Did Dwight Eisenhower Say Someday ‘Someone Will Claim It Never Happened’ in 1945?

On June 9 2019, the Facebook page “No To Theocracy” shared the following meme (archived here), featuring a quote in which President Dwight Eisenhower appeared to have predicted Holocaust denial:

Above a photograph skeletal human remains, text read:

“Get it all on record now — get the films — get the witnesses — because somewhere down the track of history some bastard will get up and say that this never happened.”

Dwight D. Eisenhower 1945

The quote implicitly references the rise of Holocaust deniers, and the prediction looked startlingly prescient. The same quote was shared on Twitter multiple times in April 2019:

A query about the quote was also shared to Reddit’s r/badhistory in September 2015:

As with our recent fact check on a quote misattributed to Socrates, one of the earliest mentions we could find of the Eisenhower “get it on record” quote was on the site GoodReads in 2010. No source is provided on that page for when or where Eisenhower supposedly made the remarks.

The quotation is notably absent from Eisenhower’s extensive Wikiquote page, although it appears it was once included on a separate page about Holocaust denial in general. If it was, it has since been removed and we were unable to locate any trace of it in the “Talk” or “History” tabs.

A 2009 blog post attempting to trace the quote after its appearance on the internet traced it back to 2008:

Another day, recipe pfizer and another questionable quotation drops in my lap. And this time it’s offered as a compliment to the attributed author, rehabilitation and to a much more praiseworthy author at that:

“Get it all on record now – get the films – get the witnesses – because somewhere down the track of history some bastard will get up and say that this never happened.”

– General Dwight D. Eisenhower, medications on future Holocaust denial

Still, I had to raise an eyebrow to this. It seems a little too colloquial, a little too punchy, to have come from the pen of one of our greatest WWII heroes. The blog I found the quote cited Wikipedia as its source, and Wikipedia cited…Dominican Today. And here I was expecting maybe, oh, a book about Eisenhower, and not a foreign newspaper article.

That post traced the purported Eisenhower quote to a since-deleted 2008 “letter to the editor” published on DominicanToday.com:

It is a matter of history that when Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces, General Dwight Eisenhower, found the victims of the death camps, he ordered all possible photographs to be taken, and for the German people from surrounding villages to be ushered through the camps and even made to bury the dead.

He did this because he said in words to this effect: ‘Get it all on record now – get the films – get the witnesses – because somewhere down the track of history some bastard will get up and say that this never happened.’

‘All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing’ (Edmund Burke).

This week, the UK removed The Holocaust from its school curriculum because it ‘offended’ the Muslim population which claims it never occurred.

This is a frightening portent of the fear that is gripping the world and how easily each country is giving in to it.

These photos were taken in Germany by James Emison Chanslor, an Army Master Sergeant who served in World War II from 1942 until 1945.

It is now more than 60 years after the Second World War in Europe ended.

This e-mail is being sent as a memorial chain, in memory of the six million Jews, 20 million Russians, 10 million Christians and 1,900 Catholic priests who were murdered, massacred, raped, burned, starved and humiliated with the German and Russian peoples looking the other way!

Now, more than ever, with Iran, among others, claiming the Holocaust to be ‘a myth,’ it is imperative to make sure the world never forgets.

This e-mail is intended to reach 40 million people worldwide!

Be a link in the memorial chain and help distribute this around the world.

Don’t just delete this. It will only take a minute to pass this along.

Let’s cover the world and remember because we cannot let it ever happen again.

Written by: Rabbi Shlomo Braun

In this excerpt, a preface to that early iteration of the “get it on record” remarks attributed to Eisenhower is bolded. In that version, the author claimed Eisenhower “said in words to this effect,” not that he said the particular words in question.

That missive was part of  a discredited old chain e-mail in the “imaginary Muslim outrage” genre. In April 2007, the BBC reported:

E-mails are circulating, falsely claiming the UK has banned schools from teaching pupils about the Holocaust.

The suggestion is that this was done by the government to avoid offending some Muslim communities.

The source of the rumour may be a report that some history teachers were uncomfortable with sensitive subjects.

In fact the government has reaffirmed that in England, teaching children about the Holocaust is compulsory, and it is not banned elsewhere in the UK.

A separate quote widely attributed to Eisenhower is accurate. It bears some resemblance to the viral, truncated version in the meme, but is not exact. It appears in a scanned copy of a letter [PDF] hosted by the Eisenhower Library, titled “Letter, General Eisenhower to General Marshall concerning his visit to a Germany internment camp near Gotha (Ohrdruf), April 15, 1945.”

In considerably lengthier commentary, Eisenhower said in the April 1945 letter:

On a recent tour of the forward areas in First and Third Armies, I stopped momentarily at the salt mines to take a look at the German treasure. There is a lot of it. But the most interesting – although horrible – sight that I encountered during the trip was a visit to a German internment camp near Gotha. The things I saw beggar description. 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. I made the visit deliberately, in order to be in position to give first-hand evidence of these things if ever, in the future, there develops a tendency to charge these allegations merely to “propaganda.”

Although Dwight Eisenhower didn’t say “get it all on record now — get the films — get the witnesses — because somewhere down the track of history some bastard will get up and say that this never happened,” the earliest iteration we uncovered of the quote didn’t say he did; it said he made comments “to that effect.”

In an April 1945 letter, Eisenhower voiced concern that the horrors he personally witnessed would one day stand against “a tendency to charge these allegations merely to ‘propaganda,” describing that fear as the reason he insisted on seeing the atrocities firsthand. But the paraphrasing (if it was even based on that quote) did not quite reflect Eisenhower’s actual words.