In Desperate Times: The Liberation of Nazi Death Camps
By Jordan Michael Smith
Opposition to America and American foreign policy has reached unprecedented heights. This hostility is not confined to the Arab and Muslim nations of the world, as the media often make it seem. Earlier this year, a writer in Canadaâ€™s Toronto Star opined that â€œfor Canadians, there are certain similaritiesâ€ between Nazi Germany and present-day America. â€œLike Central European nations of the 1930â€™s,â€ he added, â€œCanada finds itself next door to a powerful nation led by an unusually aggressive and perhaps slightly unhinged man.â€ The Star has the highest circulation of any newspaper in the country.
Perhaps it might be helpful, in times when such sordid things masquerade as reasonable commentary, for a Canadian, a foreigner, such as me to remind the world of the astonishing contributions America has made-and continues to make-to the cause of humanity.
Even a quickly-compiled list of contributions from just the 20th century should be more than enough to extinguish the poisonous fires of anti-Americanism currently swallowing the globe: the United Nations and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the computer and the internet, jazz, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Civil Rights movement, space travel, environmentalism, Rock Nâ€™ Roll, Hollywood movies, and, not least, contributing significantly to the defeat of Nazism and communism.
Alas, sometimes it takes an individual tale to bring home what general references cannot. For that, America can turn to its seemingly endless reservoir of heroes. In this case, she relies upon one Forrest J. Robinson and the giants of the 104th Infantry Division of the First Army.
The Holocaust was humanityâ€™s worst moment. For the sheer hatred displayed, for the effort and resources invested in massacring innocent human beings, and for the inhuman efficiency of the killing machines the Nazis developed, the Holocaust is simply without peer in human history.
â€œAfter Auschwitz,â€ lamented German social critic Theodor Adorno, â€œit is barbaric to write poetry.â€ Fifty-five years have passed since Adorno made his famous remark, and the gap separating the Holocaust from everyday reality has become no less bridgeable.
For some American soldiers, however, the Holocaust was not an event to be mourned over and mythologized. It had to be confronted directly.
Army divisions often choose their insignias arbitrarily. One can imagine, say, a lion being selected to emphasize a unitâ€™s bravery. The selections are easy, but random.
This was not the case for the 104th Infantry division. For this group, only the timberwolf would do. For the timberwolf is a subspecies of the gray wolf, and is exceedingly rare. If any nickname ever suited a division, this was it: both rare and toweringly powerful.