The Abandonment of the Jews: American and the Holocaust, 194

"Science," the Greek word for knowledge, when appended to the word "political," creates what seems like an oxymoron. For who could claim to know politics? More complicated than any game, most people who play it become addicts and die without understanding what they were addicted to. The rest of us suffer under their malpractice as our "leaders." A truer case of the blind leading the blind could not be found. Plumb the depths of confusion here.

Re: The Abandonment of the Jews: American and the Holocaust,

Postby admin » Fri Apr 13, 2018 9:04 pm

Part 1 of 2


Almost none of the numerous opinion surveys conducted during World War II dealt with the impact that the mass killing of the European Jews had on the American public. But one Gallup poll (January 7, 1943) provided some information. It included the following inquiry: "It is said that two million Jews have been killed in Europe since the war began. Do you think this is true or just a rumor?" Forty-seven percent of the respondents considered it true, 29 percent thought it rumor, and 24 percent had no opinion. Unfortunately, this finding does not tell what proportion of Americans was aware of the extermination news. But it suggests that during the preceding six weeks Jewish organizations had made important strides in getting the information before the public. The plausibility of such a conclusion is strengthened when one considers the lack of cooperation from the State Department and the Office of War Information as well as the limited interest of most of the mass media. [1]

The American Jewish Congress hoped that public opinion had become sufficiently aroused to bring government action. Its representatives approached the State Department week after week in early 1943, but received, in the words of one Jewish leader, "nothing but a runaround." Discussions with Sumner Welles, Adolf Berle, Breckinridge Long, and officials in the Division of European Affairs were all to no avail. [2]

In contrast to December, during January and much of February Jewish organizations were relatively quiescent; the extermination issue received limited public attention. Outing those weeks, however, shocking news reports from Europe began to reactivate the campaign for rescue. A courier from the non-Jewish Polish underground reached England in December with further confirmation of the systematic murder of the Polish Jews. He also brought an account of the hideous conditions on the deportation trains bound for the Belzec killing center. It was based on his own observations, for he had infiltrated a Nazi-controlled Polish police force. In Warsaw, he had seen some of the few "fortunate" Jews, children who had escaped from the ghetto and were attempting to survive in the city streets. He described them:

I shall never forget them. They look less human than like monsters, dirty, ragged, with eyes that will haunt me forever -- eyes of little beasts in the last anguish of death. They trust no one and expect only the worst from human beings. They slide along the walls of houses looking about them in mortal fear. No one knows where they sleep. From time to time they knock at the door of a Pole and beg for something to eat. [3]

The greatest shock of early 1943 was another telegram from Gerhart Riegner in Switzerland, written in collaboration with Richard Lichtheim, an official of the Jewish Agency for Palestine. It disclosed an intensification of the systematic killing that Riegner had previously reported, Six thousand Jews were being killed per day at a single location in Poland. Vienna had been nearly emptied of Jews, and more deportations were going forward from Berlin and Prague. The condition of the Jews in Rumania was desperate. Of 130,000 Rumanian Jews deported to the Transnistria region in 1941, 60,000 were dead. The other 70,000 were destitute, sleeping in crowded, unheated rooms, prey to diseases, and dying of starvation. [4]

The State Department relayed a copy of the telegram to Stephen Wise on February 9, along with a letter signed by Welles which admonished that "the Department of State cannot assume any official responsibility for the information contained in these reports, since the data is not based on investigations conducted by any of its representatives abroad." The letter also applied the disclaimer retroactively to the documents given to Wise in November. [5]

The disavowal was undoubtedly engineered by the same group in the State Department's Division of European Affairs that had been trying for months to check the spread of information about the fate of the European Jews. For one thing, the Division of European Affairs had persistently sought to disassociate the State Department from Wise's public disclosures of mass murder. Furthermore, the day after forwarding the Riegner-Lichtheim telegram to Wise, the State Department dispatched the following instruction to its Bern legation. The obvious intent was to cut off such messages at their source.

Telegram 354, February 10
Your 482, January 21 [i]

In the future we would suggest that you do not accept reports submitted to you to be transmitted to private persons in the United States unless such action is advisable because of extraordinary circumstances. Such private messages circumvent neutral countries' censorship and it is felt that by sending them we risk the possibility that steps would necessarily be taken by the neutral countries to curtail or forbid our means of communication for confidential official matter. [ii]

(SW) [6]

As the signature indicated, Welles had approved the telegram. Almost certainly, however, he had simply initialed it in routine fashion. As the message crossed his desk, it would have attracted his attention only in the unlikely event that he had recalled what 482 from Bern actually was. The authors of the telegram undoubtedly assumed that he would not. Those responsible for telegram 354 were State Department adviser on political relations James C. Dunn and three officials from the Division of European Affairs-the acting chief, Ray Atherton, the assistant chief, John D. Hickerson, and Elbridge Durbrow. [8]

The ban on information from Switzerland ended two months later. as unforeseen developments upset the scheme. But that is part of another story, one that did not become clear until December 1943. [9]

Shortly after receiving the Riegner-Lichtheim message, Wise and his associates at the American Jewish Congress gave it to the press, along with three recently received eyewitness reports from Poland. The press release, timed to make the Sunday papers, had litde impact. The New York Times, for instance, reported it unobtrusively on page 37. [10]

On February 13, one day before the Riegner-Lichtheim information came out in the press, a report of great interest to those concerned about the European Jews appeared in the New York Times. By coincidence, it exactly meshed with the Riegner-Lichtheim description of the dreadful condition of the 70,000 Rumanian Jews still alive in Transnistria, and it threw a ray of hope into that darkness. A dispatch from C. 1. Sulzberger in London disclosed that the Rumanian government had offered to cooperate in moving 70,000 Jews from Transnistria to any place of refuge chosen by the Allies. The Rumanians suggested Palestine and offered to provide Rumanian ships for the voyage. In return, Rumania asked to be paid transportation and !dated expenses amounting to 20,000 Rumanian lei (about $130) per refugee, along with additional funds should Rumanian ships be utilized. [11]

An opportunity to rescue a large number of European Jews seemed to have materialized. Rumania's collaboration with the German war effort had been opportunistic. It now seemed unsure of an Axis victory and evidently was attempting a gradual shift into the good graces of the Allies in the hope of easing the coming terms of peace. If so, the Bucharest government was badly mistaken in assuming that the Allies would consider the release of 70,000 Jews an ingratiating gesture. In fact, as subsequent events showed, the American and British governments looked upon any release of large numbers of Jews as a threat, not an opportunity.

Secretary of the Treasury Henry Morgenthau, Jr. immediately brought the Sulzberger article to Roosevelt's attention. The President said he knew nothing about the matter and suggested that Morgenthau see Welles. Welles, also unaware of the proposal, agreed to look into it. He learned from the British Foreign Office that a representative of the Jewish Agency for Palestine had informed the British government a month earlier that Rumanian officials had made such an offer to the Jewish Agency. The Foreign Office characterized the plan as blackmail, though it did believe it might be an effort by "certain Rumanian circles" to show disapproval of the Nazi extermination of Jews. The Foreign Office also stated that weeks earlier it had asked the British embassy in Washington to inform the State Department of the proposal. Apparently, the State Department simply shelved the matter. [12]

An inquiry from Welles to the American embassy in Ankara brought some clarification. According to a representative of the Jewish Agency, a Dutch businessman, resident in Rumania, had called on him in Istanbul in early December carrying a proposal from top Rumanian officials. They were ready to permit the departure of the 72,000 Jews still alive in Transnistria and offered to provide ships to move them to Palestine or another Allied port. The Dutchman also stated that the Catholic bishop of Bucharest was prepared to permit the use of the Vatican flag on the ships. [13]

On February 24, Welles passed the information from London and Ankara on to Morgenthau, with a message that the investigation was continuing. But only two weeks later the State Department was responding to inquiries about the Rumanian proposal with stock letters signed by Welles. "This story," the letters asserted,

is without foundation. It originated from an unofficial non-Rumanian resident of Bucharest who was visiting Istanbul. The probable actual source is the German propaganda machine which is always ready to use the miseries of the people of occupied Europe in order to attempt to create confusion and doubt within the United Nations.' [14]

Clearly, the State Department's investigation had been superficial. Any careful consideration would have had to include inquiries sent to the Rumanian government through neutral governments or the Red Cross. Such indirect contacts with Axis governments were not uncommon during World War II; they were even made occasionally to protest persecution of European Jews. Instead of looking into it fully, the State Department had rejected the proposition out of hand. [15]

The Rumanian proposal might not have been workable. Quire likely it would have involved an element of bribery in addition to the actual costs of removing the imperiled Jews. But it most certainly was not a story ''without foundation." Nor had it "originated from an unofficial non-Rumanian resident of Bucharest." German Foreign Office correspondence assembled for the Nuremberg trials revealed that the proposal originated at the very top level of the Rumanian government and was seriously meant. The price asked may have been excessive, but it might have been reduced by negotiations. Even the problem of sending large amounts of money into an enemy nation had a solution. It was a procedure that the U.S. government agreed to many months later in connection with a program to buy food inside Rumania to send to the Jews in Transnistria. In that instance, Rumanian holders of Rumanian currency were willing to provide substantial funds in exchange for dollars or Swiss francs that would be kept in blocked bank accounts for them until the war ended. In that way, no foreign currency would have become available to the Axis. [16]

The main issue is not whether the plan might have worked. The crucial point is that, against a backdrop of full knowledge of the ongoing extermination program, the American and British governments almost cursorily dismissed this first major potential rescue opportunity. [17]

Not everyone, however, was willing to let the Rumanian proposal pass by in silence. On February 16, three days after it published Sulzberger's dispatch, the New York Times carried a three-quarter-page advertisement with the large headline "FOR SALE to Humanity 70,000 Jews." Its sponsor was the Committee for a Jewish Army of Stateless and Palestinian Jews, an organization formed in 1941 to exert pressure on the U.S. government, and through it on the British government, to permit the establishment of a separate Jewish army. According to the committee's plan, this independent force, based in Palestine, would fight side by side with the other Allied armies under the supreme Allied command. Its ranks would include Palestinian Jews, stateless Jewish refugees from Nazi Europe, and Jews from nonbelligerent nations. Jews from America, Britain, or other Allied countries were expected to join the forces of their own nations. [iii] [18]

An independent Jewish army would offer Jews, the people most victimized by Hitler, an opportunity to fight back in their own units, under their own Bag and leadership. In late 1941 and for much of 1942, the threat of German North African forces to Suez and the nearby Jewish Palestine settlement underscored both the appeal and the logic of the proposal. Such a Jewish army would be immediately valuable in holding the Middle East; it could also permit transfer of some Allied troops from that region to other fronts. [iv]

The campaign mounted in 1941 and pressed through 1942 by the Committee for a Jewish Army (CJA) had attracted substantial support from several quarters, Jewish and non-Jewish. The driving force within the CJA was a group of ten young Palestinian Jews who had come to me United States in 1939 and 1940. They were Zionists, committed to a Jewish state in Palestine. But they were heavily influenced by the thought of Vladimir Jabotinsky, whose Revisionist Zionism called for a more militant policy toward British control in Palestine and aimed at the immediate establishment of a Jewish state there. [21]

These Palestinians were not associated with the New Zionist Organization of America, which was the Revisionist Zionist body in the United States. Most of them, in fact, were secretly members of the Irgun (Irgun Zvai Leumi), a Jewish armed underground in Palestine. While these men constituted a tiny, American-based wing of the Irgun, they did not conduct underground activities in the United States. During the war, they were almost completely isolated from the Irgun in Palestine. [22]

At the group's core were Hillel Kook and Samuel Merlin. Merlin, a journalist, had earlier served as Jabotinsky's personal secretary. Kook was descended from a noted rabbinical line. In the United States, he adopted the name Peter H. Bergson in order to keep his political activities from reflecting on the name of his late uncle, the former chief rabbi of Palestine, Abraham Isaac Kook. Quick and intense, Bergson was a dynamic speaker and the group's leader. Consequently, the Palestinians and the movements they initiated were referred to as the Bergsonites. [23]

The main Zionist movement harbored a deep-seated animosity toward the Irgun and thus the Bergsonites. At the root of this attitude were three factors. Regular Zionists viewed Jabotinsky and his followers as militaristic and virtually fascist. They strongly disagreed with the Irgun's use of violence in Palestine, in part because they believed it could damage the moral stature of Zionism and thus seriously hurt the Zionist cause. [v] Perhaps most important, they resented and feared the break in world Zionist discipline initiated by Jabotinsky and perpetuated by the lrgun. [24]

Operating first as American Friends of a Jewish Palestine, the young Palestinians' original purpose in the United States had been to raise money to supply arms to the Irgun and to finance its program of moving refugees from Europe to Palestine, in violation of British restrictions on Jewish immigration. In 1940, the expanding war had halted Irgun activities in Europe and severed communications between Palestine and the group in the United States. The Bergsonites had then shifted their focus to the Jewish army idea. [26]

In December 1941, American Friends of a Jewish Palestine was superseded by the newly organized Committee for a Jewish Army. The campaign for a Jewish army, which peaked in 1942, started to flag when the German threat to Suez and Palestine was broken later that year. When the news of systematic annihilation became known, in late November, the Army Committee changed its emphasis. [27]

The new approach was evident ten days later in the committee's large advertisement in the New York Times, written by the popular author Piette van Paassen, Its first objective was to dramatize and spread as widely as possible the recently released extermination reports, The second was to press for rescue action. The seed of an important idea, a commission of military and government experts to try to help the European Jews, appeared along with other tentative proposals. [vi] [28]

By February, when the next advertisement appeared, the commission of experts had become "our primordial demand," Within a week, the CJA announced its decision to open a rescue campaign centered on pressure for an intergovernmental commission of experts to seek out ways to counter the Nazi program of genocide. Although the Jewish- army goal remained, the rescue issue now claimed top priority. [30]

The point was underscored again in the large advertisement of February 16: "The principal demand, . , is that the United Nations immediately appoint an inter-governmental committee" to formulate ways to stop the extermination. The call for a rescue agency was not, however, the most striking aspect of the advertisement. Under the startling head lines

70,000 JEWS

the advertisement aimed to rivet attention on the disastrous situation of the Jews in Transnistria and build popular pressure for rapid government steps to save them. [vii] [31]

"Roumania is tired of killing Jews," announced Ben Hecht, whose signature appeared on the ad. "It has killed one hundred thousand of them in two years. Roumania will now give Jews away practically for nothing," Hecht then lashed out: "Seventy Thousand Jews Are Waiting Death In Roumanian Concentration Camps ... Roumania Offers to Deliver These 70,000 Alive to Palestine ... The Doors of Roumania Are Open! Act Now!"

The CJA, the advertisement continued, had launched an intensive drive "to demand that something be done NOW, WHILE THERE IS STILL TIME." It invited readers to join the fight by informing friends, by writing congressmen, and by sending contributions "for the further distribution of messages like these." "In this way," stated the CJA, "you can help save European Jewry!"

Immediately, a barrage of protest came from the established Jewish organizations and press. They angrily charged the CJA with deliberately and deceptively implying that each $50 contribution would save a Rumanian Jew. Jewish spokesmen' castigated the CJA as irresponsible, unethical, and willing to edge "very dose to fraud" in order to raise funds. [32]

Undaunted, the Committee for a Jewish Army pushed ahead with its publicity campaign. Six days after the Ben Hecht plea, an advertisement in the New York Herald Tribune signed by Senator Edwin C. Johnson of Colorado repeated the demand for United Nations action on the Rumanian proposal. And it, too, called for an intergovernmental rescue commission. Both advertisements soon appeared in other major newspapers. [33]

Even before the February denunciations, much of the American Jewish leadership had decried the Committee for a Jewish Army, accusing it of recklessness and sensationalism as well as gross effrontery in presuming to speak for an American constituency. Concern now arose that the Bergsonites would seize the leadership of the languishing effort for rescue. The inertia of the preceding several weeks dissolved rapidly. Aware of the CJA's plan to hold a demonstration at Madison Square Garden on March 9, Wise and the American Jewish Congress scheduled a March 1 mass meeting at the same location. [viii] To complete this display of disunity and rivalry, the Jewish Labor Committee in late February held many smaller meetings of its own throughout the New York metropolitan area. [34]

The American Jewish Congress's "Stop Hitler Now" demonstration of March 1 set off another wave of publicity and activity on the rescue question. This mass meeting was co-sponsored by the two giants of the American trade union movement, the AFL and the CIO, and by two tiny voices of Christianity and liberalism, the Church Peace Union and the Free World Association. Nearly thirty other Jewish organizations also lent support. As the meeting date neared, a full-page advertisement in the New York Times urged the public to attend and to insist that "America Must Act Now!" [36]

The public did come, in the tens of thousands. Twenty thousand jammed Madison Square Garden, while 10,000 others milled around outside in the winter cold and listened to the speeches through amplifiers. Still thousands more had dispersed after being turned away from the Garden. Police estimates indicated that, in all, n ,000 had come to the rally. [37]

The meeting opened with brief patriotic and religious exercises. Under lowered lights and amid audible weeping, a cantor chanted El Mole Rachamim, the Hebrew prayer for the dead. AFL president William Green, New York mayor Fiorello La Guardia, and several other prominent non-Jews addressed the meeting, as did Stephen Wise and world-famous scientist and Zionist leader Chaim Weizmann. Messages were sent to the gathering by Wendell Willkie, by New York governor Thomas Dewey, and by England's foremost churchmen, the archbishop of Canterbury and Arthur Cardinal Hinsley. [38]

Indicative of the progress made since the December conference with Roosevelt was a comprehensive list of specific rescue proposals approved by the mass meeting and forwarded to the President. Because the question arose both then and afterward as to what practical rescue actions might have been undertaken during that time of total war, the proposals merit attention here. The eleven-point program called for:

1. Approaches through neutral channels to Germany and the satellite governments to secure agreement for the Jews to emigrate.

