Letter to the Editor 2-16-05- The Lynne Stewart Conviction

February 16, 2005 – Letter to the Editor

 

Dear Ms. Cohen,

 

I am a long-time Democrat, and was a member of NDC in the 1970's and have been supporting progressive causes and candidates for a long time. My credentials with regards to politics and opposition to George W. Bush and his ilk are second to none. I worked hard for John Kerry and was out at the opening of the Clinton Library in Little Rock with other loyal and progressive Democrats. But enough of my bona fides, your statement in support of Lynne Stewart will only help marginalize Democrats and progressive supporters. The relationship to that poem by Niebuhr and the courthouse are irrelevant. Whether you supported the sharing of nuclear secrets with Stalin, or opposed the death penalty on principle, the Rosenbergs were guilty. They, and their friends, did a lot of damage to America and the American people. Yes we fought the war, as Allies and won it, thankfully for the whole world's sake, with the immeasurable help of the Soviets. But that in itself did not justify Stalin's actions, before and after the war. Churchill said, “That he would make a pact with the devil to defeat Hitler!” We gave the Soviets the ordinance to help win the war and they gave us blood and time. But in retrospect, the Soviet subjugation of Eastern Europe and the Cold War, which resulted in Korea, Vietnam, and a host of other brushfire wars did not advance the cause of freedom or de-colonialization. It cost the word untold lives and treasure.

 

I am quite happy that Lynne Stewart received a fair trial and received the justice she deserved. When you “lie down with dogs, you come up with fleas!” I have known and observed Ramsey Clark through politics for decades, and I am sorry that I ever considered supporting him. He supports anti-Semitic causes and an America hater and basher. Truman even said that his worst decision was to place his father on the Supreme Court. The “apple doesn't fall far from the tree.” Ramsey Clark has been on the wrong side of almost every issue forever. He is part of the reason that the Democrats have lost their majorities over the years. Obviously we can't blame Clark alone, but his views are abhorrent to most mainstream Democrats.

 

I am not a believer that we deserve George W. Bush because we are not “pure” enough. The average American has to be shown that a political party has an interest in its behalf. The Democrats can't expect automatic support because they think they are better than the GOP. If the Democrats or its “progressive” allies continue to think that they can support far-out policies and extremist individuals that threaten our very existence, then they will continue to lose and open the door to the reactionary right. I have seen the results of these foolish actions with my many friends and associates who have been drifting away from the Democratic Party for many years.

 

Lynne Stewart may hate our actions in Iraq and Afghanistan, as do many millions, but her actions to befriend and aid and comfort the enemy are horrible. She deserves her fate and your metaphor about “coming after the lawyers” is insincere and misplaced.

 

Richard J. Garfunkel

Letter to Rabbi Boettiger 2-11-05

 

 Letter to Rabbi Joshua Boettiger

Grreat Grandson of FDR

 

February 11, 2005

 

Dear Rabbi Boettiger,

 

I hope this letter finds you quite well. I recently read about you in the recent issue of the Jewish Week. Of course after reading your name and story in the newspaper, my wife suggested that I send you a copy of a speech that I had recently delivered on FDR and the Jewish Community. I have included a copy for your review.

 

I have been a collector of Roosevelt memorabilia for decades and have been lecturing on the Roosevelt’s and their era for a number of years. My wife and I belonged to Bet Am Shalom, a Reconstructionist Synagogue for 25 years when we lived in White Plains. Over the years I have studied the complex issue of FDR and the American Jewish community and I am convinced that FDR was a great and sincere friend of the Jewish people. I am presently a member of the Roosevelt Institute, and was the promulgator of the renewed FDR Birthday Ball that celebrated his birthday with the March of Dimes after an interregnum of 58 years.

 

My wife Linda and I would love to meet you and have you to our home. I have a very large FDR collection, and you may enjoy seeing how it is displayed. We live in Tarrytown, NY, and I can be reached at 914-524-8381 or by e-mail at rjg727@optonline.net.  

