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October 25, 2012 - Image 124

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2012-10-25

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Obituaries from page 105

White Lake, died Oct.
16, 2012.
He is survived by his
daughter and son-in-
law, Ann and Avi Rubin
of Owings Mills, Md.;
son and daughter-in-
law, Mark and Laura
Wolok of Potomac Falls, Va.; brother,
Mitchell Wolok of Steinhatchee, Fla.;
grandchildren, Hailey Wolok, Ella Wolok,
Elana Rubin, Tamara Rubin and Benny
Rubin; many loving nieces, other family
members and friends.
Contributions may be made to the
American Cancer Society. Arrangements
by Dorfman Chapel.

George McGovern, A Pacifist Who Wanted To Bomb Auschwitz

Rafael Medoff


eorge McGovern is widely
remembered for advocating
immediate American withdrawal
from Vietnam and sharp reductions in
defense spending. Yet despite his reputation
as a pacifist, the former U.S. senator and
1972 presidential candidate,
who died Oct. 21 at 90, did
believe there were times when
America should use military
force abroad.
Case in point: the Allies'
failure to bomb Auschwitz, an
episode with which McGovern
had a little-known personal-
In June 1944, the Roosevelt
administration received a detailed report
about Auschwitz from two escapees who
described the mass-murder process and
drew diagrams pinpointing the gas cham-
bers and crematoria. Jewish organizations
repeatedly asked U.S. officials to order the
bombing of Auschwitz and the railroad
lines leading to the camp. The proposal


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106 October 25 • 2012


was rejected on the grounds that it would
require "considerable diversion" of planes
that were needed elsewhere for the war
effort. One U.S. official claimed that bomb-
ing Auschwitz "might provoke even more
vindictive action by the Germans."
Enter McGovern. In World War II, the
22-year-old son of a South Dakota pastor
piloted a B-24 "Liberator" bomber. Among
his targets: German synthetic oil
factories in occupied Poland —
some of them less than 5 miles from
the Auschwitz gas chambers.
In 2004, McGovern spoke on
camera for the first time about
those experiences in a meeting
organized by the David S. Wyman
Institute for Holocaust Studies with
Holocaust survivor and philanthro-
pist Sigmund Rolat and filmmakers
Stuart Erdheim and Chaim Hecht.
McGovern dismissed the Roosevelt
administration's claims about the diver-
sion of planes. The argument was just "a
rationalization:' he said, noting that no
diversions would have been needed when
he and other U.S pilots already were flying
over that area.

Ironically, the Allies did divert military
resources for other reasons. For example, to
rescue artwork and historic monuments in
Europe's battle zones.
"There is no question we should have
attempted ... to go after Auschwitz:
McGovern said. "There was a pretty good
chance we could have blasted those rail
lines off the face of the earth, which would
have interrupted the flow of people to those
death chambers, and we had a pretty good
chance of knocking out those gas ovens:'
Even if there was a danger of accidentally
harming some of the prisoners, "it was cer-
tainly worth the effort, despite all the risks:'
McGovern said, because the prisoners were
already "doomed to death" and an Allied
bombing attack might have slowed down
the mass-murder process, thus saving many
more lives.
McGovern said that if his commanders
had asked for volunteers to bomb the death
camp, "whole crews would have volun-
teered:' Most soldiers understood that the
war against the Nazis was not just a military
struggle but a moral one, as well.
"We must never again permit genocide,"
he said.

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