The Power of Prejudice
By Gad Nahshon
The American Army, the American military leadership, the generals and the admirals of our time are liberal progressive people who believe in the best democratic values of this country. According to Dr. Joseph Bendersky, the director of graduate studies in history at Virginia Commonwealth University, an expert on the history of Nazi Germany, the American Army espoused prejudice against the Jews as a nation.
Anti-Semitism existed within the American army from 1900 to the 1950's. Of course, we must not over generalize; it is not easy to expose the fact that many military leaders entertained prejudice against Jews during that period. The readers themselves can assess the depth of this anti-Semitism, an aspect perpetuated in the minds and beliefs of the American military elite in the past.
Dr.Bendersky has published a new book which discusses anti-Semitism, entitled "The Jewish Threat - anti-Semitic Politics of the U.S. Army" (Basic Books, N.Y., 2000). The book is so provocative that it will stimulate great discussion.
I would like to point out "The Jewish Threat" is not about the life of Jewish soldiers or officers in the Army since 1918. Instead, this literary work is a result of extensive and detailed research, which the author conducted in 35, archives, mostly military ones. It took him approximately 10 years to accomplish his original goal, which was to expose the historical practice in the army of ignoring the presence of anti-Semitism.
Dr.Bendersky provides the reader with an analytically original account of the presence of prejudice against Jews inside the leadership of the American Army. Of course, he does not argue that all the officers were anti-Jewish. But there was a distinguished segment of officers inside the Army who were anti-Semites and were willing to stigmatize the Jews. They had a strong influence on the policies of the Army. They, at least, indirectly influenced the Army's process of decision making, as well as governmental decisions. Furthermore, they collaborated with civil organizations, which viewed Jews as a problem for America.
The author has written a great scholarly work, using mostly primary sources. For example, 'File 245' of the Military Intelligence Division or MID. (To be found at the U.S. National Archives, College Park, Maryland). He used documents from U.S. Military History Institute Archives and others, as well. Recently, some of these files were de-classified.
Why should we read this book? What is the book's message? The author himself believes that we must learn a lesson today because: "although in some respects the anti-Semitism of these officers reflected the prejudice of Americans, generally army views lagged far behind changes in societal attitudes. Indeed, the army, particularly its senior officers remained a bastion of both racial prejudice and anti-Semitism much longer than indicated by either popular memory or previous historical studies. The persistence of such anti-Semitism would have serious ramifications."
The research exposes the damage that prejudice, any prejudice, can cause to a healthy society and to its well being. For example, some officers refused to see that Hitler prepared his military machine because they admired the Germans! Why? Because they were anti-Semites. And they were anti-Semites because they were racists believing in the superiority of the Nordic races! Prejudice in this case, of the Jews, distorted their professional judgement! Some of these officers were military attach�s who sent reports about the Jews.
Dr.Bendersky contributed to the history of anti-Semitism by exposing its 'American military style' He was on the verge of developing a new category of anti-Semitism. Often these colonels or generals were very original in their negative views and images of Jews. And Dr.Bendersky documented their notions and fears -- their Jewish paranoia.
This research is also a journey into the military culture, the military mind of America. You learn about this mind, its thinking, beliefs, worldview and wonder: were they true professional leaders of the army? Most of them were well educated and came from good families. How could they, in America, in a democracy no less, espouse all of the anti-Semitic dogmas and myths, all of the libelous and defamatory statements about the Jews as a nation, as a collective?
Indeed, many of them were anti-Semites. Although they were against the physical attacks on Jews in Europe, for the most part they remained by-standards. This anti-Semitism was not just an "academic" belief. "This documentation shows that even though anti-Semitism never became official policy or law within the American government its pervasiveness within the culture of the army officer corps affected much more than the direction of intelligence gathering. The anti-Semitism of army officers had a significant impact on critical legal and political decisions concerning immigration, the fate of European Jews during and after the Holocaust and the establishment of the state of Israel" explains Bendersky in his prologue. The army's officers were components of the elite, which ruled the United States during this period.
