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Friday, April 5, 2013

FDR's Antisemitism Doomed Thousands of Jews To Suffer The Holocaust: A Lesson For Today's Jewish Leaders

Typically when one asks a member  of the "Greatest Generation" about FDR they immediately develop a sense of awe that reminds me of those little green aliens (undocumented space men?) in Toy Story every time they see Buzz Lightyear.

I've never understood the reverence for Franklin Delano Roosevelt. He did pick great Generals and led this country to victory in WWII. But on the other hand he totally mismanaged the economy, enacted freedom-sapping policies which never did get this country out of the Great Depression, and tried to circumvent constitutional separation of powers (now who does that remind me of?).

Then there is the issue of FDR and the SHOAH (the Holocaust). Did he fail to help the Jews who were suffering under Hitler because he was powerless, or because of more nefarious reasons? Why didn't he bomb and destroy the train tracks that were shipping Jews to the camps? Why wasn't he allowing more Jews into the country? Pressuring Britain to allow Jews to move from Nazi controlled areas into what was then called Palestine?

Liberals (even liberal Jews) will tell you that there was nothing he could have done? But a new book suggests that Roosevelt failed to take relatively simple measures that would have saved significant numbers of Jews during the Holocaust, because his vision for America only encompassed having a small number of Jews. In other words, FDR doomed many Jew to suffer not because he wanted them to die, but because he didn't want a lot of them living in his neighborhood.

In his new book, “FDR and the Holocaust: A Breach of Faith.” historian Rafael Medoff says Franklin Delano Roosevelt failed to take relatively simple measures that would have saved significant numbers of Jews during the Holocaust, because his vision for America only encompassed having a small number of Jews.

“In his private, unguarded moments, FDR repeatedly made unfriendly remarks about Jews, especially his belief that Jews were overrepresented in many professions and exercised too much influence and control on society. This prejudice helped shape his overall vision of what America should look like — and it was a vision with room for only a small number of Jews who, he said, should be ‘spread out thin.’ This helps explain why his administration went out of its way discourage and disqualify would-be immigrants, instead of just quietly allowing the immigration quotas to be filled to their legal limit.”
 It really goes beyond that. FDR did not want to publicly speak out against the impending genocide
On August 25, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt brought her friend Alice Hamilton, who had recently spent three months in Germany, to Hyde Park to give FDR a detailed eyewitness account of German brutality against the Jews. He still refused to publicly criticize Hitler.
 There were many actions FDR could have taken to stop or slow down  the Holocaust
Medoff, who currently serves as director of The David Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies, says that there were actions Roosevelt could have easily taken that would have saved well over 100,000 Jews from Hitler’s extermination camps.

“He could have quietly permitted the immigration quotas to be filled to their legal limit — that alone would have saved 190,000 lives,” Medoff said.

“He could have pressed the British to open Palestine’s doors to Jewish refugees. He could have authorized the use of empty troop-supply ships to bring refugees to stay in the U.S. temporarily, until the end of the war. He could have permitted refugees to stay as tourists in a U.S. territory, such as the Virgin Islands, until it was safe for them to return to Europe. He could have authorized the bombing of Auschwitz or the railway lines leading to it, which would have interrupted the mass-murder process.”

Asked to respond to the argument that it was better for Roosevelt to focus on winning the war than divert resources to bomb Auschwitz, Medoff said “[b]ombing Auschwitz would not have required any diversion of resources, because U.S. planes were already bombing targets that were less than five miles from the gas chambers, during the summer and autumn of 1944.”
Perhaps it wasn't all FDR's fault, Historian Benzion Netanyahu (Bibi's Father) said the American Jewish community's reverence for FDR prevented Jewish leaders from confronting the president.
Take, for example, Rabbi Stephen Wise – leader of the American Zionist movement, the American Jewish Congress and the World Jewish Congress. He thought of himself as a servant of president Roosevelt.

He referred to Roosevelt as “chief,” and he really meant it that way – Roosevelt as was the chief, and Wise was the servant. Wise was happy to just follow along with whatever Roosevelt wanted. He was content as long as FDR just remembered his name or gave him a few minutes of his time every once in a while.
In the end said Netanyahu, Jewish leaders were going about their business, and involved in all kinds of social issues. And according to the historian  they probably were sleeping soundly at night.

If this sounds familiar it should. Most  Jewish leaders today believe they are servants to the progressive movement and specifically President Obama.  These so called leaders serve Obama's agenda in the Middle East by sending letters to Netanyahu asking Israel to make painful sacrifices, but never ask the same of the Palestinians. As put so eloquently by The Emergency Committee on Israel in THEIR letter to the Prime Minister:
The “American Jewish leaders” who deign to advise you today are largely the same leaders who rarely, if ever, demand “painful sacrifices” of Palestinian leaders – or even demand that they come to the negotiating table, which they have refused to do in any meaningful way since 2008. From the safety of America, in the past they have recommended trusting Yasser Arafat, dividing Jerusalem, surrendering the Golan Heights to Syria, and withdrawing from territory that today is controlled by Iranian-backed terrorist groups.
During the Holocaust, the misguided reverence by the so called Jewish leadership allowed an Antisemitic Franklin Roosevelt to ignore the suffering of the Jews under Hitler.

