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December 21, 1984 - Image 2

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1984-12-21

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Friday, December 21, 1984




`The Abandonment of Jews' indicts diplomats and intellectuals in World War II

Dr. Israel Goldstein

Henry Morgenthau Jr.

"Abandoned" seems certain to become
a single, symbolic guide-word to one of the
most devastating occurrences of this cen-
tury: the failure to rescue Jews from the
Nazi ovens. It may not be necessary to re-
sort to the complete title of the revealing
text by University of Massachusetts
(Amherst) Professor of History David S.
Wyman, who is gaining most notable at-
tention for his The Abandonment of the
Jews: America and the Holocaust, 1941-
1945 (Pantheon Books).
Prof. Wyman's
study of the reac-
tions to appeals for
the rescue of Jews
from the Nazi in-
ferno is not a new
presentation of
facts. It is the result
of the acknowledged
scholar's many
years of research
into the records. In Dr. Wyman
the process, he published numerous
documentary essays on the subject. He
probed Christian as well as Jewish in-
volvements, and the churches do not come
out so well in the studies. The U.S. State
Department is a chief offender. President
Franklin D. Roosevelt is among the most
guilty in the indifference and the refusal to
act. Deplorably Eleanor Roosevelt, while
she made numerous appeals to her hus-
band for some sort of action, and who
sought aid in the rescue of children, to a
degree shared that guilt. The author indi-
cates that her attitude paralleled that of
the State Department guilt in responding
to appeals by insisting that the war must
be won before the rescue tasks could be
attended to.
Great Britain emerges equally, if not
more guilty, and the shutting of Palestine's
doors to refugees is major in the accusation
of failure when the rescuing should have
been pursued.
But there also is the list of the
courageous who would not be silent, who
demanded action, who organized and spoke
for the emergency rescue movements.
There were the Jewish activists, and
also the complacent and the indifferent.
Abba Hillel Silver, Stephen S. Wise, the
Bergson Group and its Committee for a
Jewish Army, the World Jewish Congress
are the unforgettable in the struggle. Per-
Claps the most shocking example of failure
to act is ascribable to Judge Samuel
Rosenman, who was FDR's speech writer
and among his chief advisers. Contrary to
these were the consistent efforts of Secre-
tary of the Treasury Henry Morgenthau
Jr., who devoted his own and his depart-
ment's efforts to every means of assistance
Morgenthau kept pressing President
Roosevelt for awareness of what was
transpiring. In contrast, Rosenman
Even in matters involving the War

Elanor Roosevelt

Refugee Board, which was finally or-
ganized in spite of serious obstacles in the
path of Morgenthau and the WRB's chief
administrator, Ira Hirschmann, Rosen-
man interfered and created difficulties in
rescue efforts.
Wyman provides these facts about
As special counsel to the
President, Samuel Rosenman had
frequent contact with Roosevelt,
who relied heavily on him for ad-
vice on Jewish' matters. But
Rosenman considered the rescue
issue politically sensitive, so he
consistently tried to insulate
Roosevelt from it. For instance,
when Morgenthau was getting
ready to urge the President to form
a rescue agency, Rosenman ob-
jected. He did not want FDR in-
volved in refugee matters, al-
though he admitted that no one
else could deal effectively with the
problem. Rosenman also argued
that government aid to European •
Jews might increase anti-Semitism
in the United States.
The President, his Administra-
tion, and his advisers were not the
only ones responsible for Ameri-
ca's reaction to the Holocaust.
Thus, Rosenman's negative attitude
interfered with the positivism of Morgen-
thau and Hirschmann and gave comfort to
the venom of Breckenbridge Long, who, in
charge of the visa section of the State De-
partment, was responsible for the closing
of America's doors to the Nazi victims.

The honor roll of the saintly in Chris-
tian ranks who spoke out for rescue, who
demanded action, who were consistent in
their efforts, is most impressive. They are
topped by Reinhold Niebuhr, the eminent
theologian whose labors for justice com-
menced during his ministry in Detroit, and
Dorothy Thompson. They are referred to
numerous times in the Wyman record.
Dr. Wyman does not make any men-
tion of Dorothy Thompson's adoption of a
critical attitude toward Zionism, whose
ranks she left after having devoted a
number of years in its behalf. She was crit-
ical of what she believed was an emphasis
by Zionists on creating a haven in Pales-
tine rather than the maw task of rescuing
human beings. This is a story in itself. Be-
fore her death, Meyer Weisgal. who be-
friended her deeply, said she was ready to
renege on that defection. The important
factor here is that Prof. Wyman made it a
point, in his prefatory introduction to his
significant work, to espouse Zionism and to
set forth his credo:
I have written not as an in-
sider. I am a Christian, a Protes-
tant of Yankee and Swedish de-
scent. But I have advocated a
Jewish state for a very long time,
and I would undoubtedly have

