“After things are over, it is easy to choose the fine
mental and moral positions which
one should adopt.”
~ Winston Churchill ~
~ ITEM: Pope Francis: World powers did nothing when Jews were taken to Auschwitz
~ ITEM: Pius XII and the Jews during World War II
~ BACK SOMEWHERE in the 1950’s, George Bergoglio (b. 1936) got a vocational-school degree in chemistry technicianing. However these days, he talks freely on world politics, economics, climatology, environmentalism, saving the planet, the evils of Latin, weapon manufacturing, guns, air conditioners– why, anything he turns his mind to. Just recently, he’s ruminated on World War II & The Holocaust!
Dude got mad skillz, yo.
Stupid Elf Think
Now, I’ve been reading, learning, pondering, and studying the big wars of the last century for (give or take) 42 years. I have a history degree with an emphasis on military history. GPA 4.1. I still read about the wars, Hitler, Canadian warmaking, historical battles, and the Holocaust (since my family lost cousins in Moldova under Einsatzgruppe D, under Otto Ohlendorf).
Thus, in addition to vexing questions about the Auschwitz-Birkenau work/ death camps, and the 13 million people imprisoned and killed in the huge network of hundreds of camps across Nazi-occupied Europe, we remember the 12 million+ slave-labourers on Nazi defence-works, factories, underground projects, from Norway to North Africa, and from the Island of Jersey to Western Russia.
As of 2015, we have not really solved the question of what to do about rising anti-semitism, slavery, international human rights, sex-trafficking of women girls and boys, nor the ‘internal security’ of Communist nations where death-camps and slave-labour are still very much part of the political system, and hold far more people than were ever held in Nazi camps. The Soviet gulag system likewise held upwards of 25 million mostly political prisoners 1930-1965.
All so simple to fix, in hindsight? Guess we’ll just have to wait until 2090 to have all the perfect answers to the problems of 2015.
The Specific Issue
Could the Allies have done more and better to somehow stop the Nazi death-camp systems? Yes. Could they have seriously degraded or stopped Hitler’s final solution through bombing raids on all the camps and railways and vehicles being used for this purpose, and all the Einsatzgruppen operating in Europe and Russia? Very unlikely.
This may be a fail of the Allied leaders & war-planners, but to replay what-might-have-been is an iffy and speculative and risky/ judgmental sport for a pope to play, given what was actually done, in the reality of those past moments. Armchair generalling, hindsight 20/20 always puts you in the awesome position of supposedly knowing everything, actually changing nothing, and a toasty and uplifting moral superiority over the stupid losers who actually fought, died, decided, messed up, and lived the events of the time.
Wisdom and insight– borrowing and learning from the past, thus gaining foresight and clarity about current problems– is a hard-won and rare gift, and is usually ignored by those in power, in the church and in the world. Everybody ‘knows better’ at the time.
What Was Done
(1) In part, the Allies launched the biggest war ever to recover the freedom of Europe (including those of Jews). Countless war-graves testify to this. World powers allowed their diplomats to issue hundreds of thousands of passports to Jews and other refugees during WW2. Even German and Japanese diplomats did the same. Many pre-war Jewish and other refugees flooded westwards to escape the coming darkness.
(2) The Pope & priests and religious and laypeople spoke out, and also helped to hide, save, or aided to escape upwards of half a million people. Golda Meir and other world Jewish leaders honoured Pope Pius XII (slandered by some as ‘Hitler’s Pope’) as a hero who did more to save Europe’s Jews than anybody else. Holy Father, have you even read about what your predecessors did in the face of such unspeakable evils as Nazism and Communism?
(3) When you talk of ‘World Powers’, sir, you actually mean Winston Churchill and President FDR. Which specific choices (or failures to choose) are you concerned with? Have you read Churchill’s 5-volume history of World War 2?
(4) Western anti-Semitism cannot be denied in many aspects of 1930s-1940s society. Still, nobody then had any conception of fighting a ‘Holocaust’, partly because they did not read Hitler’s ideas and threats, and partly because it was unthinkable. Why would any sane nation at war deflect resources, transport, troops, and construction to do something like this? Post-war, allied nations allowed mass-migration of surviving Jews, and backed a new Jewish Homeland in a rebuilt Israel– and defended her and provided weapons until the Obama Regime took over.
(5) World War I German atrocities, war-crimes, and– as it were– practice holocausting were reported, sometimes exaggerated, but covered up and pooh-poohed by pacifists in particular, who wanted to hold as morally equivalent the two sides of the conflict. Thus, the Germans learned that they could get away with much, given the well-meaning but ultimately disastrous naivete of British politicians and anti-war leaders. G.K. Chesterton tried to warn England about this, but to no avail. The seeds of Auschwitz were laid in Berlin, Belgium, Holland, Northern France.. and London, in the 19-teens and 1920s.
But, super-geniuses should already know all this.
We The Super-Awesomes!
Isn’t it is lovely and lofty for us to look smugly backwards from our moral high-ground and judge the failings and evils and hard choices of others– in the face of the biggest world-wide war to this date– three or four generations after.
After all, in 2015 there’s zero anti-semitism and little persecution of Jews anywhere, no wars threatening the world, no slavery to worry about anymore, no threats to political freedom and freedom of speech in the West or in the world; no death-camps and work camps anywhere in the world to liberate; no Christians dying daily for their faith, and certainly no look-the-other-way lazy contentment in the West. Phew.
I sure hope that 75 years from now, people will judge our mistakes, failures, glaring blind-spots, avoidable evils, and misconceptions without coming across all smug about it.
Saith The Binks