Kennedy are burned deeply into the memories of millions who watched the events of November unfold live on television. Never before had America seen an event of this magnitude as it happened. But what is it we remember? How did the near chaos of the shooting and its aftermath get transformed into a seamless story of epic proportions? In this book, Barbie Zelizer explores the way we learned about and came to make sense of the killing of the president. Of the more than fifty reporters covering Kennedy in Dallas, no one actually saw the assassination.
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I will tell you about it chronologically with no attempt to embellish so that you may judge for yourselves. Olson cabled those words back to news bureau chief David Hulburd. But the cable itself survived. Three months later, Germany invaded Poland , launching World War II, and Olson spent almost every day that followed begging Luce to send him abroad to cover the war.
Even as he was promoted and took on more responsibility at the magazine, he was ready to give it up. That December, he joined the ranks of some 1, accredited war correspondents. He was empowered by a sense of patriotic duty. Olson designating him a war correspondent by the War Department on Dec. Courtesy of Sidney A. By Feb. Moller second from right. Then, on April 11, , the U. By the time three U.
Army divisions approached the Dachau complex, the main camp and its subcamps together held 67, registered prisoners , about one-third of whom were Jewish. Many died of starvation or were shot dead if they trailed behind. Unbeknownst to him at the time, it was also the day Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler was found dead in his underground bunker in Berlin.
Journalists had received reports about the existence of concentration camps and of the massacre of millions of predominantly Jewish people, but reports of these statistics still seemed abstract to many at home. In , the vast majority of Americans believed reports about concentration camps, but seriously underestimated the number of people killed in them. Interestingly, a separate survey that year revealed that most Americans thought it was important for the public in the U.
The camps seemed abstract to many of the journalists on the front lines too — until they saw for themselves. Correspondents were often mistaken for liberators; in some cases, they had in fact beat the liberators to Nazi-occupied areas.
In a second cable, Olson said he heard a German tried to surrender to New York Herald Tribune correspondent Marguerite Higgins, and that the Nazis raised a white flag when she arrived. The story starts with Olson entering to the sight of dead bodies, then transitions to the celebrations of the inmates. It leaves out paragraphs from the original cable about skirmishes and fighting that was still taking place at the camp — details that, as Zelizer puts it, could have been a whole other story.
In the years that followed, when his war experiences came up, he too left out some of the gorier parts. He segued to Fortune and LIFE, then moved to Hollywood in and did a six-month stint screenwriting for Paramount Pictures, before pivoting to advertising.
He retired in The liberation of Dachau came up once, and while John has long forgotten the actual exchange that followed, his body language spoke volumes. But it was only in that Clark and her daughter Clark-Junkins took on the task of organizing the World War II-era papers, including the file on the liberation of Dachau. Clark initially only wanted to keep the files in the family, but changed her mind, believing people outside the family should know what Olson saw too, now more than ever, given the surge of antisemitism and rising nationalism worldwide 75 years later.
Long-Forgotten Cables Reveal What TIME's Correspondent Saw at the Liberation of Dachau
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