 

I look forward to hearing from you.

 

Regards,

 

 

Richard J. Garfunkel

 


Meeting Rabbi Boettiger at Friday Night Services
February 18, 2005
 
 
A funny thing happened on the way to the game. After seeing and visiting my mother and father, regarding her very recent 97th B-Day,(my father's pushing 101) we stopped off to scout restaurants in the Village of Hastings and Dobbs Ferry for our post mixed doubles tennis meal, that is scheduled for tonight. Well we found a small Chinese one that specialized in Pacific Rim cuisine and happily had a very decent and reasonable meal. We were also in Hastings to see if a small Reconstructionist Jewish Congregation (Havurah) was meeting in one Saint Matthews Church on Farragut Parkway. The essence of this odyssey was to meet the Rabbi, whom we had read about in the “Jewish Week.” His name is Joshua Boettiger, a great grandson of the late President Franklin D. Roosevelt. I had noticed, in the article about him, that he wished to learn more about FDR's involvement with the Jews during WWII. I had sent him my recent lecture on FDR and the Jewish Community, that can be found in http://www.richardjgarfunkel.com. Well we contributed our presence to the establishment of the minion, met the Rabbi, he's a handsome, tall young fellow of 32, and sat through and participated with the service.
It was quite a memorable meeting. He's anxious to see my FDR collection, one of the best private one's around, if I may say, and I did! He another one in a long line of Roosevelt's that I have met over the years. Unfortunately I didn't get to the game, but I intend to get to the finals.
Happy President's Day
Richard

 

Johnny Carson and the Transition Away from the Age of Innocence

Johnny Carson and the Transition Away from the Age of Innocence

By

Richard J. Garfunkel

January 22, 2005

 

 

This past weekend we were all a bit shocked over the passing of the great cultural icon of late night television, Johnny Carson. Carson, who had a legendary run, which may never be equaled, and was the model of consistency over that thirty-year period, died quietly, and without fanfare at his home in California.

 

Johnny Carson, who came into our lives with much anticipation in 1962, was the successful occupant of the seat basically created by the marvelous Steve Allen, of Hi-Ho Steverino fame. Even though I was 17 years old at the time, I was a veteran watcher of late night television. My parents had given me a large old television when I was about 12 and I was able to use that piece of furniture, not only a catchall for all sorts of clothes and other things, but as my own connection to late night baseball games from Kansas City and then from California. During those young teenage years I got to watch the great and still unequalled Jack Paar, our neighbor from nearby Bronxville, hold court nightly with his collection of disparate night owls and wits. I was too young and had seen very little of Steve Allen on the Tonight Show, which ran from September 1954 to January 1957. Allen a fabulous talent was the son of Irish vaudevillian comics and alcoholics Billy Allen (who died when he was two) and the very talented Belle Montrose, who toured all over America. In fact as a baby he was frequently watched over by teenager Milton Berle, in between his performances, and while Steve’s mother Belle was taking either her turn on stage or was out getting a “taste.” Allen, who had the most successful radio show in the history of Los Angeles, had developed his style with his packed live audience, when the singer Doris Day failed to appear on his show. He was forced to go into the audience and filled the missing 25-minute time slot with interaction with his fans. When Allen made his transition to prime time television in June of 1956, (for a time he was on late night and primetime simultaneously) he literally brought his whole Tonight Show team and format with him. Many of the same people like Skitch Henderson, his music director, and Gene Raymond, were then accompanied by his great ensemble group that included Louis Nye, Tom Poston, Don Knotts, Gabe Dell, Pat Harrington, Bill Dana and his wife Jayne Meadows. So anyone who had been too young, like myself, to see Steve Allen at midnight could experience the same effect and humor on Sunday evening, head to head against the established war-horse of that era, Ed Sullivan. Eventually in 1959 his program moved to Monday evening.

