Sunday, March 15, 2009

Behind FDR's betrayal of the Jews of Europe

The role played by an anti-Jewish Jew

Sixty-five years ago this week, American Jews gathered in their synagogues to celebrate Purim, the holiday recalling how a Jewish woman used her influence with the king of Persia to save the Jewish community from Haman's planned genocide. What the Purim revelers of March 1944 did not realize, however, was that at the very moment they were reading their megillas and shaking their groggers, a senior Jewish adviser to president Franklin Roosevelt was presented with the opportunity to use his influence to help save European Jews from the Nazis.

By early 1944, millions of Jews had already been slaughtered by the modern-day Haman, but there were many more who could be rescued. The Roosevelt administration had long opposed taking special steps to save them, but in January 1944, under strong pressure from the activist Bergson Group, Congress and the Treasury Department, FDR belatedly established the War Refugee Board. Its declared purpose was to rescue refugees from the Nazis. Although given only token funding, the Board, under the leadership of Treasury lawyers John Pehle and Josiah DuBois, Jr. - both Protestants - dove into the task with passion and determination.

One of the Board's first proposals to Roosevelt was that he issue a declaration threatening to punish anyone involved in persecuting Jews, and pledging to provide havens for Jewish refugees. Pehle and DuBois felt such a declaration was needed in part because the most recent Allied statement regarding European Jewry had been so disappointing. The American, British and Soviet foreign ministers, meeting in Moscow the previous October, threatened postwar punishment for Nazi war crimes against conquered populations, but named only "French, Dutch, Belgian or Norwegian hostages... Cretan peasants... [and] the people of Poland" - with no reference to the Nazis' primary victims, the Jews.

Arthur Szyk, the famous artist and Holocaust rescue activist, remarked that the suffering of European Jewry was being "treat[ed] as a pornographical subject - you cannot discuss it in polite society." Obscuring the Jewishness of the victims made it harder to mobilize public interest in their fate - and sent a message to the Nazis that the Free World was not terribly interested in their plight.

IN CONSULTATION with treasury secretary Henry Morgenthau, Jr., Pehle and DuBois prepared a draft of the proposed declaration. It immediately ran into opposition. Assistant secretary of war John McCloy wanted to tone down the text to make it "less lurid." State Department officials opposed issuing the declaration at all, on the grounds that the Germans would use it as proof the Allies were fighting for the sake of the Jews. The White House, too, had objections, as Pehle discovered on the evening of March 8, 1944, when he met with Samuel Rosenman, FDR's closest Jewish adviser and a leading member of the American Jewish Committee.

Just down the road from Rosenman's office, at Washington's famous Adas Israel synagogue, the Purim holiday was getting underway. Worshipers listened to the ancient words of the Purim story, recalling how Queen Esther pleaded with King Ahasuerus to scuttle Haman's plan to slaughter the Jews. Rosenman now found himself with the opportunity to become a kind of modern-day Esther.

The problem was that Rosenman was a deeply assimilated Jew who had always been uncomfortable calling attention to Jewish concerns. For example, after the 1938 Kristallnacht pogrom, he warned FDR that admitting more refugees would "create a Jewish problem in the US." In 1943, he counseled Roosevelt to snub the "medieval horde" of 400 rabbis who had marched to the White House to plead for rescue. Rosenman also tried to undermine the campaign that brought about the creation of the War Refugee Board.

NOW, IN MARCH 1944, faced with the proposed presidential declaration, Rosenman had one more chance to do the right thing. But he chose otherwise. He told Pehle that he had "advised the president not to sign the declaration because of its pointed reference to Jews." According to Rosenman, such explicit references to Jews "would intensify anti-Semitism in the United States." Pehle was surprised and disappointed by Rosenman's position.

The next day - Purim - Pehle discussed the matter with assistant secretary of state Edward Stettinius, and then reported back to treasury secretary Morgenthau. It had become apparent, Pehle told Morgenthau, that Rosenman had already turned the president against their draft: Stettinius had told Pehle that Roosevelt said the wording "was too pointedly on the Jews."

Rosenman was already at work on a revised version of the declaration. Morgenthau was particularly concerned about the fate of the draft's "very strong" second paragraph, which acknowledged that the Jews were being slaughtered "solely because they were Jews." Morgenthau's worries were justified; sure enough, that key paragraph ended up on Rosenman's cutting-room floor.

