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Fabricating History

Jeffrey Goldberg   Globe and Mail   06-Feb-1993

Mr. McConnell, along with a Buchenwald survivor and a second member of the 761st, was flown to the camp in 1991 to film what turned out to be one of the most moving and most fraudulent scenes of the documentary.  As the three men tour the site, the narrator speaks of their "return" to the camp.  Mr. McConnell now says: "I first went to Buchenwald in 1991 with PBS, not the 761st."

The Globe and Mail, Saturday, February 6, 1993, D2.

FILM FRAUD

The liberation
that wasn't



A PBS DOCUMENTARY CLAIMS A BLACK U.S. ARMY UNIT
FREED JEWISH INMATES FROM GERMAN CONCENTRATION
CAMPS.  NICE STORY, BUT NOT TRUE, SAY THE SOLDIERS



BY JEFFREY GOLDBERG
THE NEW REPUBLIC
NEW YORK

It was a rare moment: Rev. Jesse Jackson, surrounded by white-haired Holocaust survivors, embracing Leib Glanz, a bearded Hasidic rabbi, on the stage of the Apollo Theater in Harlem.  The occasion was a black-Jewish celebration of the Liberators, the PBS documentary about all-black U.S. Army units that, according to the film, helped capture Buchenwald and Dachau.  The sponsors of the screening, Time Warner and a host of rich and influential New Yorkers, billed the film as an important tool in the rebuilding of a black-Jewish alliance.

But the display of brotherhood turned out to be illusory.  The next night Rabbi Glanz was nearly chased out of synagogue by angry Hasidim for the transgression of consorting with Mr. Jackson.  More significantly, the film's backers and the press failed to point out that the unit featured most prominently in the Liberators had no hand in the capture of either Dachau or Buchenwald in Germany.  "It's a lie.  We were nowhere near these camps when they were liberated," says E. G. McConnell, an original member of the 761st Tank Battalion.  He says he co-operated with the filmmakers until he came to believe they were faking material.

Mr. McConnell, along with a Buchenwald survivor and a second member of the 761st, was flown to the camp in 1991 to film what turned out to be one of the most moving and most fraudulent scenes of the documentary.  As the three men tour the site, the narrator speaks of their "return" to the camp.  Mr. McConnell now says: "I first went to Buchenwald in 1991 with PBS, not the 761st."


'It's totally inaccurate.
The men couldn't have been
where they say they were
because the camp was 60
miles away from where we
were on the day of liberation'


Nina Rosenblum, who co-produced the film with Bill Miles in association with WNET, New York's public television station, admits that the narration of the scene "may be misleading."  But she says Mr. McConnell can't be trusted.  "You can't speak to him because he's snapped.  He was hit on the head with shrapnel and was severely brain-damaged."  Mr. McConnell, a retired mechanic fro Trans World Airlines Inc., laughs when told of the statement.  "If I was so disturbed, why did they use me in the film?" he asks.

His claim is supported by a host of veterans of the 761st, including the battalion's commander, the president of its veterans' association, two sergeants and two company commanders, among them the black commander of C Company.

Two of the company's soldiers assert in the film that they liberated Dachau.  Yet a statement issued by historians at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum states they could find no evidence that the 761st Battalion helped free either camp.

"It's totally inaccurate," says Charles Gates, the former captain who commanded C Company.  "The men couldn't have been where they say they were because the camp was 60 miles away from where we were on the day of liberation."

Paul Bates, the colonel who commanded the battalion, confirmed Mr. Gates's account.  "In our after-action reports, there is no indication that we were near either one of the camps," Mr. Bates says.  According to him, tanks of the 761st were assigned to the 71st Infantry Division, whose fighting path across Germany was 100 to 160 kilometres away from the two camps.  "The 71st does not claim to have liberated those camps," he says.

Several Holocaust survivors are quoted in the film and in the companion book published by Harcourt Brace Jovanovich as saying they were liberated by blacks of these units.  But Christopher Ruddy, a New York writer who has conducted extensive research on the film, says two of the survivors featured in the Liberators told him they were no longer sure when they first saw black soldiers.

One of the survivors who appeared with Mr. Jackson at the Apollo confirmed that he too was unsure of what had happened at Buchenwald.  "It's hard to say.  I know there were black soldiers in the camp, but I don't know when exactly," says the survivor.

