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September 7, 2020 8:26 am

New York Times Marks World War II Anniversary With Harsh Criticism of US

avatar by Ira Stoll


A taxi passes by in front of The New York Times head office, Feb. 7, 2013. Photo: Reuters / Carlo Allegri / File.

The New York Times marked the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II with a special print section that makes it sound like the Americans were the bad guys.

One article in the section is headlined, “For Japanese-Americans, Housing Injustices Outlived Internment,” focusing on difficulties Japanese Americans faced when they left the internment camps in which many were confined during the war. Another article, headlined, “Returning From War, Returning to Racism,” reports that “after fighting overseas, Black soldiers faced violence and segregation at home.” A third article accuses American troops who liberated concentration camps in Europe of further mistreating Holocaust survivors, “extending the trauma they had endured while imprisoned.” The Times alleges “antisemitism, even within the most senior echelons” of the American military, reporting that US General George Patton “wanted to open his own concentration camp ‘for some of these goddamn Jews.’”

Two separate Times articles dwell on the American firebombing of Tokyo. One is headlined “‘We Hated What We Were Doing’: Veterans Recall Firebombing Japan.” The Times quotes one 96-year-old former gunner: “The original idea of the Geneva Convention is that civilian targets were out, and it was military targets that should be used. In Europe, you had the Russians and the Germans — especially the Nazis — bombing civilians. When we did the firebombings, we were killing civilians.” Another 96-year-old is quoted saying, “I still wouldn’t approve of it today. Of course the rules of war are pretty vague, but one of the things is that you don’t attack civilians.”

Any one of these criticisms taken on its own may have some merit, but all together they amount to a slanted picture, lacking a proper sense of proportion or context. A reader might come away basically wishing America had lost the war, or at least not seeing much moral distinction between the Nazis and the Allies. If the Americans are racists, antisemites, and attackers of civilians, what makes them better than the Nazis? The Times is not much help on that front.

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There’s a smattering of coverage of the Nazi war against the Jews, but it’s presented as either oddly beside the point or typically marred by error. One Times article, headlined, “I Survived the Holocaust. But I Have Nightmares About Cats,” has a correction appended: “An earlier version of this article misstated the Polish phrase for ‘smelly jew.’ It is parszywa Zydowka, not smierze.” Thanks for clarifying that one.

The New York Times Sunday Book Review recently reprinted the Times‘ 1943 review of Hitler’s Mein Kampf. The Times’ current headline describes the review as a “blistering takedown,” but while the review faults the book for being poorly written (“Adolf Hitler is a poor writer”), it doesn’t mention the word “Jew.” Maybe it could have been a bit more blistering?

New York Times executive editor Max Frankel once accurately and memorably described the New York Times’ contemporaneous record in covering, or not covering, Hitler’s war against the Jews as a “staggering, staining failure.”

Seventy-five years later, the paper is getting it wrong all over again.

Ira Stoll was managing editor of The Forward and North American editor of The Jerusalem Post. His media critique, a regular Algemeiner feature, can be found here.

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