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Reporting Auschwitz, then & now (JERUSALEM POST OP-ED) By TOM GROSS 02/03/05)Source: http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?pagename=JPost/JPArticle/ShowFull&cid=1107314591917&p=1006953079865 JERUSALEM POST JERUSALEM POST Articles-Index-TopPublishers-Index-Top
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 story well.

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 called genocide."

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 their victims.

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 gas chambers."

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 itself.

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 influential paper.

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 the paper.

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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