Editorial in "The Christian Century" on May 9, 1945 expresses outrage at concentration camps, fails to mention something

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Editorial in "The Christian Century" on May 9, 1945 expresses outrage at concentration camps, fails to mention something

Postby Sannhet » 1 month 4 days ago (Tue Aug 18, 2020 9:32 pm)

Archie recently posted some findings on the feud between Stephen Wise (a political rabbi operating out of New York City and one of those promoting early black-propaganda atrocity claims against the Germans from 1942) and the editors of The Christian Century, a major magazine in its time. The latter had dismissed Wise's atrocity claims as likely exaggeration, warned people to stick to standards of evidence and not cave in to war hysteria of cheap lies. (See "Rabbi Wise, Human Soap, and the Editors of The Christian Century.")

I'd like to draw attention to another editorial which ran in the same magazine but which expresses belief in the Holocaust (to use a simplifying phrase). It is dated May 9, 1945, the day after the successor government of Germany surrendered following the suicide of Hitler and the fall of Berlin.

The editorial writer dismisses his own newspaper's former skepticism and says "the evidence is too conclusive" that the concentration camps were killing centers. "The thing is well-nigh incredible. But it happened." We see the line "Buchenwald and the other memorials of Nazi infamy reveal the depths to which humanity can sink, and has sunk, in these frightful years." But notice what standards of evidence seem to have convinced the editors that "it happened." It's the Belsen photos.

Including the vague use of Bergen-Belsen and similar photos as Proof of the Holocaust (so obvious that only a flat-earther type would deny), we see a lot of the pieces of the Holocaust jigsaw puzzle, and familiar Holocaust moral rhetoric, in place in this 1200-word editorial. But one important thing is missing. I won't say what it is yet. If you read the full editorial from start to finish, see if you can guess what I mean. I'll return to this at the end.

Here it is:

Gazing into the Pit
[Editorial appearing in The Christian Century periodical.]

May 9, 1945

The horrors disclosed by the capture of the Nazi concentration camps at Buchenwald, Belsen, Limburg and a dozen other places constitute one of those awful facts upon which a paper such as this feels under obligation to comment, but concerning which it is almost physically impossible to write. What can be said that will not seem like tossing little words up against a giant mountain of ineradicable evil? What human emotion can measure up to such bestiality except a searing anger which calls on heaven to witness that retribution shall be swift and terrible and pitiless? How can men (and, it is alleged, women) who have been capable of such deeds be thought of or dealt with save as vicious brutes who must be exterminated both to do justice and in mercy to the future of the race?

We have found it hard to believe that the reports from the Nazi concentration camps could be true. Almost desperately we have tried to think that they must be wildly exaggerated. Perhaps they were products of the fevered brains of prisoners who were out for revenge. Or perhaps they were just more atrocity-mongering, like the cadaver factory story of the last war. But such puny barricades cannot stand up against the terrible facts. The evidence is too conclusive. It will be a long, long time before our eyes will cease to see those pictures of naked corpses piled like firewood or of those mounds of carrion flesh and bones. It will be a long, long time before we can forget what scores of honorable, competent observers tell us they have seen with their own eyes. The thing is well-nigh incredible. But it happened.

What does it mean? That Germans are beyond the pale of humanity? That they are capable of a fiendish cruelty which sets them apart from all the rest of us? No, not that. For one thing, we read that a large portion of the victims in these concentration camps were Germans. We do not believe that the sort of Germans who were subjected to this torture under any conceivable circumstances would themselves have become torturers. For another thing, we have reason to know that mass cruelty in its most revolting forms has not been confined to Germany. We have seen photographs that missionaries smuggled out of raped Nanking. We have read the affidavits of men who escaped from the Baltic states and eastern Poland. We know what horrors writers like David Dallin and William Henry Chamberlin believe would be revealed if the prison camps in the Soviet Arctic were opened to the world's inspection. We know, too, the frightful things that have happened in this country when lynching mobs ran wild— things so horrible that they can only be told in whispers.