2. Swift establishment of havens of refuge by Allied and neutral nations.

3. Revision of U.S. immigration procedures to permit full use of the quotas.

4. Agreement by Great Britain to take in a reasonable proportion of Jewish refugees.

5. Agreement by the Latin American nations to modify their extremely high, immigration regulations and provide temporary havens of refuge.

6. Consent by England to open the gates of Palestine to Jews.

7. A United Nations program to transfer Jewish refugees rapidly out of neutral countries bordering Nazi territory and to encourage those countries to accept additional refugees by guaranteeing financial support and eventual evacuation.

8. Organization by the United Nations, through neutral agencies such as the International Red Cross, of a system for feeding Jews remaining in Axis territory.

9. Provision by the United Nations of the financial guarantees required to implement this rescue program.

10. Formation by the United Nations of an agency empowered to carry out the program.

11. Appointment, without further delay, of a commission to assemble evidence for war-crimes trials and to determine the procedures for them. [39]

New York newspapers were impressed by the demonstration. Columnist Anne O'Hare McCormick wrote in the Times that "the shame of the world filled the Garden Monday night." If the non-Jewish community did not support the rescue proposals "to the utmost," she declared, they would forever compromise "the principles for which we are pouring out blood and wealth and toil." [40]

The mass meeting modified the Times's earlier editorial view that the world was helpless "to stop the honor while the war is going on." A new Times editorial commended the rescue plans and asserted that "the United Nations governments have no right to spare any efforts that will save lives." Editorial support for the proposals also appeared in the New York Post, the Sun, and the Herald Tribune. [41]

The mass meeting and the favorable press response that followed forced a reaction of sons from the Roosevelt administration. Two days after the demonstration, the State Department released previously secret information disclosing that the United States and Britain were planning a diplomatic conference to deal with the refugee problem. A close reading of the State Department release, however, revealed that conference plans called only for a "preliminary exploration" of the question. [42]

Seeking to utilize the momentum generated by the mass meeting, Wise sent letters to President Roosevelt, Secretary of State Hull, all members of the House and the Senate, and many newspaper editors. These letters described the proceedings at the rally and listed the eleven rescue proposals. The White House simply shunted Wise's letter over to the State Department, where a reply was prepared. Signed by the President, it vaguely asserted that "this Government has moved and continues to move, so far as the burden of the war permits, to help the victims of the Nazi doctrines of racial, religious and political oppression." [43]

Meanwhile, in a biting editorial entitled "While the Jews Die," the Nation reminded readers that Hitler was carrying out a program of total extermination of Europe's Jews and charged that "in this country, you and I and the President and the Congress and the State Department are accessories to the crime and share Hitler's guilt." "What," asked the Nation, "has come over the minds of ordinary men and women that makes it seem normal and indeed inevitable that this country should stolidly stand by and do nothing in the face of one of the world's greatest tragedies?" The editorial printed and strongly endorsed the eleven-point rescue program. [44]

On the evening of March 9, another outpouring of concern and anguish over the European Jewish catastrophe occurred at Madison Square Garden. That night the Committee for a Jewish Army presented a pageant called "We Will Never Die," a memorial to the murdered Jews of Europe. It drew on some of the nation's foremost theatrical talent. Ben Hecht wrote the script, Billy Rose produced and Moss Hart directed the drama, and Kurt Weill created an original score for it. The large cast included Paul Muni and Edward G. Robinson, who occupied center stage, as the narrators. [45]

Two weeks prior to the pageant, Billy Rose sought a brief statement of encouragement from President Roosevelt that could be read at the meeting. The White House staff was in a quandary; it did not like to turn down Billy Rose, because of his frequent cooperation with some of Roosevelt's pet charitable projects, but neither did it want to issue any such statement from the President. On request from the White House, the OWI produced an innocuous reply regarding the savage tyranny of the Nazi regime. It did not mention the extermination of the Jews; it did not even mention Jews. Yet, apparently, the statement was still too strong for David Niles and Stephen Early of the White House staff. They decided that no message be sent. [46]

The Committee for a Jewish Army had equally scant success in its attempts to attract unified Jewish support for the pageant. Meeting in January with representatives of several Jewish organizations, Hecht and Bergson volunteered to withdraw the CJA's formal sponsorship of the project if that would bring about its endorsement by the established Jewish organizations. The CJA, however, would quietly contribute to the work involved. The plan was not accepted. [47]

Later, when the American Jewish Congress announced its Madison Square Garden rally for the week before the presentation of "We Will Never Die," the CJA offered to stage the pageant as a joint project and to cooperate with the congress in its mass demonstration. The pageant's script was delivered to the congress to be examined for possibly unacceptable material. The congress rejected the proposal. [48]

"We Will Never Die" drew an audience of 40,000, setting an attendance record for Madison Square Garden. The record was the result of a decision to repeat the performance late that same night. Other thousands remained in the chilly streets hoping that a third showing might take place. The event was also broadcast by radio. [49]

The pageant was performed against a background dominated by two forty-foot tablets engraved with the Ten Commandments. Suspended over them was an illuminated Star of David. In the darkened hall, the stark scenes, dramatized by sharp beams of light and contrasting shadows, concentrated on three themes: Jewish contributions to civilization from Moses to Einstein; the role Jews in the Allied armed forces; and a vision of the postwar peace conference at which groups of Jewish dead told of their extinction at. the hands of the Nazis and pleaded, "Remember us." [50]

No formal addresses were made, but the pageant's final passages dealt pointedly with the inertia and silence of the non-Jewish world:

The corpse of a people lies on the steps of civilization. Behold it. Here it is! And no voice is heard to cry halt to the slaughter, no government speaks to bid the murder of human millions end.

The ninety-minute memorial closed with the choir and twenty aged refugee rabbis singing the Kaddish for the dead Jews of Europe. [51]

Press and newsreel coverage in New York and across the nation was extensive. With hopes of awakening America to the European Jewish tragedy, the Committee for a Jewish Army pressed forward with plans to present "We Will Never Die" in dozens of other cities. Highly successful performances took place in Washington, Philadelphia, Chicago, Boston, and Hollywood. Over 100,000 Americans witnessed the drama. Present at the Washington performance were Eleanor Roosevelt, six Supreme Court justices, members of the Cabinet, some 300 senators and congressmen, numerous military officials, and foreign diplomats. All in New York, the event was broadcast by radio in the other live cities where it played. Each performance set off a new ground swell of publicity. [52]

In her "My Day" column, Eleanor Roosevelt described "We Will Never Die" as

one of the most impressive and moving pageants I have ever seen. No one who heard each group come forward and give the story of what had happened to it at the hands of a ruthless German military, will ever forget those haunting words: "Remember us."

Mrs. Roosevelt pointed to the great dangers of intolerance and cruelty, but as to the need for action to help the trapped Jews of Europe she wrote nothing. [53]

"We Will Never Die" had won acclaim throughout the United States. Yet it had drawn almost no support from the established Jewish leadership. Coverage of the pageant in Anglo-Jewish weekly newspapers was widespread but generally less enthusiastic than in the regular daily press. The New Yolk Yiddish newspapers tended to be critical. Most English-language Jewish magazines failed even to report the event. [54]

Far more devastating were steps taken by some Jewish groups to prevent further presentations of the pageant. Because the CJA had little money, it had to depend on ticket sales in order to pay the heavy expenses involved. (The New York showing cost $25,000.) But since a considerable pan of the expenses had to be met before the performances occurred, sizable advances of money were needed. To obtain such funds, the CJA organized local sponsoring committees in each city. [55]

This system worked effectively in the first six cities. After that, however, the American Jewish Congress and other Jewish organizations managed to block the Bergsonites. Pressures on prominent sponsors and telephone and letter campaigns vilifying the CJA led many, if not most, local backers to withdraw their support. In Baltimore, Buffalo, Kingston (New Yolk), and Gary (Indiana), the CJA was arranging to present the pageant when the American Jewish Congress and allied groups intervened locally and brought the process to a halt. Plans to take "We Will Never Die" to several other cities similarly came to nothing. The consequence of this bitter conflict, as one observer pointed out, was that "the most powerful single weapon yet produced to awaken the conscience of America" was stopped in its tracks. [56]

What lay behind this strife? The Bergson group was anathema to most of the established American Jewish leadership. The Bergson organizations, opponents insisted, had no legitimate mandate to speak for American Jews, since they represented no constituency in American Jewish life. They were interlopers who had intruded into areas of action that were the province of the established Jewish organizations. Opponents also accused the Bergsonites of irresponsibility, both in their sensational methods (such as the Hecht advertisement) and in their use of the sizable amounts of money they solicited. They were charged, in addition, with injecting into already complicated Jewish issues an dement of confusion that made understanding not only more difficult for many Jews but neatly impossible for most non-Jews. [57]

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Re: The Abandonment of the Jews: American and the Holocaust,

Postby admin » Fri Apr 13, 2018 9:04 pm

Part 2 of 2

The success of the American Jewish Congress's "Stop Hitler Now!" demonstration had, in the meantime, given rise to another series of developments. In November 1942, as has been noted, seven major American Jewish organizations had formed a coordinating council (called the Temporary Committee) to carry out a series of projects aimed at stimulating action to save European Jews. In December, soon after the group had sent a delegation to meet with President Roosevelt, Stephen Wise had dissolved this council because it had completed the tasks it had originally undertaken.

By mid-February 1943, however, Wise was moving to reconstitute the committee. Most likely, he was activated by the shocking information from Riegner and Lichtheim in Switzerland and by the startling report that Rumania had offered to release 70,000 Jews. Shortly after the mass demonstration of March I, leaders of eight major Jewish organizations began meeting; on March 15 they officially organized the Joint Emergency Committee on European Jewish Affairs (JEC). Carried over from the earlier council were the American Jewish Committee, the American Jewish Congress, B'nai B'rith, the Jewish Labor Committee, the Synagogue Council of America, and Agudath Israel of America. Newly added were Agudath Israel's close associate, the Union of Orthodox Rabbis, and the American Emergency Committee for Zionist Affairs, a political-action agency representing several Zionist organizations. Not included on the Joint Emergency Committee was the Committee for a Jewish Army, though it had asked to join. [58]

The Joint Emergency Committee immediately commenced efforts to influence the upcoming British-American refugee conference, set for late April in Bermuda. One early step was to initiate mass meetings throughout the United States patterned after the American Jewish Congress's Madison Square Garden demonstration. Through the meetings themselves and subsequent press and radio publicity, the JEC hoped to inform Americans of the Holocaust and to mobilize public opinion behind the e1even·point rescue program. During spring 1943, forty such rallies were held in twenty states. They were conducted by local Jewish community organizations with help from the Joint Emergency Committee and the local branches of its eight constituent bodies. In many instances, Christian church groups and local units of the AFL and the CIO cooperated. The national office of the Federal Council of Churches endorsed the entire project. [59]

The rallies held at smaller auditoriums drew capacity audiences in the low thousands, while crowds of more than twenty thousand were recorded in some larger cities. The main speakers at these meetings were nationally known Jewish leaders, important regional Catholic and Protestant clergy, representatives of the AFL and the CIO, and prominent political figures. Although JEC personnel estimated that two-thirds of the mass meetings generated "very good" or "good" overall publicity, they expressed disappointment with the generally sparse amount of editorial comment relating to them. [60]

An interesting aspect of the JEC's campaign (and a sign of the terrible urgency of the European Jewish situation) was the full collaboration of the American Jewish Committee. Through the years, the committee had almost never encouraged mass demonstrations. It wished to keep Jewish issues out of public attention while quietly working to protect Jewish rights through negotiations with high government officials and other powerful persons. The committee's president, Judge Joseph M. Proskauer, had opposed holding the "Stop Hitler Now'" mass meeting. But the dignified manner in which the demonstration was handled ("it was decently conducted; it was addressed by prominent speakers; it was not flamboyant or vulgar") and its joint support by labor and Christian organizations had convinced him and his administrative council that similar demonstrations could help influence American opinion "in a decent and decorous way." [61]

A second objective of the Joint Emergency Committee was to induce the U.S. Congress to go on record in support of rescue action. In January, congressional leaders had assured representatives of the American-Jewish Congress that such a resolution would be passed. But weeks of follow-up discussions had proved fruitless. [62]

In mid-February, Rabbi Meyer Berlin went to Washington to speak with congressional leaders. Berlin, a resident of Palestine, was then visiting in the United States under the auspices of the Mizrachi Organization of America (Zionism's Orthodox wing). In a conversation with Senate majority leader Alben W. Barkley, Berlin noted that nothing had thus far been heard in either the House or the Senate about the mass murder of European Jews. Barkley replied that he had already discussed a proposed congressional resolution with Rabbi Wise and Congressman Emanuel Celler. Barkley also said that he personally supported the resolution, but thought it important for the proposal to gain a broad cross-section of support in Congress. Consequently, he was seeking, but had not yet obtained, the backing of the Republican leadership. [63]

In another conversation, Berlin declared bitterly to Senator Robert F. Wagner (Dem., N.Y.) "that if horses were being slaughtered as are the Jews of Poland, there would by now be a loud demand for organized action against such cruelty to animals." [ix] Though clearly sympathetic, Wagner saw little hope for any practical help from Congress.

Rabbi Berlin next went to Congressman Joseph W. Martin, Jr. (Rep., Mass.), the House minority leader, and frankly told him that he had learned from Senator Barkley that the Republican leadership was keeping Congress from taking a stand on the Jewish catastrophe. According to Berlin's report of the interview, Martin stated that he was familiar with the resolution but "not at all posted on the broader aspects of the question." He did agree to do what he could to hasten action on this measure.

Two weeks later, Barkley introduced the resolution into the Senate. It declared that "the American people view with indignation the atrocities inflicted upon the civilian population in the Nazi-occupied countries, and especially the mass murder of Jewish men, women, and children." It then resolved that "these brutal and indefensible outrages ... are hereby condemned" and "it is the sense of this Congress that those guilty ... shall be held accountable and punished." The resolution said nothing about rescue. It was simply another general condemnation of Nazi atrocities, another call for the eventual punishment of those responsible. [65]

The Joint Emergency Committee dispatched two delegates to Washington to persuade congressional leaders to add a paragraph urging both the United States and the United Nations to act immediately to rescue the Jews of Europe. But their effort failed. On March 9, Bark ley's resolution, in its original form, passed the Senate unanimously. The next week, the House approved the same resolution without dissent. [66]

As the JEC had feared, Barkley's resolution was so insignificant that it received little publicity. For example, when the Senate acted on the resolution, the New York Times devoted less than two and a half inches to the story, on page 12. Later, when the House passed the measure, the Times carried a similarly brief report on page 11. In both instances, the tiny headlines omitted any reference to Jews. [67]

The project on which the Joint Emergency Committee placed its greatest hope was a conference it sought to arrange between top State Department officials and a delegation of Jewish leaders accompanied by representatives of the AFL, CIO, Church Peace Union, and Federal Council of Churches. The plan depended largely on the cooperation of Myron C. Taylor, President Roosevelt's personal representative to the Vatican. Taylor, formerly chairman of the board of U.S. Steel, had been the chief American representative at the Evian Conference on refugees in 1938. He continued to be involved in refugee matters in succeeding years and to maintain close connections with the State Department. Despite his assignment in Rome, Taylor was in the United States during much of the war. He had access to both Roosevelt and Welles; equally important, he was willing to cooperate unhesitatingly with the Jewish leadership. Taylor, it was hoped, could open the way for a meaningful hearing at the State Department. [68]

The strategy was for Taylor to conduct preliminary discussions with Welles and other State Department officials. These talks were to be based on the JEC's specific rescue proposals, a program that closely followed the eleven-point list that came out of the March 1 Madison Square Garden mass meeting. But the day before Taylor was to begin his discussions, a meeting of the Joint Emergency Committee learned of more alarming reports just received from overseas. One carried information from Geneva:

Massacres now reaching catastrophic climax particularly Poland also deportations Bulgarian Rumanian Jews already begun. European Jewry disappearing while no single organized rescue measure yet taken.

