Eisenhower’s granddaughter will speak to Albertans at virtual event on Jan. 25

Author Susan Eisenhower will be the virtual keynote speaker at the International Holocaust Remembrance Day event on January 25.

by Maxine Fischbein

(AJNews) – The Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe, General Dwight D. Eisenhower—who later served as President of the United States—demonstrated a keen understanding of the human capacity to generate “alternate facts.”

When Eisenhower heard of the atrocities at Ohrdruf—a sub-camp of Buchenwald and the first concentration camp to be liberated by American troops following World War II—he felt a powerful need to see things with his own eyes. Eight days after the April 4, 1945 liberation of the camp, he arrived there, meeting with General George S. Patton and General Omar Bradley. The next day he saw the horrific aftermath in Buchenwald.

Immediately grasping that the evil deeds of the Nazis would one day be minimized or outright denied, Eisenhower sent a letter to General George C. Marshall, then head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in Washington. In part it read:

“While I was touring the camp I encountered three men who had been inmates and by one ruse or another had made their escape. I interviewed them through an interpreter. The visual evidence and the verbal testimony of starvation, cruelty and bestiality were so overpowering as to leave me a bit sick. In one room, where they were piled up twenty or thirty naked men, killed by starvation, George Patton would not even enter. He said he would get sick if he did so.”

Eisenhower subsequently sent a cable to General Marshall, urging that arrangements be made to fly Members of Congress and journalists to Europe so that they could witness and document the carnage. The plan was approved by the Secretary of War and the President of the United States, ensuring documentation of deprivation, torture and genocide that continue—as Eisenhower said in his letter—to “beggar description.”

On January 25, the Calgary Jewish Federation Holocaust and Human Rights Remembrance and Education department will once again team up with the Calgary Public Library, this time to explore Eisenhower’s inspiring legacy during a virtual talk with his granddaughter Susan Eisenhower, author of How Ike Led: The Principles Behind Eisenhower’s Biggest Decisions.

“She has written a compelling story,” said Jared Shore, former co-president of Calgary Jewish Federation and the moderator of the online event.

“Dwight Eisenhower had the foresight at an emotionally charged time to say we need to document this for the future. That compulsion was so important and has proven even more important as time marches on,” Shore told AJNews.

Susan Eisenhower, a respected policy analyst, business consultant, educator, speaker and writer whose specialties include national security, leadership and related strategic issues, will speak about what her grandfather saw in the concentration camps and what antisemitism looks like today.

Also compelling are Susan Eisenhower’s insights into the leadership style of her grandfather, the heart and soul of her book, published in 2020 to national and international acclaim.

“The book speaks to who he was as a leader,” said Shore, from Ike’s military leadership to his presidency of Columbia University, his command of NATO and, eventually, his service as president of the United States between 1953 and 1961.

“We cannot take leadership for granted,” said Shore, who closely followed the recent US congressional hearings on antisemitism at Ivy League colleges.

It is easy to imagine Dwight D. Eisenhower turning in his grave at the lack of moral clarity demonstrated by leaders at Ivy League schools, notably Harvard President Claudine Gay, MIT President Sally Kornbluth and University of Pennsylvania President Elizabeth Magill, who subsequently resigned from her position.

.“People we count on for moral leadership have utterly failed,” said Shore.

In an October 18 article in the Philadelphia Jewish Exponent, historian Gil Troy had already called out the “tepid” responses of Ivy League leaders to skyrocketing expressions of antisemitism on their campuses as “the silence of the tenured lambs,” said Shore, adding that the expression resonated with him.

By contrast, said Shore, “Ike was such an inspiring leader, who often put his political life on the line because of what he believed in.”

In the pages of her book, Susan Eisenhower paints the picture of a man to whom character mattered.  Billed as “part leadership book, part history, and part memoir,” it gives insight into a man who, while a Republican, was uniquely non-partisan, always aiming for middle ground.

Susan Eisenhower has described her grandfather as fearing the time when “…extremes on the left and the right would dominate the public space.”

These eerily prescient insights are reason enough to register for the talk by Susan Eisenhower, whose exploration of her beloved grandfather’s legacy is a much-needed tonic in a world that is more and more given to extremes and less and less discerning when it comes to leadership.

“The relevance today is so apparent,” says Shore. “We as Canadians need to be aware of and concerned about matters of leadership. Expectations of our leaders is something this talk will shed some light on.”

Never Again: International Holocaust Remembrance Day with Susan Eisenhower takes place virtually on January 25 from 7:00-8:30pm MST.

The event kicks off a fourth season of Holocaust programming organized by the Holocaust and Human Rights Remembrance and Education department of Calgary Jewish Federation and presented by the Calgary Public Library in partnership with the Jewish Federation of Edmonton and the Edmonton Public Library.

The program is generously supported by the Isadore and Florence Burstyn Memorial Fund, the KSW Holocaust Education and Commemoration Endowment Fund, and donors to the Human Rights and Holocaust Education Fund at the Calgary Public Library Foundation. To register, go to Never Again: International Holocaust Remembrance Day with Susan Eisenhower Tickets, Thu, Jan 25, 2024 at 7:00 PM | Eventbrite

Maxine Fischbein is a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

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