Saturday, March 17, 2018
Friday, March 16, 2018
David S. Wyman, who in a forceful, exhaustively documented 1984 book argued that the United States willfully failed to act to save Jews from the Holocaust died on Wednesday at his home in Amherst, Mass. He was 89.
His death was announced by Rafael Medoff, the founding director of the David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies in Washington, who said Dr. Wyman had been ill for some time.
Dr. Wyman's book was as uncompromising as its title, "The Abandonment of the Jews: America and the Holocaust 1941-1945." The opening words of its preface signaled that Dr. Wyman was certain that he had proved longstanding contentions that the United States had cost tens of thousands of Jews their lives.
"This book has been difficult to research and to write," he wrote. "One does not wish to believe the facts revealed by the documents on which it is based. America, the land of refuge, offered little succor. American Christians forgot about the good Samaritan. Even American Jews lacked the unquenchable sense of urgency the crisis demanded. The Nazis were the murderers, but we were the all too passive accomplices."
The book became a best seller. It also riled some of Dr. Wyman's fellow historians. Especially contentious was its unflattering portrait of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who Dr. Wyman concluded did nothing for 14 months after learning in 1942 of the mass exterminations of Jews in Nazi Germany — and, when he finally did act, did so only out of political calculus.
"If you look in a larger context," the historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr. complained in 1994, reacting to an episode of PBS's documentary series "American Experience" based largely on Dr. Wyman's book, "no one did more to save the Jews in Europe than Franklin Delano Roosevelt, by his opposition to Hitler, by changing the United States from an isolationist nation to a nation prepared to go to war."
Dr. Wyman remained unapologetic.
"If it had gone into depth on Roosevelt and the Holocaust," he said of the PBS program, "it would have been worse. There would have been a couple of more positive things to say, and eight or 10 worse things."
David Sword Wyman was born on March 6, 1929, in Weymouth, Mass. His father, Hollis, was a mechanical engineer, and his mother, the former Ruth Sword, was a teacher and librarian.
His family attended the Centenary Methodist Church in Auburndale, Mass., where young David was involved with the youth group. He was a grandson of two Protestant ministers, and his later research took on a personal dimension when he documented the failure of American Christians to speak or act on behalf of European Jews during the war.
"I don't cry easily, but all my life I had been taught to believe in the good Samaritan, yet here were Christians killing Jews in Europe," he told The New York Times in 1984, describing an emotional reaction to his own research. "And here was The Christian Century, a religious magazine that had always been at the cutting edge of care and concern, failing to raise its voice against the Holocaust."
He graduated from Boston University in 1951 with a degree in history. He received a master's degree in education at Plymouth State College in New Hampshire in 1961 and a doctorate in history at Harvard in 1966, taking a job that same year teaching history at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. He retired there in 1991.
Dr. Wyman first began to examine the response to Naziism in "Paper Walls: America and the Refugee Crisis 1938-1941," published in 1968. "The Abandonment of the Jews" was not the first book to suggest a systemic failure to act on the part of the United States and England, but it was perhaps the most thoroughly researched. Dr. Wyman put 15 years into the project, scouring numerous archives. His book was 444 pages long and included 71 pages of footnotes.
In his research he found not only a president and Christian leaders who seemed uninterested in the problem, but also a federal bureaucracy that could be openly hostile to helping Jews, a news media that underplayed the shocking revelations about the exterminations, and a Congress and country where anti-Semitism and anti-immigration sentiment encouraged inaction. Gas chambers and the rail lines leading to them could easily have been bombed, he found, and rescue efforts could have saved at least some of the millions who died.
Despite the complaints by some historians, John Gross, reviewing the book in The New York Times, found Dr. Wyman's conclusions well grounded.
"Where there are allowances to be made, he makes them," he wrote; "where there are honorable exceptions, he honors them; but in the end he is compelled to hand down a damning indictment."
In 2003 scholars and others inspired by Dr. Wyman's book founded the Wyman Institute to promote education and research on the response to the Holocaust. Dr. Medoff said Dr. Wyman had been reluctant to see his name on the letterhead.
"He was an extremely humble person and never would have created an institute named after himself," Dr. Medoff said by email, adding, "It took considerable effort to persuade him to let us put his name on it." Dr. Wyman did, however, become chairman of the organization.
Dr. Medoff said that Dr. Wyman's book about the failure to rescue European Jews during World War II played a role in rescuing about 800 Ethiopian Jews four decades later. They had been stranded in Sudan when an effort to airlift them to Israel to escape famine and discrimination was halted. A copy of Dr. Wyman's book, then on the best-seller lists, was given to George H. W. Bush, who was then the vice president, and he and his aides were urged by Representative John Miller, Republican of Washington, to read it and take action.
