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December 27, 1985 - Image 2

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1985-12-27

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Friday, December 27, 1985




Lipstadt's 'Beyond Belief' Exposes Holocaust Failure Of The Media

Listed as one of the best books pub-
lished in 1985 in the New York Times Book
Review section is the Abandonment of the
Jews by David Wyman. In many respects
this is a confession of the failures during
the final years of World War II by nearly
the entire American press to publish prop-
erly the revelations about the introduction
of the German Holocaust against the Jews.
It can be accepted as an admission of the
indictments included in Beyond Belief: The
American Press and the Coming of the
Holocaust, 1933-1945 by Deborah H.
Lipstadt (Free Press — Macmillan).
The Lipstadt role matches Wyman's as
an expose of the indifference that surely
contributed to the loss of hundreds of
thousands of lives. The two volumes are
surely complementary.
The horrors already became a matter
of public knowledge, in the revelations of
the World Jewish Congress, in the even-
tual admissions of the German guilt by the
State Department. Yet, Congress was an-
tagonistic to relief proposals, children were
not rescued, reports of mass murders were
labeled "atrocity stories." Even the
NYTimes which now acknowledges the
importnce of the Wyman book, shared in
the guilt of indifference. While the
NYTimes admittedly provided most exten-
sive reporting of the horrors and gave an
account of the murder of 1.7 million, its
story was on Page 3 of the July 3, 1944
Public responses were also antagonis-
tic to Jews and there was little compassion
even when the actual mass murder charges
were corroborated. The improved status is
importantly analyzed in a review of
Lipstadt's Beyond Belief by M. J. Rosen-
berg in Near East Report. He describes the
contrast in the 1940s to the current views,
A public opinion poll con-
ducted by the Roper organization
reveals that 40 percent of Ameri-
cans wish that Jews would stop
reminding them about the
Holocaust: 46 percent want to be
That more Americans want to
confront the Holocaust than want
to ignore it is surprising. It has
been 40 years since the death
camps were liberated. In a nation
that is not known for its sense of
history, it speaks well of the public
that it chooses not to look away.
The Roper poll (which was
commissioned by the American
Jewish Committee) provided em-
pirical evidence that public at-
titudes have changed since World
War IL In her important new book,
Beyond Belief, Dr. Deborah
Lipstadt of UCLA shows that dur-
ing the Holocaust most Americans
chose to ignore what was happen-
ing in Europe. Even worse, many
Americans had no interest in aid-
ing victims of Nazism.
Lipstadt writes of a January
1939 Gallup Poll which found that
66 percent of Americans said no
when asked if "10,000 refugee chil-
dren" should be "brought into this
country and taken care of in
American homes." A Cincinnati
Post poll of women found 77 per-
cent opposed to entry of the chil-

Deborah Lipstadt

Edgar Ansel Mowrer, I.F. Stone, Dorothy
Thompson, Freda Kirchwey, Max Lerner.
There were Jews in the guilty ranks,
and perhaps chief among them was Walter
Lippmann, who was considered the leader
among columnists and commentators for
many years. He is exposed as having be-
lieved that Jews had caused their own suf-
fering. He was misled in 1933 by a Hitler
speech into believing the Fuehrer was aim-
ing for peace. Lipstadt condemns
Lippmann for his equation of the Ku Klux
Klan and Nazi brutalities with "Jewish
parvenues." She charges it "was an offen-
sive if not insidious comparison. Coming
from a Jew it indicated an ambivalence, if
not outright hostility, about his Jewish
identity. Most significantly, however, it
suggested that Jewish behavior was ulti-
mately the cause of anti-Semitism." -
Lippmann's views, it is indicated, in-
fluenced public opinion. His views,
Lipstadt states, were echoed by many
Americans, "as was evidenced by an April
1938 poll in which approximately 60 per-
cent agreed that the persecution of Euro-
pean Jewry was either entirely or partly
their own fault." Lippmann's volume did
influence many including Felix Frankfur-
ter who was his mentor and supporter.
There is a footnote in Lipstadt's expose
of Lippmann:
• There are numerous exam-
ples of Lippmann's discomfort
with his Jewish identity. To honor
Lippmann on his seventieth birth-
day, a group of his colleagues pub-
lished a collection of essays in his
honor. Carl Binger, a well-known
psychiatrist and a good friend of
Lippmann's, was invited to contri-
bute an essay on Lippmann's
youth. He agreed to do so but with
one condition. He could not men-
tion that Lippmann was a Jew be-
cause if he did, Lippmann would
never speak to him again.
•• This was not the first time
Lippmann had suggested that
Jews provoked anti-Semitism; he
had done so a decade earlier. In
fact, in the spring of 1922
Lippmann contributed an article
to a special issue of the American
Hebrew, in which he openly
charged that this was the case.
"The Jews are fairly distinct in
their physical appearance and in
While the press is generally indicted
the spelling of their names from the
for failure to assist in rescue efforts and in
run of the American people . . .
exposing the Nazi crimes against the Jews,
They are, therefore, conspicuous
there were exceptions which included the
... sharp trading and blatant vul-
Catholic Commonweal, PM, the Nation,
garity are more conspicuous in the
New Republic, New York Post.
Jew because he himself is more
Then there were the fearless who
spoke out, who included William Shirer,