Another cablegram disclosed that 8,000 Bulgarian Jews had already been deported. Every message stressed the absolute need for rapid and extraordinary action. [69]

This turn of events impelled the JEC to revise its strategy. Tune was too short for Taylor to negotiate with the s1ow·moving State Department on the whole list of proposals. Instead, especially since British Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden was then in the United States, the time had come to go directly to Welles and press for immediate American and British action on the two most imperative proposals. One called for approaches to Germany and its satellites to obtain release of the Jews. The other asked for organization of a program to feed Nazi victims unable to get out of occupied Europe. If the two powers would agree to these steps, the JEC believed, the other points could be acted upon in a less urgent manner by the intergovernmental rescue agency that it was hoped would emerge from the forthcoming conference at Bermuda. [70]

Taylor succeeded in arranging for Wise and Proskauer to see both Eden and Welles, separately, on March 27. The meeting with Eden was most discouraging and presaged the outcome of the Bermuda Conference. Opening the discussion, Proskauer stressed the request that Britain and the United States call on Germany to permit the Jews to leave occupied Europe. Eden rejected that plan outright, declaring it "fantastically impossible." Nor was he taken by the proposal to send food to European Jews. To a suggestion that Britain help in removing Jews from Bulgaria, Eden responded icily, "Turkey does not want any more of your people." Any such effort, furthermore, would require the Allies to ship additional goods to Turkey, and that would be difficult. All in all, Eden offered no reasonable hope of action. Shortly afterward, Wise and Proskauer met with Welles; who stated that he would do what he could concerning the JEC's proposals. [71]

The meeting with Eden dealt a crushing blow to the American Jewish leadership, as is reflected in the following description of the reaction of the Joint Emergency Committee when Wise and Proskauer reported back to it:

Over the entire meeting hung the pall of Mr. Eden's attitude toward helping to save the Jews in occupied Europe. Without expressing it, the people at the meeting felt that there was little use in continuing to agitate for a demand [for action] on the part of the United Nations by the Jews of America. [72]

Incredible though it may sound, what lay behind Eden's adamant opposition to the plea that the Allies call on Germany to release the Jews was the fear that such an effort might in fact succeed. Later during the same day on which Eden spoke with Proskauer and Wise, he met with Roosevelt, Hull, Welles, and the British ambassador to the United States, Lord Halifax. Also present were a British Foreign Office official and Harry Hopkins, Roosevelt's special assistant. Hull raised the issue of the 60,000 to 70,000 Jews in Bulgaria who were threatened with extermination unless the British and Americans could get them out. He pressed Eden for a solution. According to Hopkins's notes, Eden replied

that the whole problem of the Jews in Europe is very difficult and that we should move very cautiously about offering to take all Jews out of a country like Bulgaria. If we do that, then the Jews of the world will be wanting us to make similar offers in Poland and Germany. Hitler might well take us up on any such offer and there simply are not enough ships and means of transportation in the world to handle them. [73]

Nothing in Hopkins's notes indicates that anything was said questioning, let alone objecting to, this brutal statement. In a group that included all of the foremost statesmen of the democratic world except Winston Churchill-a group that was well aware of what was happening to the Jews of Poland and Germany-no one expressed any qualms about Eden's callousness. Nor did anyone challenge the contrived reason Eden gave for advising care lest Hitler be encouraged to release the Jews.

Even if one accepts Eden's contention that transportation was not available, can anyone doubt that Jews would have walked, if necessary, across the Balkans and out through Turkey? The hard fact of the matter is that, despite the excuse used constantly throughout World War II that the rescue of Jews was impossible because of the shortage of transportation, shipping and other resources were somehow found for nonmilitary purposes when the Allied leadership so desired. illustrations of that fact will appear in a later chapter. For now, let it be noted that ten days after Eden's discussion with Roosevelt and the other statesmen, the British government announced plans to take 21,000 non-Jewish Polish refugees to East Africa. They were some of the 100,000 non- Jewish Polish, Yugoslav, and Greek refugees whom the Allies moved to sanctuaries in the Middle East and Africa during World War II. [74]

The real problem as far as Eden and the British were concerned was not ships. It was the immense pressure that .the release of thousands of Jews from Europe would place on the British policy of placating the Arabs by strictly limiting Jewish immigration into Palestine. Placed in its broader context, this was part of the fundamental problem of where Jews could be put if they were rescued. No country wanted to take them in, as had been proved between 1933 and 1941 when persecuted Jews had been free to leave Nazi Europe. American Jewish groups had been correct in devising several proposals for havens of refuge for those who could get out. Unwillingness to offer refuge was a central cause for the Western world's inadequate response to the Holocaust.

Eden's fear that the Axis powers might agree to send the Jews to the Allies instead of to the killing centers was by no means unique. For instance, in December 1943 the British government opposed a plan for evacuating Jews from France and Rumania because "the Foreign Office are concerned with the difficulties of disposing of any considerable number of Jews should they be rescued from enemy occupied territory. . . . They foresee that it is likely to prove almost if not quite impossible to deal with anything like the number of 70,000 refugees whose rescue is envisaged." Six months later, the British War Cabinet's Committee on Refugees declined to pursue a possible arrangement for the exodus of large numbers of Jews from Nazi Europe, partly because it could "lead to an offer to unload an even greater number of Jews on our hands." [75]

The same callousness prevailed on the American side. In November 1941, in the midst of months of mass terror against Jews in Rumania, Cavendish W. Cannon of the State Department's Division of European Affairs spelled out the reasons why the United States should not support a proposal to move 300,000 Jews out of Rumania to safety in Syria or Palestine. He specified, among other problems, that "endorsement of such a plan [was] likely to bring about new pressure for an asylum in the western hemisphere" and that, because atrocities were also under way in Hungary, "a migration of the Rumanian Jews would therefore open the question of similar treatment for Jews in Hungary and, by extension, all countries where there has been intense persecution." Cannon added, "So far as I know we are not ready to tackle the whole Jewish problem." In May 1943, Robert C. Alexander of the State Department's Visa Division described rescue proposals as moves that would "take the burden and the curse off Hider." [76]

Similarly, R. Borden Reams of the Division of European Affairs, referring to efforts in the spring of 1943 to persuade the Allies to negotiate with Germany for the release of the Jews, spoke of the potential "danger" of such action:

While in theory any approach to the German Government would have met with a blank refusal, there was always the danger that the German Government might agree to turn over to the United States and to Great Britain a large number of Jewish refugees at some designated place for immediate transportation to areas under the control of the United Nations. Neither the military nor the shipping situation would have permitted such action on the part of the United Nations. In the event of our admission of inability to take care of these people the onus for their continued persecution would have been largely transferred from the German Government to the United Nations. [x] [77]

Since policymakers in both the State Department and the British government viewed the escape of Jews from sure annihilation as a "burden," or a "danger," it is hardly surprising that they looked upon the rescue of Jews as something to avoid rather than to strive for. Seen from this perspective, such State Department decisions as the failure to follow up the Rumanian proposal to release 70,000 Jews and the attempt to shut off the flow of extermination information take on a certain grim logic.

Even after the disheartening encounter with Eden, the Joint Emergency Committee pushed ahead, continuing to place its hopes in Taylor and Welles. But by early April the committee was reasonably convinced that neither the State Department nor the British would seek to effect a rescue program at Bermuda. If anything significant were to occur at the conference, it would have to come at the insistence of President Roosevelt. [78]

Accordingly, Wise telegraphed the White House asking that a few JEC leaders be granted the opportunity to talk with the President as soon as possible regarding the fate of millions of European Jews. Although the committee expected to have no trouble seeing Roosevelt, Wise's request got them nowhere. The White House simply relayed it to the State Department for acknowledgment. Five days later, Hull signed a letter informing Wise that such a meeting could not be arranged. He suggested that the committee convey its information in a memorandum. for the President and the delegates to the conference. [79]

Meanwhile, on April 1, the seven Jewish members of the House of Representatives, led by Emanuel Celler, did succeed in talking with Roosevelt. [xi] Although Celler had kept in close touch with the Joint Emergency Committee, the Jewish congressmen did not press its rescue proposals on the President or place much emphasis on the Bermuda Conference. Rather, they concentrated on criticism of the State Depart ment's complex and stringent screening process, which was keeping refugee immigration into the United States at less than 10 percent of the legally established quotas. The congressmen asked for simplification of the procedures. [80]

Although simplification would certainly have been a help, the failure of the congressmen to focus on the major policy issues enabled Roosevelt to avoid the pressure they might otherwise have been able to put on him. The emphasis on immigration procedures opened the way for him to sidetrack the group to Breckinridge Long, the assistant secretary in the State Department who supervised immigration regulations. He could be depended upon to respond courteously ro the congressmen, to offer to consider whatever suggestions they would submit, and perhaps eventually to make a few superficial modifications. In that way, Long could largely neutralize their potential for forcing the administration to make any real policy changes regarding the rescue of Jews. [81]

During the first months of 1943, while some Americans were asking why their government was doing nothing to help the European Jews, others were wondering about the near silence of the American Christian churches. Jewish Frontier pointed out that although information on the annihilation of the Jews was widely enough known to elicit a Christian reaction, none had been forthcoming. Congress Weekly voiced the same dismay. It asserted that a declaration from leading American churchmen expressing their horror and their readiness to act would arouse public opinion and help bring a response from the government. [82]

On an individual level, Rabbi Israel Goldstein, president of the Synagogue Council of America, wrote to his friend Dr. Everett R. Clinchy, a Presbyterian minister and president of the National Conference of Christians and Jews. Goldstein was concerned about the National Conference's apparent inaction and asked, "How can an organization whose program is brotherhood, exclude from its sphere of concern ..., the dying gasp of European Jewry?" [83]

Clinchy replied that the National Conference was already working on the extermination issue. It had publicized the situation through its Religious News Service, which reached both the religious and general press. It also hoped to sponsor sometime in the spring a nationwide exchange between churches and synagogues that woll1d feature appeals for action. Clinchy had shown that the National Conference was not entirely inactive. It was probably doing more than most non-Jewish organizations. But, in truth, it had attempted very little, and Clinchy did not indicate that it would do much more. [84]

A handful of minor Christian and interfaith movements did urge rescue action. But none of the great American Protestant denominations took a stand during these critical months-or later in the war, for that matter. The American Roman Catholic church also was virtually silent. Neither its bishops nor other prominent church leaders pressed the issue. [85]

The American Christian organization that was most active in the campaign for rescue was the Protestant interdenominational Federal Council of Churches. But even it did not do much. The New York office occasionally assisted the Joint Emergency Committee and other Jewish groups. In mid-March, the Federal Council's executive committee called on the government to offer financial help for refugees who reached neutral European nations and to provide havens outside Europe to which refugees could be Sent until the end of the war. At the same time, the executive committee urged American Christians to sup port steps for rescue. And it designated Sunday, May 2, a nationwide Day of Compassion for the Jews of Europe, recommending that church services that day concentrate on the Jewish tragedy. [86]

In preparation for the Day of Compassion, the Federal Council distributed worship suggestions and other materials to church leaders. And it devoted one of its weekly Information Service bulletins to a carefully documented summary of evidence of the ongoing "elimination of the Jews in Nazi-controlled Europe." This bulletin, prepared with the help of the Joint Emergency Committee, was mailed to 70,000 Protestant ministers. The JEC assisted in several other ways with arrangements for the Day of Compassion, even to the extent of compiling and paying for some of the printed matter. [87]

The Federal Council hoped that tens of thousands of local churches would focus the attention of their congregations on the terrible plight of Europe's Jews and thus create a favorable public opinion for action in their behalf. The outcome of this effort cannot be fully determined, but available evidence indicates that the impact was slight.

In Boston, for instance, the Joint Emergency Committee and the American Jewish Committee, with cooperation from some Protestant clergymen, made thorough preparations for the Day of Compassion. Publicity was conducted through mailings, subway posters, newspaper advertisements, press releases, and editorials in the Boston daily news· papers. Sympathetic ministers were supplied with materials from the Federal Council and other sources. An honorary committee of sponsors included the mayor of Boston, the governors of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire, members of Congress, and many church leaders. But Boston's Protestant churches hardly responded. By the eve of the Day of Compassion, only eight Boston-area clergymen had agreed 10 center services around its theme. [88]

In New York City, the outcome appears to have been even more meager. Several city church services were summarized in the next day's Times. In only one instance was the observance of the Day of Compassion mentioned. In Pittsburgh the results were minimal. A Jewish organization there set out to write a story on the Day of Compassion for release to Pittsburgh newspapers. But phone calls to the leading churches affiliated with the Federal Council found that none of them had planned anything connected with the occasion. The most positive response came from a minister who thought his church might do something next year. [89]

Perhaps more significant in retrospect than the slight impact of the Day of Compassion is the fact that this modest effort turned out to be the Christian church's main attempt during the entire war to arouse an American response to the Holocaust. And even it came only after months of prodding by Jewish friends of the Federal Council's leaders. [90]


Momentous developments had occurred in Europe and North Africa in the months between the emergence of the extermination news in late November 1942 and the solidification of plans for the conference at Bermuda the following April. The Allies had seized the initiative in the war and clearly were on the road to victory, while the German slaughter of the Jews had continued relentlessly. At Auschwitz, four huge new gas chamber-crematorium installations had come into operation, increasing the already high rate of mass killing to a capacity estimated at 6,000 to 12,000 murders and cremations per day.

During those same months, the patterns of the American government's response to the ongoing annihilation of the Jews became evident. The State Department had shown itself to be entirely callous. Most members of Congress seemed to know little and care less. And the President, who was well aware of the catastrophic situation, was indifferent, even to the point of unwillingness to talk about the issue with the leaders of five million Jewish Americans.

The months had seen a variety of efforts by American Jews, aided by a comparatively small number of non-Jews, to stir the conscience of America and its government and thereby bring about some first steps toward trying to save European Jewry. The main Jewish organizations had managed for a time to subdue the chronic fighting among themselves and join in a united operation to press for government action. The results so far had been depressing. But the upcoming Bermuda Conference offered a little hope that something positive might develop.



[i] This referred to the telegram that had transmitted the Riegner-Lichtheim report from Bern to Washington. It carried the number 482.  

[ii] Actually, throughout the war the State Department relayed hundreds of private messages from Switzerland to American business firms. [7]

[iii] Great Britain did allow Palestinian Jews to volunteer for the British army, but in limited numbers. [19]

[iv]  Zionist circles widely supported the idea of a Jewish army. Obviously, such a fighting force would greatly increase the chances for the emergence of a Jewish state in Palestine after the war. It would give Zionists a sound basis for pressing their claims at the peace table and at the same time leave a trained and equipped Jewish army available to insist on Jewish postwar interests in Palestine. These factors were, of course, also recognized by the plan's main opponents, the British government and the Arab powers. Late in the war (in September 1944), the British government relented and formed a token Jewish brigade within the British army. Members of the Jewish brigade still in Europe after the war played an important role in the "illegal" movement of Jewish survivors through Europe and onto ships headed for Palestine. [20]

[v] The Irgun had earlier used terror tactics to retaliate for Arab attacks on Jews. In 1944 it reinstituted the use of violence, this time against the British in Palestine. [25]

[vi] A major instrument of the various Bergson groups was the large display advertisement placed in leading metropolitan newspapers. A series of these ads produced during 1942 saw Merlin develop that medium into an effective form of propaganda, which drew on such skilled writers as van Paasen and Hollywood dramatist Ben Hecht. [29]

[vii] Fifty dollars per refugee was the CJA's estimate of the value of the 20,000 lei cost mentioned in Sulzberger's article.