There were naturally many formal and non-formal links between the military and the political establishment and of course, the State Department. The army as always had its own views about everything such as the New Deal. This research, indirectly, contributed to our knowledge about the position of the American Jewish leadership, its weakness its lack of militancy. Even after World War I, Jews in this country did not have the proper 'lobby' to fight for Jewish rights, for Jewish representation in the United Nations. They did not even build a strong lobby for Jewish immigrants, mostly, refugees or displaced people. It was a very sad reality, but this was the truth.
In 1948 during Israel's War of Independence, the legendary volunteer Colonel David Marcus (Micky Marcus) had to defend the refutation of the famous General George Patton. Why? The 'sabras' asked him to explain Patton's anti-Semitism. Marcus was mad: he denied these charges. But Dr.Bendersky researched Patton's papers and thus reinforced the notion that Patton was an anti-Semite. Even the Holocaust did not change his views on Jews. And he was not an exception: "Harrison and his ilk believe that the displaced person is a human being which he is not, and this applies particularly to the Jews who are lower than animals" argued Patton in Germany. He had confrontation as to the attitude to Germans and their victims.
Harrison was sent in 1946 by President Truman to investigate the issue of Jewish displaced persons. Patton viewed this mission as a conspiracy by Jews in Washington, D.C such as "Morgenthau and Baruch." Later Patton wrote about "...a very apparent Semitic influence in the press...they are trying to implement communism." Patton was fired and, of course, he blamed Jews and Communists for his problems. From Patton's terminology one can learn the way that for years American officers defined Jews: 'Jewish problem', 'Jewish Press', 'Jewish Threat', 'Jewish Conspiracy', 'Jewish Communism', 'Jewish international conspiracy to control the world' and the 'protocols of the leaders of Zion.' Even the term Zionism became an issue for the army; Zionism was defined as a component of the "protocols." And even "Israel" became a component of the "protocols."
Furthermore Bendersky pointed out that before Hitler's "My Kamp" (1925) one army officer wrote that the Jewish radical and the Jewish capitalist are only two sides of one coin: Both work together to destroy the Christian world. By the way, Bendersky does not fail to mention General George S. Brown who in response to a question about the Israelis on Oct. 10, 1974 at Duke University's lecture remarked: "...they own you know, the Banks in this country, the newspapers, you just look at where the Jewish money is in this country." George S. Brown was then the chairman of the joint chief of staff!
One can argue that Patton or Brown was just a by-product of an American racist culture. They were disciples of the American military culture, which was based on the idea of White Supremacy. Afro-Americans and Jews were viewed as a threat to America's future or well being. They were lower races in the eyes of many officers. Bendersky, as we shall see, points out that the pioneers of this cult, the cult of hate, were to be found in M.I.D. (the Military Intelligence Division). This Division viewed Jews as a danger to America. This Division developed the idea of the 'Jewish Threat' as early as 1918.
Jews were depicted by M.I.D. officers as a dangerous element. It is hard to believe, but M.I.D., for example, spied on and monitored the activities of Justice Brandeis and Justice Frankfurter as if they were a danger or threat to the security of the U.S. in the 1930's. The depth of the hate for the Jews can be seen as demonstrated by the activities of General George Van Horn Moseley, a decorated soldier, a friend of General Eisenhower and General Marshal, a prominent military leader that many admired.
Moseley was an anti-Semite and a racist. In a speech in 1938, General Moseley exhibited his feelings through his statements about opening U.S. gates to refugees. He suggested that they would be accepted only: "...with the distinct understanding that they all be sterilized before being permitted to embark. Only that way can we properly protect our future." The Army had, always, a specific policy on immigration. They had to protect America from the 'alien invasion' of the Jews. Dr.Bendersky discusses the indifference of the army to the plight of Jews in Eastern Europe from 1918 to 1939. Later, he discusses the indifference of the army to the fate of the Jews during the Holocaust itself. The obsession with the Jewish hate did not disappear even in the post-holocaust era 1945-1948.