No, the horror of the Nazi concentration camps is the horror of humanity itself when it has surrendered to its capacity for evil. When we look at the pictures from Buchenwald we are looking, to be sure, at the frightful malignity of nazism, this perversion of all values which in its final extremity is actually intent, as Hitler himself has said, on reducing all European life to "ruin, rats and epidemics." But in the Nazis and beyond them we are looking into the very pit of hell which men disclose yawning within themselves when they reject the authority of the moral law, when they deny the sacredness of human personality, when they turn from the worship of the one true God to the worship of their own wills, their own states, their own lust for power.

Buchenwald and the other memorials of Nazi infamy reveal the depths to which humanity can sink, and has sunk, in these frightful years. They reveal the awful fate which may engulf all civilizations unless these devils of our pride and of our ruthlessness and of the cult of force are exorcised. And they reveal that the salvation of man, the attainment of peace, the healing of the nations is at the last a religious problem. The diplomats may mark out what boundary lines they please, the victorious armies may set up what zones of occupation they will, but if man continues this self-worship, the pit yawns for us all.

The foul stench of the concentration camps should burden the Christian conscience until Christian men cannot rest. The conventional ministry of past years is no ministry for these days when mankind totters on the brink of damnation. The puny plans which denominations have been making are so inadequate to this crisis that they are nearly irrelevant. Unless there is a great upsurge of testimony to the power of the Christian gospel to save men from the sin which is destroying them and their institutions, all the reconstitution of church paraphernalia now being planned will be so much building on sand. In this crisis the gospel cannot be preached dispassionately, tentatively or listlessly— not and save civilization from the pit. A time has come when the Christian must proclaim his gospel "like a dying man to dying men."

For we are dying men— dying, all of us and our institutions and our civilization, in the sins which have reached their appalling climax in the torture chambers of Europe's prison camps. Only faith in the God and Father of Jesus Christ, the God who sent his Son to reveal a common and all-inclusive brotherhood, can save us. Our contempt for the sacredness of life, our worship at the shrine of our own power, has gone so far that it has taken these horrors to shock us into awareness of the tragic fate toward which we are stumbling.

In God's providence, has not the World Council of Churches become a living hope for such a time as this? So far, progress toward the formation of the World Council has been cautious, following familiar patterns, a matter of negotiations and treaties among sovereign denominations. The goal has seemed largely to be the attainment of an organization. Is not the agony of mankind a call to the World Council to forget everything but the proclamation of the Christian evangel?

Should it not be the business of the World Council now to gather from all lands Christians who will go everywhere, pointing to the encroachments of human depravity which have been laid bare, proclaiming to men and nations, "Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish"? Let the council gather for this common task Niemoller and the Christian leaders with him who have withstood the Nazi scourge, as many of them as may emerge from imprisonment; let it gather Bishop Berggav and the noble pastors of Norway; let it gather every Christian in the world who sees the peril and knows the means of escape, and let it send them forth with such an evangel as has not stormed this sin-stricken world since the days of the first apostles. Buchenwald and the other concentration camps spell doom. But it is not simply the doom of the Nazis; it is the doom of man unless he can be brought to worship at the feet of the living God.

Now what was missing from all that?

Did you notice it?

There is no mention of Jews.

How strange!

On the contrary, there are mentions "the prison camps in the Soviet Arctic," implied to be morally equivalent to Buchenwald. We even see a line that "Frightful things that have happened in this country [the USA] when lynching mobs ran wild— things so horrible that they can only be told in whispers."

Heroes of the story are Pastor Niemoller, the German dissident, and Bishop Berggav of Norway, who risked execution by openly defying the Quisling government in Norway during the war. These are both Protestants and Northern Europeans. There are no Jews mentioned whatsoever in the 1,200 words of the editorial, either directly or indirectly.

There is also no direct mention of gas chambers. The story still had a long way to go.