Malcolm Bingay

Lippmann's recommendation
was that the Jew work to ensure
that he not be noticeable. "Because
the Jew is more conspicuous he is
under all the greater obligation not
to practice the vices of our civiliza-
tion." Lippmann then attacked
nouveaux riches Jews in a tone that
reflected the classic attitudes of
many wealthy established German
Jews who had come to America in
the mid-Nineteenth Century to-
ward the more recent immigrants,
particularly those from Eastern
Europe. The "rich and vulgar and
pretentious Jews of our big Ameri-
can cities are perhaps the greatest
misfortune that has ever befallen
the Jewish people." They were, in
his opinion, the "real fountain of
anti-Semitism. When they rush
about in super-automobiles, be-
jeweled and furred and painted
and overbarbered, when they
build themselves French chateaux
and Italian palazzi, they stir up the
latent hatred against crude wealth
in the hands of shallow people; and
that hatred diffuses itself."
Steel notes that the "crude-
ness" and the "cruelty" of
Lippmann's attacks on his fellow
Jews are in marked contrast to the
sensitivity he displayed toward
other minority groups and those
suffering discrimination. It is "in-
conceivable," according to Steel,
that Lippmann would have written
anything similar about the Irish,
the Italians, or the blacks, despite
the fact that none of these groups
was without its own nouveaux
Treatment of the tragedies by the De-
troit media received proper attention in•
Beyond Belief. Reference to visits by
American editors to concentration camps
after the war include the comments by
Malcolm W. Bingay, one-time editor of the
Detroit News who was head of the Detroit
Free Press editorial staff at the time of his
death. In her book, Deborah Lipstadt has
this revealing explanation:
Now that these top members of
the press corps were face to face
with the victims, their doubts
about the atrocity reports disap-
peared. But even now they were
unable to grasp what the Final
Solution had been. They did not
seem to understand that the fate of
the Jews had been unique in both
ideology and scope. Their failure
to comprehend the Jewish aspect
of this entire tragedy was reflected

in their description of the victims
and explanation of why they were
in the camps.
Joseph Pulitzer, in an address
to the Missouri Legislature upon
his return, described the camps as
full of "political prisoners" includ-
ing "Jews, Poles and Russians."
Malcolm Bingay, editor of the De-
troit Free Press, explained that the
prisoners he saw at camps were
there because "they refused to ac-
cept the political philosophy of the
Nazi party ... First Jews and
anti-Nazi Germans, then other
brave souls who refused to con-
There is a moderating addendum to
the attitude of Bingay. Lipstadt reports on
Bingay and his associates are quoted as
We have seen how the repor-
ters, editors and publishers who
visited the camps generally
claimed that until that moment
they had simply not believed that
the stories were true. After their
visits any vestiges of doubt had
been eradicated. Now they knew
such things could happen, but they
could not fathom how. Their
amazement had, in fact, only in-
creased. In a front-page story in
the Baltimore Sun, Lee McCardell,
the Sunpapers' war correspon-
dent, voiced his confusion and dis-
orientation after touring a camp.
"You had heard of such things
in Nazi Germany. You had heard
creditable witnesses describe just
such scenes. But now that you
were actually confronted with the
horror of mass murder, you stared
at the bodies and almost doubted
your own eyes.
"Good God!" you said aloud,
"Good God!"
"Then you walked down
around the corner of two barren,
weatherbeaten, wooden barrack
buildings. And there in a wooden
shed, piled up like so much
cordwood, were the naked bodies
of more dead men then you cared
to count.
"Good God!" you repeated,
"Good God!"
McCardell's reaction to what
he found at this camp, Ohrdruf,
which was far from the worst scene
of German atrocities, was similar
to that of the American major who
first entered the camp:
"'I couldn't believe it even
when I saw it,' Major Scotti said,
couldn't believe that I was there
looking at such things."' (Ohrdruf
was one of the camps to which the
Germans had marched survivors
of Auschwitz in mid-January 1945.
Ohrdruf had been planned as a fu-
ture army command center which
was to be built by thousands of
Jewish slave laborers.)
A similar sense of overwhelm-
ing incredulity was expressed by
Malcolm Bingay, who in addition
to serving as editor of the Detroit
Free Press was representing the
Knight chain of papers on the
press delegation that visited
camps in April 1945. He related the
terrible consternation that beset
hardened and seasoned jour-
nalists who no longer doubted that
the implausible had been commit-
ted:"I have talked, ... with endless
numbers of war correspondents
who have lived at the front

Continued on Page 18

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