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November 22, 1985 - Image 2

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Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1985-11-22

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! Friday, November 22, 1985

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

PURELY COMMENTARY

PHILIP SLOMOVITZ

U.S. Failures During Nazi Era Recorded In New FDR Biography

Biographical writing and historical
research are magnificently enhanced in
one of the most brilliant-accounts of the
American role in World War II and the
share in it by President Franklin D.
Roosevelt. In FDR by Ted Morgan (Si-
mon and Schuster), biography and his-
toriography rise to unmatched literary
heights.
In the process of analyzing the many
issues that arose during the World War
II years, the American commitments and
involvements, Morgan takes into account
the fate of Jews under Hitlerism and the
manner in which treatment was pro-
vided, or rather failed to be provided, by
American officials.
There were anti-Semites in the
American ranks who have left bitter
notes in this nation's history. Much has
been written about Breckenridge Long,
who dominated the U. S. Consular Serv-
ice and was responsible for denial of
visas to this country to escape the Nazi
terror. He will be dealt with here a bit
later. Long was not alone among the
anti-Semitic guilty. Also referred to is
the pro-Hitler attitude of Joseph Ken-
nedy, the father of all the famous Ken-
nedys. His comforting of the Nazis has
often been condemned in historical re-
cords of his activities as the U.S. Ambas-
sador to the Court of St. James.
Among the hate-spreaders was U.S.
Ambassador to Russia and later envoy to
France, William Bullit. Bullit was re-
sponsible for spreading the tale that
Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany in-
cluded many spies for Hitler. Quoting
French Premier Edouard Daladier's con-
tribution to the prejudices about refugees
"who entered Hitler's employ while
enjoying French hospitality," Morgan re-
fers to Bullit's prejudiced views:
"Bill Bullit's crude anti-Semitism
was expressed in a letter to a State De-
partment colleague describing Constan-
tin Omahsky, (Maxim) Litvinov's press
secretary and later Soviet ambassador to
the United States, as 'a wretched little
kike ... it is only natural that we should
find the members of that race more dif-
ficult to deal with than the Russians
themselves.' "
The Franklin Roosevelt saga reveals
many anti-Semitic acts by FDR's associ-
ates. Was FDR himself affected by the
virus? There was some 'streak in him, as
Morgan reveals in his truly great biog-
raphy about the President. FDR gave no
inkling of his own background, boasting
only about a Dutch heritage.
(In this connection, it is regrettable
that Morgan did not seek this reviewer's
Purely Commentary volume published by
Wayne State University Press in 1981.
That volume quoted Eleanor Roosevelt
conceding the truth about her husband's
Jewish background.)
Ted Morgan's assembled evidence of
the FDR failure to come to the aid of the
Jewish sufferings from Nazism is mas-
sive. Even Jewish associates of FDR con-
tributed toward the failures. Only Secre-
tary of the Treasury Henry Morgenthau
Jr. battled incessantly in behalf of the
refugees. He was finally responsible for
the concession by FDR to establish the
War Refugee Board.
The facts set forth by Morgan are
too valuable as historiography not to be
given full credence. There is much in
Morgan's compulation to be treated with
great seriousness. The reference to those
who helped and to Jews who failed to act
in behalf of the sufferers is included in
the following passage:
Morgenthau kept trying to
fire the boiler. He was the only
member of the Administration
who prodded FDR on the Jewish

Henry Morgenthau Jr.

Stephen Wise

refugee question. At lunch on
June 19, he said: "Now, Mr.
President, a year has passed and
we have not got anywhere on this
Jewish refugee thing. What are
we going to do about it?"
"I know we have not," the
president replied. "At last even
Sam Rosenman has got his eyes
and sees that it isn't so easy. The
whole trouble is England. The
Jewish Refugee Committee in
England isn't getting anywhere."
"Isn't there something that
can be done?" Morgenthau
asked.
"Well," FDR said, "I talked to
the president-elect of Paraguay
the other day at lunch, and he
said he would take 5,000."
Morgenthau pointed out that
the problem was five million
Jews rather than 5,000, not just
in Germany but in Poland,
Rumania, and Hungary.
"Absolutely," FDR said.
"That's what I have been saying,
but I can't make any headway. I
am willing to go so far, if neces-
sary, to have them even call it the
Roosevelt plan. If you will give
me a list of the thousand richest
Jews in the United States I am
willing to tell them how much
they should give. A man like
Zeinurray, United Fruit, ought to
give five million, and a lot more
like him."
FDR was quite willing to
"spread the Jews thin all over
the world," as he put it, but he
did not want them entering the
United States in large numbers.
In any case it was politically un-
feasible to change the quota sys-
tem — all he could do was extend
visitors' visas. He refused to sup-
port the Wagner-Rogers bill,
which would have admitted
20,000 refugee children in 1939
and 1940 outside the quota sys-
tem. The bill was amended to
death an committee.
Roosevelt's feelings about the
Jews were complicated. He sur-
rounded himself with Jewish ad-
visers — Morgenthau, Sam
Rosenman, Felix Frankfurter,
Ben Cohen — whom he liked and
admired. One of his reasons, ac-
cording to Jerome Frank, was
that Jews did not get the
presidential bee. Since they knew
there could not be a Jewish
president, they would not become
political threats. Rosenman and
Frankfurter were Jewish "Uncle
Toms." Rosenman never men-
tioned the refugees, and was
against the relaxation of quotas.
Frankfurter, who called Morgen-
thau "a stupid bootlick," was

