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Dwight D. Eisenhower

American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee Previous Raphael Lemkin Next

Generals Dwight D. Eisenhower and George S. Patton tour the displaced persons camp at Feldafing. —US Holocaust Memorial Museum

Dwight D. Eisenhower was sent to England in June 1942 on a special mission to build cooperation among the Allies as Commanding General, US Army, European Theater. He was appointed as Supreme Commander, Allied Expeditionary Forces in December 1943 to oversee the planning of Operation Overlord, the Allied invasion of Europe (the Normandy Landing).

Eisenhower was then promoted to General of the Army (5 stars) on December 20, 1944. Shortly after the German surrender on May 8, 1945, he was appointed Military Governor, US Zone of Occupation, headquartered in Frankfurt, Germany.

On April 12, 1945, he visited Ohrdruf-Nord, a subcamp of Buchenwald, and described what he saw as “beyond the American mind to comprehend.”

He continued to press forward, anxious to bear personal witness to what had occurred. He ordered every soldier not at the immediate front to tour the camps in order for them to observe first-hand the evil and the cruelty inflicted on the Jews and other innocent prisoners.

Eisenhower also arranged for various other influential Americans and elected officials to see the evidence of the camps for themselves, as he anticipated a time when some might try to refute the scale of the Holocaust. He wanted to ensure that the world would never forget what had happened.

Prompted by a strongly worded cable from President Truman who had received a negative report on conditions for Jews in the DP camps, General Eisenhower visited Feldafing and other displaced person’s camps in the fall of 1945.  He was directed by President Truman to institute reforms to improve the living conditions of displaced Jews in the American zone of occupation.

Eisenhower served as Chief of Staff of the United States Army from November 1945 until February 1948. He resigned from the Army in February 1948 to serve as president of Columbia University.

In 1950, at President Truman’s request Eisenhower took a leave of absence from Columbia to command the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). On June 1, 1952, Eisenhower returned to the United States to campaign actively for the presidency and served for two terms as President of the United States from 1953 to 1961. He died April 2, 1969.

Taking a Stand

Dwight D. Eisenhower represents a leader who took a stand by ensuring that his soldiers and other important international leaders witnessed the atrocities of the Holocaust. Eisenhower was concerned that in the future, the atrocities of the Holocaust would be called “propaganda.” He wanted to make sure that the world never forget what had happened and therefore took measures to ensure that atrocities were documented.

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