Franklin D. Roosevent

Judge Samuel Rosenman

backed the Zionist movement dur-
ing the World War II era had I been
old enough to be involved in politi-
cal affairs. Today I remain
strongly pro-Zionist and I am a re-
solute supporter of the State of Is-
rael. My commitment to Zionism
and to Israel has been confirmed
and increased by years of study of
the Holocaust. I look upon Israel as
the most important- line of defense
against anti-Semitism in the world.
Had there been a Jewish state in
the 1933 to 1945 era, it would be
much less painful today for all of us
to confront the history of Euro-
pean Jewry during World War II.
A final comment; then a ques-
tion. The Holocaust was certainly a
Jewish tragedy. But it was not only
a Jewish tragedy. It was also a
Christian tragedy, a tragedy for -
Western civilization, and a tragedy
for all humankind. The killing was
done by people, to other people,
while still other people stood by.
The perpetrators, where they were
not actually Christians arose from
a Christian culture. The bystand-
ers most capable of helping were
Christians. The point should have
been obvious. Yet comparatively
few American non-Jews recog-
nized that the plight of European
Jews was their plight too. Most
were either unaware, did not care,
or saw the European Jewish catas-
trophe as a Jewish problem, one
for Jews to deal with. That ex-
plain's, in part, why the United
States did so little to help.
Would the reaction be differ-
ent today? Would Americans be
more sensitive, less self-centered,
more willing to make sacrifices,
less afraid of differences now than
they were then?

In the list of rescue promoters are
many of prominence. U.S. Senator William
Langer of North Dakota was challenging.
He made the needs for human action a
major devotion in his appeals to his fellow
Senators. When the Bergson Group and its
Committee for a Jewish Army were
criticized, Harry S Truman, then U.S. Sen-
ator from Missouri, resigned from the
committee membership. Later he re-
deemed himself, as President, with action
to permit the nearly 1,000 Jewish refugees
kept at Camp Oswego to remain in this
country — an act rejected by Franklin D.
Noteworthy in the list of the consis-
tent and devoted in the army of rescue ad-
vocates was Michigan's U.S. Senator
Homer Ferguson. He is mentioned by
Wyman numerous times. This is most re-
vealing and heartening, because Ferguson
had not been known or judged in so com-
passionate a role by his Michigan con-

Homer Ferguson

stituents. When he ran successfully for re-
election in 1936, he followed the Republi-
can line of speaking critically of F.D.R's
Jewish advisers. With such tactics in his
attacks on the Democratic President, he
was suspected of prejudice. Judge Harry B.
Keidan confronted him with the comment:
"You know me, Homer, as a life-long fellow
Republican. What you are doing on the
radio is outrageous. You are an anti-
Semite. I'll vote against you." This story of
Ferguson's prejudice was related in The
Jewish News Purely Commentary, of Dec.
24, 1982. Prof. Wyman's record absolves
Ferguson and enrolls him in the human
ranks of activists during World War II.
Frank Murphy, who served with dis-
tinction as mayor of Detroit, governor of
Michigan and justice of the U.S. Supreme
Court among other important national
positions, shared with Senator Ferguson
the identification with the justice-seeking
forces who consistently demanded action
protecting Jews from Nazism.
One of the most courageous acts in res-
cue efforts receives attention in the
Wyman account. He pays honor to Raoul
Wallenberg, the Swedish hero who served
as a one-man mission to Hungary and re-
scued at least 20,000 Jews from imminent
death in Auschwitz, some crediting him
with having saved close to 100,000 Jews.
The ill-fated, over-rated, often de-
scribed as shameful Bermuda Conference,
which proved a farce in rescue efforts, was
especially condemned by Dr. Israel Golds-
tein, the American Jewish leader who now
resides in Jerusalem and recently retired
from the world presidency of the Keren
Hayesod. In his position at the time, in
1943, as president of the Synagogue Coun-

Continued on Page 20

Reinhold Niebuhr

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