Rosenman made other significant changes as well. Three of the six references to Jews were deleted. A pledge to give refugees temporary haven in America was watered down to "We shall find havens of refuge for them," without specifying the United States as a haven. Three paragraphs were added at the beginning of the statement about the German mistreatment of "Poles, Czechs, Norwegians, Dutch, Danes, French, Greeks, Russians, Chinese Filipinos - and many others" - but not Jews. The plight of the Jews was pushed all the way down to the fourth paragraph.

The weakened statement was issued later that month. It was, of course, better than nothing, but it could have been much stronger. And its fate foreshadowed the obstacles the War Refugee Board would face from within the Roosevelt administration itself in trying to carry out its mission.

That this all took place on Purim is, of course, bitter irony. Both Queen Esther and Samuel Rosenman were uniquely positioned to influence the highest authority in the land to intervene on behalf of the Jews. Esther's heroic response has been enshrined for all time in the celebration of Purim. How different history might have been had Rosenman chosen to follow Esther's example.




There is here a link to an unusual book called "Denying history". Synopsis: "Denying history" takes a bold and in-depth look at those who say the Holocaust never happened and explores the motivations behind such claims. While most commentators have dismissed the Holocaust deniers as antisemitic neo-Nazi thugs who do not deserve a response, historians Michael Shermer and Alex Grobman have immersed themselves in the minds and culture of these Holocaust "revisionists." In the process, they show how we can be certain that the Holocaust happened and, for that matter, how we can confirm any historical event. This edition is expanded with a new chapter and epilogue examining current, shockingly mainstream revisionism.

Obama's Poll Numbers Are Falling to Earth: "It is simply wrong for commentators to continue to focus on President Barack Obama's high levels of popularity, and to conclude that these are indicative of high levels of public confidence in the work of his administration. Indeed, a detailed look at recent survey data shows that the opposite is most likely true. The American people are coming to express increasingly significant doubts about his initiatives, and most likely support a different agenda and different policies from those that the Obama administration has advanced. Polling data show that Mr. Obama's approval rating is dropping and is below where George W. Bush was in an analogous period in 2001.

Black Democrat had financial ties to bank she pushed bailout loot for: "Top banking regulators were taken aback last year when a California congresswoman helped set up a meeting in which the chief executive of a bank with financial ties to her family asked them for up to $50 million in special bailout funds, Treasury officials said. Maxine Waters, a California Democrat, requested the September meeting on behalf of executives at OneUnited, one of the nation's largest black-owned banks. Waters's husband, Sidney Williams, had served on the bank's board until early last year and has owned at least $250,000 of its stock."

Netherlands: Seven accused of Amsterdam bomb plot: "Seven people were arrested for allegedly plotting to bomb densely populated areas in Amsterdam, Netherlands, police said Thursday. One member of the group of six men and one woman has ties to a bombing in Madrid, Spain, said Amsterdam police spokeswoman Shermain Canbamme. Late Thursday, police were still searching buildings where the arrests were made, she said. Several shopping areas and the area around a soccer stadium had been closed as a precaution."

Congress considers changing Constitution: "Following tumultuous turnovers in Illinois and New York, lawmakers yesterday asked whether it was time to change the Constitution so that voters, and not state governors, fill Senate vacancies. Appointments by governors, said Sen. Russ Feingold, a Democrat from Wisconsin, `are an unfortunate relic' of the first century of the nation's history when senators were picked by state legislatures."

FBI obstructs information requests: "The FBI tells two out of every three Freedom of Information Act requesters that it can't find the records they asked for - a failure rate five times higher than other major federal agencies, a private study has found. The FBI's performance results from an outdated and deliberately limited search process, according to the National Security Archive, a private group that publishes declassified government documents and files many FOIA requests."


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The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


1 comment:

gazasolidarity said...

According to respected international lawyer Franklin Lamb a recent CIA report gives the Israeli state 20 years before it collapses. Apparently members of the US Senate Intelligence Committee have seen the report which argues that a two-state solution is no longer realistic and that a one-state solution is the only viable democratic option. It predicts:

"an inexorable movement away from a two-state to a one-state solution, as the most viable model based on democratic principles of full equality that sheds the looming specter of colonial Apartheid while allowing for the return of the 1947/1948 and 1967 refugees. The latter being the precondition for sustainable peace in the region."

According to Lamb the CIA refers to the rapid and unexpected downfall of Apartheid South Africa (unexpected by the CIA that is which was of course a supporter of the racist regime, with the US government refusing to support sanctions, along with Thatcher's Britain) and of the Soviet Union.