Reporting facts as facts is heartening in these times The headline over the Associated Press article in the Des Moines Register Tuesday was straightforward: “Auschwitz letter/is found in wall.” But I was surprised by one graph and even more so by my reaction to it.
The story told how a construction crew in Poland found a note written and hidden away by seven young people who “thought they were doomed to die in the Auschwitz death camp.” (At least two survived, the story said.) Here’s the graph that caught my eye: “The Nazis set up the Auschwitz camp in 1940 in occupied Poland. At least 1.1 million people, mostly Jews, but also non-Jewish Poles, Gypsies and others, died in Auschwitz-Birkenau’s gas chambers, or from starvation, disease and forced labor.”
What I found intriguing about the AP story was that there was no attribution. The deaths of at least 1.1 million people were reported as a statement of fact. I found that heartening in a time when the news media, for fear of criticism or to play it safe, attribute or qualify everything. (Witness the over-use of “alleged,” as in “The alleged murder victim had 127 stab wounds and was decapitated.”) I found it heartening that the AP reported a horrific statement of fact as a statement of fact.
Maybe that’s been going on for some time now. Maybe I’m over-reacting. Although I have visited Dachau, Auschwitz and Birkenau and the Holocaust Museum in D.C., I don’t read many news stories or other documents about it. Too awful to contemplate.
And then we still have these holocaust deniers around, getting news coverage from time to time as though it was merited.
So pardon me, please, if I breathe a sigh of relief at the simple graph in an AP story.