Reporting Auschwitz, then & now (JERUSALEM POST OP-ED) By TOM GROSS 02/03/05)
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Last week´s media coverage marking the 60th anniversary of the
liberation of Auschwitz was surprisingly comprehensive and accurate.
Even many of those news outlets that have a poor record of covering
Jewish issues such as anti-Semitism and the Middle East covered the
Take the BBC, for example. As recently as January 13, 2005, the BBC
posted a Webpage titled "BBC Guides: The Holocaust. What was it?"
Designed to explain the controversy over Prince Harry´s wearing of a
Nazi uniform, it neglected to mention Jews, falsely stated that most
Holocaust victims were German citizens, and encouraged the myth that
other groups had been persecuted by the Nazis to anything like the
same extent that Jews were.
The BBC Webpage blandly stated: "The Holocaust was a mass murder of
millions of people Most of the victims died because they belonged to
certain racial or religious groups, which the Nazis wanted to wipe
out, even though they were German citizens. This kind of killing is
Yet last week, the BBC covered the liberation of Auschwitz in a
serious and thorough way, both on air and online. That most victims
were Jews was highlighted. "The Holocaust. What was it?" and other
Webpages were corrected. And whereas a week earlier, the BBC had
referred to the "Auschwitz prison camp," it now used the infinitely
more accurate term "death camp." (If BBC staff think it was a prison
camp, they don´t begin to understand what Auschwitz was.)
Other media with previously poor records, such as Le Monde, also had
generally sound coverage.
The Guardian, too, had some good pieces – although at the same time,
true to form, it supplemented its lead editorial, titled "Holocaust
Memorial Day: Eternal memory," with an accompanying commentary by
former Oxford University professor Terry Eagleton, in which he
justified suicide bombing "in Israel" and likened suicide bombers to
The Guardian also couldn´t resist greatly exaggerating the numbers of
Roma (Gypsies) who died in the camps. (Perhaps the paper isn´t aware
that inflating the number of Roma and homosexuals killed by the
Nazis, in order to try to de-emphasize the Jewish centrality of the
Holocaust, is now a favorite trick of revisionist historians.)
In the Arab world, most media simply ignored last week´s anniversary
altogether. In Iran, the government-linked Tehran Times marked the
occasion by explicitly denying that "the so-called Holocaust"
happened and accusing "Zionist leaders" of "conjuring up images of
Still, as far as the Western media goes, this improved coverage today
contrasts sharply with the lack of proper coverage in the decades
following World War II, or even as 10 years ago. And it also provides
a stark reminder of just how poor coverage was during the Holocaust
The omissions of The New York Times are perhaps the most disturbing.
Although it was far from being the only newspaper to deliberately
play down or do its best to ignore Hitler´s genocide, it bears a
special responsibility as having been the world´s single most
Such was The Times´s influence as the premier American source of
wartime news (particularly so in an age before television), that had
it reported the Holocaust properly, other US papers would probably
have followed, and US public opinion might have forced the US
government to act.
But The Times, possibly because they feared people might think of it
as a "Jewish" paper, made sure reports were brief and buried inside
On June 27, 1942, for example, it devoted just two inches to the news
that "700,000 Jews were reported slain in Poland."
On July 2, 1942, on page six, it noted that gas chambers were being
used to kill 1,000 Jews a day. On November 25, 1942, but only on page
10, it reported that there had been round-ups, gassings, cattle cars,
and the disappearance of 90 percent of Warsaw´s ghetto population.
On December 9, 1942, its report that two million Jews had been killed
and five million more faced extermination appeared only on page 20.
On July 2, 1944, it reported that 400,000 Hungarian Jews had been
deported to their deaths so far, and 350,000 more were likely to be
killed in the next weeks. Yet this news received only four column
inches on page 12.
During the war, no article about the Jews´ plight ever qualified as
The Times´s lead story of the day.
The Times has never properly acknowledged its failings in this
matter. And the fact that a comparable mind-set still seems to
dominate the paper continues to have consequences – whether in the
unfair coverage it gives Israel or the relative lack of attention
given to other genocides and systematic acts of inhumanity, such as
those in North Korea or Burma, and in particular those for which
Arabs are largely responsible, as in Darfur.
The tsunami tragedies can occupy the front page for days on end, but
Darfur is lucky if it makes an inside page once in a week. The writer
is a former Jerusalem correspondent for the Sunday Telegraph. (© 1995-
2005, The Jerusalem Post 02/03/05)
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