Edited excerpts from postings on H-War followed by excerpts of correspondence with US Holocaust Museum employees:

Panel at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum

27 Feb 2002 from Jon Petrie on H-War: (1)

 ... I believe I am the only serious critic of military misrepresentations by the U.S. Holocaust Museum and by its companion book, the well circulated The World Must Know: The History of the Holocaust as Told in the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

I am disturbed that representations of military history within the Holocaust Museum and in its companion book are not held to the same standards as significantly less well circulated representations that have attracted criticism on H-War and elsewhere.

The World Must Know ...  p. 94: "German troops swept to within thirty-seven miles of Moscow by the end of September [l941]." But German troops at the end of September were still a couple of hundred miles from Moscow, and there had been no significant movement by German troops towards Moscow in September...

Most readers of [The World Must Know's] badly flawed account of the German push into the Soviet Union will assume that the statement "hundreds of thousands of Soviet soldiers were captured or killed" within a paragraph describing the string of German victories in 1941 summarizes the Soviet losses in the period 22 June 1941 thru circa November 1941. About three million Soviet soldiers were captured or killed in that period. (Most of the captured were dead by the spring of 1942.)  The same "hundreds of thousands" phrase is employed on the Museum gallery panel entitled "Invasion of the Soviet Union."  The Museum claims that the "hundreds of thousands" refers to losses in a one-month period, not to the whole invasionary period.  No one I have asked to read the panel or p. 94 of the Museum's The World Must Know has understood that the "hundreds of thousands" is intended to refer to one month only ...

I have written [of these and other Museum misrepresentations] in postings on another scholarly list [H-Holocaust -- and in 2003 H-Russia and H-Museum].  No one on [H-Holocaust] has disputed my reporting of Museum representations, and yet no one has shown any real interest in demanding from the Museum corrections of their misrepresentations and misleading representations. This failure to be concerned about misrepresentation is, in my view, frightening.

Jon Petrie

1 Mar 2002 on H-War from Geoffrey P. Megargee of the Museum:

As a military historian with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, I would like to respond to Mr. Petrie's points about military history here ... the Museum welcomes informed criticism ... and has in fact discussed Mr. Petrie's concerns with him on several occasions...

Regarding the "hundreds of thousands" phrase describing Soviet casualties, and the limits of the German advance, here is the text that describes those events in the Museum's Permanent Exhibit:

        Stalin had refused to believe warnings of an impending
        German attack, and the Soviet army was overwhelmed:
        hundreds of thousands were captured or killed.  Within
        weeks, German divisions captured the Baltic Republics of
        Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia.  In September the Germans
        laid siege to Sevastopol and Leningrad, and by late October,
        the cities of Minsk, Smolensk, Kiev, Odessa, and Kharkov had

... there is nothing in that passage that is going to give visitors to the Museum a fundamentally false impression of the course of the campaign.  ... the Museum shares every historian's obligation to be as accurate as possible, and it strives to do that. ... To the extent that Mr. Petrie has identified errors in the Museum's works, they are honest ones that do not give a false impression of the fundamental historical realities.

8 Mar 2002 on H-war from Geoffrey P. Megargee responding, in part, to a posting from Michael  Yaklich:

... I certainly did not want to imply that leaving the text as it stands would be a good thing to do. As a matter of fact, I just learned that the curator of the Permanent Exhibit had already slated that panel for changes, and I am forwarding Mr. Yaklich's posting to him ... the Museum is not deliberately distorting the past or ignoring criticism.

... We speak of making simple changes of a few words or lines, but there *are* important practical considerations ... It can cost thousands of dollars to replace a single panel in the exhibit.  Each is a custom-made steel plate cut to exact dimensions ... With that in mind, the Museum staff have to balance the worth of the correction carefully against the worth of other things they could do with the money ... I would have understood had they decided to use the resources elsewhere ...

Geoff Megargee


From Jon Petrie to Steve Luckert, Curator of the Permanent Exhibition at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, 16 Apr 2002 (email):

... I would like to be sent the proposed wording for the revised "Soviet Invasion" panel. And I would like to know the approximate date the replacement panel will be installed ...

