from postings on H-War followed by excerpts of correspondence with US
Holocaust Museum employees:
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
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.
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
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
in the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
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 ...
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 ?
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
"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
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/<