Friday, May 06, 2005

"A Statistical Link Between the Holocaust and Darfur" 

[fromThe Washington Post]

Monday, May 2, 2005; Page A16

The State Department's surprisingly low estimate of the death toll in
Sudan---60,000 to 160,000, as compared with the 400,000 estimated by
human rights groups [editorial, April 24]---is disturbingly reminiscent
of a controversy involving the State Department during the Holocaust.

In November 1943 Assistant Secretary of State Breckinridge Long, who
was in charge of the Roosevelt administration's immigration policy,
testified before the House Foreign Affairs Committee concerning a
congressional resolution urging creation of a U.S. government agency to
rescue refugees from Hitler. Long, who was privately anti-Semitic as
well as bitterly opposed to refugee immigration, sought to undercut the
rescue resolution. Trying to demonstrate that a new rescue agency was
unnecessary, Long testified that "we have taken into this country since
the beginning of the Hitler regime and the persecution of the Jews,
until today, approximately 580,000 refugees."

But the actual number of immigrants was not more than 250,000, and many
of them were not Jews. Long's wild exaggeration backfired. His testimony
set off a firestorm of criticism from the media, Jewish organizations
and members of Congress, giving important new momentum to the campaign
for U.S. rescue action.

Today we know why the State Department in 1943 presented an implausibly
high estimate of Jewish immigration to the United States. By contrast,
we do not know what shaped the State Department's recent decision to
embrace an implausibly low estimate of the Sudan death toll. All we can
say is that today, no less than in 1943, government officials have an
obligation to present statistics that are not tainted by political

Accuracy and a determination to stop genocide should be their only

David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies
Melrose Park, PA

Eric Reeves
Smith College
Northampton, MA 01063

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