Once again, it looks like a job for PolitiFact.
A good summary can make or break one of these
SUMMARY: In recounting a World War II story about his uncle, Obama named the wrong concentration camp, but we found other details were correct. His uncle saw the horrors of the Holocaust.Other details, eh? Here is how PolitiFact remembers Obama's speech:
“I had an uncle who was . . . part of the first American troops to go into Auschwitz and liberate the concentration camps,” Obama said in the speech on May 26, 2008. “And the story in our family was that when he came home, he just went up into the attic and he didn’t leave the house for six months. Right? Now obviously something had really affected him deeply. But at that time there just weren’t the kinds of facilities to help somebody work through that kind of pain.”I added bold emphasis to mark the relevant portion. There isn't really much detail, there. We do have the following:
- he had an "uncle"
- the "uncle" was with the American troops who went into Auschwitz
- the "uncle" was with the American troops who liberated the concentration camps.
2) As PolitiFact notes, it was Soviet troops who liberated (using the term advisedly) Auschwitz so that portion of Obama's speech is just as false as could be, perhaps even qualifying for the dreaded "Pants-on-Fire" cheesy graphic.
3) Obama's great uncle was plausibly part of the liberation of a work camp known as Ohdruf, part of the Buchenwald concentration camp.
The PolitiFact ruling? Mostly true!
Is it not obvious that the Auschwitz claim is Obama's key claim in his statement? Everybody knows about Auschwitz. Say "Ohdruf" or even "Buchenwald" and you get a "Huh?" from the average person.
But one more thing. Review the PolitiFact summary again. Obama's (great) "uncle saw the horrors of the Holocaust." Is that so? Even if it's plausible that this great uncle was part of the company that liberated Ohrdruf, how can it be so easily said that he "saw the horrors of the Holocaust"? PolitiFact offers some evidence that Ohrdruf manifested the horrors of the Holocaust (striped outfits along with the smell of feces and urine, anyway). But Obama's own description of the incident is built on an inference. The great uncle spent considerable time in the attic when he got home, therefore he must have seen something horrible.
Couldn't simply serving in Patton's army account for that?
The Obama gaffe (and it is that) cannot be better than half true even through the absorption of true incidental details such as the existence of a (great) uncle who helped liberate a work camp other than Auschwitz. And it is simply amazing that PolitiFact would assure readers on such thin evidence that "(Obama's) uncle saw the horrors of the Holocaust."
I agree with TalkLeft's "Jeralyn" that one would hope that an intellectual president would be aware of the location of Auschitz (Poland) as part of his awareness of international history. That is the key aspect of the Obama gaffe, and it is that aspect that is downplayed by the PolitiFact kid gloves treatment of justifying the incidental details of the story to find it "mostly true."
This PolitiFact entry was by Robert Farley and researched by Angie Drobnic Holan.
Additional information regarding Ohrdruf may be found here.