Ms. Rosenblum angrily denounces the film's critics as Holocaust revisionists and racists.  "These people are of the same mentality that says the Holocaust didn't happen," she says.  In the course of a telephone interview, she declares: "There's tremendous racism in the Jewish community.  How people who have been through the Holocaust can be racist is completely incomprehensible.  To think that black people are less, which is what most Jewish people think, I can't understand it."

She adds that racism of the type exhibited by the film's critics is what kept all-black combat units from receiving proper recognition in the first place.  "The 761st fought for 33 years to get the Presidential Unit Citation.  People don't want the truth of our history to come out," she says.  WNET says it stands by the film's veracity.

The Liberators' focus on events that appear never to have occurred seems all the more perplexing considering the true achievements of the 761st.  Among other accomplishments, it played an important role in the liberation of Gunskirchen, a satellite of the Mauthausen concentration camp in Austria, and its performance at the Battle of the Bulge was exemplary.

The documentary approaches accuracy, the veterans say, when it focuses on the unit's heroic battles both against Germans and discrimination in its own Army.  But the unit citation eventually awarded to the veterans by president Jimmy Carter does not list the liberation of either Buchenwald or Dachau as an achievement of the unit.

"It's no great accomplishment to liberate a concentration camp, not compared to fighting the German army," says Philip Latimer, president of the 761st veterans' organization.  "What we're concerned about is our combat performance.  The unit has a lot to be proud of ... and I don't want to see it blamed for this documentary.  I don't want the unit to be hurt."

Questions have also been raised about the 183rd Combat Engineer Battalion, which the filmmakers say played a role in the liberation of Buchenwald.  The unit's commander at the time, Lawrence Fuller, a former deputy director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, says the 183rd only visited Buchenwald after its liberation, when General George Patton ordered units in the sector to see proof of German atrocities.  Mr. Fuller says the documentary's producers never contacted him to discuss the unit's history.

Leon Bass, a retired school principal who served in the 183rd, calls himself a liberator in the film and in the frequent lectures he gives on the Holocaust.  But Mr. Bass says he does not remember exactly when he entered the camp.  "I don't know whether we were first or second ... We didn't go in with guns blazing," he recalls.  "There was just a handful of us.  I was only there for two or three hours.  The rest of the company came later."

The Liberators, fuelled by the public-relations success at the Apollo, is gaining momentum.  The Rainbow Coalition is sponsoring a similar gala in Los Angeles in March.  Ms. Rosenblum tells of a packed calendar of showings with co-sponsors ranging from the Simon Wiesenthal Center to the American Jewish Committee.

Copies of the documentary will be distributed to all New York City junior and senior high schools, according to board spokeswoman Linda Scott.  The cost of the schools project, Mr. Rosenblum says, is being picked up by Elizabeth Rohatyn, the wife of investment banker Felix Rohatyn, who co-sponsored the Apollo showing, although Ms. Scott says that several philanthropists are vying for the honour of buying the tapes for the schools.

According to a memorandum on the documentary circulating at school-board headquarters, the film will be used to "examine the effects of racism on African-American soldiers and on Jews who were in concentration camps ... to explain the role of African-American soldiers in liberating Jews from Nazi concentration camps and to reveal the involvement of Jews as 'soldiers' in the civil-rights movement."

The documentary continues to be supported by a number of influential Jews.  PR guru Howard Rubenstein, who is a vice-president of New York's Jewish Community Relations Council (and who also flacks for radio station WLIB, known for the anti-Semitic invective it regularly airs), worked pro bono on the Apollo event and continues to plug the documentary, despite having heard that it is misleading.

"I have no reason to distrust Nina [Rosenblum]," he says.  "She seemed very able and honest.  I hope and pray it's accurate."

Peggy Tishman, a former president of the JCRC and a co-host of the evening at the Apollo, is sticking by the documentary too.  Ms. Tishman says the documentary is "good for the Holocaust."

"Why would anybody want to exploit the idea that this is a fraud?" she says.  "What we're trying to do is make New York a better place for you and me to live."

She claims that the accuracy of the film is not the issue.  What is important is the way it can bring Jews and blacks into "dialogue."  There are a lot of truths that are very necessary," she says.  "This is not a truth that's necessary."

Jeffrey Goldberg is New York bureau chief for The Forward.

The above Jeffrey Goldberg article was accompanied by two photographs, the captions of which were:

U.S. soldiers, both high-ranking officers and enlisted men, view a scene of horror at a death camp.  Concentration-camp prisoners were murdered as a last act by departing German guards.