Franklin D. Roosevelt

more interested in New Deal
legislation than in the plight of
the Jews. Actually Frankfurter,
who sent FDR a steady stream of
messages telling him what a
wonderful job he was doing on
foreign policy, was more of a
bootlick than Morgenthau, who
did not hesitate to come to grips
with the President of the refu-
gees.
Roosevelt was outraged by
the persecution of the Jews and
had the humane reaction that
something must be done. But at
the same time there lingered in
him a residue of the social anti-
Semitism he had inherited from
his mother and other relatives
such as his half brother Rosy and
his uncle Fred Delano, all three
of them anti-Semites.
Thus FDR would sometimes
make unflattering references to
the Jews, who he felt should be
restained in certain areas. They
should, for instance, accept a
quota system at Harvard. "Some ,
year ago," he told Henry Morgen-
thau , "a third of the entering
class at Harvard were Jews and
the question came up as to how it
should be handled." As a
member of the board of over-
seers, Roosevelt helped to formu-
late the decision "that over a
period of years the number of
Jews should be reduced one or
two percent a year until it was
down to 15 percent."
FDR carried on a friendly
correspondence with anti-Semites
such as Miller Reese Hutchinson,
an industrial engineer, who was
"Uncle Hutch" to the president's
"Marse Franklin," and who
wrote him in "Rastus" dialect in
1937: "I dun tuk notiss, arter
tryin ter git erlong wid Jews, dat
effin yer holds er stik uv candy
er mile long fer one uv um ter
eat, he gwineter bite yer finger
when he's et der las inch. Hitler
is rite in one respect."
FDR certainly did not believe
Hitler was right, but he might
well have laughed heartily over
the rest of the letter. When Bur-
ton Wheeler came to see him one
day to discuss the third term.,
FDR said, "You know, Jack
Garner wants to run for
President, but he couldn't get the
nigger vote." Wheeler was star-
tled that FDR had used the word
"nigger." "Farley wants Hull to
run," FDR went on, "because of
the fact that he wants to be vice
president and he thinks Hull
might not live and he'd become
President. Cardinal Mundelein
says that he wants to see a

Catholic President some time but
he doesn't want to see him come
in the back door. You know,
Burt, Mrs. Hull is part Jewish
and you don't have to go back
through your ancestors or mine
to find out if there's any Jewish
blood in our veins. We're either
Dutch or English."
So here, thought Wheeler,
was the man who had the Negro
vote, the Irish vote, and the
Jewish vote in the palm of his
hand expressing his true feelings
about them all — the blacks were
really just "niggers," the Irish
Catholics were unworthy of the
highest office, and the Jews were
not true Americans, in the way
that the old families of English
and Dutch ancestry were.
Volumes have been written, many
brochures are available, all exposing the
FDR failure to aid the Nazi refugees, to
come to the protection of the hundreds of
thousands endangered in the Holocaust.
In less than 50 pages, Ted Morgan pro-
vides summaries of the events, per-
sonalities surrounding FDR and the de-
veloping horrors, summaries that pro-
vide the hairraising effects of inexcusa-
ble failures.
The manner in which the effort to
rescue children from the Nazi massacre,
let alone the stymying of the visa issu-
ing by American Consuls, is exposed by
Morgan. The interceding of Eleanor
Roosevelt and of James G. McDonald,
who years later was to become the first
U.S. Ambassador to Israel, are recorded
in Morgan's FDR. Here are some of the
revealed facts:

In June he (Roosevelt) turned
down a plan to amend the $50
million Red Cross appropriation
so that $1 million could be used
at the President's discretion to
defray the transportation costs of
refugee children from England,
France, Belgium, and Holland.
The plan was backed by Harry
Hopkins and Attorney General
Francis Biddle, but FDR did not
want to spend his credit with
Congress by seeking more dis-
cretionary money.
Also in June, the Immigra-
tion and Naturalization Service
was transferred from the Labor
Department to the Justice De-
partment, and the Alien Registra-
tion Act, which required the
registration and fingerprinting of
all aliens over 14, began to be
enforced.
In Europe, American consu-
lates were besieged by thousands
of desperate persons hoping for
visas. Obeying the letter of the
law, and aware of the attitude of
their superiors, the consular
staffs sometimes worked with
heartbreaking slowness. It took
them weeks and months to exam-
ine legal documents, allocate
quota numbers, and check af-
fidavits of support and other as-
surances that the refugees would
not become public charges.
Breckinridge Long directed
the consuls to issue visitor or
transit visas only to persons with
exit permits. As he wrote Adolf
Berle: We can delay and effec-
tively stop for a temporary
period of indefinite length the
number of immigrants into the
United States. We could do this
by simply advising our consuls to

Continued on Page 34

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