By NORMAN M. COVERT
A long-time friend took notice of my commentary last week on Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, saying she thought I had underreported the number of victims in the Holocaust. She was, of course, correct in her understanding.
However, my citation that six million Jews died in the Nazi death camps from1932-1945 is accepted by historians. Apparently it wasn’t clear that I was referring to the genocide of European Jews alone, purpose of the Yom Hashoah declaration of the Israeli Knesset in 1953.
My friend is correct that a more accurate accounting of the persons who died in the reign of Nazi terror amounts to at least nine million. Some even say 12 million.
The nine million figure includes persons determined by the National Socialists to be out of the mainstream. Among the group, they identified homosexuals; mental and physical “defectives;” children of non-Aryan descent; persons with unacceptable political beliefs; and religious “zealots.”
Also among the victims were selected twins from Jewish families and Romanian Gypsy children, all of whom were subjected to the horror of Dr. Josef Mengele’s surgical knives at Auschwitz-Berkenau, Poland. The Soviet Army liberated that complex in January 1945.
Being of Germanic ethnic heritage spared none of the foregoing victims from the network of horror in occupied Europe. Victims came from 35 countries. Historians agree that some three million Poles died in the camps along with another one million Russians captured by the German Army in Operation Barbarossa, invasion of the Soviet Union.
Nine million victims may be a low number, but the actual number will always elude historians because of the magnitude of Nazi ethnic and human “cleansing.”
We should point out that German Chancellor Adolph Hitler and his brutal henchman Martin Bormann are considered primary conspirators in the liquidation of European Jewry, the “Final Solution.”
German troops, both Waffen SS and Bundeswehr, followed their battlefield victories with all manner of brutality. They herded men, women, children, elderly, infirm, artists, musicians, lawyers, tradesmen and professional practitioners to the trains and trucks to be shipped to points unknown. This was the ultimate “profiling” under martial law.
The accommodations for these victims aboard cattle cars were brutal; their destinations dreadful and murderous. We still have no genuine understanding of the privations they endured. As more years pass new generations will find less likely their ability to empathize.
What a tragedy that the Hitler regime could dismiss with so little remorse the humanity crushed under their jack boots. The victims’ history, traditions and religious beliefs weren’t what we call in modern parlance, Politically Correct (PC).
Their lives bespoke no support or understanding for Hitler’s abhorrence of Jewish influence in the modern world through banking, commerce and the arts. The perceived political opponents occupied the sphere of Hitler’s influence in Western Europe and some locations in Eastern Europe.
Sixty-seven years ago Allied military units began overrunning the network of death camps as World War II drew to an improbable close the first week of May 1945.
The crush of Allied victories on both fronts bared the tragedy of the camps for the world to see. I noted the liberation of the Austrian Mauthausen complex May 5, 1945. Germany surrendered on May 8, 1945.
News Correspondents embedded with the units, filed dispatches which screamed across the Atlantic and exploded on the American conscience. The truth about the Holocaust decried what had been a systemic denial by the Roosevelt Administration and the mainstream American press when reports leaked out in the mid-1930s.
Dachau, just outside Munich, Germany, was liberated April 29, 1945, and had a mixed population of Jews and non-Jews.
We arranged a visit to Dachau for 45 members of a Middletown, Md., Boy Scout Ski Explorer Post and their leaders in 1985 as a side visit to a European ski excursion. We marveled at the awe these teenagers displayed seeing the ghostly barracks and artifacts. They will never forget the experience.
It is the numbers that continue to confound and astound. Six million? Nine million? More?
Archives of the U. S. Army, the British Imperial War Museum, and German repositories contain still and motion picture evidence of the atrocities. Photographs reveal mounds of corpses, open trenches containing remains in disarray, crematoria with human ashes, stocks of gold teeth, clothing and anything of value seized by the Nazis. The evidence cried out for justice.
The Nuremberg War Crimes Tribunal, replete with lawyers, a suitable number of defendants, guilty verdicts and sentences to hang, all reported by the swarm of news correspondents, failed to offer closure to victims’ families. The heart of Europe lay in the graveyard of its own undoing.
I was reminded by Dr. Harvey Levy, who is mentioned in the original article, that his personal losses in the Holocaust included three grandparents and numerous uncles, aunts and cousins. His heritage is the norm, not the exception.
Time doesn’t really ease the pain for him and the numbers don’t count anymore.
Never again!—©2012 Norman M. Covert
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(Editor’s Note: Yom Hashoah observances began last Thursday, April 20, and continue to be conducted throughout mid-Atlantic region this week. President Barack Obama was keynote speaker Monday, April 23, 2012 at the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C.)
You may contact Mr. Covert at firstname.lastname@example.org