[viii] The American Jewish Congress had been planning since December to hold a mass demonstration at Madison Square Garden. First set for January, then early February, it had been continually postponed. It and similar rallies projected in other cities were the only remnants of the Planning Committee's original program of nationwide mass processions and demonstrations in Washington. [35]

[ix] In fact, near the end of the war, an American Army tank unit went out of its way to rescue a herd of valuable Lipizzaner horses. The Germans had seized the horses in Vienna and transported them to Czechoslovakia. The U.S. Senate later cited the unit for its "heroic efforts" in saving the horses. [64]

[x] Reams did not explain why the German government would have insisted on immediate transportation of all the freed Jews or why such an unlikely requirement could not have been modified by further negotiations.

[xi] Besides Celler, the Jewish congressmen were Sol Bloom (Dem., N.Y.), Samuel Dickstein (Dem., N.Y.), Daniel Ellison (Rep., Md.), Arthur G. Klein (Dem., N.Y.), Adolph J. Sabath (Dem., Ill), and Samuel A. Weiss (Dem., Pa.)
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Re: The Abandonment of the Jews: American and the Holocaust,

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The Bermuda Conference grew out of the public reaction in Britain to the reports that the European Jews were being exterminated. Publicity about the Holocaust was more widespread and cries for action more forceful in England than in the United States. Pressure on the British government rose rapidly in late 1942 and continued to increase well into 1943. The main impetus came from Christian church leaders and from members of Parliament. [1]

To quiet the pressures, the British government initiated the steps that led to the United Nations war-crimes declaration of December 17, 1942. The declaration, however, did little to moderate the demands for action. In January the archbishops of Canterbury, York, and Wales, speaking for the entire Anglican Episcopate, called on the government to move immediately to save the Jews and to provide sanctuary for all who could get out of Nazi Europe. A similar appeal was issued jointly by Arthur Cardinal Hinsley, Britain's foremost Roman Catholic prelate, Dr. J. H. Henz, the nation's chief rabbi, and John Whale, moderator of the Free Church Federal Council. A delegation representing all par- ties and both houses of Parliament met with the leaders of the Cabinet to press for rapid action. [2]

The clamor reached a high point when William Temple, the archbishop of Canterbury, addressed the House of Lords on March 23. He deplored the months already lost, pleaded for immediate rescue steps, and warned, "We at this moment have upon us a tremendous responsibility. We stand at the bar of history, of humanity and of God." [3]

In the meantime, in another move calculated to temper the public outcry, the Foreign Office had sent a memorandum to the American State Department. It proposed an "informal United Nations conference" to consider the possibilities of removing "a proportion" of the thousands of refugees who had reached neutral European countries. This could encourage those countries to allow more refugees in from Nazi territory. [4]

The Foreign Office pointed out, however, that "certain complicating factors" made the problem very difficult. For one thing, the refugee issue could not be handled as "a wholly Jewish problem," because many refugees were nor Jewish and "Allied criticism would probably result if any marked preference were shown in removing Jews." Furthermore, there was "the distinct danger" that anti-Semitism would be. stimulated in areas to which "an excessive number of foreign Jews" was transferred. The real "complicating factor" for the British was also revealed in cold words:

There is a possibility that the Germans or their satellites may change over from the policy of extermination to one of extrusion, and aim as they did before the war at embarrassing other countries by flooding them with alien immigrants. (Emphasis added)

The memorandum spelled out the supposedly heavy contributions that Great Britain and the empire were already making in accommodating refugees. It also noted the "generous" response of the United States in that regard. The Foreign Office suggested, however, that if the United States and Britain could agree to take in some more, "the way would be open" to approach other governments to find out what they would do.

In Washington, the responsibility for dealing with the British overture fell to Breckinridge Long, one of four assistant secretaries of state. [i] While the Foreign Office grew increasingly anxious because of rising public, pressures, Long and his subordinates studied the British proposal for nearly five weeks, Their lengthy reply, signed by Hull, was essentially an attempt to sidestep the issue. As Long boasted in his diary;

Their note of January 20 (or thereabouts) was a plain effort to embarrass us by dumping the international aspects of that question plumb on our lap, I picked up the ball and by our February 25 reply put the baby very uncomfortably back on their laps. [5]

The American response consisted mainly of examples to prove that the U.S. government "has been and is making every endeavor to relieve the oppressed and persecuted peoples." Because this assertion was not true, nearly all the examples involved gross exaggeration or distortion, For instance, one of the "measures of assistance" was the "application of the immigration laws of the United States in the utmost liberal and humane spirit of those laws," This claim was flagrantly false, [ii] Another item gave the impression that the United States had taken in half a million refugees from Nazism since 1933, Actually, less than half that number had come, A further example of the heavy burdens Americans were supposedly shouldering was the internment in the United States of large numbers of prisoners of war, Even the "relocation centers where approximately 110,000 persons of the Japanese race are being housed and maintained at public expense" were cited to illustrate American sacrifices. [iii] [6]

Ignoring the British proposal for a United Nations refugee conference in London, the State Department asserted that the best approach would be to work through the already existing Intergovernmental Committee on Refugees (ICR), Accordingly, it recommended a British American meeting at Ottawa for a "preliminary exploration" of ways to strengthen the ICR. [8]

The Intergovernmental Committee, the ineffectual creation of the Evian Conference on refugees of 1938, had been moribund since the war began. Its twenty-nine member nations had never supported it; it had seldom been possible even to convene representatives of the few states that composed its executive committee. While the Nazis methodically murdered thousands of Jews each day, America's leaders offered a "preliminary exploration" of ways to revive a proven failure. [9]

In one respect the State Department note registered full agreement with the British: "The refugee problem should not be considered as being confined to persons of any particular race or faith." Thus the high principle of nonpreferential treatment was employed to avoid the main issue, the total annihilation of one particular people. [10]

The apparent motivation, as with the British, was concern about the possible release of hundreds of thousands of Jews. A subsidiary factor was undoubtedly fear within the Roosevelt administration that special steps to help the Jews would encourage anti-Semitic and anti-Roosevelt forces to attack the administration as pro-Jewish. Roosevelt's appointments of a few Jews to important posts, coupled with strong Jewish support for him, had for years drawn charges that he was operating a "Jew Deal." With anti-Semitism widespread in the United States, such attacks were taken seriously. [11]

State Department officials had been content to procrastinate for weeks while the British government felt the heat. But when confronted with similar pressures, they quickly saw the value of the conference. Less than forty-eight hours after the Madison Square Garden demonstration of March I, the State Department moved to offset this display of public concern by releasing to the press the message it had sent the British. This constituted an extraordinary breach of diplomatic practice, not only because the confidential negotiations were still in process, but also because the American note, published by itself, conveyed the false impression that the United States had initiated the plans for a conference. [12]

The British angrily countered with a protest to the State Department and a press release detailing their claims of extensive aid to refugees. The Canadian government was also upset, for the State Department had failed to inform it of the proposed conference at Ottawa. Moreover, it did not wish to find itself facing possible pressure to modify its own stringent limits on refugee immigration. [13]

The British acceded to the American plan of a "preliminary two-power discussion on the refugee problem" and revival of the Intergovernmental Committee on Refugees, but asked for a change of location. They apparently feared that a meeting in Canada would be vulnerable to the fast-rising pressures in England. They suggested Washington, but Breckinridge Long persuaded Hull and Welles to block that. Long wrote in his office diary:

I thought that over and decided it would not he in our best interest; that to talk here would put us in a bad position with [the archbishop of) Canterbury giving publicity in the press and all the pressure which would he coming from the locally organized groups in this country.

Agreement finally came on Bermuda, a location that would shield the conferees from public opinion, the press, and Jewish organizations because wartime regulations restricted all access to the island. [14]

Selecting a chairman for the American delegation presented difficulties. Myron Taylor was the obvious choice. The central figure at the Evian Conference, he had been associated with the Intergovernmental Committee on Refugees since its formation. But Taylor declined, pleading heavy involvement in his work on postwar planning. The deeper cause, however, was his belief that the conference would achieve nothing. He tried unsuccessfully to convince the State Department of the necessity for prior agreement on what the two great allies were willing to do. An effective program, in his view, required both powers to take refugees in, pay their transportation costs, and guarantee postwar evacuation from other nations willing to act as temporary havens. [15]

Associate Justice Owen]. Roberts of the Supreme Court also refused the post. Court business required his attention until early June. Dr. Charles Seymour, president of Yale University, accepted but later withdrew because his trustees objected. It was not a good spring for finding distinguished Americans who could devote time to the tragedy of the Jews of Europe. Finally, a week before the conference opened, Princeton University's president, Dr. Harold W. Dodds, agreed to serve as chairman. [16]

The State Department also chose two members of Congress for the American delegation, Senator Scott Lucas (Dem., Ill.) and Representative Sol Bloom (Dem., N.Y.). It suggested that the President select additional delegates, but he took no action. Roosevelt showed minimal interest in the Bermuda Conference in other respects as well. Two weeks after plans for the conference were made public, he asked Hull what it was about. Hull referred him to Long, who explained that it "was to be simply a preliminary meeting to put in motion the Executive Committee of the Intergovernmental Committee on Political Refugees." Long also told Roosevelt that the conference site had been rearranged to sidestep public pressures that would be unavoidable in London or Washington. Roosevelt replied that he agreed completely. [iv] [17]

The President had almost nothing more to do with the conference, although he tried to persuade Justice Roberts to serve as chairman. Roosevelt apparently saw no urgency in the matter, as his note of April 10 to Roberts indicated:

I fully understand but I am truly sorry that you cannot go to Bermuda -- especially at the time of the Easter lilies! After my talk with you, the State Department evidently decided (under British pressure) that the meeting should be held at once instead of waiting until June.

Shortly afterward the public announcement came: the conference would open on April 19, just three months after the initial British proposal. [19]

The long delays, the diplomatic sparring, and the controlled format of the conference did not hearten concerned Americans. Congress Weekly wondered in mid-March why the Intergovernmental Committee on Refugees, "which was created in 1938 and which presumably has had this responsibility all along, is now to await the results of a 'preliminary exploration.''' Two weeks later it concluded that shifting the meeting to Bermuda was a ploy "to keep the proceedings veiled in." The New Republic expressed similar misgivings:

No Jewish organizations are represented and the conference is purely exploratory, can make no decisions and must submit whatever recommendations it may have to the executive committee of the Intergovernmental Committee on Refugees. Meanwhile the hourly slaughter of the Jews goes on. [20]

The isolation of the conference troubled the Joint Emergency Com mittee on European Jewish Affairs. After failing in its attempt to discuss the conference with President Roosevelt, the JEC tried to arrange for a small delegation to be heard at Bermuda. This was also frustrated. The Jewish congressmen who saw the President on April 1 raised the question. But Roosevelt rejected the idea. A week later, Joseph Proskauer asked Sumner Welles about it. Welles said it was impossible, but invited Proskauer to recommend three people to go to the conference as technical experts. [21]

After consultation with the JEC, Proskauer suggested George L. Warren, executive secretary of the President's Advisory Committee on Political Refugees, Dr. Joseph Schwartz, European director for the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, and Herman Shulman, a highly regarded New York lawyer. Only Warren was chosen, and he had already been selected-a fact unknown to Proskauer-because of his longstanding role as adviser to the State Department on refugee affairs. Schwartz, temporarily home after nineteen months of refugee. relief work in Europe, was more knowledgeable than any of the five experts who were sent, except Warren. [22]

Efforts were made to persuade Congressman Sol Bloom to battle for the JEC proposals. The State Department's choice of Bloom as a delegate had been a shrewd move. His position as chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee appeared to qualify him particularly well for the task. At the same time, many people would see him as capable of upholding Jewish interests at the conference. But no one connected with the Joint Emergency Committee had confidence in Bloom. In his many years on the Foreign Affairs Committee, he had consistently followed the State Department's lead. Celler even considered protesting his appointment as a delegate, and Nahum Goldmann characterized the selection of Bloom as "an alibi." Nevertheless, four people from the JEC spoke with Bloom about the group's rescue proposals, and Proskauer wrote to him. [v] [23]

In a last-ditch effort to influence the conference, the Joint Emergency Committee sent its list of rescue proposals to Welles along with an appendix of specific suggestions for implementing the program. An accompanying letter formally requested that a small group from the JEC be invited to Bermuda to explain the proposals. It closed with an appeal to Welles personally, asking him to use his influence to turn the conference into an instrument for "rescuing a defenseless people who are otherwise doomed to complete annihilation." [25]

By the eve of the conference, the Joint Emergency Committee had received no response. Angered at their inability to make any impact on government policymakers, these foremost leaders of American Jewry briefly considered militant action. But they settled for a press confer ence to expose the government's indifference. It had a negligible impact. [26]

Welles never replied to the Joint Emergency Committee's appeal. An answer came from Breckinridge Long, after the conference had started. He wrote that he had forwarded the committee's material to the American delegation. Long did not mention the JEC's formal request to be heard at Bermuda. [27]

Others who submitted proposals to the Bermuda Conference included the President's Advisory Committee on Political Refugees. It especially addressed the problem of havens to which refugees who had reached neutral nations could be evacuated, thus facilitating a continuing flow out of Axis-controlled territory. The committee particularly urged consideration of the Western Hemisphere and specifically recommended British Honduras, where land and buildings owned by an American refugee-relief organization were available. [28]

Assistant Secretary of State Adolf Berle suggested another war-crimes warning, this time combined with intimations to Hungary, Rumania, and Bulgaria that they might gain more lenient postwar treatment if they would protect their Jews and facilitate their escape. He also recommended Cyrenaica (the eastern hump of Libya) as a sanctuary for as many as 100,000 Jews for the rest of the war. Long dismissed the first suggestion. The Cyrenaica idea, already on the docket for Bermuda and frequently discussed later, never materialized. [29]

Senator Edwin Johnson, national chairman of the Committee for a Jewish Army, introduced a resolution calling on the conferees at Bermuda to take swift action to save the remaining European Jews. It did not reach the Senate floor. As the conference opened, the Army Committee published a large advertisement in the Washington Post addressed "TO THE GENTLEMEN AT BERMUDA." It demanded the immediate formation of a United Nations rescue agency. "ACTION is called for," cried the CJA. "ACTION -- not 'exploratory' words." [30]

Before the Bermuda Conference convened, the director of the Intergovernmental Committee on Refugees, Sir Herbert Emerson, evaluated the possibilities for rescue. Since the State Department and the Foreign Office had recently decided that the ICR was the proper mechanism for handling the refugee problem, Emerson's views offered an indication of the prospects for Europe's Jews. He emphasized that "the cardinal test" of all rescue proposals was that they "should not be inconsistent with the efficient waging of the war." No one had recommended otherwise, but Emerson interpreted this requirement very narrowly. For instance, concerning proposals that the Allies approach the Axis powers and offer to take in as many victims of persecution as they would release, Emerson believed that, "in their extreme form, it may be as sumed that these will be dismissed as not conforming to the above test." He did not explain why. He did concede, though, that "there is a point at which the rescue of limited numbers with the consent or acquiescence of the Government concerned is practicable." His illustrations, involving a few thousand children in the Balkans and France, showed that his idea of "limited numbers" was very limited, as was his entire concept of rescue. [31]

Emerson's specific proposals dealt mostly with increasing the refugee flow out of Spain until it equaled the flow coming in. This would head off any Spanish inclination to limit further entry. Though important, this was a minor part of the overall problem. Even fur that, all Emerson could suggest was the establishment of an emergency camp in North Africa, provided it was not ruled out by "military and political considerations, in which I include racial difficulties." [32]

Neither Emerson nor the conveners of the Bermuda Conference had large-scale action in mind. When Proskauer asked Welles for his assessment ten days before the conference opened,

Mr. Welles replied that if one considers the relation between the results one can expect and the magnitude of the problem, then one would be pessimistic. But forgetting this disproportion, he would say that he is optimistic. He hopes that the question of evacuating the Bulgarian Jews and sending them to Egypt and Turkey will be solved. He is confident that the Spanish refugees will be taken out of that country soon....

Mr. Welles stated finally that he wants Bermuda to be a success and he would consider it as such if as a result of it 50,000 people could be saved.

