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July 27, 1990 - Image 44

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1990-07-27

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PURELY COMMENTARY

DP ERA

Continued from Page 2

very exceptional — there were
acts of kindness to the sur-
vivors. There were brutalities
akin to the worst in
Hitlerism.
There is one in which
General Patton was portrayed
as hesitant to be kindly. As
Hutler relates:
Frightening accounts of
the treatment of Jewish
DPs in other areas,
especially those under
General George Patton's
command, had begun to
circulate throughout the
American zone. Patton was
a brilliant general, but he
was callous and insensitive
about the problems of DPs.
General Eisenhower had
ordered that Jewish DPs
be given special treatment
and not be forced to return
to their former countries of
residence, but Patton and
his officers ignored such
directives.
Repatriation "horror
stories" filtered out. I had
heard of some six hundred
Polish Jews from his
district who Patton had
forced to return to Poland,
in spite of their vehement
protests. No news about
what happened to them
ever escaped Soviet-
occupied Poland. I had
seen enough such cases —
Polish Jews, eastern Euro-
pean Jews, Russian
minorities — and they

Henry Butzel

Correction

The photo on Page 2 last
week was incorrectly pull-
ed from the group of 20
who were the first
Michigan Daily editorial
staff. Above is the correct
cut.
With apologies for the er-
ror from the blinded com-
mentator to Erwin Simon,
Henry Butzel's son-in-law.

44

FRIDAY, JULY 27, 1990

made me shudder. No
wonder that many
American soldiers, after
hearing their stories,
showered them with atten-
tion, gifts, and other ex-
pressions of compassion
and concern over their
plight.
"Look over there," the
camp resident said.
I turned my head toward
the direction indicated by
his eyes. Walking on the
path to the castle were
American GIs, officers and
men, carrying gifts for the
Jews of Radom and their
families: clothing, cigars
and cigarettes, tobacco,
candy bars and chocolate,
liquor, sweet cakes, some-
times their own rations.
With each offering came
rewards: looks of radiant
gratitude, shimmering
eyes, creased, smiling
faces, bony arms gently
embracing beefy GI torsos.
The soldiers offered their
greetings, left their gifts,
and departed, their softly
curled fists with fat
awkward fingers catching
the wayward moisture on
their faces.
The American army was
confronted with the immensi-
ty of the emerging problem of
treating the rescued, most of
them on the verge of death,
and the tasks of saving and
rehabilitating. That's when
President Harry S. Truman
named Earl G. Harrison to
that challenging task.
President Truman informed
General Dwight D. Eisen-
hower about the selection of
Dr. Harrison for the duty. The
Truman memo should be
treated among the great
documents resulting from the
Nazi horror. Dated August 31,
1945, President Truman in-
formed Eisenhower:
I have received and con-
sidered the report of Mr.
Earl G. Harrison, our
representative on the Inter-
governmental Committee
on Refugees, upon his mis-
sion to inquire into the con-
dition and needs of
displaced persons in Ger-
many who may be stateless
or non-repatriable, par-
ticularly Jews. I am sen-
ding you a copy of that
report. I have also had a
long conference with him
on the same subject matter.
While Mr. Harrison
makes due allowance for
the fact that during the ear-
ly days of liberation the
huge task of mass repatria-
tion required main atten-
tion, he reports conditions
which now exist and which
require prompt remedy.
These conditions, I knew,

are not in conformity with
policies promulgated by
SHAEF, now Combined
Displaced Persons Ex-
ecutive. But they are what
actually exists in the field.
In other words, the policies
are not being carried out
by some of your subor-
dinate officers.
For example, military
government officers have
been authorized and even
directed to requisition
billeting facilities from the
German population for the
benefit of displaced per-
sons. Yet, from this report,
this has not been done on
any wide scale. Apparent-
ly it is being taken for
granted that all displaced
persons, irrespective of
their former persecution or
the likelihood that their
repatriation or resettle-
ment will be delayed, must
remain in camps — many of
which are overcrowded
and heavily guarded. Some
of these camps are the very
ones where these people
were herded together,
starved, tortured and
made to witness the death
of their fellow-inmates and
friends and relatives. The
announced policy has been
to give such persons
preference over German
civilian population in
housing. But the practice
seems to be quite another
thing.
We must intensify our ef-
forts to get these people
out of camps and into de-
cent houses until they can
be repatriated or
evacuated. These houses
should be requisitioned
from the German civilian
population. That is one
way to implement the
Potsdam policy that the
German people "cannot ex-
cape responsibility for
what they have brought
upon themselves:'
I quote this paragraph
with particular reference
to the Jews among the
displaced persons:
"As matters now stand,
we appear to be treating
the Jews as the Nazis
treated them except that
we do not exterminate
them. They are in concen-
tration camps in large
numbers under our
military guard instead of
S.S. troops. One is led to
wonder whether the Ger-
man people, seeing this,
are not supposing that we
are following or at least
condoning Nazi policy."
I know you will agree
with me that we have a
particular responsibility
toward these victims of
persecution and tyranny