A black U.S. soldier guards German prisoners in France during the last weeks of the war.





Comments on the above
Jeffrey Goldberg article

Where's the Harm?

The Liberators incident is relevant to several of the topics discussed in the Ukrainian Archive.  The Liberators has been somewhat arbitrarily placed with 60 Minutes documents because it demonstrates the power of the media to fabricate history.  In the case of the 23 Oct 1994 60 Minutes broadcast The Ugly Face of Freedom, the disinformation served to calumniate Ukrainians; in the case of the PBS documentary, the Liberators, the disinformation appears to be oriented toward improving relations between Jews and blacks.  Thus, whereas the 60 Minutes disinformation will readily be viewed as destructive by all who learn of it, the Liberators disinformation may be viewed by some as innocuous or even benevolent.

However, there are reasons for not viewing the Liberators disinformation leniently or indulgently:

(1) Black grievances against Jews may be founded on genuine exploitation of Blacks by Jews, and the Liberators may be an attempt to quiet opposition to that exploitation and so allow it to continue.

(2) Setting the precedent of conniving at disinformation such as that offered in the Liberators offers disseminators of disinformation the prospect of impunity for manipulating public opinion to their own ends, and these ends vary on the benevolence-malevolence continuum.  Whereas inducing people who had never been at Buchenwald to simulate returning to Buchenwald for PBS cameras may seem harmless, the buildup of tolerance for such chicanery makes it easier to similarly induce people to falsely testify in war crimes proceedings concerning Holocaust events, with the result that the lives of innocent accused are disrupted, shattered, and even lost.

"Capturing" and "Liberating"?

Referring to Allied forces "capturing" or "liberating" the camps is inflating what really happened which is that Allied soldiers peacefully walked into camps that German forces had abandoned days previously.  In the words of Philip Latimer, president of the 761st veterans' organization, "It's no great accomplishment to liberate a concentration camp."  In other words, the Liberators film leaves the impression of Jews attempting to get black fighting units to falsely take credit for non-accomplishments.

Unreliability of Eye-Witness Testimony

We have already had occasion to notice on the Ukrainian Archive the unreliability of eye-witness testimony, as in the cases of falsely accused Frank Walus and John Demjanjuk.  The Liberators film reminds us once again how easy it is to get some old men to say whatever you want them to.  Thus, we find that "two of the company's soldiers assert in the film that they liberated Dachau," when we know that this could not have been the case, and we find that "several Holocaust survivors are quoted in the film and in the companion book published by Harcourt Brace Jovanovich as saying they were liberated by blacks of these units," again when this is an impossibility.  Of course upon less biased questioning, some of these old men will recant: "But Christopher Ruddy, a New York writer who has conducted extensive research on the film, says two of the survivors featured in the Liberators told him they were no longer sure when they first saw black soldiers."

Responsible Jews and Non-Jews Oppose Irresponsible Jews

It cannot escape our attention that foremost among those challenging the disinformation in the Liberators are the apparently-Jewish writer Jeffrey Goldberg, and possibly-Jewish historians at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.  This reinforces a point introduced earlier in the Ukrainian Archive during the discussion of Warsaw's 1905 Alphonsenpogrom, to the effect that what may be taken at first glance to be an expression of antagonism toward Jews may in reality be an expression of opposition by responsible Jews and non-Jews alike against irresponsible elements among Jews, and that it is the responsible Jews themselves who may be in the vanguard of the attack against irresponsible Jews.

We have seen this to be the case repeatedly, not only during Warsaw's Alphonsenpogrom, but in many prominent incidents for example, Israeli defense attorney Yoram Sheftel must be given a large share of the credit for exposing the duplicity and incompetence of the Israeli justice system, and thereby saving the life of John Demjanjuk, a case in which other Jews such as Phoenix attorney William J. Wolf also played leading and heroic roles.  The prominent role played by responsible Jews in opposing irresponsible Jews should not be surprising the irresponsible Jews injure all Jews because their irresponsibility attaches in popular thinking to Jews generally, and thus serves to smear the good name of all Jews.

Important to note in the Liberators case, then, is that the friction does not divide cleanly along ethnic lines.  The Liberators, and the many other cases before us, do not illustrate Jews clashing with anti-Semites rather, they illustrate the irresponsible clashing with the responsible, the disseminators of disinformation clashing with the upholders of truth.