As it turned out, 50,000 was wildly optimistic. [33]

For twelve days, the diplomats lived and worked at The Horizons, an oceanside resort set among hibiscus and oleander and lily fields in bloom for Easter. The American delegates, Dodds, Bloom, and Lucas, were assisted by a secretary and five technical experts. The support staff was crucially important because none of the delegates was familiar with the subject of the conference. Lucas, for instance, told the press he was not acquainted with the refugee problem but intended to study it care· fully. [34]

The secretary, R. Borden Reams, had persistently sought to stifle publicity about the extermination of the Jews and had tried to cripple the United Nations war-crimes declaration of December 1942. Robert C. Alexander, assistant chief of the State Department's Visa Division, served as one of the technical experts. He was convinced that the Nazis, "for their own ulterior motives," had created some of the Jewish organizations and that Hitler was "really behind the [Jewish] pressure groups." [35]

The other technical experts were George Backer, George Warren, Lloyd Lewis, and Julian Foster. Foster, who served as shipping adviser, was a career State Department official. Lewis was a friend of Senator Lucas. Warren, of the President's Advisory Committee, was competent and greatly concerned about the refugee problem. His views were nonetheless influenced by his close relationship with the State Department. Backer headed the Jewish Telegraphic Agency as well as American ORT, an organization devoted to training Jews of Europe and the Americas in technical trades and agriculture. [36]

The British delegates were experienced, high-level Cabinet officials. And four of their five technical experts were drawn from Cabinet offices relevant to the issues under discussion. The delegates were Richard Law, son of a former prime minister and parliamentary undersecretary of state for foreign affairs; Osbert Peake of the Home Office; and George Hall from the Admiralty. An American journalist at the conference was troubled by the glaring disparity between the two delegations. [37]

Only five news correspondents were allowed to go to Bermuda. They represented the various wire services; no individual newspapers were permitted to send reporters. [38]

A great number of proposals had been submitted to the conference. For the Americans, though, the State Department simplified the task of evaluation. It defined the positive objectives, listed specific prohibitions, and required that all other issues be cleared with Washington. [39]

The positive objectives were three. First, to devise steps to encourage neutral European nations to accept more escaped refugees. Second, to seek temporary havens in United Nations territories in Europe and Africa and to locate transportation to them. Third, to call an early meeting of the Intergovernmental Committee on Refugees to implement the decisions reached at Bermuda.

Strictly prohibited was any special emphasis on Jews. And no steps were to be taken exclusively for Jews. State Department officials also imposed a three-part directive obviously calculated to keep refugees out of the United States. "No commitment regarding trans-Atlantic ship ping space for refugees can be made." Such arrangements could delay unpredictable, but urgent, plans for moving Axis prisoners of war and wounded American soldiers across the ocean. [vi] Furthermore, "even if shipping space could be found," it would be unnecessary and impractical to move refugees to America when they could be placed in sanctuaries in or near Europe. Finally, delegates were cautioned that the administration had "no power to relax or rescind [the immigration) laws." (Unmentioned was the fact that the administration did have the power to allow the legal quotas, then almost untouched, to be filled.) Clearly, the State Department had rationalized a prior decision to permit no increase in the trickle of refugees then entering the United States.

The British imposed additional limitations. Law characterized as "fantastic" the proposals that the United Nations approach Germany for the release of the Jews and that food be sent to persecuted people in Europe. The American delegates agreed that these suggestions were "impossible and outside the scope of the Conference," but only after having silenced Bloom, who fought tenaciously, if briefly, for negotiations for the release of Jews. The conference's minutes reveal once more the deep fear the two powers shared that a large exodus of Jews might take place. [41]

Law warned

that if Hitler accepted a proposal to release perhaps millions of unwanted persons, we might find ourselves in a very difficult position. For one thing, Hitler might send a large number of picked agents which we would be forced to take into our own countries. On the other hand, he might say, "Alright, take a million or two million." Then because of the shipping problem, we should be made to look exceedingly foolish.

Mr. Bloom then expressed the thought that we should at least negotiate and see what could be done.... Mr. Bloom offered the suggestion that we propose that Hitler release each month the number of refugees that we find it possible to handle....

There then occurred an extended conversation between Dr. Dodds and Mr. Bloom, Dodds pointing out that Mr. Bloom's proposal was completely against the policy of our Government and that we were on record against negotiating on any terms with Nazi Germany. Bloom then began to recede from his former rather uncompromising position.

A member of the British Delegation [Peake] then suggested that the question of potential refugees should be thoroughly discussed. Many of the potential refugees are empty mouths for which Hitler has no use.... It would be relieving Hitler of an obligation to take care of these useless people. If Hitler would agree to release a large number of old people and children, we should be placed in a ridiculous position because we could only take between 500 and 1,000 a month....

Mr. Bloom then remarked that all he wanted was to somehow not close the door....

Mr. Reams then interposed to say that there was no doubt whatever that the Department of State would oppose any negotiations with Germany. [vii] [42]

Approaches to the satellite Axis countries were not discussed at all. Yet this had been an important part of the proposals sent by the Jewish groups. They believed such negotiations were especially promising now that the tide of war had turned and some satellites were seeking to placate the Allies. [44]

The proposal to send food to the starving victims of the Nazis received no support. The conferees concurred that food shipments into Axis Europe fell under the authority of Allied blockade officials and outside the purview of the conference. Dodds advised, furthermore, that lend-lease supplies would not be available for refugees. [45]

On British insistence, another key issue was excluded from the agenda. Britain's Palestine policy would not be discussed at the conference. [46]

Working, then, under guidelines that precluded large-scale rescue, the diplomats addressed peripheral problems. Most effort focused on refugees who had fled to Spain. If they could be moved out, a channel for a continuous flow of new escapees from Axis territory might be opened. [47]

According to the delegates' information, Spain harbored 6,000 to 8,000 Jewish refugees. (Actually, this was an overestimate.) Most had fled the mass roundups and deportations that began in France in the summer of 1942. The conferees learned that 3,000 of them were capable of military service or war-related work for the Allies. The British and American diplomatic missions in Spain were already moving them to North Africa. The main issue addressed at the Bermuda Conference thus came down to the evacuation of 5,000 Jews from Spain. [48]

The problem of transportation was tackled first. The State Department shipping expert advised that all United Nations shipping was needed to move supplies and troops and to carry prisoners of war and wounded soldiers to the United States. Neutral shipping offered the only possibility for refugee transport. Despite a lack of clear information, the delegates decided that four or five Portuguese liners, each with a capacity of 600 persons, could be obtained. [viii] [49]

No effort was made to devise ways that United Nations ships might help, even though thousands of troopships and lend-lease and other cargo vessels were returning to the United States empty or in ballast. The delegates did discuss use of that empty space. But they concluded that diversion of ships to unscheduled ports to pick up refugees would delay their war-related missions. Could refugees be assembled at the ports where troops and supplies were unloaded? The conferees found an answer for that too. The concentration of refugees might interfere with military operations or pose a security risk. [51]

The delegates also wrestled with the question of where the 5,000 refugees could go. Entry certificates for Palestine were available for 3,000, but there appeared to be no way of moving them there. The delegates talked at length about transferring 2,000 people to Angola. Then it occurred to them that no one had asked the Portugese about using their colony. The British delegates thought Jamaica might possibly accept 500 refugees. But it was most unlikely that British colonies in East Africa could accommodate any. Nothing, it seemed, could be done to open Latin America or Canada. [52]

The Cyrenaican region of Libya looked promising, but not for the Jews in Spain. The delegates decided it would be a good location for non-Jewish refugees, probably Greeks. This suggestion would enable the conference to "create a very good impression" by showing that it was not acting only for Jews. Lucas, who thought this particularly important, emphasized "the existing reaction in Congress against confining the problem just to the Jewish refugees." The delegates agreed to recommend Cyrenaica as a refugee haven. [53]

Late in the deliberations, the British delegation maneuvered the Americans into recommending that the United States admit 1,000 to 1,500 of the refugees in Spain. In reality, America's extremely tight immigration procedures meant that nothing like that number of visas would be granted. But the conferees, eager for results, at least on paper, entered this proposal in their list of recommendations. [54]

The Bermuda Conference also called for establishment of a reception camp in North Africa to accommodate 3,000 people. Refugees could be moved to the camp and held there pending arrangements for migration overseas. Meanwhile, with those refugees gone, Spain could permit entry of new escapees. The British delegation initiated the proposal, frankly admitting it was needed to placate the public clamor for concrete action. [55]

At first the Americans, especially Bloom, strenuously opposed it. They argued that such a camp could disrupt military operations in North Africa and might incur the hostility of the Arabs. But the American delegation was soon convinced that the plan was "one of the few definitely affirmative steps" the conference could make to "allay some of the criticism" leveled at the two governments. Dodds telegraphed the State Department asking quick approval of the proposal. He pointedly mentioned that American resistance to it placed the British in "an advantageous position so far as the record is concerned." [56]

The idea made Breckinridge Long uneasy, but he saw the force of Dodds's argument. He submitted the plan to the military. The War Department and the Joint Chiefs of Staff strongly opposed it. They maintained that an influx of Jewish refugees might stir up the Arab population and require military action to keep order. The leaders in the area itself, General Dwight Eisenhower and French General Henri Giraud, raised no such objection. They approved the plan, but advised that the removal of the Jewish refugees would have to wait, probably for months, until 15,000 young Frenchmen who had also escaped to Spain had been transferred to North Africa to join the Allied forces. [57]

Since the military did not provide a clear decision, the Bermuda delegates recommended the camp plan, "subject to military considerations." A month later, Roosevelt's ambiguous message to the State Department left the question unresolved:

I agree that North Africa may be used as a depot for those refugees.... 1know, in fact, that there is plenty of room for them in North Africa but 1 raise the question of sending large numbers of Jews there. That would be extremely unwise.

Only in July, following further discussions with the British, did Roosevelt accede to the establishment of the camp. [ix] [58]

Seemingly, the diplomats had solved the comparatively minor problem of the 5,000 Jewish refugees in Spain. But fewer than 2,000 were in fact evacuated, most of them not until a year after the Bermuda Conference. The theory that the expeditious removal of the refugees might open a pipeline for continuing escapes from Nazi territory never re ceived a trial. [60]

The Bermuda Conference considered problems other than that of Spain, but not many and not in much depth. Seeking ways to encourage neutral European countries to accept escaping refugees, the delegates discussed the question of providing food and funds for their maintenance. But they made no recommendations. They did draft a declaration to be issued jointly by the Allied nations, including the governments-in-exile. It assured neutral states that each of the signatories would readmit its citizens at the end of the war. The joint declaration also stipulated that refugees who were former citizens of Axis nations would be enabled to return to their countries of origin. The conferees pointed out that the statement's effectiveness depended on its being issued "in the near future." More than a year later, though, the necessary endorsements still had not been obtained. Procrastination, State Deportment blunders, quibbling over wording, and Russian stalling all contributed to the failure of this plan. [61]

The Bermuda delegates also recommended reorganization and strengthening of the Intergovernmental Committee on Refugees. They proposed several changes. The ICR's pre-war mandate to negotiate with Germany for an orderly exodus of refugees from the Reich would have to be altered to apply to all European refugees. The power to deal with Germany had to be rescinded. (The new mandate should provide for "negotiations with Allied and neutral governments but not, of course, with enemy governments. ") The ICR's membership should be broadened to include Russia, Poland, Greece, Yugoslavia, and possibly Spain, Portugal, and other nations. In addition, greatly increased funding was essential Previously, most financing of refugee rescue and maintenance had come from private organizations; governments had contributed little more than the ICR's paltry administrative expenses. For the Intergovernmental Committee to expand its role, the member governments would have to assume the additional costs. Finally, the staff, which consisted of an unpaid director and one secretary, would have to be enlarged. [62]

Convinced of the necessity for "early and decisive action," the conferees urged that the ICR's reorganization be carried out by telegraph. This was a workable suggestion, for its executive committee could make oil the changes, and only three nations were on it besides Britain and the United States. [63]

In the end, the ICR accepted the recommendations with only minor modifications. But the picayune analysis and leisurely pace of the State Department and the Foreign Office slowed the process for months. Instead of telegraphic negotiations, a meeting of the ICR's executive committee was called. It did not take place until August. Implementation of the changes then dragged on for another live months. The delays were not the only reason the Intergovernmental Committee never became an effective agency, but they reflected the basic cause for its failure -- the very shallow commitment of the American and British governments to rescuing the victims of Nazi terror. [64]

As the Bermuda Conference neared adjournment, the delegations prepared a joint report for their governments. Their list of recommendations included little more than (1) the admonition "that no approach be made to Hitler for the release of potential refugees," (2) the proposal that the two governments act immediately to obtain neutral shipping to transport refugees, (3) the request that the British consider admitting refugees into Cyrenaica, (4) suggestions for moving refugees out of Spain, (5) the proposal for a joint Allied declaration on the postwar repatriation of refugees, and (6) the plan for the reorganization of the Intergovernmental Committee. [65]

Perhaps out of embarrassment at the poverty of results, the conferees decided to keep the report and the recommendations secret. [x] They released a one-page bulletin to the press, which stated only that they had carefully analyzed all possibilities of alleviating the refugee problem and were submitting U a number of concrete recommendations" to their governments. Since the recommendations involved other governments and "military considerations," they would have to remain confidential. [66]

American press coverage of the Bermuda Conference was negligible. Ten major metropolitan newspapers across the country paid only casual attention to it. All ten reported on the keynote speeches by Law and Dodds. Beyond that, only the New York Times did a fairly thorough job, running stories concerning eleven of the conference's twelve days. But several of the articles were tiny and inconspicuous, and the one report that reached the Times's front page rated only four inches of print there. None of the other nine papers even approached adequate coverage. [68]

The poor performance of the press was consistent with the American mass media's general failure to treat the extermination of the European Jews as significant news. An additional factor regarding the Bermuda Conference was the close governmental control of information. The few correspondents allowed at the conference were excluded from its deliberations. Forced to rely on guesswork, rumor, and a few official statements, they termed the meeting a H no news conference." [69]

Despite their secretiveness about specific information, the delegates made it evident that the conference would not produce significant action. At the start, Dodds stressed that "the solution to the refugee problem is to win the war," a conclusion that he and Law publicly reemphasized soon afterward. Time and again, conferees advised that they saw little chance for immediate help. One explained it to reporters this way: "Suppose he (Hitler] did let 2,000,000 or so Jews out of Europe, what would we do with them?" As the days passed, bits of information surfaced intimating that most proposals submitted to the conference had been rejected or referred without recommendation to the Intergovernmental Committee. [70]

The. miniature headlines above the tiny newspaper reports from Bermuda recorded the failure:

Refugee Conference Delegate Warns Of False Hopes For Aid (April 19) Refugees Are Warned To Wait (April 19) Conference Says Large Scale Rescue Not Possible Now (April 22) Bermuda Parley Decides Most Plans Unfeasible (April 23) Scant Hope Seen For Axis Victims (April 25) Refugee Removal Called Impossible (April 30, end of conference) [71]

American Jewish leaders, organizations, and publications denounced the proceedings at Bermuda. Jewish Frontier accused the delegates of having approached their mission "in the spirit of undertakers," Stephen Wise described the conference as "sad and sordid," while Opinion magazine termed it a "woeful failure." The Committee for a Jewish Army headlined a three-quarter page advertisement in the New York Times: "To 5,000,000 Jews in the Nazi Death-Trap Bermuda Was a 'Cruel Mockery,'" [72]

Beneath the torrent of outrage flowed a deeper current of despondency. It was evident, for example, in Jewish Outlook, an Orthodox Zionist monthly, which declared that the conference had "revealed the hardness of heart" of the democracies and had "destroy(ed) every hope." Despair also overran the Joint Emergency Committee on European Jewish Affairs. Its vitality was sapped by the unmistakable demonstration of indifference by the two great democracies. [73]

The JEC did not meet for a month after Bermuda. When it did reconvene, it was clear that demoralization had set in. Jacob Rosenheim of the Agudath Israel World Organization described the mood as "more than desperate. The Bermuda Conference has crushed any chance of hope for the rescue of out unhappy brethren and sisters doomed to death by Hitler." Lillie Shultz of the American Jewish Congress felt almost completely frustrated about what might be attempted next, given the stark "indifference of the world." The JEC, a once-hopeful initiative in unified Jewish action, never recovered from the shattering impact of Bermuda. [74]

Jews were not alone in their distress over the Bermuda Conference. Dr. Frank Kingdon, a prominent Christian educator, denounced it and its ill-informed delegates as "a shame and a disgrace." CIO president Philip Murray publicly assailed the "closed-door policy" that kept his union's leaders from being heard at Bermuda. Among several other protesters were Socialist party leader Norman Thomas, who decried "the small and sorry results of the Refugee Conference," and a group of distinguished Christian churchmen led by Reinhold Niebuhr and Daniel Poling. [75]

In the House of Representatives, Samuel Dickstein deplored the proceedings at Bermuda: "Not even the pessimists among us expected such sterility." More angrily outspoken was Emanuel Celler, who condemned the conference as an exercise in "diplomatic tight-rope walking." His attack grew into a long-term assault on State Department refugee policies. Celler also tried to interest Stephen Wise in convening "an unofficial conclave of Representatives and Senators sympathetic to active and genuine rescue." The purpose was to put "extreme pressure" on the administration to save Jews. But the plan was not pursued. [76]