"I told them that this was a chance to write a very different history than the history of America's response to the Holocaust," Mr. Miller was quoted as saying in a 2008 article that Dr. Medoff wrote about the moment.
In March 1985, American planes took the rest of the refugees to Israel. Dr. Wyman later met some of them on a visit to that country.
Dr. Wyman's wife, the former Mildred Louise Smith, whom he married in 1950, died in 2003. He is survived by a son, James; a daughter, Teresa; a sister, Nancy Bissell Spraragen; two grandchildren; and a great-grandson.
In his landmark book, Dr. Wyman posed questions that seem ever relevant.
"Would the reaction be different today?" he asked. "Would Americans be more sensitive, less self-centered, more willing to make sacrifices, less afraid of differences now than they were then?"
Fifty years ago, on March 16, 1968, U.S. soldiers attacked the Vietnamese village of My Lai. Even though the soldiers met no resistance, they slaughtered more than 500 Vietnamese women, children and old men over the next four hours, in what became known as the My Lai massacre. After the massacre, the U.S. military attempted to cover up what happened. But in 1969 a young reporter named Seymour Hersh would reveal a 26-year-old soldier named William Calley was being investigated for killing 109 Vietnamese civilians. Today, memorials have been held in My Lai to mark the 50th anniversary of this horrific attack.
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
AMY GOODMAN: Today, we begin a special series looking back at 1968, a pivotal year in modern American history. It was a year that saw the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy, historic student strikes from Columbia to San Francisco State, the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, the Chicago Democratic Convention protests and the escalation of the Vietnam War.
Fifty years ago today, on March 16, 1968, U.S. soldiers attacked the Vietnamese village of My Lai. U.S. troops arrived at 7:30 a.m. local time. Even though the soldiers met no resistance, they slaughtered more than 500 Vietnamese women, children and old men over the next four hours, in what became known as the My Lai massacre. The soldiers raped women. They burned their houses. They mutilated the villagers' bodies. One U.S. soldier said he was ordered to "kill anything that breathed."
Memorials have been held today in My Lai to mark this 50th anniversary. Survivors gathered to describe the horror of what happened March 16th, 1968.
PHAM THI THUAN: [translated] A hundred and seventy people, and they shot them all dead. They shot them all. They shot once, they took one minute break, and opened fire for the second, then the third time. My father, who was in his eighties, was injured and tumbling, then crawling. I lay very still in the mud as if I was dead, and I glanced at him. I saw him, but I dared not speak to him, in fear they might hear me and shoot me. I wanted to yell at him to lie down, and maybe they won't shoot again. But they noticed him and shot half of his head away.
AMY GOODMAN: After the My Lai massacre, the U.S. military attempted to cover up what happened. But in November of 1969, a young reporter named Seymour Hersh would reveal a 26-year-old soldier named William Calley was being investigated for killing 109 Vietnamese civilians. In 2015, Sy Hersh appeared on Democracy Now! and discussed what the U.S. soldiers did on the day of the massacre.
SEYMOUR HERSH: But that morning, they got up thinking they were going to be in combat against the Viet Cong. They were happy to do it. Charlie Company had lost 20 people through snipers, etc. They wanted payback. And they had been taking it out on the people, but they had never seen the enemy. They'd been in country, as I said, in Vietnam for three or four months without ever having a set piece war. That's just the way it is in guerrilla warfare—which is why we shouldn't do it, but that's another story. And they went in that morning ready to kill and be killed on behalf of America, to their credit. They landed. There were just nothing but women and children doing the usual, as you said in your intro—cooking, warming up rice for breakfast—and they began to put them in ditches and start executing them.
Calley's company—Calley had a platoon. There were three platoons that went in. They rounded up people and put them in a ditch. … The other companies just went along, didn't gather people, just went from house to house and killed and raped and mutilated, and had just went on until everybody was either run away or killed. Four hundred and some-odd people in that village alone, of the 500 or 600 people who lived there, were murdered that day, all by noon, 1:00. At one point, one helicopter pilot, a wonderful man named Thompson, saw what was going on and actually landed his helicopter. He was a small combat—had two gunners. He just landed his small helicopter, and he ordered his gunners to train their weapons on Lieutenant Calley and other Americans. And Calley was in the process of—apparently going to throw hand grenades into a ditch where there were 10 or so Vietnamese civilians. And he put his guns on Calley and took the civilians, made a couple trips and took them out, flew them out to safety. He, of course, was immediately in trouble for doing that.
AMY GOODMAN: That was Seymour Hersh on Democracy Now! His reporting on My Lai and the military's cover-up altered how many Americans viewed the war in Vietnam. He would win the Pulitzer Prize for his reporting.
