Der Spiegel published a graphic on social media platforms last week saying the “amerikanischen Armee” (US Army) was the one that liberated Auschwitz, the largest Nazi death camp.
That would have been news to anyone in the 322nd Rifle Division of the Red Army’s 1st Ukrainian Front, which actually kicked in the gates of the camp on January 27, 1945. That date was later adopted as the international Holocaust Memorial Day.
Der Spiegel owned up to “this extremely embarrassing mistake” fairly quickly, saying they made it on Thursday evening and had corrected it by Friday morning.
“We assume that the screenshot from Thursday is circulating as a just punishment,” the magazine later tweeted.
When this happens once, it’s an “extremely embarrassing mistake” indeed. When it’s reinforced by speeches from the top two US officials, however, one is tempted to conclude something else is afoot.
On the same day Der Spiegel published the flagrantly false claim, US Vice President Mike Pence – speaking at the World Holocaust Forum in Israel – described the camp’s liberators as mere “soldiers,” without saying whose. He went on to talk about two million US soldiers who fought in Europe and suffered “appalling casualties” to free the continent “from the grip of tyranny” – while reducing the far greater contribution of the Red Army and the Soviet Union to a token phrase about “all the Allied forces.”
There was zero pushback from US mainstream media to this appalling revisionism. By Monday, US President Donald Trump was committing the same sin of omission in his Holocaust Memorial Day proclamation.
While it acknowledges “the heroes who risked their own lives—many of whom made the ultimate sacrifice—to help liberate the camps” there is no mention of who they are, aside from the very abstract “forces of freedom.”
Between Pence’s speech and this, one might get the impression that these heroic soldiers were Americans, not Soviets.
Trump’s proclamation ends with resolving to “combat evil and oppressive regimes with democracy, justice, and the compassionate spirit that is found in the hearts of all Americans,” suggesting that the process of erasing the Soviet Union’s contribution to WWII and ending the Holocaust is pretty much complete in Washington – and Der Spiegel was just ahead of its time by a few days.