Laurel Leff,
Buried by The Times:
The Holocaust & America's
Most Important Newspaper

(Cambridge University Press, 2005)

Subtitled "The Holocaust & America's Most Important Newspaper," Buried by The Times is a cautionary tale for today as it recalls what happened in the past.

We are surrounded today by skepticism, nationalism, denial, censorship and propaganda from almost every corner of a world that has shrunk and expanded in equal measure. The Internet and the media have brought the most distant lands to within a click of the mouse or remote control. At the same time nations, regions and religions grow further and further apart so that they can seem as remote from our lives as the "galaxy far far away" of Star Wars fame.

Ironically, a century ago the telegraph and telephone had helped to shrink the world and people believed that they were more in touch with distant lands than their ancestors could have imagined.

Reading this excellent expose of the reality of lives midway between these points reveals that we are never as well informed as we naively like to believe. Vested interests control and have always controlled and probably always will control our knowledge. These may be governments, businesses or any other organizations. Usually, they do it for "the best of reasons" ... but nevertheless they do it.

Not having lived through the Second World War, I cannot say how the ordinary person was kept updated on the conflicts raging in a myriad of locations. Wartime censorship would have caused sensitive material to be withheld. But was that all that was -- or is -- hidden from us?

We look at the United States of America as the "land of the free" where a million tales and movies portrayed the triumph of the "little man" over the establishment. Many lands look with envy on the freedom and the openness of the great democracy. Read this book and that faith may be shaken. Laurel Leff's magnificent prose will open your eyes, causing you anger and concern in equal measure.

Apart from a few renegade states and historians, the world accepts the tragic reality of the Holocaust today. Back in the 1940s a war was being fought, people were dying, there was immense suffering -- but still we would expect that the extermination of a race would be front-page news. This book shows that it was not.

Leff shows -- in a meticulously researched 358 pages plus notes and references -- that the plight of the Jews in Germany and the occupied lands was not hot news. Stories that came from reliable sources in Europe did not make banner headlines. They did not even make the front page, below the fold. Reports that might have helped mobilize efforts and possibly save millions of lives began to appear in short, almost hidden, pieces on the inside pages.

The greater tragedy is that this was not happening in small-town newspapers but in the giant of American publishing, The New York Times. The double tragedy is that, because the Times was so influential, other newspapers in turn often neglected the story.

Compounding the mystery is the very fact that the proprietor of the newspaper was Jewish.

This book is a triumph of research and investigation. It is a window into a hidden world. It is a wake-up call in the 21st century, but primarily it is an excellent read.

by Nicky Rossiter
18 February 2006

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