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April 29, 1988 - Image 44

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1988-04-29

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PURELY COMMENTARY

Refuge And Wandering

Continued from Page 2

of adopted legislation and the embit-
tered condemnation of the failure by
President Harry S. Truman.
President Truman was firm in urg-
ing Great Britain to permit 100,000
survivors from Nazism to settle in the
Jewish Yishuv in Palestine. When Bri-
tain exercized a policy of injustice, as.
Sanders indicates: "After some weeks
of deliberations, the British government
replied to President Truman that it did
not accept 'the view that all of the Jews
or the bulk of them must necessarily
leave Germany and still less Europe'
since that 'would be to accept Hitler's
thesis.' "
Then began the deliberations by the
Committee of Inquiry which resulted in
the Palestine partition decision and the
eventual rebirth of Israel.
President Truman pursued a policy
of urging adherence to rescue efforts
and he supported suggested legislation
to open a door for the settlement of Jews
in this country. The opposition to it was
shocking. As Sanders points out, there
was a public expression of antagonism.
As Sanders reports in his thorough
analysis of that sad effort:
President Truman had tried
to demonstrate that the United
States was ready to do its share
in absorbing refugees, to the ex-
tent that the laws and public
opinion would allow. These
were severe limitations. In a
Gallup Poll published in
December 1945, 37 percent of
the respondents agreed that
they wanted fewer European fin-
migrants allowed into the
United States than had been
allowed before the war, while 32
percent said they would settle
for the same number but no
more. Only five percent wanted
an increase, and 14 percent said
they wanted no more im-
migrants from Europe at all.
This was the climate within
which President Truman an-
nounced, on December 22, that
he wanted all the quotas for the
coming year met in full on the
basis of preference for victims of
Hitlerite persecution, at the rate
of 3,900 a month. This was to
apply only to refugees who were
within the American Zones of
occupation at the time. It was
thought that this would bring a
full quota into the United States
within ten months.
In practice, this Executive
Order proved a disappointment.
A HIAS report was to sum up
the situation this way:
Of the 39,000 U.S. quota
numbers which were estimated
as being applicable to displaced
persons in the American oc-
cupation zones of Germany and
Austria, 25,957 were German
quota numbers. Few German
Jews were found in Germany.
Many were slaughtered. Many
escaped and were scattered
throughout Europe and
America.
Two-thirds of the displaced
Jews in Germany and Austria
are Polish. They number about
120,000 — but the Polish quota is

Ronald Sanders

only 6,524 a year. So that we
have the tragic spectacle of the
major number of the displaced
Jews being excluded from this
country while the large German
quota remains unfilled.
Although the U.S. State Depart-
ment is cooperating with HIAS
and issuing visas to displaced
Jews up to the extent permitted
by law, the over-all quota situa-
tion is such that the President's
directive is thwarted.
Further debate over admission of
survivors to this country ensued in Con-
gress. There was a proposal to admit
200,000 to the United States in two
years. A compromise bill was adopted
in June 1948 and it became known as
the Displaced Persons Act.
The Truman criticism of this bill
has great "significance:
The bad points of the bill are
numerous. Together they form a
pattern of discrimination and
intolerance wholly inconsistent
with the American sense of
justice.
The bill discriminates in
callous fashion against displac-
ed persons of the Jewish faith.
This brutal fact cannot be
obscured by the maze of
technicalities in the bill or by
the protestations of some of its
sponsors.
The primary device used to
discriminate against Jewish
displaced persons is the provi-
sion restricting eligibility to
those displaced persons who
entered Germany, Austria, or
Italy on or before December 22,
1945.
The highly prejudicial McCarren-
Walter Immigration Bill which was
especially damaging for Jewish visa ap-
plicants after the war, was adopted over
President Truman's veto. Senator
Herbert Lehman of New York con-
ducted a week-long one-man filibuster
against the bill. His major antagonist
was Senator Homer Ferguson of
Michigan.
Sanders' "Afterword" to his
dramatic accounts of emigration is
devoted to the charge that the judgment
of Franklin D. Roosevelt's actions, ac-
cusing him of "indifference" to the
plight of the Jews, was "too harsh."
Admitting "the years of 1933 to
1945 were marked by widespread indif-
ference and callousness toward Jewish
suffering among those who were not its

