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Friday, May 04, 2012

FDR used the Jews, and the Jews tried to enlist the Republicans for their cause

Rafael Medoff publishes a fascinating interview with Professor Ben Zion Netanyahu z"l in which the Prime Minister's late father discusses his activities in the US in the 1940's on behalf of European Jewry.
What about the Jewish advisers within Roosevelt’s inner circle?

FDR used Jews if they served some purpose that he needed. Samuel Rosenman was useful to him as a speechwriter. Henry Morgenthau Jr. was useful to him as secretary of the Treasury. Only a certain kind of a Jew could reach that position in Roosevelt’s administration – the kind of Jew who would not talk about Jewish issues or problems.

FDR used the Jews, but there was no room in his heart for the plight of the Jewish people. In his mind, the suffering of Europe’s Jews was not included in the “Four Freedoms,” the four great principles for which America was fighting in World War II. Roosevelt had no time for the problems of the Jews.

(Prof. Netanyahu’s assessment was privately shared, at the time, even by many within the Jewish establishment. Coincidentally, on the morning of our conversation, I spent some time doing research at the Central Zionist Archives, and came upon the transcript of a meeting in 1944 between Nahum Goldmann and the Jewish Agency Executive, including David Ben-Gurion.

Goldmann, who was cochairman of the World Jewish Congress as well as the agency’s representative in Washington, had come to Jerusalem to brief the agency’s leaders on the political situation in the US capital.

Goldmann told them Roosevelt was only “superficially sympathetic” to the suffering of European Jewry. He said, “It is impossible to educate the president, because he will only let you see him once every six months, for 30 minutes, and he spends the first 10 minutes chatting and telling stories.”)

Just before Yom Kippur in 1943, the Bergson Group (led by activist Hillel Kook, who was known as Peter Bergson) and the Vaad Hahatzalah (an Orthodox rescue committee based in New York City) mobilized more than 400 rabbis to march to the White House to plead for rescue. The president refused to meet with a delegation of their leaders.

Later, a columnist for one of the Yiddish newspapers wrote that if 400 priests had come to the White House, the president would not have refused to see them. Was there indeed a double standard applied to Jewish concerns?

To answer that question, just consider how the international community would have responded if millions of Englishmen or Frenchmen were the ones who were being annihilated, rather than millions of Jews. Would the world have just stood by, quietly?

Would you have needed to have protest groups organizing marches and taking out newspaper ads in order to wake up the world’s conscience? No. The nations of the world would have immediately risen in angry protest, without any prompting. They would never would have allowed such a thing to continue. But when the Jews were the victims, it was a different story. It was as if the Jews were untouchables. It was as if the nations did not want to besmirch their hands by touching the Jews.

What could American Jewish leaders have done to change Roosevelt’s position?

Roosevelt understood the language of political power. Jewish leaders should have done, and could have done, what my colleagues and I did – we went to the Republicans. And then Roosevelt got the message. We built relationships with Republican members of Congress, and leaders of the Republican Party such as [former president Herbert] Hoover and [1936 presidential nominee Alf] Landon, and we lobbied them before the Republican Convention in 1944. They put a plank in their party platform that year calling for “unrestricted immigration and land ownership” for Jews in Palestine and it called for making Palestine a “free and democratic commonwealth” for the Jewish people. That was the first time one of America’s political parties took such a position.
Read the whole thing. Make sure not to miss his comments about Stephen Wise at the end. I find it amazing that 70 years after the fact, most American Jews have no clue that their people were sold out by Roosevelt. I rememberr reading my first book about it (While Six Million Died) when I was still in high school, and being completely shocked because my parents were good Democrats and would never have had a bad word to say about FDR.

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