_______________

I find no primary source for The Christian Century's long-past archives (it still exists today but is no longer an important or influential periodical). This editorial, "Gazing into the Pit," was republished in the following:
The Christian Century Reader
Representative Articles, Editorials, and Poems Selected from More than Fifty Years of The Christian Century

by HAROLD E. FEY and MARGARET FRAKES

ASSOCIATION PRESS: New York | Copyright © 1962 by The Christian Century Foundation

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Re: Editorial in "The Christian Century" on May 9, 1945 expresses outrage at concentration camps, fails to mention somet

Postby Archie » 1 month 3 days ago (Wed Aug 19, 2020 8:28 pm)

Here is their editorial on Majdanek. You can see they were still skeptical in 1944. Quoted in Robert Ross, So It Was True: The American Protestant Press and the Nazi Persecution of the Jews.

No atrocity story of the year is likely to top the latest concerning the alleged killing of 1,500,000 persons at the German concentration camp near Lublin, Poland. W.H. Lawrence of the New York Times was a member of the party of thirty journalists who were taken on a tour of the camp by a body called the Soviet-Polish Atrocities Investigation Commission. He described it as "a veritable River Rouge for the production of death." The victims were shipped there from all over Europe, the correspondents were told, were asphyxiated in gas-chambers and their bodies cremated in huge furnaces. Chief evidence for the charge that 1,500,000 persons were killed in this manner was a warehouse "about 150 feet long" containing clothing of people of all ages who were said to have been done to death in the camp. As many as 18,000 persons a day were said to have been killed in the camp, although the capacity of the cremating furnaces was estimated to have been 1,900 per day. Maurice Hindus, who was another of the thirty correspondents, also reported the 1,500,000 figure. He said the warehouse contained 820,000 pairs of shoes. Many newspapers gave the Lublin charge the big headline of the day, but the parallel between this story and the "corpse factory" atrocity tale of the First World War is too striking to be overlooked. The story started in 1917 and was not fully discredited until 1925. There may or may not be a relation between the fact that the Lublin account came out immediately after it was charged by London Poles that the Russians had stopped their advance within artillery range of Warsaw and waited until the Germans had killed 250,000 Poles within the city who had risen to fight for their freedom in response to the call of the Polish government-in-exile.

The Century editors seem to have come around after the big camp liberations in April and May of 1945. It's not surprising that they don't mention Jews anywhere since Jews were not the focus of the immediate post-war concentration camp psych-warfare. The concentration camp film they showed at Nuremberg as I recall didn't mention Jews at all. If so, it was only incidentally. The standard explanation for this is that the public was too "anti-Semitic" so they had to broaden the focus. And they didn't want people to think it was a "war for the Jews."

Ross quotes another editorial from The Signs of the Times from May 22, 1945.

It was hard to believe that human beings could sink so low as to starve and torture and burn alive their fellow creatures. When the stories first came out of Nazi Germany ... many scoffed and said, "Propaganda!" They remembered the last war and how many of the supposed atrocities were ultimately proved to be without foundation in fact. They assumed that these new horrors had been similarly invented to stir up the war spirit and build up home "morale."

But this time, alas, the stories were true. Only they did not begin to depict the satanic nature of the abominations inflicted on a helpless people.

As the allied armies swept with giant strides across the broken defenses of Germany, they came across evidence of a reign of terror the like of which the world has never seen. So rapid was the advance that concentration camps ... were captured before the depraved guards and overlords could escape. In one village they found the still smoldering bodies of 1,100 prisoners deliberately crowded into a barn and burned to death. At Belsen they seized a camp where the naked, emaciated dead were still in heaps, awaiting burial. Thousands more, still alive, were but walking skeletons. In Poland and Alsace they uncovered the dread gas chambers where hundreds have been put to death. Almost every day brought new revelations of savagery no words can describe.

Yes, it is all too true. General Eisenhower himself reported to Washington that the facts are almost incredible. At his suggestion many Congressmen and editors are in Europe to see the awful sight for themselves.

Photographs have been taken, too, and moving pictures, so that the reports are authentic, ... the information ... a fearsome record of the depths of sin to which humanity was descended.

