I had a uncle who was one of the, um, who was part of the first American troops to go into Auschwitz, and liberate the concentration camps. And the story in our family was, is that, when he came home, he just went up into the attic and he didn’t leave the house for six months. Now, obviously, something had really affected him deeply. But at that time, there just weren’t the kinds of facilities to help somebody work through that kind of pain.
Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama, Las Cruces, New Mexico, May 26, 2008 (Memorial Day).
For those without access to the “right” wing of the internet, I will let you in on an open secret, U.S. troops never entered Auschwitz. The concentration camp at Auschwitz (Poland) was the largest in the German-controlled territories. Being east of Berlin (the furthest advance of U.S. and allied troops), it was liberated by the Soviet Union’s Red Army. Of course, Obama’s recent gaffes on geography may be signs he has “lost his bearings” completely, and he may have forgotten that Poland is east of Germany, just as he forgot that Kentucky borders Illinois. (Obama is apparently channeling Haley Joel Osmet in seeing dead people, so perhaps he’s not fit for the rigors of such a long campaign.)
It is true that the United States Army did, however, liberate several Nazi concentration camps, and I am sure that the horror of uncovering these camps in April of 1945 was overwhelming and lasting. It’s still early days in the latest Obama gaffe/whopper, but time will (hopefully) tell as to whether Obama was (a) merely misstating a (presumably true) family legend (certainly a mere gaffe, confusing Auschwitz with Dachau or another camp); (b) unknowingly repeating a false family legend or (c) making this up out of whole cloth (as he did his “claim on Selma“).
The first two are not so troublesome, as many of us take as gospel that which our grandparents told us (even if they are typical, white racists). For example, my grandmother (not a racist) told me that my late grandfather liberated the town in Italy where she was born. It’s a heart warming story, and I may repeat it in public one day. There’s no reason to issue a FOIA request for Grandpa Al’s records, but then again, I’m not claiming he liberated Auschwitz.
There are some troubling side stories here. There are questions as to whether Obama even has an uncle on that side. In addition, the fact that he would mention his grandfather’s tenuous connection (again to the wrong Nazi camps) in a 2002 speech and this (apparently long lost) uncle’s direct connection in 2008 also undermines the credibility of the uncle’s story. And finally, much like outing grandma as a racist, where is the compassion for this uncle’s suffering? If you had lived through the Great Depression, seen your country attacked by Japan, marched across Europe and Africa, watching your best friends die in combat, only to discover the truly disgusting depths of the human capacity for evil, would you want your slick nephew airing your dirty laundry, bragging about the most trying times of your long life to score political points?
In any case, I am sure that, if and when the media picks up on this gaffe/lie, we will be told that this is a “distraction” meant to keep us from “focusing on the real issues.”
On a less personal scale, of all things not to be taken lightly, the Holocaust should be at the top of anyone’s list. Auschwitz is a name that will live in the annals of evil for as long as humans walk the planet. If you’re going to raise the issue, if you’re going to connect yourself with those who, when earth’s foundation fled, took up arms against evil on Earth, you really need to get your story straight. Those who fought Germany and Japan, those who endured the Bataan Death March, the landings at Normandy, the shivering cold of Bastogne, they all deserve our loyalty and respect. To offhandedly make a claim on their legacy to make political hay is despicable. To fabricate such a claim is neigh treason to their memory.
This entry was posted on Tuesday, May 27th, 2008 at 3:56 pm and is filed under Edukashun, Op Ed, Politics & Policy, Stars & Stripes. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.