What we were taught in the 1960s
Regarding the op-eds on Ukraine, April 7:
My family came from Ukraine to the United States in the latter part of the 19th century. Thank God.
Day after day, I now read front-page headlines of the war in Ukraine. Each time, I’m scared to look, seeing the death, destruction and suffering depicted in the articles and photos.
Studying for my bachelor’s degree during Vietnam in the late 1960s, my major — political science international relations — naturally emphasized much that then was daily in the news: Communist China and the Soviet Union.
What was taught as a solution, to bring an end to the threat of future mass destruction? There were two important new realities: (a) the United Nations: its charter, the General Assembly and Security Council. They would never allow one country to destroy another and would join together, never allowing another “member country” be destroyed; (b) the reality of nuclear weapons and their immense destructive power made the threat of their use by a world power, a complete and unquestioned deterrent, preventing any power, such as Russia to even contemplate for a moment an attack on another nation.
Well, so much for my comfort when learning for my degree in the late 1960. I pray for a quick end to this current killing and destruction. I am thankful that my grandfather and great-grandmother left Kyiv (Kiev) for America when they did.
RABBI DR. SANFORD H. SHUDNOW
The writer is a retired Navy chaplain.
A ‘dent’ in the Final Solution
With regard to the Roosevelt administration’s refusal to bomb the railway lines and bridges leading to Auschwitz, Yehuda Kurtzer (“Ukraine, Russia and the unbearable lightness of ‘never again,’” Opinion, March 17) writes: “None of us has any idea whether such a bombing operation would have succeeded, much less whether it would have made a dent in the Final Solution.”
During the spring and summer of 1944, when more than 400,000 Hungarian Jews were being deported to Auschwitz, U.S. planes were bombing railway lines and bridges throughout Europe, as part of the war effort. Obviously military planners had no way to know in advance exactly how many of those bombs would strike their targets, but the effort was justified because enough of them would hit their targets to impede some German troop movements.
Likewise with regard to the proposals for bombing the railways and bridges to Auschwitz, if even some of the bombs hit their targets — as inevitably they would have — then at least some of the trains in which the Jews were being transported would have been impeded. At the peak of the mass murder, 12,000 Jews were being gassed in Auschwitz every day. Even brief delays in the deportations could have saved lives.
Thus, asking whether or not bombing the railways and bridges would have been “successful” or would have “made a dent in the Final Solution” is the wrong question, since obviously such bombing would have made some kind of “dent,” and saving any lives would have made it a “success.”
The real question to ask is why the Roosevelt administration refused to drop a few bombs on those railways and bridges, when U.S. planes were already bombing other railways and bridges throughout the continent. We know the tragic answer from the documents discovered by the late Professor David S. Wyman and presented in his book, “The Abandonment of the Jews”: As a matter of policy, President Franklin D. Roosevelt and his administration were unwilling to expend even minimal military resources to assist Europe’s Jews during the Holocaust.
The Roosevelt administration did use military resources for many other humanitarian objectives, from sending troops to rescue the Lippizzanner dancing horses, to risking the lives of U.S. personnel to save famous paintings and historical artifacts in European battle zones (as portrayed in George Clooney’s film, “The Monuments Men”). But when it came to the lives of Jewish refugees, the U.S. administration took a very different approach.
DR. RAFAEL MEDOFF
The writer is the director of The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies.