Oliver’s peremptory dismissal of the standard Holocaust narrative led me to take a closer look at the treatment of the same topic in Bendersky’s book, and I noticed something quite odd. As discussed above, his exhaustive research in official files and personal archives conclusively established that during World War II a very considerable fraction of all our Military Intelligence officers and top generals were vehemently hostile to Jewish organizations and also held beliefs that today would be regarded as utterly delusional. The author’s academic specialty is Holocaust studies, so it is hardly surprising that his longest chapter focused on that particular subject, bearing the title “Officers and the Holocaust, 1940-1945.” But a close examination of the contents raises some troubling questions.
Across more than sixty pages, Bendersky provides hundreds of direct quotes, mostly from the same officers who are the subject of the rest of his book. But after carefully reading the chapter twice, I was unable to find a single one of those statements referring to the massive slaughter of Jews that constitutes what we commonly call the Holocaust, nor to any of its central elements, such as the existence of death camps or gas chambers.
The forty page chapter that follows focuses on the plight of the Jewish “survivors” in post-war Europe, and the same utter silence applies. Bendersky is disgusted by the cruel sentiments expressed by these American military men towards the Jewish former camp inmates, and he frequently quotes them characterizing the latter as thieves, liars, and criminals; but the officers seem strangely unaware that those unfortunate souls had only just barely escaped an organized mass extermination campaign that had so recently claimed the lives of the vast majority of their fellows. Numerous statements and quotes regarding Jewish extermination are provided, but all of these come from various Jewish activists and organizations, while there is nothing but silence from all of the military officers themselves.
Bendersky’s ten years of archival research brought to light personal letters and memoirs of military officers written decades after the end of the war, and in both those chapters he freely quotes from these invaluable materials, sometimes including private remarks from the late 1970s, long after the Holocaust had become a major topic in American public life. Yet not a single statement of sadness, regret, or horror is provided. Thus, a prominent Holocaust historian spends a decade researching a book about the private views of our military officers towards Jews and Jewish topics, but the one hundred pages he devotes to the Holocaust and its immediate aftermath contains not a single directly-relevant quote from those individuals, which is simply astonishing. A yawning chasm seems to exist at the center of his lengthy historical volume, or put another way, a particular barking dog is quite deafening in its silence.
I am not an archival researcher and have no interest in reviewing the many tens of thousands of pages of source material located at dozens of repositories across the country that Bendersky so diligently examined while producing his important book. Perhaps during their entire wartime activity and also the decades of their later lives, not a single one of the hundred-odd important military officers who were the focus of his investigation ever once broached the subject of the Holocaust or the slaughter of Jews during World War II. But I think there is another distinct possibly.
As mentioned earlier, Beaty spent his war years carefully reviewing the sum-total of all incoming intelligence information each day and then producing an official digest for distribution to the White House and our other top leaders. And in his 1951 book, published just a few years after the end of fighting, he dismissed the supposed Holocaust as a ridiculous wartime concoction by dishonest Jewish and Communist propagandists that had no basis in reality. Soon afterward, Beaty’s book was fully endorsed and promoted by many of our leading World War II generals, including those who were subjects of Bendersky’s archival research. And although the ADL and various other Jewish organizations fiercely denounced Beaty, there is no sign that they ever challenged his absolutely explicit “Holocaust denial.”
I suspect that Bendersky gradually discovered that such “Holocaust denial” was remarkably common in the private papers of many of his Military Intelligence officers and top generals, which presented him with a serious dilemma. If only one or two of those individuals had expressed such sentiments, their shocking statements could be cited as further evidence of their delusional anti-Semitism. But what if a substantial majority of those officers—who certainly had possessed the best knowledge of the reality of World War II—held private beliefs that were very similar to those publicly expressed by their former colleagues Beaty and Oliver? In such a situation, Bendersky may have decided that certain closed doors should remain in that state, and entirely skirted the topic.