 

Jack Paar, who was recruited from CBS, where he had hosted several game and talk shows, took over the Tonight Show six months after Allen left. The successor show to Steve Allen’s effort was, Tonight! America After Dark, with hosts first Jack Lescoulie and then Al “Jazzbo” Collins, was a failure. Paar, who was best at interviewing, succeeded Allen, who had depended on frenetic pace and sketch comedy. Jack Paar was incisive, witty and highly emotional. Paar was a sensation, and until his last show and his transition to primetime, he was unequalled as a television personality. He was called the most imitated man in television history. Ironically, as great as both Steve Allen and Jack Paar were, along with their excellent primetime shows, they never broke the “top twenty” in popularity for any year.

 

When Jack Paar left the Tonight Show in March of 1962, the young Johnny Carson was anointed his successor. Because he was still under contract to ABC for another six months, the show was hosted by various people, that included Art Linkletter, Joey Bishop, Bob Cummings, Merv Griffin, Jack Carter, Jan Murray, Soupy Sales, Mort Sahl, Steve Lawrence, Jerry Lewis, Jimmy Dean, Arlene Francis, Donald O’Connor, Hal March and even Groucho Marks. The format basically stayed the same, and the anticipation was quite great. Unlike the emotional Paar, who was likely to blow up, Carson was unflappable. Carson biggest asset, besides his obvious durability, was his knack for salvaging disasters with a shrug, or a sigh, or a double take, that he had seemed to borrow from the great Jack Benny, who he admired. His body language became as much a part of his act as the lines he delivered. Unlike Paar, Carson tended to avoid anything controversial and was usually satisfied to keep his audience happy and amused.

 

I was an avid fan of Carson, and every one older than thirty-five is familiar with his routines. He had borrowed some of those concepts from Steve Allen, but unlike Allen he had no regulars or ensemble to work with. In the same way that Paar opened his show with a monologue and interviewed people at his desk, Carson also followed that format. Of course Carson was much more physical and versatile as a comedian than Paar, and people looked forward to his sight gags. Throughout that first decade in New York, I got to watch Carson almost every weeknight through the end of high school, most of college and in the early years of my marriage. Carson owned the late night and aside from a movie now and then, most people watch him and not his short-lived rivals on the other stations. To me he was irreverent, edgy, fresh, youthful and highly entertaining. His run began as the cultural era of the 1950’s started to wane. In a sense this era of innocence had transited from the fatherly feel-good years of Eisenhower to the Camelot Years of John F. Kennedy. Of course with Kennedy’s death in November of 1963, and the ensuing years of social upheaval regarding Civil Rights and Vietnam, the era of the 1960’s emerged.

 

Johnny Carson was able to keep himself and his show above most of the tumult and controversy raging around our own little world. Carson was able to attract many of the big stars of the previous decades that were still around and willing to be on television, and he also discovered and promoted many new and talented personalities. But from my perspective he was still the young boy from Nebraska, who loved and worshipped the great names and personalities of show business. He was at his best with Hope, Benny, Astaire, Groucho, Jimmy Stewart and many others of their like. He could lean back in his chair and laugh with the rest of us. He never put himself in competition with a great act or a legendary personality. That is where his was at his wisest and best.

 

