By Menachem Z. Rosensaft
I cannot remember reading anything as despicable or callous as Henry Kissinger’s observation, captured for posterity on secret White House recordings newly released by the Nixon Presidential Library and Museum, that “The emigration of Jews from the Soviet Union is not an objective of American foreign policy. And if they put Jews into gas chambers in the Soviet Union, it is not an American concern. Maybe a humanitarian concern.”Kissinger, then National Security Adviser, made the odious remarks on March 1, 1973, to President Nixon after Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir had requested American intervention on behalf of Soviet Jewry.Nixon’s response was no less disconcerting. “I know,” he said. “We can’t blow up the world because of it.”Kissinger and Nixon would have been right at home with the most extreme elements of the America First crowd who desperately wanted to keep the United States out of any European conflict during the 1930’s and early 1940’s. Must the entire world go to war for 600,000 Jews in Germany who are neither American, nor French, nor English citizens, but citizens of Germany?” asked the hate spewing Father Charles Coughlin in January of 1939.
Along the same lines, Charles Lindbergh, reaching essentially the identical basic conclusion as Kissinger would 31 and a half years later, declared in a speech in Des Moines on September 11, 1941, that “the leaders of both the British and the Jewish races, for reasons which are as understandable from their viewpoint as they are inadvisable from ours, for reasons which are not American, wish to involve us in the war.”
The literary critic George Steiner once wrote that if Hitler had ceased his territorial expansionism after the annexation of Czechoslovakia’s Sudetenland, “Dachau, Buchenwald and Theresienstadt would have operated in the middle of twentieth-century civilization until the last Jew had been made soap. There would have been brave words on Trafalgar Square and in Carnegie Hall . . . . But no foreign power would have taken action.”
Kissinger’s mindbogglingly perverse 1973 comments validate Steiner’s thesis. Since the United States had not yet become a party to the 1948 Genocide Convention during the Nixon years – Congress did not ratify it until 1988 – Kissinger clearly did not believe that the United States had even a moral obligation to implement the Convention’s spirit. In his utilitarian conception of American foreign policy, “if they put Jews into gas chambers . . . it is not an American concern.”