Zero Repercussions

And so for having told the lies that are told on the Liberators, have any of the makers of that film suffered any repercussions?  Have any of them been fired?  Been demoted?  Been censured?  Have any of them suffered a loss of face?  Do any of them find that their later work is rejected because of their earlier loss of credibility?  The answer to all these questions in all probability is No!

In American and Canadian society, there is one category of behavior that is uniquely protected from the repercussions of falsehood and that is the category of Jews recounting stories of the Jewish Holocaust.  Charges of falsehood may indeed be levelled, but these are not picked up by the media, and so make no impact.  We have already examined many such cases on the Ukrainian Archive the cases of Morley Safer, Neal Sher, Elie Wiesel, and Simon Wiesenthal standing out egregious, bald-faced liars all of them, but never called to task for their lies, honored and even revered despite their lies.

Psychiatric Diagnosis of the Film's Critics

Co-producer of the film, Nina Rosenblum, accuses critics of the film of being "Holocaust revisionists" and "racists."  But why stop there why not follow up the two left jabs with the right-hand haymaker, "anti-Semites"?  The answer perhaps is that it may appear more credible to smear all critics of the film with the same brush, and the accusation of anti-Semitism does not stick to those critics who happen to be Jewish.  The deployment of terms suggestive of psychological disorder, such as "revisionist," "racist," or "anti-Semite" exemplifies the stock Jewish ploy of attempting to silence opposition by dispensing psychiatric diagnoses.

Creating Collaborators in Disinformation

Jews who lie not only discredit Jews generally, but also discredit any whom they lure into sharing their lies.  Thus, had the 761st Tank Battalion been seduced into accepting whatever momentary glory attaches to wrongly claiming to have liberated Buchenwald, then the 761st would have ultimately suffered a loss of credibility.  The 761st does have genuine achievements, and foresaw only discredit in fabricating any.  In the words of Philip Latimer, president of the 761st veterans' organization, "The unit has a lot to be proud of ... and I don't want to see it blamed for this documentary.  I don't want the unit to be hurt."

Attempts have been made to seduce Ukrainians, and others, into a similar complicity in Jewish disinformation, and in the case of Ukrainians, these attempts have been largely successful.  The Ukrainians' reward has been to receive a Righteous Gentile Award for their efforts in saving Jews during the Second World War.  In accepting such an award, however, such Ukrainians implicitly acquiesce and lend support to a Jewish history of the war, which is crammed with disinformation, much of it harmful to Ukrainian interests.  Among the items of disinformation in this false history is that Ukrainians were eager collaborators of the Nazis (when in reality Ukrainians overwhelmingly served as opponents), that Ukrainian efforts to save Jews were rare (when in reality large numbers of Ukrainians took grave risks and even gave their lives to save Jews), that any anti-Jewish feeling on the part of Ukrainians that did exist was gratuitous and pathological (when in reality it was founded on a memory of the recent Jewish domination of the destruction of Ukraine under Communism).

Thus, any Ukrainians who were offered a Righteous Gentile Award should have declined it for the same reason that the 761st declined to be honored in the Liberators.  Any Ukrainians who have accepted such an award should renounce it.

Ukrainians Should Consider Withdrawing Their Support From the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS)

The PBS is portrayed by Goldberg as supportive of the Liberators even after the film had been discredited.  Ukrainians may recall, furthermore, that the PBS broadcast a severely flawed anti-Demjanjuk documentary despite prior notice on the part of Ukrainian representatives specifying the nature of these flaws.  Observations such as these invite the conclusion that the PBS acts in sympathy with Jewish disinformation, and in opposition to Ukrainian interests.  For this reason, Ukrainians should consider withdrawing their support from the PBS.

Ukrainians Should Consider Cancelling Their Subscriptions to TIME magazine

The Apollo Theater showing of the Liberators was sponsored by "Time Warner and a host of rich and influential New Yorkers."  Readers of the Ukrainian Archive will be reminded that TIME magazine was responsible for the calumniation of Ukraine in the Wallowing Photograph incident.  From these two indications, we may wonder whether Time Warner, and TIME magazine, are not sympathetic toward Holocaust disinformation and hostile toward Ukrainian interests.  After having been a more than three-decades-long reader of TIME, I recently cancelled my subscription.

