February Book Review

Feb 10, 2016 · Edward Goedeken

Jay Winik.?1944: FDR and the Year That Changed History (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2015)

The goal was simple: kill them, kill all of them, every last one. The Nazi killing machine was already going strong and had been for over four years when 1944 dawned. By the end of 1942, four million Jews had been shot and gassed throughout the dozens of death camps created in Eastern Europe just for that purpose.?Jay Winik?s sobering account reviews the history of these camps within the context of the American political and military situation during that year. Winik is an excellent writer and his narrative flows smoothly as it straddles the events in Europe and in the United States. Information about the Nazi death camps had been filtering out for years, and Winik is highly critical of FDR and the members of his administration who failed to take action until late in the war, when it was already too late for millions of Jews and other ?undesirables? who perished at Treblinka, Sobibor, Chelmno, Bergen Belsen, and, of course, Auschwitz. Winik believes that the United States could have and should have bombed Auschwitz and the other concentration camps, thus sparing the lives of many. Whether this would have worked is an open question that defies a simple answer, considering that much of that territory fell into the hands of the Soviet armies as they marched westward in 1944 and 1945.

Winik?s book is outstanding history written with verve and style. Readers can decide for themselves whether or not his argument is ultimately compelling. Regardless of the knowledge you bring to this text, you will come away knowing a great deal more about the Final Solution and America?s response to it.