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December 30, 1988 - Image 2

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1988-12-30

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Coughlin Recollections Decry Panicking


Editor Emeritus


he "American Experience" tele-
vised film recalling the hate-
mongered activities in the 1930s
and early 1940s of Royal Oak, Mich.,
Radio Priest Charles E. Coughlin
merits applause for the splendid
analyses of the economic, social and
political conditions in this country.
They were crucial years in our
democracy and the challenges of those
years are recalled in the presentations
by producer Iry Drasnin.
The one aspect in the Coughlin ap-
peals to hatred that needs continuation,
although its harshness can never attain
absolute completion, is the anti-
Semitism that will ever retain the
Coughlin name in history's records as
reminders of an era when hate
predominated in one section of the
media, that of the WJR programming
of that time.
Drasnin also did not sufficiently in-
dicate to what extent the WJR owner-
ship of that time gave courage to
Coughlin to carry on his political cam-
paign, against Franklin D. Roosevelt
and in related occurrences. It was
especially in anti-Semitism that the
radio lent power to venom. That's what
needs added elaboration in a supple-
ment to what Drasnin already provid-
ed in his introductory television film.
What the Drasnin documentary
could do is add, to further elaborate, the
outrageous way in which Coughlin
republished and reintroduced the
nefariously faked "Protocols of the
Elders of Zion." He printed them after
their appearance in Henry Ford Sr.'s
Dearborn Independent and after Ford
repudiated them to avoid judicial

punishment in the court case against
Had this been mentioned, the part
played in the Coughlin proceedings by
the Free Press and the legal action that
was threatened against the newspaper
would have become better known.
Coughlin invited me to write a re-
ply to his "Protocols" acticles. He
published it in Social Justice and then
proceeded additionally to distort all
available facts about the frightening
collection of lies in his magazine.
The publication of his Social Justice
weekly had a procedure that indicated
the dishonorable way in which he acted.
Initially Morris Steinberg, a prominent
printer who gained fame later for spon-
soring chess and checker tournaments
and contesting games of a variety of in-
terests, printed the Coughlin materials.
Coughlin broke the contract he had
with Steinberg in an unanounced
transfer to a Chicago printer. It ruined
Steinberg financially. Steingerg's
lawyers urged continuation of a lawsuit
and they were shocked when leaders in
the Jewish community urged that the
offered $12,000 settlement be accepted.
This is one indication of the frequent ex-
periences of fright to action among Jews
in the existing establishment when
there is need for vigilance. Jews often
panic when there is a demand to speak
out. That's how the Sha-Sha and Hush-
Hush occurrences have crept into our
The truth need not be hidden — that
there were similar experiences in the
Hitler years, at the outset in dealing
with Henry Ford the First and on
numerous other occasions.
In fact, in dealing with Coughlin,
and with the then Catholic authorities
who delayed ordering Coughlin's
removal from the radio the repudiation

of the bigotry was by a Toledo preacher.
Imagine what Abba Hillel Silver and
Stephen S. Wise would have done to the
radio hatemonger!
There is on the record a personal act
which may add to the regret about
panic invading our ranks and the fear
of the threats to us when there is need
for prompt action wherever and
whenever we are besmirched.
One of Coughlin's major claims was
that he was fighting communism and
was protecting this country, the Church
and the world against the Red Menace.
That's when he continually began to
speak of Jews and their leaders as Com-
munists. In a typically anti-Semitic
fashion, he qualified his hate-spreading
campaign with another villainous
denial that he was an anti-Semite
because he believed there were "Good
Jews and Bad Jews."
Those were the years of Witch
Hunts and millions of Americans were
scared out of their wits and feared to
speak out against the hatemongers.
Perhaps we should have been among
the brave who risked a few more attacks
in defense of good citizenship and
fearless condemnation of bigotry. The
Catholic Church proved, regrettably, a
bit too late, with its repudiation of
Coughlin and an indication that
fearlessness need not be feared.