I always believed that Carson, who rarely ventured outside his late night venue, except for his terrific job hosting the Academy Awards and his occasional nightclub act in Las Vegas, was most comfortable behind his late night desk. For my money his consistency, which was his great strength, started to wear on me. After watching Carson for ten years, and then having to worry about two young children, born in 1973, and 1976, along with the responsibility of getting up very early and commuting into New York, my interest in late night television started to wane a bit. I started to find Carson repetitive and not as interesting. As the years went on, and he worked less, and less, it was tough to find out whether he was on, or it was a guest host, or a re-run of The Best of Carson. I still tuned in, but the lines were getting stale, the routines predictable, and the guests were getting younger and younger. The stars that I loved to see, in the same way Johnny liked to interview, were disappearing from the scene. I could not relate to the common culture and I could care less what many of these vacuous airheads were saying. One experience really turned me off. Carson’s production people would play re-runs of older programs that usually were quite topical to the season or what great star was scheduled to be next on. In other words, they scheduled old Christmas shows during the holidays. Often it wasn’t easy to tell what was current and what was the recent past. Every year Jack Benny made an appearance around Passover and quite often he told an old joke about the holiday and Carson responded in his typical non-offensive but edgy way. This particular year, a re-run of a seasonal Jack Benny appearance was shown and within a few days Jack Benny was on live. Well Benny told the exact same joke, not realizing that he was repeating what had just been on a few nights earlier, and Carson said the same adlib retort, as though his writers had looked up the older script to replicate the earlier success. Well after that I, to a degree, soon tired of Carson. I had a feeling that I had been listening to every thing again and again. I am often reminded of the eclectic movie Ground Hog Day when it came to the repetitive nature of the Tonight Show. To me this was proof- positive that Carson had run out of ideas, routines and guests. Of course every once in a while I would turn him on to catch his opening monologue, especially if there was an important event in the news that was happening at the same time. He still was funny, he still was unflappable and every so often he had some one on whom was worth seeing. But I felt that Carson hung on too long. This show became his life and he was not willing to let it go. He was clinging on to his youth while it passed by.

 

In the end he was caught betwixt and between. On one hand he knew that he was getting to be “old hat” and on the other hand he wanted to work and stay in front of the public. It was an incredible run and I am sure that young audiences appreciated his great talent and consistency. But to me he was bored with his guests and his old routines, and I was certainly bored with them also. In listening to the retrospectives of the last few nights I have come away with certain perspectives. One of those was that he was a consummate professional who really honed his craft and lived the part. The other was that he was basically a lonely man, who like many stars before him lived for the moment on stage. He was uncomfortable with fame, and adulation, and attempted to guard his privacy with intensity. He was able to laugh off his marital troubles on the air, and therefore put them to rest. No one ever knew about his children, his family, his upbringing, his education, his political views, his interests, his social commentary, if he had any. Johnny Carson came into the public eye with those fresh good looks of the mid-western boy next door. He was a veteran of the 2nd World War but talked little of his experiences on board the famous battleship Pennsylvania, a veteran of the attack at Pearl Harbor and a participant of many Pacific campaigns. Unlike Paar who constantly revealed himself, Carson was constantly striving to stay fresh and topical to the times, and avoided dwelling in the past. I saw Carson as an unemotional professional who rarely allowed his deeply hidden emotions, if he had any, to come to the forefront. Johnny Carson, though a sophisticated personage, became symbolic of the paradoxical1950’s through a perceived combination of mid-western innocence and an edgy tiptoeing around taboo subjects. He became the master of subtle double-entendres and raised the “wink” and “eye-rolling” to an art form. In that sense, he was favorably compared to the Jack Benny, one of his idols, who was the master of the double and triple take.

 

His passing was a surprise, to many of us, because he never really seemed to really age or get old. Coincidently he died at almost the same age that Steve Allen did in 2000 (age 78) and also died within a year of his famous predecessor Jack Paar, who died on January 27, 2004. He embodied that youthful trim American look that most of us admire. He was glib, optimistic and never seemed to be troubled. He dressed sporty and well, and to see him without a tie was a special event. He never abused his colleagues and employees, but they all knew who was boss. He had an ongoing charm that enabled him to relate to the famous and the average common man or woman. He reacted in they way most of us would react. I am sure that every one agrees that his unprecedented run of thirty years will never be equaled or even challenged.

 

 

 

 

Town Board Classics- January 27, 2005

Town Board Classics

By

Richard J. Garfunkel

January 27, 2005

 

 

Last night the Greenburgh Town Board had its second and last meeting of the opening month of the New Year. Of course along with the usual cast of characters that religiously attend these happenings, the Board was jammed with interested citizens who were there to support the effort by the Union Baptist Church to expand its facilities.

