In accepting the “Ambassador for Humanity” award from Steven Spielberg and the USC Shoah Foundation in Los Angeles Wednesday evening, President Barack Obama recounted his 2009 trip to the concentration camp of Buchenwald–the camp his maternal grandfather helped liberate–with Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel. He failed, however, to remind his audience that his itinerary on that trip also included the German city of Dresden.
The gesture of combining a visit to Dresden with a visit to Buchenwald was likely a deliberate one, and was criticized at the time. There have been attempts to portray German suffering under Allied bombing–particularly in Dresden–as a parallel to Jewish suffering in the Nazi death camps. The trip took place in the heady early days of Obama’s presidency, when he cast himself as a kind of world-historical figure of global reconciliation.
Also on that same trip, Obama visited Cairo and delivered his infamous address to the Muslim world. In that address, he stunned many of his supporters in the Jewish community by suggesting that the only reason that Israel was created was because of the Holocaust–a narrative that ignores the historical and religious connection of Jews to the land of Israel, and that reaffirms the resentful core of the Arab narrative of the conflict.