The personal experience:
I met twice with Coughlin. At one
meeting he failed to show a human
spark by rejecting the Hitler program
that had begun to develop into an in-
troduction to what we now refer to as
the Holocaust. At the other, I dealt with
the outrageous "Protocols" and he in-
vited me to write the reply I referred to.
It was on the charge of Jews being
Communist that I challenged him in a

telegram I sent to him on July 27, 1938,
the text of which follows:
"You are grossly misled,
Father Coughlin, regarding the
"Protocols" and many other
phases of Jewish life which you
have undertaken to criticize at
this juncture when dictators are
destroying every vestige of
human decency and freedom for
Jew and Catholic alike. Because
I feel that you have been misled
by men who are not friends of
ordinary decency and because
I still consider you a man of
decency, I urge you to meet with
a small committee who will
supply you with basic facts pro-
ving to your complete satisfac-
tion the libelous character of
"Protocols" and other charges
contained in your periodical.
Prepared to meet with you and
any committee or associates you
may designate tomorrow morn-
There was an immediate response.
The meeting was called for and held the
next day at 10 a.m. July 28, 1938. At
my invitation, the Community Council
President, James I. Ellmann accom-
panied me.
The text of the telegram and my
bylined article reporting on the meeting
with Coughlin appeared in The Detroit
Jewish Chronicle on July 22, 1938. The
summary of the discussion with the
Coughlin view appeared in my article
in The Detroit Jewish Chronicle, as
follows in part:
Father Coughlin received us
informally in his rectory office
at the Shrine of the Little

Continued on Page 55

Warning Of A 'nap' As A Threat To Israel

There can be no limit to the ten-
sions accompanying the "negotiations"
conducted by the United States with
Yassir Arafat. What is happening is like
a fulfillment of schemes that turned
most of the effort into a "Palestinian-
American" dialogue much more than a
peace effort between Arabs and Israel.
Until the U.S. yielding to Arafat, much
of the expressed venom was against the
U.S. much more than against Israel.

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Vol. XCIV No. 18

December 30, 1988


The culprit was the U.S. Until the
negotiations became an Arab-Israel
question, participation there may be too
little to look forward to.
Israel's invitation to the Arabs was
to consider the Camp David decision for
autonomy for the Arabs in the Israel-
occupied areas. Out of it was to emerge
other property-arrived-at decisions
leading to peaceful neighborliness for
all. It was rejected. The delays were
Does Israel stand alone in an un-
friendly atmosphere, with nearly the
entire U.N. membership voting against
her in menacingly-worded resolutions
and continuing animosities? It would be
ingratitude not to acknolwedge the U.S.
support that hopefully will promising-
ly be continued. Nevertheless, Israel
must plan her own defenses and gird for
actions to avoid calamities. It is the self-
defense that is most urgent as an ad-
monition to the American partner and
co-defender to be ready to confront
dangerously serious threats in a war-
threatening Middle East.
Catapulted into a hero-worship
category, public opinion must be alerted

to Arafat's bloody record. It must not be
kept hidden. Public opinion must be
alerted to the horror he instigated
against Israel and the U.S. The notorie-
ty he receives may even lead some
misguided to nominate him for the
Nobel Peace Prize.
Therefore the urgency of placing
emphasis on the major terrifying PLO
commitments, contained in its "cove-
nant:" in which the destruction of Israel
is its aim.
The Wall Street Journal exposed the
Arab intentions editorially as follows:

We are less sanguine. The
State Department's willingness
to talk with the PLO leads the
U.S. toward a familiar trap that
the Soviet bloc and its proxies
set continuously around the
globe. Faced with a determined,
U.S.-aligned adversary, all these
opponents decided to go over
the heads of their U.S.-aligned
adversaries and communicate
directly with the American
public. The message is in-
variably the same: Behold, they

say, the endless turmoil and
violence to which your govern-
ment is a party. Would it not be
better to end the violence and
negotiate a peace settlement?
This tactic has been used in
Korea, in southern Africa, in
Central America and in the Mid-
dle East. It is used becaue it
works. The insurrection on the
West Bank, the PLO's "intifada,"
has little to do with the Israeli
government and nearly every-
thing to do with U.S. opinion.
The correct policy, one the
U.S. supports in principle but
too often ignores in practice, in-
sists on direct negotiations
among the affected parties.
That, too, has long been a sup-
posedly sacred plank in
American Mideast policy. It
would have forced the PLO to
address the criteria set down by
Israel, which has to live in the
Mr. Arafat no doubt has
many skills, but an ability to

Continued on Page 55


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