 

Supervisor Paul Feiner, who has spearheaded the effort to assist Union Baptist’s effort to grow, was as usual temporarily stymied by the obstructionism of one of the Board members. Mr. Steven Bass, who owes his unopposed election victory in November 2003 to the strength and original support of Supervisor Feiner, never misses an opportunity to bite his hand. Mr. Bass who has made a callow career out of being a divisive obstructionist on the Board, attempted to block Supervisor Feiner’s latest effort to move along the process that brought out the throng of Union Baptist adherents. Mr. Bass has blocked many of Mr. Feiner’s initiatives with his narrow partisan nit-picking and faux concerns. As an example, he had blocked Mr. Feiner’s effort to have Greenburgh purchase renewable wind energy, by claiming that this was illegal under state law, in spite of the fact that thirty communities have already done these very same actions. Of course the Greenburgh Town Board had to vote on a resolution, regarding this effort, to be submitted to the New York State Legislature. Along with that unnecessary bureaucratic effort, Mr. Bass spearheaded a duplicative “feel-good” resolution regarding “Children’s Internet Safety.” After an alarmist demonstration from one of our resident legal beagle cabalists, who displayed the names and addresses of the “so-called” threatened “Snow Angels,” on his laptop to the world, we were entertained by the notion that Supervisor Feiner was out to expose the whole population of “Snow Angel” shovelers of Woodlands High School to Internet “predators.” This, of course, was a new low when it comes to the Cabal’s effort at subverting his authority and giving us a divided Town Board and a legislative dictatorship led by Board Member Bass.

 

Supervisor Feiner, of course would have no patience with this latest effort at “divide, delay and conquer” tactics and forced Mr. Bass and his colleagues to not only read the “report”  (negative declaration) during a recess, but to vote on it immediately. The recess was called, the “report” was read, the meeting was again called to order, and the resolution supporting the Union Baptist Church’s effort was passed.

 

After that effort consumed an extra hour of the public’s precious time, the Board went on to its now-legendary “Public Comment” portion of the meeting. This big issue these days regards the effort by the Library Board to spend $20 million on a library expansion. There is no doubt in anybody’s mind that the expansion and renovation of the library is long over due. Many months ago, Supervisor Feiner submitted an innovative proposal to spend $10 million on its expansion and renovation, along with inviting competing bids to buy the old Town Board property, remove, the old Town Hall, and to have that potential purchaser landscape the surrounding property and provide added parking spaces for the library. Eventually, it seemed then, that the Sunrise Corporation, a respected builder and operator of Assisted Living facilities would be the eventual partner regarding this effort. Of course the Sunrise would buy the land for possibly $3 million, help with the landscaping and re-shaping of the property and eventually start to pay taxes to the Town of $200,000 or so each and every year. From the perspective of many, this sounded like an excellent use of the land, and a satisfactory solution to the library’s problems. But as we all know now, the Library Board was not really satisfied with that sensible compromise and instead of half a loaf being able to satisfy their appetite, they turned to Board Member Bass, who wrung his hands, worried about the “fast-tracking” of a sensible solution and sandbagged the whole idea by convincing some of his colleagues that this was not enough. So here we are many months later with a $20 million proposal on our hands.

 

Of course, Supervisor Feiner, with the public’s purse strings in mind, and our excellent credit rating hanging in the lurch, requested a November referendum, with full Town participation to support this effort. This sensible and prudent action was again twisted around to suit the heightened anxiety of the Library Board. Instead of having a full hearing aired to the public regarding this $20 million effort, the Library Board insisted on a $30,000 referendum in March with a tiny fraction of the public voting on a resolution they would know virtually nothing about. With Board Member Bass leading the charge, even the need for required environmental and traffic studies were forgotten or ignored. It took the Supervisor to remind all that these necessities were being ignored. In spite of all of the posturing, the Library Board has not fully articulated its plans and generally the public is totally “in the dark” when it comes to their desires. In fact any effort to have the Library Board discuss its plans has led to more confusion and questions from the public. When the Supervisor attempted to outreach to the community, he was criticized for not supporting the library renovation and expansion. What else is new?