Sol Bloom found himself in the eye of the storm a few weeks after the conference when he stated, "No one can criticize what we did in Bermuda without knowing what we did. But I as a Jew am perfectly satisfied with the results." He also warned the Jewish organizations that were pressing for rescue, "The security of winning the war is our first step. We as Jews must keep this in mind." Wise angrily accused him of falling back on "cheap and theatrical emotionalism" and added that Bloom should have chosen "the grace of silence with respect to the ineptitude and worse of Bermuda." Celler was equally harsh. [77]

Bloom appeared surprised at the criticism. He informed a friend that "the Jews have been attacking me because they seem to be dissatisfied with what we did at the Bermuda Conference.... I personally believe we did everything we possibly could do and some day when the facts are known, they may think differently." Yet, he later told Celler that "I was helpless" at Bermuda. [78]

In historical perspective, what were the results of the Bermuda Conference? For the stricken Jews of Europe, only the belated establishment of a small camp in North Africa. But help for the Jews was not, after all, the objective of the diplomacy at Bermuda. Its purpose was to dampen the growing pressures for rescue. Richard Law freely acknowledged this many years later: the process was no more than "a facade for inaction." [79]

While the conference was still in session, Rabbi Israd Goldstein publicly exposed the strategem: "The job of the Bermuda Conference apparently was not to rescue victims of Nazi terror, but to rescue our State Department and the British Foreign Office." Goldstein was no hothead, and his organization, the Synagogue Council of America, was a mood of respectability. He stood on firm ground when he charged that the "victims are not being rescued because the democracies do not want them." [80]

The Bermuda Conference was executed according to plan. Thereafter, when the State Department received appeals for action to save Jews, it issued this stock answer:

I assure you that the plight of the unfortunate victims of Axis tyranny is a matter which has been, and is, receiving the careful and sympathetic attention of this Government. In addition the Conference at Bermuda has examined in detail every possibility for the relief of the sufferings of the persecuted people of occupied Europe. Steps are now being taken to put into effect the recommendations made by the Conference. [81]

This ruse undoubtedly lessened public pressure to some extent. But another result of the Bermuda Conference, one not planned by the diplomats, hurt the rescue cause much more severely. In late June, Breckinridge Long observed that "the refugee question has calmed down" and "the pressure groups have temporarily withdrawn from the assertion of pressure." He concluded that the conference's pretense at careful consideration of all possibilities for action had quieted the clamor for rescue. But he was wrong. Proponents of rescue were not deceived by that trick. What had subdued them was the Anglo-American demonstration of utter callousness. It had smashed hope and made continued efforts seem futile. The calm was that of despair. [82]

Reinbold Niebuhr and other Christian leaders warned President Roosevelt of the "deep pessimism" that had taken hold among ''wise and well informed" Jewish leaders. Rabbi Abba Hillel Silver, national chairman of the United Palestine Appeal and a foremost Zionist, observed that "our fortunes were never so low." Morris D. Waldman, a leader of the American Jewish Committee and an active participant in the Joint Emergency Committee, wrote in despair that "nothing will stop the Nazis except their destruction. The Jews of Europe are doomed whether we do or don't." [83]

Although one cannot calculate the number of Jewish victims of the Bermuda Conference's inaction, one death was clearly related to that event. Szmul Zygielbojm, a Jewish Socialist member of the Polish National Council, committed suicide in London two weeks after the conference ended. In June 1942, Zygielbojm had attempted to focus worldwide attention on the Jewish Labor Bund report from Poland, the first alarm to signal the annihilation of Europe's Jews. In the months that followed, he had persisted in pressing the Allied governments to act. Despondent over the failure of his own efforts and the inaction at Bermuda, he took his own life. In one of his final letters, he wrote:

The responsibility for this crime of murdering the entire Jewish population of Poland fails in the first instance on the perpetrators, but indirectly it is also a burden on the whole of humanity, the people and the governments of the Allied States which thus far have made no effort toward concrete action for the purpose of curtailing this crime.

By the passive observation of the murder of defenseless millions and of the maltreatment of children, women. and old men, these countries have become the criminals' accomplices. ...

As I was unable to do anything during my life, perhaps by my death I shall contribute to breaking down that indifference. [84]

As Zygielbojm wrote, the Nazi campaign to extinguish the Jewish revolt in Warsaw neared its end. The Warsaw ghetto had erupted on April 19, the day the Bermuda Conference began. Two days later, a secret Polish transmitter flashed news of the ghetto battle. But it was cut off after four sentences, ending with the words "Save us." Monitored in Stockholm, the appeal was radioed around the world. It reached London and Washington but was barely noticed. It was certainly not heard in Bermuda. [84]

Not long afterward, Jewish Frontier searched for the meaning of the three events, the ghetto revolt, the suicide, and the Bermuda Conference: "The Warsaw ghetto has been 'liquidated.' Leaders of Polish Jewry are dead by their own hand. And the world which looks on passively is, in its way, dead too." [86]

(For additional information on the Bermuda Conference, see appendix A.)



[i] During 1940, Long had become the Roosevelt administration's chief policymaker in matters concerning European refugees. This had occurred not through design but because the Visa Division, the arm of the State Department then most involved in refugee affairs, was within his administrative jurisdiction. Starting in 1942, as information about the massive destruction of Jews came out of Europe, the State Department's Division of European Affairs was drawn into the refugee issue. Although not under Long's authority, it worked closely with him in determining the American government's response to the Holocaust.

[ii] Its inaccuracy is proven in my book Paper Walls: America and the Refugee Crisis, 1938-1941, especially chapters 8 and 9, and in chapter 7 of this book.
[iii] The reference to the internment of prisoners of war had been urged by Wallace Murray, a State Department adviser on political relations. Murray also suggested that American public opinion "be rallied to provide support for the Government in resisting a deluge of refugees which, added to the number of internees now being supported, would aggravate the already critical food situation." (In fact, despite the rationing of some goods, food was abundant in the United States during World War II.) [7]

[iv] In May, after approving its final recommendations, Roosevelt again asked Hull about  he background and purpose of the conference. [18]

[v] Congressman Samuel Dickstein would have been as logical a choice as Bloom. Dickstein had long been chairman of the House Committee on Immigration and had a thorough knowledge of American and world immigration issues. But Dickstein was not subservient to the State Department. He offered his services as delegate or observer, but was turned down. [24]

[vi] Evacuation of refugees could have been suspended when ships were needed for the wounded or POWs. Most ships that moved military forces and supplies across the Atlantic returned to the United States empty. And neutral shipping, especially by Portuguese and Spanish lines, was available throughout the war. [40]

[vii] Both the State Department and the British had negotiated with Germany and continued to do so throughout the war. They discussed a variety of issues, including exchanges of prisoners of war, exchanges of civilian nationals caught in enemy territory, and even attempts to arrange safe-conduct for refugee-evacuation ships. [43]

[viii] Actually, far more neutral shipping was available than this. [50]

[ix] Almost another year passed before the camp went into operation. Ultimately, it  provided a haven for only 630 refugees. As a Quaker relief worker noted, it "hardly made a ripple" on the problem in Spain. Yet, in the end, the camp constituted the Bermuda Conference's only concrete contribution to the rescue of Jews. [59]

[x] They took no chances on this score. They showed the report to the American technical expert George Backer only after he had signed an oath of secrecy. (Concerning Backer, see appendix A.) [67]
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Re: The Abandonment of the Jews: American and the Holocaust,

Postby admin » Fri Apr 13, 2018 9:21 pm


State Department policymakers planned the Bermuda Conference in part to help check pressures for increased immigration to the United States. They also intended it to inject enough life into the Intergovernmental Committee to make it appear capable of taking over responsibility for the refugee problem. What were the State Department's immigration policies? What roles did the Intergovernmental Committee assume? Both questions are important to understanding America's response to the Holocaust.

Paper Walls: American Visa Policies

In 1938, increased German persecution of the Jews led President Roosevelt to ease the extremely restrictive immigration policy of the Great Depression and open the European quotas for full use. This step did not, however, set off mass migration to the United States, for the combined quotas of the affected countries amounted to under 40,000 per year. Furthermore, in mid-1940 the policy was reversed. Claiming the Nazis were infiltrating secret agents into the refugee stream and forcing some authentic refugees to spy for Germany, Breckinridge Long, with the cooperation of the Visa Division, suddenly tightened the requirements for entry. This step slashed admissions by half. [1]

In July 1941, refugee immigration was cut again, to about 25 percent of the relevant quotas. Behind this decline was the "relatives rule," a State Department regulation stipulating that any applicant with a parent, child, spouse, or sibling remaining in German, Italian, or Russian territory had to pass an extremely strict security test to obtain a visa. The State Department explained that cases had come to light of Nazi and Soviet agents pressuring refugees to engage in espionage under threat of retaliation against their relatives. [2]

Another innovation in July 1941 required a systematic security review of all immigration applications by special interdepartmental committees. (Each committee included representatives of the Visa Division, the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the FBI, Army Intelligence, and Naval Intelligence.) Applications that received unfavorable recommendations from the special committees were rejected. For favorably recommended cases, the State Department sent "advisory approvals" to its visa-issuing consuls abroad. Normally, the consuls then granted the visas. But they were not required to do so; legally, the final decision was theirs. [3]

The President's Advisory Committee on Political Refugees met with Roosevelt to protest the sweeping new policies. It requested substantial modification of the "relatives rule" and the establishment of a review board to reevaluate cases rejected by the interdepartmental committees. No meaningful change was made in the "relatives rule," but a complex appeal process was instituted in December 1941. [4]

Under the new system, cases turned down by the interdepartmental committees were considered by Review Committees consisting of higher officials from the same live agencies represented on the original committees. The applicants' American sponsors were permitted to testify in person before the Review Committees. Cases rejected by the Review Committees went to the Board of Appeals, which consisted of two private citizens appointed by the President. If a Review Committee or the Board of Appeals ruled favorably, the State Department dispatched advisory approval to the consul nearest the applicant. [5]

After Pearl Harbor, visa procedures were even more stringently tightened for a large category of refugees, those who had been born in enemy countries or had been longtime residents there. Visa applications for these "enemy aliens" had to pass through all three security-screening levels. In addition, no enemy alien could receive a visa without proof that his admission would bring "positive benefit" to the United States. [i] [6]

Strict enforcement of these regulations led to severe difficulties for many refugees. A mother and her twelve-year-old daughter were stranded in Vichy France. The father, an Austrian, was in Cairo with the Allied military forces. The mother was an American citizen and wanted to take the daughter to safety in the United States. But the girl could not obtain a visa because her Austrian birth made her an enemy alien. [8]

Another incident involved a German refugee in France, who was sent to Auschwitz in the great deportations of 1942. Her visa had been approved in Washington in November 1941. But before she received it, the United States entered the war, and as an enemy alien she had to begin the procedure all over again. In October 1942, a Unitarian Service Committee report noted, "In spite of what seemed to be a favorable reception of her case when it was presented by her niece in Washington, the visa was refused and this meant her case could not be reopened for six months. There was nothing we could do. A few days ago came word of her deportation." [9]

By early 1942, private refugee-aid organizations had recognized that State Department stringency regarding visa issuance far surpassed legitimate concern for protecting the nation from subversion. Their observations were summarized by George Warren of the President's Advisory Committee, who described the immigration process as "one of incredible obstruction to any possible securing of a visa." He had earlier disclosed the source of arbitrary exclusion of refugees as "a group in the State Department ... which of itself sets up new tests for immigration visas." [ii] [10]

During 1943, it became dear to the private agencies, through their day-to-day contacts with the Visa Division concerning refugee cases, that the State Department had gone beyond the law in blocking immigration. The agencies did not publicize the point, for that would have ended their effectiveness in dealing with the State Department. They did press quietly, but unsuccessfully, for modification. And they recorded the situation in numerous documents still in their archives. In January, Warren pointed to a persistent effort to shut the doors, which he attributed to anti-alien attitudes in the State Department. He noted that "conditions are becoming tougher all the time" for obtaining American visas, especially for refugees in Spain. (At that time, German occupation of Spain looked quite possible.) Four months later, Warren confirmed that State Department opposition to refugee entry remained strong. By December 1943, he saw nearly no hope for much further immigration. He described it as "almost a frozen situation." A representative of the American Friends Service Committee reported a discussion he had with top officials of the Visa Division: "Everybody was very polite, but the resistance to be. overcome is evidently enormous." The records of the National Refugee Service, a leading Jewish aid agency, reveal continual anxiety about "the anti-immigration attitude of the State Department." [11]

Alongside official regulations such as the "relatives rule" and the special requirements for enemy aliens, the State Department raised additional obstacles. One was the unnecessarily long time, usually around nine months, required to move applications through the screening machinery. For those in the enemy-alien category, the wait was longer and approval unlikely. Furthermore, even when an applicant faced immediate danger, the State Department would not expedite the case. [12]

Another bureaucratic wall was the visa application form put into effect in July 1943. More than four feet long, it had to be filled out on both sides by one of the refugee's sponsors (or a refugee-aid agency), sworn under penalty of perjury, and submitted in six copies. It required detailed information not only about the refugee but also about the two American sponsors who were needed to testify that he would present no danger to the United States. Each sponsor had to list his own residences and employers for the preceding ten years and submit character references from two reputable American citizens whose own past activities could be readily checked. [13]

Two entirely arbitrary barriers were added in the fall of 1943. The presumption that a refugee was "not in acute danger" began to enter into visa refusals. Persons who had reached Spain, Portugal, and North Africa were considered to be in that category. This arrangement permitted the State Department to close the doors at will. Where Jews were in acute danger, in Axis-held territory, there were no American consuls to issue visas. But those who escaped to countries where consuls continued to operate were "not in acute danger" and for that reason could be kept out of the United States. [14]

After agreement was reached to establish a refugee camp in North Africa (but many months before it opened), the State Department attached a new restriction to some advisory approvals sent to consuls in Spain. It stipulated that a visa would be granted, but only if the refugee could not be included with those going to the camp. A Quaker representative in Lisbon reported that this step "practically suspended the granting of visas" to refugees in Spain. [15]

The State Department also plugged any holes the refugee-aid organizations might find in the barricades. In 1943, Quaker and HIAS [iii] personnel in Casablanca attempted to open a refugee outlet through that port. Despite the State Department's unremitting insistence that American ships were totally occupied in the war effort and could not possibly assist in moving refugees, the relief workers discovered that the military authorities in Casablanca thought otherwise. They were willing to take refugees on ships returning empty to the United States, provided they had visas and quota numbers. The American consulate in Casablanca agreed to cooperate. Fourteen refugees reached New York via military transport. Then the State Department's Visa Division halted this apparent breakthrough by refusing to dispatch quota numbers for people in North Africa until after they had assurance of transportation. The military in North Africa would not assure transportation until the refugees had their quota numbers. "So there we are," concluded a frustrated relief worker in Casablanca. [16]

Another tactic was used to hamper the prospects of reactivated visa cases. Unsuccessful visa applications were eligible for reconsideration six months after rejection. But the State Department would never give reasons for the original refusals. Sponsors and refugee-aid agencies were thus left to guess at how to revise the applications. Should one or both of the sponsors be changed? Were the financial guarantees insufficient? Or was the difficulty something unalterable, such as the applicant's birth in Germany? The private agencies expended considerable effort -- with little success -- trying to fathom State Department reasoning and to adapt reapplications to it. [17]

A constant obstacle to refugee admission was prejudice on the part of many members of the security-screening committees. The Review Committees openly displayed biased attitudes in the hearings they were required to grant to applicants' sponsors. An official of the National Refugee Service described these interviews as "a pretty bad experience, as some are very strictly prejudiced about letting anyone in." The Friends Committee learned that, frequently,

time is consumed heckling and questioning the affiant [sponsor] on his own personal affairs, his habits, the books he reads, his activities and friends, while the Board fails to learn the important facts regarding the prospective immigrant.

The Review Committees also concentrated excessively on possible Communist or other leftist connections of the sponsors. [18]

Reliable people who testified before Review Committees as sponsors of refugees reported being asked:

Are you Jewish by race and faith?
Do you belong to any political group or organization in this country?
Have you read Tolstoy?
Did the Social Democratic Party want to change the government?
Would you call yourself a socialist?
What are your political convictions now?