Mass media had progressed a lot since the previous world war, especially movies. But people seemed to not yet appreciate the manipulative potential of photographs and film footage. They just see the footage of the dead bodies and this is proof. They don't think to ask how many bodies there are, how and why they died, and so forth.

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Re: Editorial in "The Christian Century" on May 9, 1945 expresses outrage at concentration camps, fails to mention somet

Postby Archie » 1 month 3 days ago (Wed Aug 19, 2020 9:04 pm)

Ross also quotes some skeptical comments in other publications even after the camp liberations.

John L. Scotford, editor of Advance in March 1945.

Although they have not been scattered abroad in the wholesale fashion of 1918, atrocity stories still get around and afford some people a chance for emotional debauch. We believe that the less said about such matters the better. Against the total picture of war's destruction, all horror tales are a minor matter ... The military system gives some men power over their fellows .. War puts tremendous pressure on all its participants. In the heat of the conflict me become mad; they are not accountable for their actions. They tell what the enemy has done to our men but they do not tell what we may have done to them. They distort the truth by not also telling of the many instances when the enemy has been compassionate. Even at its best, war is bad enough; let us not further blacken the countenance of the villain.

And then even in October of that year Scotford seems to have maintained his sober attitude.

All sorts of things happen during the war ... However we feel that the black spots have been over-publicized on the radio and in the press and the bright spots almost completely neglected. Our suggestion is that so far as possible these highlighted horrors be checked against the experience of the mass of returning prisoners.

There is also a very interesting 1945 article (not editorial) that was published in the Century but it's so good I want to look at it a little more. It probably deserves its own thread.

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Re: Editorial in "The Christian Century" on May 9, 1945 expresses outrage at concentration camps, fails to mention somet

Postby Sannhet » 1 month 3 days ago (Thu Aug 20, 2020 10:43 am)

Archie wrote:There is also a very interesting 1945 article (not editorial) that was published in the Century but it's so good I want to look at it a little more. It probably deserves its own thread.

It looks like it it this one:

James Morgan Read: A Proto-Revisionist?
viewtopic.php?f=2&t=13473

James Morgan Read being the author of the May 30, 1945 article you refer to.

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Re: Editorial in "The Christian Century" on May 9, 1945 expresses outrage at concentration camps, fails to mention somet

Postby Sannhet » 1 month 3 days ago (Thu Aug 20, 2020 10:48 am)

Archie wrote:Mass media had progressed a lot since the previous world war, especially movies. But people seemed to not yet appreciate the manipulative potential of photographs and film footage.

Nor do most people seem to appreciate this potential even today. (In some cases today, they 'know,' but don't 'care' and will just go with whatever narrative that suits their proclivities or perceived interests of the moment. It's a little hard to sort these out now.)

(I am thinking, as a reference point, of the several times in the 2010s that the US media began campaigns to push the idea that the Syrian military was using chemical weapons to "gas children," or whatever the line was. There was one photo published of a dead child that supposedly convinced Ivanka Trump to tell her father to bomb Syria.)

Archie wrote:They just see the footage of the dead bodies and this is proof. They don't think to ask how many bodies there are, how and why they died, and so forth.

This, combined with trusted authority figures telling them it is so.

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Re: Editorial in "The Christian Century" on May 9, 1945 expresses outrage at concentration camps, fails to mention somet

Postby Archie » 1 month 3 days ago (Thu Aug 20, 2020 10:58 am)

Sannhet wrote:
Archie wrote:There is also a very interesting 1945 article (not editorial) that was published in the Century but it's so good I want to look at it a little more. It probably deserves its own thread.

It looks like it it this one:

James Morgan Read: A Proto-Revisionist?
viewtopic.php?f=2&t=13473

James Morgan Read being the author of the May 30, 1945 article you refer to.


Correct.

It’s interesting that by mid 1945 the Century’s editorial line had shifted but they nonetheless were willing to allow a skeptical opinion piece.


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