|Israeli historian Shlomo Aronson not only sees World War II and the Nazi takeover of Germany that preceded it through Israeli eyes, but also the military operations dictated by Adolf Hitler.|
He believes that the elimination of German Jewry as a legitimate component of German society and the subsequent annihilation of six million European Jews was Hitler’s highest priority, exceeding all the tactical objectives of his armed forces.
Unlike his American and British counterparts, among them William L. Shirer and H.R. Trevor-Roper, Aronson contends that Hitler regarded the Jews as his most dangerous enemy and believed that all of the armed forces that fought against his Wehrmacht were obeying orders that came from Jewish leaders, especially those in the United States.
A professor-emeritus of Jerusalem’s Hebrew University, Aronson is the author of Hitler, the Allies and the Jews, which was published by the Cambridge University Press in 2006. It was preceded by several other important works that analyze modern German history before, during and after the Nazi episode.
He was the first correspondent based in post-war Germany by Kol Yisrael (his reports were broadcast by Israel Radio from 1961 to 1966). During that stint he came into contact with many major figures there including Fritz Bauer, the German-Jewish jurist who played a major role in preparing the cases against wartime mass murderers, and Albert Speer, the Third Reich’s minister of armaments and war production.
Aronson maintains that Hitler’s obsession about the Jews stemmed from his belief that they not only were to blame for Germany’s entry into World War I in 1914, but also for its defeat in 1918.
Therefore, he went on in a recent wideranging one-on-one conversation, Hitler’s initial goal was to deport four million Jews to the island of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean where he expected them to die of starvation and disease. When Great Britain emerged as his initial military nemesis – its naval superiority rendered the Madagascar scheme unworkable – he opted for systematic mass murder in the death camps of Eastern Europe.
“This genocide persisted until the very last days of World War II,” Aronson stressed, noting that it was neither slowed nor stopped by the retreat of German forces from Western and Eastern Europe.
Even the seemingly irrational decision to invade the USSR, on June 22, 1941, was motivated by Hitler’s desire to kill as many Soviet Jews as possible. The Waffen-SS and the Wehrmacht executed hundreds of thousands of Jews. They were slain along with suspected Communists and Marxists who, according to Hitler, also were the architects of WWII.
Aronson’s research extends to the United States, which refused to open its doors to most of the European Jews who tried to take refuge there. He mentions a prominent State Department official, Breckinridge Long, as having kept the US off limits to these desperate people.
In June 1940, Long wrote (according to Wikipedia): “We can delay and effectively stop for a temporary period of indefinable length the number of immigrants to the US. We could do this by asking our consuls to put obstacles in their way....”
It was not until 1944 that president Franklin D. Roosevelt took a seemingly positive, but largely ineffective, step to admit Jews fleeing Nazi persecution and prospective annihilation. Acting at the behest of secretary of the Treasury Henry Morgenthau Jr., FDR established the War Refugee Board as the agency meant to fulfill this objective. However, it lacked the administrative and legislative powers to fulfill its mandate.
Although prime minister Winston Churchill proposed in 1942 that the Allies publicize the extent of the then-ongoing genocide so that the Free World would realize how depraved the Nazis were, he was opposed by senior military and civilian officials.
They contended that disclosure would strengthen the notion that the war effort was essentially meant to rescue the Jews and that it would be exploited by anti-Semites in the United Kingdom and the United States.
As a result of his detailed research, Aronson came to the tragic conclusion that the Jews of Europe were in “a trap” from which they could not escape. This was because every conceivable way out was effectively closed to them. In short, they were doomed.
One of the most interesting aspects of Aronson’s historiography is that it focuses primarily on the status and plight of European Jewry throughout WWII. This distinguishes his work from that of his American and Western European counterparts who treat the situation the Jews were in as a subject worthy of sympathy, but did not ascribe the same magnitude or importance to it that they gave the overall war effort.
Their attitude recalls a telling comment made by Benzion Netanyahu in his seminal work, The Origins of the Inquisition in Fifteenth- Century Spain. In it, Netanyahu contends that historians generally see Jewish aspects of the developments about which they write as secondary or tangential whereas in his view, they deserve much more extensive analysis and evaluation.