Some questions astonished the sponsors, as in this incident reported by Dorothy Detzer, executive secretary of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom:

There was a Czech soldier who was at Dunkirk. His wife was in Southern France. When the British evacuated, he went with them and is now in England. His mother-in-law is in the United States and is trying to get a visa for her daughter who is still in France, and the military man on the committee asked: "Well, when your son-in-law left Dunkirk with the English, why didn't he get his wife to come up from-Southern France to go with him?" [19]

The private agencies concluded that several members of the screening committees were "making absurd interpretations of facts in individual cases." The President's Advisory Committee checked and found that representatives of the FBI and Army and Navy intelligence were especially difficult, seemingly following a "policy of excluding all the aliens that they can." But repeated efforts both to rectify this bias and to improve the conduct of the hearings achieved nothing. [20]

One moderating influence in the visa-screening system was the Board of Appeals. Its original members were Dr. Frederick P. Keppel, formerly president of the Carnegie Corporation, and Robert J. Bulkley, previously a senator from Ohio. Keppel, especially, worked hard to move the visa system away from excessive suspiciousness and toward the tradition of America as a haven for the oppressed. But the possibilities were limited, as Keppel noted in a memorandum regarding such talented refugees as scientists, writers, artists, scholars, and dramatists:

Case after case comes to our Board, with the unanimous recommendation of the Interdepartmental Review Committee, to exclude an applicant of the type I have in mind on the basis of vague and unsubstantiated charges of communistic, or less often, Nazi sympathies on the part of the applicant or his sponsors. We can and do reverse some of these recommendations, ... but we are naturally reluctant to run our percentage of-reversals too high.

The Board of Appeals overruled about one-quarter of the negative recommendations made by the Review Committees. [21]

Case notes left by the Board of Appeals reveal some of the reasoning behind Review Committee decisions. One person was disapproved because he was born in Germany, although he had not been there for thirty years. A Socialist was rejected because a Review Committee saw an important similarity between Socialists and Communists. Another applicant was turned down because of a negative security report on a sponsor; but the sponsor was working for the Office of Strategic Services. [22]

The Board of Appeals managed to remove one obstacle from the path of visa applicants. Regulations stated that no enemy alien could be admitted without proof that his presence would be of "positive benefit" to the United States. Keppel and Bulkley opened the way for virtually any upright refugee to pass this test. They ruled that "the Board found benefit in maintaining the traditional American policy of providing a haven of refuge for decent people who are in distress and peril." Until his death, in September 1943, Keppel persisted in efforts to offset the anti-immigration bias that prevailed in the visa decision machinery. [23]

In mid-1944, visa procedures were simplified a little. In May, the State Department set up a new committee to screen the cases of applicants who were not enemy aliens. If a file contained "no derogatory information" and the new committee made a favorable recommendation, an advisory approval went directly to the consul, bypassing all three regular review committees. In July, a briefer application form was instituted. These changes expedited visa decisions. But refugee immigration did not increase. The modifications, though they made the procedure less onerous, were superficial. [24]

In justifying its stringent restrictions, the State Department stressed the necessity of keeping subversive elements out of the United States. The nation's security was, of course, essential. But the problem as it related to refugees was greatly exaggerated.

Nazi agents infiltrated among the refugees would have been found out and exposed by the many anti-Nazis who accompanied them. This did not have to be left to chance either. It was suggested at the time that applicants could be screened by committees of refugees, either overseas or in American detention centers. Questionable cases would go through more complete investigation. The Unitarian Service Committee, in fact, did this on its own in Lisbon. Refugees who came to the Unitarians for help in reaching the United States were screened by two Germans who, as former prisoners of the Nazis, were familiar with Gestapo methods. [25]

The other danger cited by the State Department was that the Nazis would force genuine refugees to spy for Germany under threat of harm to close relatives still in Axis territory. Keppel, Bulkley, and their legal adviser, Dean F. D. G. Ribble of the University of Virginia Law School, exposed the fallacy of that argument:

It does not seem likely that hostage pressure can be used as an effective means of compelling anti-Nazis in the United States actively to serve the Nazi cause. The reason lies in the simple fact that such service ordinarily would necessitate collaboration on the pan of Nazi agents. That collaboration, even though it might not completely reveal the identity of a Nazi agent, would necessarily give a clue to his identity. The anti-Nazi subjected to pressure and necessarily filled with hate of the Nazi power might readily turn his knowledge over to the proper American authorities. In other words, the chance that Nazi agents will disclose themselves by their use of hostage pressure to make persons in the United States cooperate in Nazi plans seems so great that a realistic appraisal indicates such methods would scarcely be used. [26]

It is not possible to analyze the information that government agencies collected about refugees suspected of subversive intentions. Intelligence records concerning private individuals are not available for research. But the examples that appear in State Department and other sources are exceedingly few and not convincing. [27]

In one celebrated case, a Jewish refugee arrested in Cuba possessed plans of a U.S. air base near Havana. The Cuban court, however, declared the plans valueless and found no connection with German operatives. Occasionally, American military intelligence abroad sent back reports of Axis agents disguised as refugees. But in the instances found in the records, all impostors were detected and dealt with overseas. [28]

Two German brothers, refugees who reached North Africa, applied for American visas. Despite the endorsement of American officials in the area, the support of the Quakers and the Joint Distribution Committee, and a clean report from American military intelligence in North Africa, the applications were turned down in Washington. The difficulty was a statement by the French administration in North Africa that the two might possibly be spies. This suspicion had arisen because a person with a grudge against one of the brothers had denounced them to French authorities. On such evidence, people were judged dangerous and kept out of the United States. [29]

A report by the U.S. Office of Censorship regarding three highly reputable Jewish refugee-aid organizations-the Joint Distribution Committee, HIAS, and HICEM (the European affiliate of HIAS) reveals some of the ignorance and dubious logic that fed State Department suspicions. 'The Censorship Office disclosed that "it is reliably reported" that HICEM "is extensively used by the Germans as a medium through which agents can be placed in any part of the world." This unsubstantiated assertion was contravened in the same report by a statement that British intelligence in Bermuda, which closely monitored HICEM-HIAS messages, was not suspicious. Yet the writer concluded that, because the Joint Distribution Committee and HIAS had close ties with HICEM, "it necessarily follows" that they "have been used in the same manner" and should be viewed "with no less suspicion." [30]

The chance that a refugee, or a Nazi agent disguised as a refugee, could have successfully carried out subversive activities once in the United States was extremely small. 'The American government was highly effective in controlling Nazi espionage and sabotage during World War II. In the famous case of the eight saboteurs landed by U-boats on Long Island and the Florida coast in June 1942, detection and capture came shortly after their arrival. The Nazis had no more success with the spy Herbert Bahr, an American citizen whom they sent to the United States on the exchange ship Drottningholm. Planted among other Americans being repatriated from Germany, Bahr was arrested before he left the ship. Throughout the war, reports by the attorney general and the FBI emphasized that no instance of foreign-directed sabotage had occurred in the United States and that enemy espionage was effectively throttled. [31]

The conclusion is that a legitimate need, guarding the nation against subversion, was used as a device for keeping refugee entry to a minimum. Many thousands were turned away who could have come in without risk to the war effort. When Treasury Department lawyers covertly looked into State Department immigration procedures during 1943, they were led to make the following conclusions:

Under the pretext of security reasons so many difficulties have been placed in the way of refugees obtaining visas that it is no wonder that the admission of refugees to this country docs not come anywhere near the quota....

If anyone were to attempt to work out a set of restrictions specifically designed to prevent Jewish refugees from entering this country it is difficult to conceive of how more effective restrictions could have been imposed than have already been imposed on grounds of "security." ...

These restrictions are not essential for security reasons. Thus refugees upon arriving in this country could be placed in internment camps similar to those used for the Japanese on the West Coast and released only after a satisfactory investigation. Furthermore, even if we took these refugees and treated them as prisoners of war it would be better than letting them die. [32]

One positive note in the State Department's response to the Holocaust was its permission in September 1942 for 5,000 Jewish children trapped in France to enter the United States. This offer, made at the time of mass deportations from France, was obtained through pressure by Eleanor Roosevelt, the President's Advisory Committee, and the refugee-aid agencies. The project failed, as we have seen, because of stalling by the Vichy government. [33]

Among the Jews who evaded deportation by fleeing across the Pyrenees were perhaps 200 children. Most were in Spain; some were in Portugal. American refugee-aid organizations feared German occupation of the two countries and a repetition of the events in France. They were also disturbed because Spain's policy of interning these illegal refugees in prisons applied to children as well as adults. The private agencies and the President's Advisory Committee therefore appealed to the State Department to assign 200 of the 5,000 visas to these children and to expedite their evacuation by instructing American consuls to waive the red tape usually involved in visa issuance. [34]

Sumner Welles agreed in December 1942 to do so. He also offered to include the children's mothers. But this generous impulse was undermined before any visas were granted. The State Department ruled that the mothers would have to go through the regular visa-approval process. That meant they had very little chance of reaching the United States, for even though the quotas were already far undersubscribed, 1943 saw further severe tightening of immigration restrictions. And so it happened, to cite but one example, that fourteen-month-old Max reached America in the care of his sisters, nine and twelve years old. His mother, who had somehow smuggled her baby boy and her daughters over the Pyrenees after her husband was deported, remained in Spain. [35]

Even the agreement to bring the children out ran into trouble. The Visa Division tried to restrict the program to children whose parents had both been deported, but backed down following protests from the private agencies. Then it stalled on dispatching the necessary instructions to the American consulates; and when it did send them, they were confusing and vague. Almost immediately after clarified directions finally arrived at the Lisbon consulate, thirty-one children sailed to a new life in the United States. A second group of twenty-one followed a' few weeks later, completing the Portuguese side of the project. [36]

The American consulates in Spain took no such expeditious action. After receiving workable instructions, the Barcelona consulate delayed for two months by insisting on technicalities supposedly waived for the children. For instance, some were required to produce unavailable French passports. Then, in the midst of the processing, the consul sought to postpone the project again because other demands on his time had arisen. [37]

When the first group of thirty-five children from Spain finally sailed, it included twenty-one with visas issued in Barcelona. But an equal number had been turned down there. A frustrated JDC representative wrote to New York that the consulate in Barcelona "instead of facilitating the project apparently is doing everything possible to limit its scope." [38]

The President's Advisory Committee and the private agencies urged the Visa Division to remedy the situation in Spain, but nothing changed. In May, Eleanor Roosevelt pressed Sumner Welles about the children. His reply was entirely noncommittal. A month later, the Quakers reported a continued "lack of action on the part of Barcelona." In September, Madrid was a center of difficulty. The consulate there, by raising technical barriers, had stopped the visas of three of the thirteen children who had been readied for .departure. Two of them, a brother and sister whose father was dead and whose mother's whereabouts were unknown, got out two months later. Apparently the other, an orphaned boy of fourteen, did not. [39]

In all, about 125 children left Spain and Portugal for the United States during 1943 under the special program. Another dozen followed before the war ended in Europe. At no time was shipping a problem. Portuguese passenger vessels were sailing regularly to the United States only partially booked. [40]

In Lisbon, the American consulate's cooperative approach toward the children's project also characterized its dealings with adult refugees. Quaker relief workers described the American vice-consul in Lisbon as "splendid and cooperative" and the rest of the consulate-and the legation, too-as very helpful. [41]

No such sensitivity was found in Madrid or Barcelona. Consuls there not only resisted the children's project, but did what they could to stifle adult immigration to the United States. Their interference was crucial; after November 1942, Spain and Portugal were the only countries in continental Europe where American consuls still issued visas. Jewish refugees had encountered obstructionism at Barcelona since the fall of 1941. But in 1943 the difficulties reached extremes, as consuls held back the visas of a substantial number of refugees who had been cleared by the screening process in Washington. [42]

In June 1943, Howard K. Travers, chief of the Visa Division, admitted to a Friends representative that the Madrid and Barcelona consulates were withholding visas from refugees who had advisory approvals. The Quaker pointed out that Spanish officials were disturbed that refugees were not moving on; Travers agreed to press the consulates for an explanation. Six weeks later, Travers said he had received no response but would try again. Two more weeks passed without any word. At that point, in August, the available record runs out. Some of the visas in question had been approved in Washington as far back as February; yet none had been granted, and no explanation could be obtained. It is difficult to believe that in eight weeks the State Department could not get an answer from subordinate personnel overseas. One has to suspect that the Visa Division was a party to this subversion of the visa process. [43]

Two documents will suffice to illustrate attitudes current among American diplomats in Spain. The first, a June 1943 report by Robert Brandin, a middle-level official at the embassy in Madrid, sharply criticized the Joint Distribution Committee for its efforts to help Jewish refugees immigrate to the United States. Furthermore, from Brandin's standpoint, a refugee who obtained advisory approval from Washington had won "only half the fight since the individual consul still has the final say." Proof appeared in Brandin's report: only 64 percent of the advisory approvals sent to Madrid that year had resulted in the issuance of visas. [iv] [44]

The second document is a record of a conversation in April 1944 between a Quaker representative and Mary Evelyn Hayes, the wife of Carlton J. H. Hayes, the American ambassador to Spain. Mrs. Hayes mentioned that the ambassador was antagonistic toward the Joint Distribution Committee. She also said the consuls in Madrid were very annoyed that "the Jews always seem to know more than anyone else." The consuls' complaint actually grew out of the JDC's use of cablegrams to inform refugees of their vis. status, while the State Department relayed the same data to the consulate by much slower airgrams. The animosity was also unquestionably fueled by the JDC's occasional success in persuading the Visa Division to put pressure on the consuls to issue visas. [46]

Only the close of the war in Europe brought an end to Washington's complex security-screening machinery. On July 1, 1945, the visa system reverted to pre-war procedures."

What were the quantitative results of America's wartime immigration policy? Between Pearl Harbor and the end of the war in Europe, ap proximately 21,000 refugees, most of them Jewish, entered the United States. [v] That number constituted 10 percent of the quota places legally available to people from Axis-controlled European countries in those years. Thus 90 percent of those quotas -- nearly 190,000 openings -- went unused while the mass murder of European Jewry ran its course. [vi] [48]

The quota limits were mandated by law. But the severe restraints that the State Department clamped on immigration were not. They took the form of administrative regulations and, at times, purely arbitrary State Department innovations. President Roosevelt had the legal power at any time to modify the restrictions and open the quotas to full use. He did not do so, possibly out of concern that restrictionists in Congress might lash back and enact the restrictions into law. More likely, he was just not interested and found it convenient to leave immigration policy to Breckinridge Long and his associates. [50]

Late in 1945, a New York Times writer summarized the effect of America's wartime immigration policies: "The United States, once the haven of refuge for the oppressed peoples of Europe, has been almost as inaccessible as Tibet." He was, of course, exaggerating -- but not by much. [51]

Paper Plans: The Intergovernmental Committee

While the tradition of America as a shelter for the oppressed dissolved, another hope, the reorganized Intergovernmental Committee on Refugees, amounted to little more than a cover for Allied inaction. As Breckinridge Long had intended when he urged its renovation in early 1943, the ICR took on the appearance of a capable international organization, the logical body to assume responsibility for the refugee problem. The State Department then used it as a byway to which it could divert rescue proposals with full confidence that little or nothing would come of them.

