Dream Catcher: A Memoir

Dream Catcher: A Memoir by Margaret A. Salinger Read Free Book Online

Book: Dream Catcher: A Memoir by Margaret A. Salinger Read Free Book Online
Authors: Margaret A. Salinger
great multitudes from all the lands to fight for the Jews and the Jews lifted up their voicesand sang “Onward Christian Soldiers.” We will make the uniforms.
    V. And the Jews lifted up their eyes and beheld a great opportunity and they said unto one another “the time has come when it is good to barter the junk for pieces of silver” and straightaway it was so.
    VI. And they grieved not when a city was destroyed for when a city is destroyed there is junk and where there is junk there are Jews and where there are Jews there are money [ sic ] [and sick]. 8
    Such overtly anti-Semitic incidents and leaflets were most prevalent at points of induction. 9 Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox and Secretary of War Henry Stimson issued orders forbidding the circulation of such anti-Semitic publications at all naval and military posts. It is hard to outlaw or legislate attitudes, but the experience of service together changed the attitude of many a soldier. When the Army publication Yank magazine asked soldiers, in August of 1945 just before the Japanese surrender, what changes they most wanted to see made in postwar America, the majority of GIs surveyed agreed that “above everything else, the need for wiping out racial and religious discrimination” was their major hope. 10 Whether this was due to the experience of Jew and Gentile fighting side by side or to the witnessing “up close and personal” of anti-Semitism put into practice, it is impossible to say. Perhaps it is as my father told me when I was a little girl: “You never really get the smell of burning flesh out of your nose entirely, no matter how long you live.” 11
    It was particularly depressing to find how much the virtual elimination of the Jewish GI’s story continues to this day in current histories of World War II. Citizen Soldiers, a critically acclaimed book that was on the New York Times best-seller list for many months as I was writing my own book, purports to be the story of the American soldier from D-Day to VE day. The author, Steven Ambrose, is a noted writer of best-sellers— Undaunted Courage and D-Day as well as multi-volume biographies of Presidents Eisenhower and Nixon—and founder of the Eisenhower Center and president of the National D-Day Museum in New Orleans. Two years ago, before I asked questions about what things were like in my father’s day, I’m not sure I would have noticed the virtual X-ing out, the elimination by silence, of all but the Gentile GI’s stories. In an otherwise fascinating book, bringing to life the GI’s experience of battle, this stuck in my craw. I’m not speaking of the author’s motivations, but of the effect of “talking that way.” It’s not dissimilar to the tradition of referring to all human beings as “men”: someone’s story gets overlooked, devalued, or silenced. When you’re talking about a war of genocide, something more than being politically correct is at stake when you tell the American citizen soldier’s story in a way that excludes Jews. (He devotes a chapter to the African-American soldier.) Imagine you are a Jewish war veteran, or the surviving friend or relation of a soldier who didn’t happen to be a Christian, and reading the beginning of chapter 9 of Ambrose’s book:
    During Christmas season of 1944 there were some four million young soldiers on the Western Front, the great majority of them Protestants or Catholics. They said the same prayers when they were being shelled, directed to the same God. . . . In World War II, no hatred matched that felt by Americans against Japanese, or Russians against Germans, and vice versa. But in Northwest Europe, there was little racial hatred between the Americans and the Germans. How could there be when cousins were fighting cousins? About one-third of the U.S. Army in ETO were German-American in origin. The Christmas season highlighted the closeness of the foes. Americans and Germans alike put up Christmas trees . . . the men on both

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