Seventy-six years ago today, U.S. Army Gen. Omar Bradley rode in his armored caravan out of Bastogne, Belgium. Although the Battle of the Bulge was officially over, with the Americans victorious, the weather was still bitterly cold and foreboding. Allied soldiers under the command of Dwight Eisenhower and his able field generals Bradley, George Patton and the rest, had broken the back of the Wehrmacht on the western front. The cost had been steep and more fighting remained, so "Brad," as his comrades knew him, rode eastward in silence.
"From Bastogne," wrote Bradley biographer Jim DeFelice, "they drove toward Marche, wending their way past fields and hills still heavy with death."
A few weeks ago, I informed you that each day's newsletter would no longer include a history homily. Not every reader saw that missive: Yesterday I received an email from a Cornell University student expressing disappointment that I hadn't mentioned Holocaust Remembrance Day. "I feel fear that the memory of the Holocaust will die with the survivors," she wrote. "I feel fear that people who aren't Jewish won't recognize our long history of suffering and discrimination."
Her point is well-taken. On the last day of the Battle of the Bulge, 745 miles away, outside the Polish town of Oświęcim, soldiers of the advancing Red Army dressed in ghostly white emerged from the forest to find a barbed-wire camp.
"They looked at us with surprise and dismay," recalled Anna Polshchikova, one of the 7,000 sickly people left behind by the retreating Nazis. "Who are you?" they asked. "What is this place?"
The Russians' disorientation was understandable. The place was hell, also known as Auschwitz. Fleeing the Soviets, the Nazis had taken 58,000 prisoners on a death march west. Almost all the rest of the 1.3 million human beings who had been sent there during the war had been murdered. Nine out of 10 of the victims were Jews, including 230,000 children. Among the rest were gay people, Romani, and political prisoners from Poland and Belarus. So, no, one day a year is certainly not too often to say, "Never again!"
Carl M. Cannon is the Washington bureau chief for RealClearPolitics. Reach him on Twitter @CarlCannon.