods being delivered to him. All he needed was for Brand to return from the west with a verbal assurance of the Jews-for-trucks offer being accepted. (p. 105).
Was the offer genuine? Note that Nazi-Allied negotiations normally went through special channels in neutral countries. This could not be done in this case, because it would involve Nazis admitting that they were murdering Jews, which of course they were denying. (p. 181).
The Eichmann offer was rejected by the Allies out of hand. They suspected that it was nothing but a provocation—a form of Nazi blackmail. (p. 294). Brand was never allowed to return to German-occupied Hungary, and the extermination of Hungary’s Jews continued.
Some of the Hungarian Jews prepared for armed resistance, but there was no Jewish consensus on what to do. Orthodox Jews were said to be of the position that God will protect the Jews. (p. 123).
Although the Jews-for-trucks deal fell through, some 18,000 Hungarian Jews were in fact moved to Austria, were they ended up surviving the war. (p. 232). Apart from this, the courageous actions of the leadership of Hungary’s Jews were able to stall the Nazi extermination machinery long enough for a sizeable fraction of Hungarian Jews to outlast the Nazis.