In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

  • Dear Editor:
  • Richard H. Levy

In his criticism of my essay 1 on the bombing of Auschwitz, Medoff 2 relies on the oldest trick in the book. The trick, which is more commonly found in works of propaganda than of scholarship, starts with a deliberate misquotation. The text is carefully arranged to contain an obvious error, where the original had none. The planted error is then “discovered” with suitable expressions of horror. Finally, the discovery of the planted error is used to cast doubt on the credibility of the whole.

At different times in 1944, and in different places, people associated with the Jewish Agency expressed differing views on the proposal to bomb the Nazi death camps, especially Auschwitz. Without exception all these differing views are presented and analyzed in my essay. I also comment on the absence of a consistent view. In Jerusalem, the Jewish Agency Executive (JAE) met under Ben-Gurion’s chairmanship on June 11, 1944. Gruenbaum presented a spirited argument in favor of bombing Auschwitz. He also defended his request to the U.S. Consul in Jerusalem to transmit a bombing request to Washington. Four members of the JAE spoke against the proposal, Ben-Gurion summarized in support of these four, and the remaining six members did not object to Ben-Gurion’s summary.

A translation of the full text of the relevant agenda item is appended to my essay. Medoff first quotes from this or another translation, then describes the full text as an abbreviated excerpt. The proposed bombing of Auschwitz was not discussed by the JAE in Jerusalem at any other time. Accordingly I wrote:

“There is no indication that the committee in Jerusalem ever changed its collective mind, and some that it did not.”

Medoff misquotes me as follows:

“there is no indication that the [Jewish Agency] ever changed its collective mind.”

Gruenbaum’s continued support of the bombing proposal and the efforts of Weizmann and Shertok in London can both be described as “Jewish Agency” but not as “the committee in Jerusalem.” Thus [End Page 101] Medoff’s corrupt quotation allows him to “discover that I have made two serious errors. Both the above instances are fully described in my text but not, of course, in the context of the committee in Jerusalem. After the “discovery” of the planted errors the rest of his technique is standard. It consists of doubt cast on the credibility of the whole and ad hominem remarks.

Medoff and some others would like to believe that the JAE did in fact change its collective mind, especially after the gruesome but credible details in the Vrba-Wetzler report were circulated. Medoff cites Porat 3 who wrote that “the JAE reversed its decision.” But Porat, in a book filled with citations, offers none in support of this assertion. Much more honest is Teveth. Like Porat, Teveth 4 believes that the JAE reversed itself, but he goes on to say that “. . . there is no mention of this change of mind in the JAE’s record.” Teveth then speculates about why, if the JAE changed its mind, there is no record of the fact. The best he can do is to say that “. . . dread of every being charged with responsibility for massacre of Jews. . . . continued to guide the JAE.” So if the JAE now favored the bombing of Auschwitz, it wouldn’t say so in writing for fear of being held responsible for the likely consequences.

I cannot agree with Teveth’s interpretation. The simple facts are that the positions of the members of the JAE on June 11 are on record. When, at the end of the month, much more precise, gruesome and credible intelligence about Auschwitz became available, nothing would have been more natural than for the members of the JAE to change their views about bombing the camp in the light of the new information. No such change in the collective mind of the committee is on record. Nor are any of the eleven individual members of the JAE who opposed Gruenbaum on June 11 known to have subsequently changed their minds.

I stand by my version of these events, and regret that Medoff has seen fit to...

Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 101-111
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.