who are in our zone. We
must make clear to the
German people that we
thoroughly abhor the Nazi
policies of hatred and
persecution. We have no
better opportunity to
demonstrate this than by
the manner in which we
ourselves actually treat the
survivors remaining in
Germany.
Actually, this was the
establishment of an
American policy on the pro-
blems of the rescued from the
death camps. It was factual
and also instructional, giving
direction to the program to be
pursued.
The Harrison experiences
and those relating to them
assumed historic importance.
The compassionate were a
few of the rescuers. They were

Agony is the
central theme of
the Hutler
chronicle of events
about the half-
million survivors of
the German
atrocity.

mostly the Jews of the
American army who were
emulating Hutler for whom
the survivors were "my Jews."
In commenting on the Har-
rison report, Hutler provides
us with the following facts:
I found Dr. Harrison's
questions probing, and his
temperament, compassion-
ate and just. He impressed
me enormously as a person
determined to ferret out
the truth and to speak
honestly about it, regard-
less of the consequences. I
wondered how much of
what he had learned would
be embodied in his final
report.
It was all there. Dr. Har-
rison's conclusions about
the status of DPs in the oc-
cupation zones were
devastating. After touring
camps in Germany and
Austria, he issued a report
excoriating the practices
that left most DPs in situa-
tions not much different
from those in which they
had suffered when the
Nazis were in power. Singl-
ing out Jews for special
consideration, the report
stated acidly that "one is
led to wonder whether the
German people, seeing
this, are not supposing that
we are following, or at least
condoning Nazi policy." He
dwelt on the lack of
rehabilitation programs:
"Camp inmates have little

to do except to think of
their plight, the uncertain-
ty of their future and what
is even more unfortunate,
draw comparison between
their treatment under the
Germans and now in
liberation?'
Harrison was further
dismayed to find that most
AMG officers seemed to be
concerned about getting
Germany running again
and less interested in deal-
ing with the victims of Nazi
atrocities. Too many com-
manders did not want to
inconvenience the German
population, he felt. By im-
plication, AMG authorities
had much the same
perspective toward Ger-
many's displaced subject
peoples as the Nazis — new
masters, old views. In
short, the Harrison Report
was a scathing indictment,
embarrassing, humbling.
President Truman, by all
accounts, was genuinely
shaken by it. The chief ex-
ecutive's path, should he
decide to take it, was clear.
He did. President
Truman issued directives
to SHAEF to act upon the
Harrison Report im-
mediately. General
Eisenhower ordered the
necessary changes in line
with Harrison's recommen-
dations, and by August DP
camps in the American
zone of occupation under-
went sweeping changes.

The chief task for Harrison
was to rehabilitate the sur-
viving. The non-Jews desired
to be and were sent to their
native lands. There was no
such thing for Jews. Return
whence they came spelled
more terror for Jews. In his
report to Truman, Dr. Har-
rison gave emphasis to the
priority of Palestine and
stated:

In conclusion, I wish to
repeat that the main solu-
tion, in many ways the on-
ly real solution, of the pro-
blem lies in the quick
evacuation of all non-
repatriable Jews in Ger-
many and Austria, who
wish it, to Palestine. In
order to be effective, this
plan must not be long
delayed. The urgency of
the situation should be
recognized. It is inhuman
to ask people to continue
to live for any length of
time under their present
conditions. The evacuation
of the Jews of Germany
and Austria to Palestine
will solve the problem of
the individuals involved
and will also remove a pro-
blem from the military

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