 It is a mark of the poverty of today's so called Jewish leaders that they are repeating the mistake of so long ago. Through their misguided reverence for a US President (who is not anti-Semitic) they are ignoring-storm front surrounding the 6 million Jews in Israel. In fact they are aiding Obama's naive (or anti-Israel) push to pressure Israel for concessions when it is the Palestinian side who refuses to even recognize her right to exist as the Jewish State.


Evi L. Bloggerlady said...

There were those in the Jewish community who recognized FDR for what he was, but they were too few. You can see hints of it in Neil Simon plays referencing FDR in a negative way.

JPS said...

"Did he fail to help the Jews who were suffering under Hitler because he was powerless, or because of more nefarious reasons?"

I don't accept that he did fail to help the Jews.

He led the United States into war against Nazi Germany. (Yes, I'm aware of Pearl Harbor. By that time we were convoying British ships all the way into British home waters, with orders to shoot on sight any German submarine. That kind of "peace" doesn't last forever.) He did so at a time when public opinion was very much against it - and at least some of its opponents were calling it a war on behalf of Jews.

FDR helped the Jews suffering under Hitler by ensuring the defeat of Nazi Germany. That's non-trivial. He made mistakes, big ones, and I'm no fan of his domestic legacy. I'm not arguing that he particularly liked Jews, or couldn't have saved more of them had he been more focused on that aspect of the big picture.

But on the one big thing that allowed even a remnant of European Jews to survive, he showed foresight and determination. I'm skeptical any plausible alternative to him at the time - as opposed to us, now, with hindsight - would have done as well.

ISH (Mininerd) said...

There's a strong impulse amongst American Jews towards "If Only the Czar Knew" thinking when it comes to the Progressive movement.

Robert Holmgren said...

When Hitler tried to jam more of his Jewish population into Palestine in the late 1930s Britain put a stop to it. It's unlikely that FDR could've changed their mind. In addition many prominent Jews, such as the publisher of The New York Times Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, were against allowing additional to immigrate. The Times downplayed reports of the Shoah.

Corky Boyd said...

It is easy to criticize FDR 70 years after the fact. But the best way to halt the holocaust was to invade Europe and defeat Nazi Germany. That he did along with the Brits and Russian.

Bombing rail lines is futile, they can be repaired in 24 hours and were. Despite taking out rail and road bridges, Germany effectively maintained its transportation system throughout the war. As for bombing Auschwitz and other death camps, the accuracy of carpet bombing from 23,000 feet would have made it a disaster. And by the time we had fighter bombers in range, Auchwitz was in Soviet hands.

Selling books based on after the fact wishful thinking is a lot easier than running a two front war.

Don M said...

Before the Germans murdered their first Jew, they had been murdering handicapped people for many years, to include disabled WWI veterans.

In Germany, Roosevelt would have been put down, as life unworthy of life. Probably Stalin too, because of his arm injury.

Swami said...

I'm afraid Corky is right here. Things look different, 70 years later. At the time...

"The view of the board is that we should not ask the Allies to bomb places where there are Jews."

- David Ben Gurion, June 11, 1944.

Doom said...

It's wonderful to see the propaganda machine never dies. Most of the responses have been by folks suggesting FDR was able to wash his hands because a) American Jews said so, b) he had no power, c) he didn't know, d) any or all of the above or any other reason. Jews, after all, and even human life, have nothing to do with anyone, especially someone in power, or... something.

It amazes me that even in hindsight so many still can't, won't, refuse to, see. In a post by neo-neocon I see what she is saying played out again, again, here. Some will never learn.

michael edelman said...

Few of the critics seem to be making their arguments on actual historical grounds. This desire to place a halo on FDR's head blinds many to his flaws, like a economic policies that turned a two-year recession into a 15 year depression.

Mary Ann Kreitzer said...

There are also the examples of the ships loaded with Jews escaping Hitler that were refused safe harbor in the U.S. The story of the SS. St. Louis is just one example of the "voyage of the damned." It is incredibly shameful that we could not find room in our country for 1000 Jews on this ship.

Willis Eschenbach said...

I find this argument singularly unconvincing. I'm no big fan of FDR's, but he faced the same problem that Lincoln faced during the Civil War. Neither one could afford to alienate allies, both domestic and foreign, by making the war a referendum on the minorities involved (blacks in the Civil War, Jews in WWII).

The anti-semitism of the US at that time was both broad and deep. Roosevelt felt, fairly or not, that he could not afford to take any steps where he could be accused of favoring "foreign Jews" over "American boys".

Could he have done more? Perhaps. I don't know, I wasn't there, and I don't know what he faced. Was he anti-semitic? Sure, most people were back then. But he knew what was important—winning the war. Everything else, pain and suffering on all sides including the Jews, had to take second seat to winning the war. In that he was successful, and he was right, that was the important thing.

Regards to all,