[Below my signature were the details of a survey of the understandings of the "hundreds of thousands" phrase in its context by forty-five advance placement history students at Pennsbury High School. Twenty of the forty-five after reading the panels's wording believed Soviet military losses,  June to late October 1941, captured or killed,  were under 500,000, i.e. in the hundreds of thousands.  In fact about three million were captured or killed and most of the captured were dead by the spring of 1942 -- these losses were the largest military losses in any one year by any nation in all of history.]

16 April 2002 from Steve Luckert, Curator:

Dear Mr. Petrie:

... I will send you the final text as soon as the text panel is revised and on display.
...  Once again, I want to thank you for your message and your interest
in the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

                                   Sincerely yours,
Steve Luckert


9 December 2002 from Jon Petrie:

Dear Dr.(Geoff) Megargee:

 You wrote me in April:  "I am confident that the new panel on the invasion of the Soviet Union will accurately depict that nation's military losses ..."

 Eight months should be long enough for the Museum to replace a panel that has badly mislead many of its visitors as to Soviet defense forces losses of 1941 (the greatest human losses suffered by any army in any half year period in world history).

 Perhaps since I am not in D.C. you could email me the new wording, or better a picture of the new panel if it has been replaced ...

 If the old panel has not been replaced, perhaps you would care to let me know when it will be replaced and what the new wording will be.

Jon Petrie (9 December, 2002)

P.S.  You suggested on H-War, 8 March '02, that the Museum could legitimately have other priorities for its moneys than correcting the misleading text panel. I found this statement bizarre - I don't consider the Soviet loss of a few million plus soldiers in 1941 a "detail" that any museum in any context has the right to misrepresent.  But if the Museum has had second thoughts about its priorities, and is unwilling to divert moneys from other expenditures to pay for a new Soviet Invasion panel, I would be willing to contribute up to $15,000 of the cost of a new invasion panel if such a panel unequivocally acknowledges the Soviet human losses of 1941.

10 Dec. 2002 from Dr. Megargee

Dear Mr. Petrie,
... I do not work with the exhibitions staff, and I am not qualified to pass judgment on their timetable.  I have passed your message on to them ...
Geoff Megargee

23 December 2002 from Jon Petrie

Dear Dr. (Geoff) Megargee:

I have not heard from the exibitions staff ...

Has the 'Soviet Invasion' panel of March 2002 been changed or not ?

Jon Petrie

No response was received to the above email; I was at the Museum in early 2003 and the panel had not been changed. (2)

(1) H-War's self description from its web site >http://www.h-net.org/~war/<:

"H-War is a moderated electronic discussion group and bulletin board for scholars, librarians, and teachers in the field of military history and is part of the H-Net family of LISTSERV discussion lists. ...
The primary purpose of H-War is to provide a forum for military historians and other scholars to communicate openly. In this light, H-War will focus particularly on research and teaching interests, new scholarship in the field, discussions of military historiography that foster critical thinking and enhance professionalism ..."

The H-War editor in March 2002 refused to post my responses to Dr. Megargee's postings. In early 2003 I submitted to H-War a critique of certain Imperial War Museum's representations and mentioned the failure of the Holocaust Museum to change its Soviet Invasion panel. H-War's editor emailed me that H-War would post no Petrie critical comments on Imperial War Museum or Holocaust Museum representations.

2) On 16 November 1993 I wrote Michael Berenbaum, author of The World Must Know detailing errors and misleading statements in his book.  Michael Berenbaum replied on 28 January 1994: "I will make appropriate corrections ... I am deeply grateful to you for pointing out errors."  As far as I know none of the errors or misleading statements addressed in my 1993 letter were corrected in post 1993 printings -- the errors addressed in the H-War posting of 27 Febuary 2002 (excerpted above) were pointed out in my 1993 letter to Berenbaum.

(For further museum misrepresentations
>http://www.berkeleyinternet.com/iwm/soviet.html< and
And some readers may also be interested in the systematic misrepresentation of the meanings and history of the word "holocaust" by Holocaust scholars documented at >http://www.berkeleyinternet.com/holocaust/< )