Three books in talk about American apathy in the face of the Holocaust.

May 12, 1945. Russian troops smash their way into Berlin, capital of Hitler’s annihilated Third Reich, hoping to capture der Führer himself, the one-time paperhanger who has plunged the world into a blood bath of violence, horror, and cruelty. But he and his mistress have committed suicide and been cremated by fanatical followers. The Nazi nightmare is over.

Forty years later, the Holocaust seems like a terrifying dream, a Kafka-like melodrama that could not have occurred—though in soul-freezing fact it did.

What was the reaction of the civilized, nominally Christianized world with its humanitarian and religious ideals to Hitler’s massive policy of genocide? In particular, what was the U.S. reaction? At first, incredulity: Oh, maybe certain restrictions are being imposed on ethnic groups, primarily the Jews. But don’t forget that most Communists are Jews, and Hitler is simply fighting the Bolshevik menace.

As the facts became known, however, the general reaction was initial shock, temporary concern, and then apathy. Anyone inclined to doubt the widespread indifference of most Americans should examine three impressive and well-documented books: Arthur D. Morse, While Six Million Died: A Chronicle of American Apathy (Overlook Press, 1985 reprint of 1966 edition); Robert W. Ross, So It Was True: The American Protestant Press and the Nazi Persecution of the Jews (Univ. of Minn. Press, 1980); and most recently, David S. Wyman, The Abandonment of the Jews: America and the Holocaust, 1941–1945 (Pantheon Books, 1984).


These authors rehearse in detail our shameful failure as a nation to play our self-defined role of global ...

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