 

Last night, new voices raised concerns over this effort to push through a vote that would effectively disenfranchise thousands of voters. By having a limited amount of polling places and a tiny amount of information available the voters and the taxpayers will not be informed enough on this issue. The essence of this cynical effort by Board Member Bass and the Library Board is to have a tiny group of activists push through this referendum without anybody looking. Even when Supervisor Feiner suggested the idea of Town oversight on this potential project he was rebuffed.

 

Of course only pressure from the Greenburgh community at large can force an “open” discussion of the real and realistic needs of the library.

 

PS: An afterthought. Last night, in the bone chilling cold, there was a sparsely attended meeting regarding the library expansion at the Virginia Street School. Town officials and members of the Library Board dominated this audience, with some interested citizens who were given a talk regarding the proposed library expansion. We were shown more detailed schematic drawings and heard from the both Library Board Chairperson Howard Jacobs and the representative of the company in charge of designing the “new” library. Of course, the rationale is that any delay from a spring-dated referendum to a more normal November vote would add time and therefore extra cost to the project. There were a few questions from the small group of citizens, mostly ranging from concerns about parking, access to the building, elevator usage, location of the books, the separation of children from adults, and the eventual cost to the taxpayers. I asked Mr. Jacobs could he describe the timeline from a “passed” resolution in the spring to the actual occupation of the new site. I also asked what dislocation in service would occur when the libraries function went mostly into storage and were transferred to the old Town Hall site? He believed that it would be a short-term dynamic disruption from the work, that would last the whole two years or until the completion of the new library. Given that answer, I suggested the following that we explore closely the feasibility of acquiring the Hillside school property that the Greenburgh central & District wished to sell. It is a 51,000 square foot building on 5 acres with unlimited parking potential. If this building could be rehabilitated for a fraction of the $20 million price tag planned for the new rehabilitation of the old library, there would a great cost savings. In addition there would be ancillary benefits of great worth to the town.

 

The following are some of the benefits:

a)      No dislocation or interruption in library services.

b)      The ability to sell the who parcel of land that currently is occupied by the library and the old Town Hall (Sunrise would have paid $3 million for the Town Hall property which subsequently would have contributed possibly $200,000 in taxes annually.)

c)      The removal of these facilities from Tarrytown Road and therefore making it less congested and safer.

d)      The cost savings of utilizing a present structure and the elimination of the problems of  “steep slopes” and terraced parking.

e)      The better preservation and protection of the abutting neighborhood.

Letter to the Washington Post “Bombing Auschwitz”

 

Letter to the Editor

February 7, 2005

Bombing Auschwitz, What Would Have happened?

McGovern is unfortunately misinformed about what the bombing could have done. The marshalling yards were hit often and trains rarely moved in daylight in Western Europe, but in Eastern Europe other conditions prevailed. But the idea of destroying individual rail lines in the middle of Poland with high altitude heavy bombers? Very questionable! Also Auschwitz would have had to been destroyed, to eliminate the gas chambers, and that would have been an incredible effort that would have cost the lives of thousands of Jews. That decision would have been criticized for all of history. Also the Jewish Agency, which was chaired and polled by David Ben-Gurion, in June of 1944, was against that action and voted 11-1 not to recommend that Auschwitz be bombed. By the time that effort  could have been made, most of the 1.5 million Jews had alread been murdered.