Only one soldier was convicted for the mass killings: Lieutenant William Calley. He was initially sentenced to life in prison, but only served three-and-a-half years under house arrest. This is an edited excerpt of the Vietnamese documentary The Sound of the Violin in My Lai.
NARRATOR: The only American casualty on that day was a black soldier, Herbert Carter, who could not stand such mad killing. He shot himself in the foot so that he could not have to take part in the massacre. Herbert later related, "I saw an old man standing in the middle of the rice field waving at us in a friendly manner, but they shot him. I saw no Viet Cong in the village, only poor farmers running away from their burning huts, and then they shot them dead."
Mrs. Le is lucky. She was one of the rare survivors of the massacre. This is the memorial still held for 102 people, mostly women and children, who were killed along this road that day. Haeberle's nervous system must have been made of steel to be able to take these pictures. A baby was killed, still hanging on its dead mother's breast. Mrs. Le and her son were spared because they buried themselves under the bodies of three or four villagers. Nearby, her nephew, Chung Bo, was laying on top of his brother, Chung Nam, to shield him from the bullets. Both of them were killed. Mrs. Nhung and Sister Nhanh are also survivors of the massacre, but their survival was somewhat special. They were saved by the helicopter crew: Hugh Thompson, Larry Colburn and Glenn Andreotta.
PHAM TI NHUNG: [translated] We survived because these Americans waved to us and took us on their helicopter. Thanks to them, I'm still alive today.
PHAM THI NHANH: [translated] They shot like madmen. When they came, I ran for the shelter. A helicopter landed near us. The men waved, and we came out. They pushed us onto the ship and took off. We were dead scared. Were they going to drop us into the sea? After some time, the helicopter landed, and they signaled us to run away. It was only then that we knew we had been saved.
HUGH THOMPSON: There was a lot of anger and anger that was not directed at the Vietnamese people, it was directed at my fellow soldiers who went crazy that day. I'm just real sorry that my crew could not have done more. I'm extremely sorry for my fellow Americans for what happened. It wasn't right. It wasn't war. And I pray to God something like this never happens again.
AMY GOODMAN: An excerpt from the Vietnamese film The Sound of the Violin in My Lai. The film was directed by Tran Van Thuy and produced by Vietnam War veteran Mike Boehm, who is in My Lai today for the memorial with other veterans who became peace activists. Another vet who returned to Vietnam for this 50th anniversary of the My Lai massacre is Eric Herter.
ERIC HERTER: "Sorry" is just not adequate for what happened in Vietnam due to America's, whatever you call it here, invasion. It's wrong. It's just wrong. And it was deeply, deeply, deeply wrong. And I don't think we've acknowledged it.
AMY GOODMAN: Vietnam War veteran Eric Herter, speaking today on this, the 50th anniversary of the My Lai massacre, when U.S. forces slaughtered more than 500 Vietnamese women, children and old men. The date: March 16th, 1968. The war would continue for another seven years. Some scholars estimate as many as 3.8 million Vietnamese died during the war. Up to 800,000 perished in Cambodia, another 1 million in Laos. The U.S. death toll was 58,000…
Thursday, March 15, 2018
Regarding President Trump's relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Hillary Clinton was asked while speaking at an event in Mumbai, India, about the relationship Trump has with Putin.
"Trump does have quite an affinity for dictators. He really likes their authoritarian posturing and behavior," she said during the event, according to The Washington Post.
"He does have a pre-existing attitude of favorability toward these dictators, but I think it's more than that with Putin and Russia," she said.
The host of the event pressed Clinton on whether she believes Russia has "something" on Trump.
"Well, we'll find out. We'll find out," Clinton said. "Follow the money."
Special counsel Robert Mueller has reportedly been questioning witnesses about Trump's business dealings in Russia as he investigates Russian interference in the 2016 election.
It was reported last week that Mueller is also looking at a letter that Trump wrote to Putin in 2013, personally inviting him to the Miss Universe pageant in Moscow. That letter is the first known occurrence of Trump trying to personally reach out to Putin.
WHEN YOU WANT TO ENSLAVE A PEOPLE, YOU MUST SILENCE THE VOICES OF THOSE WHO DARE TO SPEAK THE TRUTH.
AND WHO WILL PUNISH THE GUILTY?
WHERE IN THE WORLD CAN WE FIND HONEST PEOPLE IN POWER?
WAS THE WORLD EVER SO CORRUPT BEFORE?
WHERE IN THE WORLD CAN WE FIND HONEST PEOPLE IN POWER?
WAS THE WORLD EVER SO CORRUPT BEFORE?
YES. IN THE TIMES OF THE PHAROAHS, THE CAESARS, THE NAZIS, THE SLAVERS - TIMES WHEN MOST PEOPLE DIDN'T WANT TO GET INVOLVED.
IS THERE ANY HOPE LEFT FOR HUMANITY NOW?