Proven Fraud Does Little to Weaken Propaganda Value

As the Liberators film has been discredited, it appears to stand little chance of being accepted as history.  However, this does not make the film a failure.  The film continues to be valuable as a tool for shaping public opinion, particularly for molding the minds of the young.  At the time of the writing of the Goldberg article above, the film was about to be distributed to "all New York City junior and senior high schools."  We may expect, then, that hundreds of thousands of impressionable students will view the Liberators and will believe it, and that the refutations of Jeffrey Goldberg, and the soldiers of the 761st Tank Battalion, and others will reach the ears of only a few.  The film may never succeed as history, but it has a good chance of succeeding as popular history, and it is popular history that influences elections and that directs the allocation of government resources.

Choosing Between Useful Lies and Harmful Truths

One of the weapons within the armamentarium of the totalitarian controller of information that a useful lie is better than a harmful truth is explicitly wielded by at least one supporter of the Liberators film:

She [Peggy Tishman] claims that the accuracy of the film is not the issue.  What is important is the way it can bring Jews and blacks into "dialogue."  There are a lot of truths that are very necessary," she says.  "This [that the 761st did not liberate Buchenwald or Dachau] is not a truth that's necessary."

However, wielding the weapon of the useful lie will succeed only in a context in which the flow of contrary information can be choked off.  In a society that permits the free flow of information, there is no useful lie, because all lies stand in danger of being exposed and thus discrediting the liar and his cause.  Thus, we may expect that an ancillary goal of the distributors of disinformation will be to strangle the free flow of information and more specifically, we might expect that those backing efforts such as the Liberators film will simultaneously back efforts to suppress web sites such as the Ukrainian Archive.  In a totalitarian society, the Liberators film constitutes a useful day's work for the manipulators of mass opinion; in a free society, the Liberators film constitutes a self-defeating miscalculation.

Furthermore, such an open avowal of the utility of lying as Peggy Tishman's above brings to mind the question raised during the discussion of journalistic fraud Stephen Glass of whether there may exist subcultures which by means of their tolerance of, or support for, lying produce a disproportionate number of great liars.

Consorting with Hasidim

In Goldberg's Liberators story above, Hasidic rabbi Leib Glanz embraces Rev. Jesse Jackson on the stage of the Apollo Theater.  However, "the next night Rabbi Glanz was nearly chased out of synagogue by angry Hasidim for the transgression of consorting with Mr. Jackson."  This brief description is puzzling, and from it alone we would be unable to arrive at any strong conclusion, were it not for our having read some of the characteristics of Hasidism in the writings of Israel Shahak.

With Shahak's description in mind, we are tempted to interpret Rabbi Glanz being nearly chased out of synagogue by angry Hasidim as a further demonstration that Hasidic Jews generally are hostile to the idea of any rapprochement with any non-Jews.  That is, Israel Shahak depicts Hasidic Jews as constituting a debasement of Jewish mysticism, of being superstitious, fanatical, mysogynistic, given to overindulgence in alcohol, and most importantly, of being committed to the hatred of all non-Jews.  I do not venture such a description on my own initiative, as I have no personal knowledge of Hasidism but I do pass the description along as the opinion of a reputable authority, Israel Shahak.

The incident of Rabbi Glanz being almost chased out of synagogue can only remind us of the possibility that it may be one of Ukraine's many misfortunes that the branch of Judaism which appears to have taken deepest root in Ukraine is Hasidism.  We see this in Hasidic Rabbi Yaakov Dov Bleich's prominence, as witnessed in his frequent appearance on the pages of the Ukrainian Weekly, and we see it as well in the central role he played in undermining Ukraine, as it happens during the 23 October 1994 60 Minutes broadcast, The Ugly Face of Freedom.

The Second-Greatest Calamity

And so, the second-greatest calamity to befall the Jewish people during this century which, after the Holocaust itself, is Jewish misrepresentation of the Holocaust deepens and broadens as a result of the Liberators film.  Another blow is struck at Jewish credibility.  Another burden is placed on the backs of Jews the burden of being remembered for their leading role during the 20th century as stranglers of information, manipulators of truth, disseminators of disinformation, and corruptors of history.  The consequence of numbers of Jews lying about the history of their people must be that whenever any Jew discourses upon history, he may expect to be greeted with heightened skepticism such is the penalty that all Jews must pay for the sin of harboring fabulists in their midst.


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