Getting History Wrong: the Holocaust

By | October 19, 2022

[October 19, 2022]  I made an important point, a year ago when I criticized the American filmmaker Ken Burns for being wrong about his documentary on the Vietnam War.  I bring this up because Ken Burns is again wrong with his new documentary on The Holocaust.  It is important to get history right because we learn lessons that make us better, safer, and happier.

“History is a set of lies agreed upon.” – Napoléon Bonaparte

World War II was the most destructive war in human history.  If we learned anything from the 20th Century, it’s that we should not tolerate military adventurism.  But, if you watch the three-part series on the Holocaust by Ken Burns, you will might be misled by someone who adopts the leftist ideology that America is an irremediable racist and xenophobic country.

 With his documentary on The Holocaust, Ken Burns, once again, gets it wrong.  Fortunately, Ruth R. Wisse, a professor emerita at Harvard, has done a thorough takedown of the distorted Ken Burns narrative.  I recommend the article in its entirety, and it can be read here (see link).  And, like in Burns’ Vietnam War documentary, critics rave about America’s shameful failure to help save the European Jews from the fate awaiting them from Nazi Germany.

Burns, Novick, and Botstein, who are not historians or political thinkers but filmmakers who satisfy the audience, have mirrored their eagerness to do good and to atone for past iniquities.

Wisse is telling us that the motivation for this documentary is compassion for the Jews lost in the Holocaust.  Still, Burns et al. beliefs and ideology have distorted history and blamed the failure to save the Jews squarely on America.  Wrong.  The film oversimplifies and also fails to give us any accurate understanding of the world at that time or the effort America made in defeating Germany.

Above all, the program was widely understood as a contemporary warning against what President Biden has called the “semi-fascism” of MAGA and its followers.  According to Robert Lloyd, the TV critic of the Los Angeles Times, “American nativism, xenophobia, and white supremacy, having been given cover by the previous president [i.e., Donald Trump], are renascent,” and the producers (Burns et al.) “make that connection explicit.”

Historian Lucy S. Dawidowicz covered much the same ground in two of her books (links here and here).  She was troubled to see the target of postwar recriminations moving from the perpetrators to America and even to American Jews.  She also feared that asking the wrong questions and culling the wrong lessons from history could be even worse than ignoring it.  Dawidowicz proposes the question of how America could be considered complacent to Hitler’s Jew “problem” when the United States mobilized all of its industrial, military, and human resources to destroy those who were destroying the Jews.

I recommend Ruth Wisse’s criticism of Burn’s documentary.  Read the article and see what you think.  See the link here.


Please read my books:

  1. “55 Rules for a Good Life,” on Amazon (link here).
  2. “Our Longest Year in Iraq,” on Amazon (link here).
Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I provide one article every day. My writings are influenced by great thinkers such as Friedrich Nietzsche, Karl Jung, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Jean Piaget, Erich Neumann, and Jordan Peterson, whose insight and brilliance have gotten millions worldwide to think about improving ourselves. Thank you for reading my blog.

17 thoughts on “Getting History Wrong: the Holocaust

  1. Max Foster

    I’m no fan of Ken Burns and I’m not sucked into the ideology that drives so many folks today that love playing the victim from the big bad United States. The US is a beacon of freedom for the world, period. There is no legit argument saying otherwise. These are spoiled brats, like Ken Burns, who has made himself a wonderful life and a good name. Yet he disparages the very country that helped get him where he is. What an a$$hole. Just saying.

    1. DocJeff

      Pow, Max, you are always writing what I’m thinking. Great putdown of that moron Ken Burns.

  2. Nick Lighthouse

    Great article again, Gen. Satterfield. Keep these coming. Oh, I read the professor’s artilcle in full. She is really smart and not afraid to take on the PC idiots.

  3. JT Patterson

    Professor Ruth R. Wisse is a rare person because she is an academic who is not afraid to tell the King he has no clothes.

    1. Karl J.

      He He He He He …….. JT you da man. Made me laugh. But also so very TRUE.

      1. Joe Omerrod

        Yep, and learning the right lessons from history is the whole point of the study of history and why it is so important that historians get it right. We rely upon them to do the hard work finding out the facts and then giving us a good look at what happened and why. 👍

  4. Idiot Savant

    Wow, I never this a second thought. You would think, BTW I don’t, that folks would not jump to conclusions as soon as they see something published. Just because they see it on tv, doesn’t make it true. That is why we must all take the advice of Gen. Satterfield and never lie. Tell the truth, at least don’t lie. That is also in his book, recently published.

  5. Valkerie

    Excellent article on Ken Burns’ gross misinterpretation of history. Thank you General Satterfield. 😉

    1. Wendy Holmes

      Yeah, “gross” is an understatement. I wonder if other historians have jumped into the role of supporting the truth in history? Probably not. They’re all progressive, neo-Marxists or just blatant traditional Marxists.

  6. Wild Bill

    Like Gen. Satterfield has noted, “never surrender your sword.” A metaphor for the blowback on the false description of history in this PC blame game so many whackos are playing.

  7. Harry Man

    Ken Burns and his henchmen are not just not historians they are the anti-historians of our time because they have one goal, to be lavished with praise for their anti-Americanism.

    1. Linux Man

      You got that right. And, everyone (except maybe a very few) believe he is the greatest historian of all times. Just read the reviews of his tripe on Amazon and elsewhere. What a turd Ken Burns has become.

    2. American Girl

      Well said, Harry. That’s why I always read this leadership forum. But we also need, and this is not a criticism, more precise examples of Ken Burns malfeasance. He is truly not an historian but someone who has a liberal, leftists, progressive agenda that needs a beat down with the facts. Thanks Gen. Satterfield for making us aware of his continued anti-Americanism.


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