After reading the exemplary diaries on the Recommended list JeffLieber and Geenius at Wrok wrote in response to the faux outrage Obama's opponents are trying to stir up concerning his misspeaking and claiming his grandfather helped liberate Auschwitz when in fact it was Buchenwald, I then read an article at Huffington Post by Menachem Rosensaft called Using the Holocaust to Smear Obama, which takes Obama's critics to task for their imbecilic attacks. As I was reading it, I realized that these say-anything demagogues were probably doing more to heal any rifts that might have existed between Obama and the Jewish community than Obama himself has been able to do himself:
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.
As a child of survivors of the Holocaust and someone deeply involved the causes related to children of survivors, Rosensaftspeaks with great authority:
Menachem Z. Rosensaft, an attorney in New York and the Founding Chairman of the International Network of Children of Jewish Survivors, is a leader of the Second Generation movement of children of survivors, and has been described on the front page of the New York Times as one of the most prominent of the survivors' sons and daughters. He also served as National President of the Labor Zionist Alliance, and was active in the early stages of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. As psychologist Eva Fogelman has written: "Menachem Rosensaft's moral voice has gone beyond the responsibility he felt as a child of survivors to remember and educate. He felt the need to promote peace and a tolerant State of Israel as well. He wanted to bring to justice Nazi war criminals, to fight racism and bigotry, and to work toward the continuity of the Jewish people".
The son of two survivors of the Nazi concentration camps of Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen, he was born on May 1, 1948 in the Displaced Persons camp of Bergen-Belsen in Germany. From 1945 until 1950, his father, the late Josef Rosensaft, was chairman of the Jewish Committee of the Bergen-Belsen DP camp and of the Central Jewish Committee in the British Zone of Germany. His mother, the late Dr. Hadassah Bimko Rosensaft, was a member of President Carter's Commission on the Holocaust, and a founding member of the United States Holocaust Memorial Council.
With a background like that, you can understand his astonishment at how Fox News and those in McCain's camp tried to exploit this:
It started yesterday when the RNC put out a statement slamming Obama for referring to Auschwitz as he related a family story on Memorial Day. Instead of merely asking for clarification, the RNC smeared Obama's "dubious claim," and suggested -- tongue in cheek -- that perhaps Obama's uncle "was serving in the Red Army." They went on to say that the story raised questions "about his judgment and his readiness to lead as commander in chief."
It turns out that Obama's great uncle -- the brother of the grandmother who largely raised him -- served in the 89th Infantry Division of the United States Army, which liberated Ohrdruf, part of Buchenwald. But astonishingly, that only served to fan the flames for those on the right who saw an attempt to use the heroic service of Obama's uncle against him. In their breathless attempt to damage Obama, Fox News has stooped to a level that is truly depressing.
This morning on the program Fox and Friends, one of the hosts said: "It wasn't Auschwitz. It was a labor camp called Buchenwald." Just in case the point was missed, she repeated. "It wasn't Auschwitz, it was a labor camp. You would think you would want to be as specific as possible if you are telling one of these anecdotes." Meanwhile, a news "crawl" at the bottom of the screen reinforced, in bold letters, that this was "a work camp, rather than an extermination camp."
Rosensaft explains why this false, uninformed distinction by those bozos at Fox and Friends is so heinous and disgusting:
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.
After Bush tried to manipulate the deep wounds of the Holocaust with his speech before the Knesset, Fox and the Republicans once again tried to pick at the scab of this horrific tragedy but instead exposed themselves for the rank opportunists that they are. As I read Rosensaft's piece I realized that Fox and the RNC took a little noticed moment from Obama's Memorial Day speech and gave it far more coverage than he could ever expect. And as a result, many in the Jewish community and across America in general have come to realize that this black man with the funny name is far from some foreigner with a suspect background, but rather the child of a family of Americans who has served this country proudly.