out-and-out perpetrators," Sanders
declares that "within that atmosphere
there were degrees of unconcern and of
concern, and it seems to me that
Franklin Delano Roosevelt was, in fact,
the least indifferent to the Jewish
catastrophe of all the heads of govern-
ments of his time!' Sanders' defense is:
It was Roosevelt, for exam-
ple, who recognized the gravity
of the German and Austrian
refugee crisis in the spring of
1938 sufficiently to call the inter-
national conference on the ques-
tion held that July at Evian-les-
Bains. To be sure, the results of
the conference proved inade-
quate, but few of his contem-
poraries were inclined to blame
him for that, and many — in-
cluding Jewish spokesmen —
continued to praise him for his
initiative in the matter. And he
continued taking such in-
itiatives. From 1938 to 1940, he
kept bending American visa
and immigration rules — against
formidable opposition in both
Congress and the State Depart-
ment — in such ways as to allow
more victims of Hitlerite
persecution to find refuge in the
United States than otherwise
could have.
It is the interval from
December 1941, when the
United States entered the war as
a belligerent, to January 1944,
when Roosevelt created the War
Refugee Board for the specific
purpose of rescuing victims of
Nazism, that presents a more
difficult problem of comprehen-
sion. During this time, we find
little effort at direct intervention
on Roosevelt's part — or that of
his fellow war leaders — in the
European-Jewish tragedy .. .
The fact remains, however,
that after December 1942 the
Allied leaders were sometimes
confronted with the possibility
of taking direct action to rescue
Jews. Virtually every one of
these possibilities arose in cir-
cumstances that demanded
weighing it against military con-
siderations. Perhaps the most
notable such instance occurred
in March 1943, when Anthony
Eden, the British Foreign
Secretary, refused to consider
certain large-scale rescue opera-
tions for Jews out of fear that
these would hinder the war ef-
fort. Eden's views in matters of
this sort were as crucial in
Washington as they were in Lon-
don at the time; it was not until
January 1944 that Roosevelt felt
some freedom to defy the in-
clinations of the Foreign Office,
as he did when he created the
War Refugee Board. This
respect for British requirements
was also what kept Roosevelt
silent until 1944 on the subject of
Palestine, where Britain's White
Paper policy of 1939 had all but
closed off completely the major
potential refuge of European
Jewry . .
Roosevelt, even after show-

ing readiness to defy the British
on Palestine as on other matters
early in 1944, found that he
could not defy his own War
Department, and had to back
down on the issue. It was also
the War Department that bore
the brunt of responsibility in
another matter regarding the
Jews of Europe for which
Roosevelt has too often been
reproached: the refusal tabomb
Auschwitz or the railway lines
leading to it. The War Depart-
ment rejected all such proposals
—none of which seems even to
have reached Roosevelt himself
—on the basis of a policy oppos-
ing the diversion of armed
forces for rescue missions. This
put it in direct opposition to the
War Refuge Board, which, after
all, represented the President's
desire that rescue be counted an
objective of the war.
Any grounds, then, for the
claim that Roosevelt was indif-
ferent to the fate of European
Jewry turn out to be quite
tenuous.. .
Sander's Shores of Refuge is a very
great and important book. There is a
debt of gratitude to HIAS for having
sponsored the book and its author. This
review should be considered a tribute to
both for producing an exceedingly im-
portant and highly-researched
historical document.

Mandel

Continued from Page 2
editions of its earlier classic works.
Classics of earlier years reprinted as
paperbacks by JPS include Wasteland
by Jo Sinclair, Coat Upon a Stick by
Norman Fruchter, Leah by Seymour
Epstein. These were narratives that
were sell-outs as hard covers more than
20 years ago.

'Si' Kenen:
AIPAC Pioneer

A

as an associate of Isaish L.
Kenen in the formation of
AIPAC — American Israel
Public Affairs Committee — in 1965, it
is a distinct privilege to write a few
words of tribute to this pioneer
organizer of the important agency that
functions to set forth the basic facts in
defense of Israel.
"Si" Kenen commenced his Zionist
activities in his youth. His earliest
career was in journalism and he was
also a pioneer in the formation of the
first chapter of the Newspaper Guild in
Cleveland. Then began his total devo-
tion to the Zionist cause, in the ranks
of the American Zionist Emergency
Council under the then leadership of
Abba Hillel Silver.

I preceded him in a similar capaci-
ty nearly ten years earlier under the
leadership of Stephen S. Wise, and we
both continued in our devotion to the
cause aimed at redeeming Zion. We
were members of the Zionist delegation
at the founding of what was then refer-
red to as UNO — United Nations
Organization — in San Francisco, in

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