The message of the 'protocols' did not disappear after six million Jews were murdered. Where were the Jews who controlled the world? The survivors, the refugees, the displaced persons were victims of American anti-Semitism! It was the power of prejudice against the Jews! Furthermore, Bendersky exposed the war, which the Army fought against the Zionists and against the establishment of Israel! The Army developed its own policy against the establishment of a Jewish state, a country for the victims of the Holocaust. There was no pity for the Jewish victims of history.
The American Army fought for the interests of the Arabs and the Muslims; it objected to the immigration to Palestine as if it represented the British government! From the Army's vantage point Jews do not deserve a state of their own. The Army found ways to justify their actions and beliefs through its practice of Anti-Semitism. Dr.Bendersky contributed to our understanding of these practices and ideologies in chapters 1 through 5 of "The Jewish Threat." It is a powerfully illuminating kind of analysis, an original work of research.
As to the officers' worldview (1900-1939) Bendersky argued that it was based on 'scientific racism', nationalism, anti-foreign and anti-immigrant paranoia -- plain and simple xenophobia. Officers such as General Leonard Wood, Colonel Ralph H. Van Deman, (The "Father of American Military Intelligence), officers of M.I.D. and persons such as Marlborough Churchill believed that the 'alien invasion' would destroy the great American race. Of course the Jews were depicted as the great threat to the America's survival.
The author, also, researched the curriculum of some military schools and came to the conclusion that it included racist teachings. It was clear that the German Race was a good model to follow; American writers such as Madison Grant expressed the same racist ideas. The publishing of the 'protocols of the elders of Zion' was to this elite a great moment of celebration. As early as September 1, 1918, Colonel John M. Dunn of M.I.D. managed to get a copy of the protocols.
What were according to M.I.D. the tools of the Jews in their 'International Jewish Conspiracy'? A) Bolshevism or communism: Jews were the epitome of the 'Red Scare.' Jews through the use of communism destroy the world. Later, even the State of Israel was depicted as a communist, pro-Soviet country. B) Zionism: File 99-75 of M.I.D., Bendersky revealed, reported on Zionist activities and on Palestinian issues (1919). It was not surprising to find that the U.S. military attach� in London reporting home expressed, "...the Bolshevik movement throughout the world is an international conspiracy of Jews. Secret agents were located." M.I.D.'s secret agent "B-1" wrote a report on "The power and the aims of International Jewry." Hence, the Army was involved in the fight for a 'Nordic America'. M.I.D. built a special machinery to spy on Jews or Jewish organizations in America. Of course, all this was done in the name of defending the American civilization that the Jews wanted to destroy.
The prejudice caused the military to deny anti-Semitism in Europe and, always, blamed the Jews for their pogroms and used the Red Scare to smear the Jews. Some even argue that Albert Einstein was not a refugee; he was deported by the Germans because he was a communist. Many officers developed associations with racist civilian organizations. Many supported pro-German movements such as 'America First'. But the most worrisome aspect of all was the fact that these officers, these anti-Semites, had a direct influence on the government's decision making.
The racist soldiers described above, according to Bendersky, influenced the immigration laws between the two worlds and, of course, American foreign policy. They were blind because of their prejudice to the coming of the Nazi war. Their racism was further manifested in their relation to the Army's treatment of the Holocaust. First, the army did not want any attempt to be made in America to rescue the Jews. The intelligence spied on the only group which tried to hide a mass movement for the rescuing of Jews in the 1940's, the 'Bergson Group' and the Irgun delegation in the U.S. Hillel Kook was 'Bergson' commander. The group's premise was to influence the congress and F.D.R. to do something to save millions of Jews from the Nazi gas chambers. The climax of the Group cry-out was in 1943. The truth is that many military leaders such as Rear Admiral Charles S. Butler, Major-General Charles S. Baily, Rear Admiral Thomas T. Craven, General Edward W. Lewis, Admiral Joseph Straus supported the 'Group' which tried also to build a Jewish army to fight Hitler! Also officials such as Navy secretary Frank Knox helped this group. Thus, one cannot assume all Army personnel during this part of history were immune to the difficulties faced by Jews.