Remember it was only in the spring of 1944 when Auschwitz was identified as the ultimate terminus. And, of course there is no evidence that FDR was ever approached no less asked to make that decision. Even in Michael Beshloss's patchwork sloppy book. “The Conquerors” where he “sort of” quotes John McCloy and Henry Morgenthau Jr., he provides no evidence of that request. His assertion that McCloy really informed FDR, and confessed tothat action while in his late 80's is hard to believe. The facts and his ownvoluminous testimony, over decades, belies that claim by Beschloss. A thorough reading of Beshloss's interview with Henry Morgenthau III, about his father's statements never supports that specious claim. The destruction of the rails, if possible, would have slowed down the deportation of Hungarian Jews and may have saved many. But the Germans/Nazis may have resorted to other tactics.But, there is no doubt that even with all of the anti-Semitic rhetoric theNazis articulated, they were greatly afraid of eventual exposure and complicity in this ongoing crime. They certainly wanted to try to cover up the evidence in the end. Therefore would they have been leery to take a more public action against the Hungarian Jews? In other words, would they go ahead and murder them with an unlimited number of witnesses being available. That is hard to tell. There is no doubt that FDR's repeated warnings about swift harsh justice, that would be meted out against these war criminals, started to have an impact on the Nazis. FDR certainly supported a draconian peace towards Germany and was the lone author of the doctrine of “Unconditional Surrender.” It was FDR who supported the “Morgenthau Plan,” at the Quebec Conference,  to divide and a create a group of small agrarian mini-states in post war Germany

It was only when Truman succeeded to the Presidency that the real de-nazification  started to lose steam in the wake of the emerging Cold War. Truman was never enthusiastic over War Crime Tribunals, but supported the Nurenberg Trials and actions against lower level criminals. Of the 8000 SS and others who served at Auschwitzonly 800, I believe, received official justice. But there was some instant justice served on SS guards that were locally captured and identified. All in all, there was never the type of full ranging effort at rooting out Nazis in post war Germany. Probably there was really too many and the Soviets seemed to be a much bigger concern.

Richard J. Garfunkel

McGovern's New Heading Over Auschwitz As world leaders gathered at Auschwitz last week to mark the 60th anniversary of its liberation, a former U.S. pilot reopened a decades-old debate over whether the Allies should have bombed the death camp to shut down Nazi gas chambers. The pilot: George McGovern, now 82, who for the first time is publicly telling the story of his mission over occupied Poland in a B-24 Liberator in December 1944. “There is no question we should have attempted . . . to go after Auschwitz,” the former Democratic senator and presidential nominee says in a taped interview shown at a forum on Capitol Hill. “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.” McGovern, whose squadron bombed Nazi oil facilities less than five miles from Auschwitz, spoke on camera with interviewers from Israel Television and the David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies. “He was a rare eyewitness to the fact that the Allies could have bombed the camps,” the institute's director, Rafael Medoff, told us. Medoff and former congressman Steve Solarz wrote an op-ed article that appeared in several newspapers Thursday quoting McGovern and questioning U.S. rationale for not bombing Auschwitz in the summer, fall and winter of 1944. The issue of Allied capability and willingness to take out the rail lines to Auschwitz and its death chambers remains contentious. “Given the way we ook at it now, with eyes of 2005, it would have been a gesture to have bombed,” Peter Black, a senior historian at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, told us. But had the rail lines been destroyed, he points out, the Nazis might simply have resorted to shooting Jews slated for deportation. As for the gas chambers, “at that time we just couldn't pinpoint individual buildings with strong success,” Black says. “In order to bomb and make sure of knocking them out, we would have had to carpet-bomb the place, like Hamburg or Dresden” — thus killing thousands of prisoners. “If bombing would have killed the people who are alive today, it's almost a nonsensical question. It's really an issue of how many people would we have saved.” But McGovern argues “it was certainly worth the effort, despite all therisks” and notes that prisoners were already “doomed to death.” While calling President Roosevelt “my political hero,” McGovern faults him for the decision “not to go after Auschwitz. . . . God forgive us for that tragic miscalculation.”(Note: We tried to reach the former South Dakota senator, but his office said he was driving cross-country last week to Florida with his wife and dog

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