Many officers were not anti-Semites. One more important person, Admiral Yates Stipling, Jr. participated, actively, in the group's special emergency conference to save the Jews (July 20-25, 1943). But the Army remained a by standard during the Holocaust era. Bendersky discussed the refusal of the Army to bomb Auschwitz. It is a well-known story; the bad guys were John J. McCloy, the assistant secretary to Henry Stimson, and General Carl Spaatz. Indeed no one really cared about the fate of the Jews. The army's 'Operation Division' supplied excuses and lies in order to avoid a real practical discussion of bombing the gas chambers or as Rabbi Wiesmandel from Slovakia suggested, bomb the railroads to Auschwitz and the tunnels of these routes. It could delay the massacre of Jews!
The apathy of the free world, the apathy of the Jews in the free world was terrible. Dr.Bendersky concluded: "...the Army never attempted to acquire intelligence or make the necessary operational assessments to determine whether such bombing was feasible. The army never pursued any systematic examination of the proposals presented to it. Nor did it ask theater commanders what might be done. Even the pressure from the war refugee board did not mobilize a serious discussion of the bombing proposals." Sadly, the Jewish establishment in 1944 abstained from the urgent need for a Jewish-American militant reaction in order to save the Jews from the gas chambers. And they knew the truth of the massacre of the Hungarian Jewry in 1944, when the war was almost over. By the way, the cruelty of the army manifested itself in its attempts to cover up news about the 'final solution' in its publications! Yank's referred to the 'final solution' only in one sentence: "At the Oswiecm camp, near Erfurt, Germany 3,500,000 Jews were killed!"
Bendersky concluded: "The prejudice exhibited during the war by many officers...likewise strongly suggests that long standing attitudes toward Jews affected wartime decisions." Indeed, the army argued that the most important thing was to win the war, quickly. So why bother with special rescue operations. But when the war ended six million Jews were dead. It should be explained: the Jews then were not considered a unique nation, a 'Hebrew nation'. They did not have representation in the UN, with the Allies, and not even in the U.N.R.R.A. They were considered only as citizens of other countries.
The Jews in Palestine were viewed as a religious minority. The British leaders reinforced this notion. They pressed America (Bendersky could not discuss this issue in this research) to view Jews only as other countries' citizens. Therefore, they pressured the Americans to stop Zionist activities. They knew that rescue would mean, naturally, to open the gates of Palestine. Therefore, they worked against any idea of massive rescue efforts. Of course, their agents in America cooperated with the army. Since anti-Semitism existed in the American Army it was easy for the British agents to influence their American counterparts, as well. Of course, F.D.R. could make a difference, but he was indifferent to the plight of the Jews. After the Holocaust, the survivors were not recognized as members of the Hebrew nation, but as Jewish citizens of Poland or Romania. The outcome was that they were victimized again by the American Army who demonstrated its understanding to the suffering of the German people, but not to the tragedy of the displaced people.
Whenever America tried to help them or improve their life conditions the Army officers said that Jewish conspirators in Washington, D.C. such as Henry Morgenthau, Jr, dictated this new policy. In their distorted mind the Jews controlled F.D.R. and even Truman! It is not a surprise to find that generals such as George Strong, Albert Wedemeyer, Pedro Del Valle and others fought against Zionism and against any American support for Israel. Of course, they used another issue against the Jews: the Arab world and the Muslim world. They became like James Forrestal, Henry Stimson, and General Marshal, advocates for Arab rights in Palestine, as if they cared for the Arabs. Their goal was, consistently, to put the Jew in his place, and by all means.
In conclusion, we should not generalize; there were those officers who were professional and free of prejudice. They were the officers who helped the Jews in Europe and the D.P.'s. But Dr.Bendersky's research, sad to say, exposes the existence of too high a level of anti-Semitism that was present inside the American Army. And it had ramifications as to the policies of America in this era.
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