Ironically, Long had done his best two years earlier to extinguish the Intergovernmental Committee. At Myron Taylor's initiative, Robert T. Pell had been handling State Department activities connected with the ICR. [vii] In March 1941, Pell angrily resigned. He informed Taylor that "Long apparently made up his mind some months ago that he was not going to have any Intergovernmental Committee around this Department. He has since that time indulged in an unrelenting attack on the work and the officers ... connected with it. There is just no use going on." [52]

Long's assault came on three fronts. He fired Pell's assistant, Alfred Wagg, despite his excellent service as acting secretary of the ICR. Wagg's work, Long explained, was being discontinued. Long then issued orders barring Pell from almost all refugee matters and shifting his former responsibilities to the anti-refugee European Division and Visa Division. Finally, Long did not ask Congress to renew the $26,000 annual appropriation for the work of the Intergovernmental Committee. [53]

Despite Long's attack, the ICR survived-but only in suspended animation. Wagg's dismissal raised enough press protest that Long continued the post of ICR acting secretary, staffing it with a low-ranking State Department functionary. And, following a year's lapse, Taylor forced the reinstatement of the tiny budget item for the ICR. [54]

The affair dampened Taylor's interest in State Department refugee policies and in the Intergovernmental Committee. He was unwilling to participate in the Bermuda Conference, knowing beforehand that it would not be permitted to recommend realistic solutions. After the conference, he privately condemned it. [viii] Taylor did, however, help plan the renovation of the Intergovernmental Committee during 1943. He intended then to quit as the American delegate to the ICR, but acceded to Roosevelt's plea that he stay on. Taylor and Pell, who was again appointed his alternate, worked sporadically with the revived ICR until both resigned in June 1944. From then until spring 1945, the United States had no delegate to the committee. [55]

In the meantime, the Bermuda Conference's recommendations for reorganizing the ICR had bounced back and forth between the State Department and the Foreign Office for months. The ICR's executive committee had finally met in London in August 1943 and approved the proposed changes. The new mandate specifically empowered the ICR to take all steps necessary "to preserve, maintain and transport" Euro pean refugees. The organization also moved to expand its twenty-nine-nation membership by inviting nineteen other states to join. (Only seven did so by spring 1945.) The ICR's minute staff was increased. Sir Herbert Emerson continued as director. An American, Patrick Malin, accepted the new post of vice-director. Plans were made to appoint a secretary and additional support personnel. [ix] Finally, funding arrangements, previously nearly nonexistent, were thoroughly restructured. Administrative expenses were apportioned among all member states. But the costs of actual operations such as relief and transportation would be covered by the United States and Great Britain on a fifty-fifty basis. [57]

The agreement on British-American funding of major projects was the result of pressure from Myron Taylor, with backing from Churchill and Roosevelt. Bold ICR leadership and prompt allocation of the funds might have saved many victims of Nazi terror. But, although each of the two powers pledged $2 million for the first year (mid-1943 through mid-1944), none of the money was forthcoming until well into 1944. [59]

Despite the ICR's reorganization, its leaders never expected it to accomplish much. Right after the August meeting, Emerson informed Taylor that "one of our troubles is going to be the extravagant hopes that have been raised by irresponsible zealots, mainly in this country." (He was referring to the many religious and parliamentary leaders who were demanding rescue.) Emerson saw three goals for the ICR: to use the "very limited" existing opportunities to help refugees, to develop new opportunities when possible, and, "most important, to playa big part in the solution of post war problems." [x] [60]

During a visit to the United States in April 1944, Emerson and Malin again emphasized the modest roles envisioned for the ICR. Malin informed private refugee-aid agencies, "We hope to operate as little as possible." "There is very little," he explained, "that can be done with regard to rescue." Rather, the ICR was negotiating with various governments concerning such refugee problems as lack of citizenship, retraining, employment, and migration. Otherwise, Malin pointed out, the main tasks of the ICR were to provide relief for refugees where neither the Allied military nor UNRRA was doing so and to work on emigration or postwar repatriation plans for them. [xi] [62]

The revived Intergovernmental Committee did not compile an im pressive record. An attempt to persuade Switzerland to admit more refugees foundered because the ICR could not induce Anglo-American blockade authorities to let the necessary relief supplies go through. Protracted negotiations persuaded UNRRA to take over the maintenance of refugees in areas where it operated. UNRRA also agreed to handle the postwar repatriation of refugees willing to return to their former homelands. But by April 1944, eight months after its reorganization, the Intergovernmental Committee had done nothing else concrete. Steps were under .way, though, to place ICR representatives in strategic locations for initiating refugee-aid programs. This potentially valuable plan called for offices in North Africa, Italy, Portugal, Spain, and Turkey. Very little came of it, however. [64]

For one thing, the first office did not open until early May 1944; the second started in late June. For another, representatives were never sent to the most crucial locations-Turkey, Spain, and Portugal. [xii] Furthermore, the main field representatives were almost entirely unqualified for their posts. [65]

Sir Clifford Heathcote-Smith, assigned to Italy, was well-meaning, but a poor administrator who did not work well with others and had no background for complex refugee problems. His office oversaw valuable, though small-scale, relief operations in southern Italy, and it helped with the overseas emigration of 1,500 Jews. But Heathcote-Smith actually had little to do with these projects. They were planned and carried out virtually independently by a few relief workers sent to Italy by the American Friends Service Committee and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee. [67]

Only recently made aware of the dimensions of the European Jewish catastrophe, Heathcote-Smith was anxious to help. But he dissipated much time in planning unrealistic rescue schemes. Most damaging, refugees and relief workers alike felt that Heathcote-Smith, though apparently unaware of it himself, was anti-Semitic. This attitude evidently stemmed from his long career in the British foreign service in the Middle East. Whatever the cause, a senior AFSC worker noted not only that he was "not friendly to the Jews," but that his condescending manner toward them "takes from the refugees whatever shred of personal security they may have left." Despite his shortcomings, Heathcote-Smith did at least press the Vatican to try to save Jews, and he traveled to Switzerland in an unsuccessful attempt to arrange the evacuation ofJews from German-occupied Italy to neutral and safe Switzerland. [68]

If Heathcote-Smith was a poor choice for the post he held, Victor Valentin-Smith, a French colonial governor, was even less satisfactory as the ICR representative in Algiers. A Quaker relief worker recorded one problem: "As far as we could ascertain, V-S (the IGCR seems to go in for hyphenated Smiths) has even less idea what the IGCR is all about than H-S had when he started." Valentin-Smith soon made it dear that refugee assistance was not his interest. One of his first steps was to ask the ICR in London to press for the immediate termination of the recently opened refugee camp in North Africa and to arrange to remove its inhabitants from French territory. The French had been uneasy about the camp all along; they feared they would be left after the war with numbers of refugees who could not find permanent homes. American authorities, however, insisted on keeping the camp in operation. Once Valentin-Smith's objective in North Africa was thwarted, the French government persuaded the ICR to shift his office to liberated Paris. [69]

In the summer of 1944, with sizable funds finally in hand, the Inter- governmental Committee undertook its only substantial project of the Holocaust years. It granted hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Joint Distribution Committee. The JDC, working through the under ground, used the money to support groups engaged in hiding Jews, providing them with supplies and helping some to escape from Axis territory, Before the war ended, the ICR had transferred $1.28 million to the JDC for such projects in France, Rumania, Hungary, and northern Italy. [70]

Despite this valuable assistance, the overall record of the reorganized Intergovernmental Committee was one of failure. It did little more than carry out a few peripheral relief projects and attempt to find small-scale emigration opportunities. The ICR's lethargic pace, "lack of imagination," and very limited effectiveness had convinced leaders of American relief agencies that there was "little if any hopeful outlook for the Committee," Their assessment was confirmed by a high official who was partly responsible for the course the ICR took. Shortly after the war, Sumner Welles evaluated the Intergovernmental Committee: "The final results amounted to little more than zero. The Government of the United States itself permitted the committee to become a nullity." [xiii] [71]

But the purpose in reviving the Intergovernmental Committee had not been to rescue Jews. The State Department intended the renovated ICR to be a detour down which it could divert-and stall-pressures and proposals for rescue, As such, it played a pivotal role 'in the State Department's response to the Holocaust.


The spring of 1943 slipped northward across Europe bringing the annual rebirth of life and hope. Summer gradually followed, through the mountains and into the foothills and plains and valleys. of the Continent's north slope. Farmers planted and tilled. The promise of harvest and replenishment again radiated from the land. An ocean away, the Bermuda Conference came and went, blighting hope. In America and Britain, important officials planned insignificant plans. And the stifling, unending death trains lurched and rattled across Europe.

As 1942 ended, Allied military forces had seized the momentum of war. Through the spring and summer of 1943, they pressed forward toward the still-distant but increasingly sure victory. After the German collapse at Stalingrad, in February, the Russians began the slow recon· quest of the Ukraine. Simultaneously, they stoned pushing the enemy back along the front in the north. In July, they broke a major German offensive in a week, then regained their forward motion. As summer ended, the Red Army captured Smolensk, reached the Dnieper River at several other places, and threatened Kiev.

In mid-May, the Axis capitulated in North Africa. The Mediterranean was open to Allied shipping and the way cleared for the invasions of Sicily and Italy. Sicily fell in mid-August, after a short campaign. Anglo-American forces penetrated the mainland in early September, just as the Italian government surrendered. Although the Germans took over in Italy and dug in for a long struggle, Allied advances were substantial in September. An American-British stronghold had at last been established on the Continent.

In the Pacific, February saw the end of the struggle for Guadalcanal. The summer brought further Allied advances in the Solomon Islands and New Guinea. Although progress was agonizingly slow, Japan was by then entirely on the defensive.

As the spring and summer passed, people in the Allied nations grew more and more certain of the conflict's outcome. To the conquered populations of Europe, the summer's air carried the hope and anticipation of restored freedom. But for the Jews still alive in Axis Europe, no help was yet in sight.



[i] At about the same time, the State Department persuaded Latin American governments to halt nearly all immigration from Europe. The reason given was the need to safeguard hemispheric security. Yet the department's information sources had no reports of Nazi agents or subversive activities among refugees in Latin America. [7]

[ii] Warren, who worked closely with several of the private organizations, also had a post in the State Department. He was a person of measured opinions who normally gave the State Department the benefit of the doubt.

[iii] Hebrew Sheltering and Immigrant Aid Society, foremost Jewish migrant-assistance agency

[iv] Statistics in Brandin's report sharply contradicted the State Department's continual insistence that the refugee problem was not essentially a Jewish one. Of 117 advisory approvals, noted Brandin, 114 were for Jews. In Washington the visa Board of Appeals, drawing on other evidence, made the same point in a report to the President. [45]

[v] A sizable proportion of them were people who had already reached safety in the Western Hemisphere and had waited there for over a year for an opportunity to move on to the United States. Exact statistics are not available, but in late 1942 and in 1943 about 40 percent of the refugees admitted to the United States were in that category. [49]

[vi] The year-by-year numbers follow, based on fiscal years that ended on June 30. The figures for fiscal 1941 are presented for purposes of comparison; that year closed just as the stringent immigration restrictions of July 1941 were imposed. The first five months of fiscal 1942 preceded America's entry into the war, so immigration in those months is not included in the overall wartime total of 21,000.
Fiscal year / 1941 / 1942 / 1943 / 1944 / 1945
Refugee immigration / 28,927 / 11,702 / 5,944 / 5,606 / 4,793
Percentage of quotas used / 47.5 / 19.2 / 9.8 / 9.2 / 7.9
(refers to quotas assigned to countries of Axis-dominated Europe)

[vii] Taylor was the official American delegate to the ICR; Pell was his alternate.

[viii] Taylor bluntly wrote to Hull, Welles, and Long, "The Bermuda Conference was wholly ineffective, as I view it, and we knew it would be." [56]

[ix] Malin was experienced in refugee affairs, having worked as American director of the International Migration Service. John Sillem, a Dutch citizen, became ICR secretary soon after the August meeting. Gustave Kulmann, a Swiss who was associated with the League of Nations, served as honorary assistant director of the ICR. [58]

[x] Since 1939, Emerson had kept busy working out plans to cope with the population-displacement problems that would inevitably confront Europe following the war. After the ICR's reorganization, the postwar refugee issue continued to command much of the organization's attention. [61]

[xi] One factor behind the ICR's limited aspirations was its failure to perceive Palestine as an important haven. Given the strong British influence in the ICR and Emerson's own anti-Zionism, ICR pressure on the British government to open Palestine was most unlikely. Malin confirmed the organization's lack of interest in Palestine when he visited there and concluded, without allowing for the Jewish community's capacity for sacrifice, that housing and food shortages made large-scale immigration an absolute impossibility. [63]

[xii] By late summer 1944. the ICR had offices in Rome, Paris (transferred from Algiers after a brief stint), and Cairo. In addition, a person in Washington who managed ICR liaison with American governmental and private relief agencies used space in UNRRA's offices but lacked even stenographic assistance. [66]

[xiii] After Germany's defeat, the Intergovernmental Committee continued to carry responsibility for a few groups of refugees, providing relief and seeking emigration possibilities for them. But it remained a weak organization, poorly supported by its member States. In mid-1947, the International Refugee Organization took over its work. [72]
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Re: The Abandonment of the Jews: American and the Holocaust,

Postby admin » Fri Apr 13, 2018 9:27 pm


Eleven days after the Bermuda Conference, William Langer of North Dakota warned the Senate that "2,000,000 Jews in Europe have been killed off already and another 5,000,000 Jews are awaiting the same fate unless they are saved immediately. Every day, every hour, every minute that passes, thousands of them are being exterminated." He called on his colleagues to press for action or ultimately face "the moral responsibility of being passive bystanders." Langer's appeal was part of a minor debate that was, despite its brevity, the fullest airing the issue of Jewish extermination received in Congress during World War II. [1]

The discussion had been sparked by a large advertisement in the New York Times assailing the Bermuda Conference as "a mockery and a cruel jest" perpetrated on the "wretched, doomed victims of Hitler's tyranny." The advertisement, sponsored by the Bergsonite Committee for a Jewish Army, named no one. But Scott Lucas took the criticism personally and made it an issue on the Senate floor. Half a dozen senators rose in his support. Harry Truman, a member of the CIA's national committee, angrily quit the organization. [2]

But Langer, an independent-minded Republican, blasted the Bermuda Conference and Lucas's role in it. Reacting to Lucas's promise to inform the Senate very soon about the achievements at Bermuda, Langer caustically remarked, "I am looking forward to this address with the greatest impatience." It never took place. [3]

Besides venting its anger, the Committee for a Jewish Army responded to the Bermuda Conference by convening another conference. Its announced aim was to do what the earlier conference should have done-bring experts together to seek all possible ways to save European Jews. [4]

The Emergency Conference to Save the Jewish People of Europe was held in New York City in July 1943. Before it took place, however, other Jewish organizations tried to undermine it. A World Jewish Congress staff member who got hold of secret minutes of the Bergson group's planning sessions asked Stephen Wise "whether anything can be done to prevent this proposed Conference from stealing the thunder of the Joint Emergency Committee." Wise attempted to persuade Episcopal Bishop Henry St. George Tucker, who had agreed to play a prominent pan in the conference, to withdraw. [5]

Tucker did not. But the influence of Jewish leaders kept the Committee for a Jewish Army from obtaining the help of Myron Taylor or Sumner Welles. When Taylor was asked to participate, he turned to Welles for counsel. Welles replied that he had refused a similar invitation because "not only the more conservative Jewish organizations and leaders but also such leaders as Rabbi Wise ... are strongly opposed to the holding of this conference [and] have done everything they could to prevent it." Clarence Pickett of the American Friends Service Committee stayed away on the advice of a friend associated with the Joint Distribution Committee. [6]

Jewish Communists, as well, opposed the Emergency Conference. The Daily Worker and Freiheit (a Yiddish daily) attacked it because, along with people of the proper sort, the conference had the backing of such unacceptable persons as Herbert Hoover and newspaper baron William Randolph Hearst. Echoing Soviet demands, these papers insisted on an all-out Allied invasion of western Europe. This, they argued, would hasten Hitler's defeat, and that was the only way to rescue the European Jews. [7]

In any event, the Committee for a Jewish Army assembled an imposing list of conference participants. But efforts to obtain the endorse ment of top American leaders achieved only mixed results. Dr. Max Lerner, journalist, author, and educator, telegraphed the President and Secretary of State Hull, asking each to send a message of hope to the conference. The appeal to Roosevelt was shunted to the State Depart ment, There Adolf Berle, R Borden Reams, and James Dunn first fashioned a noncommittal response for Hull to sign. It made the usual claim that the State Department was already doing all that was possible, (Reams privately described it as "not exactly a reply," but use of an opportunity "to restate the Department's position on refugee matters.") They then composed a companion message, which Roosevelt signed, that did little more than express "full concurrence" in Hull's letter, In contrast, dear statements of support reached the CJA from Secretary of the Treasury Henry Morgenthau, Jr., and the 1940 Republican presidential candidate, Wendell Willkie. [8]

Eleanor Roosevelt's initial response to a plea for cooperation was negative. In June, she sent a one-sentence reply to author Louis Bromfield's appeal to her to participate in the Emergency Conference's search for rescue plans. "I have your telegram," she wrote, "and can not see what can be done until we win the war." [9]

Michael Potter, a prominent lawyer and chairman of the conference's organizing committee, answered that he was certain that much could be done before the war ended, "The fact is that very little has been attempted and the United Nations seem to have given up before even trying." He asked her to reexamine the question. [10]

On the eve of the conference, the organizing committee recognized there was no chance that Eleanor Roosevelt would take part. Lerner then telegraphed to request a message of support for the gathering. Six days later, at the conference's midpoint, her reply arrived. She conveyed "every good wish," then stated her position:

It is hard to say what can be done at the present time, but if you are able to formulate a program of action I am quite sure that the people of this country who have been shocked and horrified by the attitude of the Axis powers toward Jewish people will be more than glad to do all that they can to alleviate the sufferings of these people in Europe and to help them reestablish themselves in other parts of the world if it is possible to evacuate them. [11]

The day after the Emergency Conference ended, Eleanor Roosevelt responded to Michael Potter's letter. She remained unconvinced that practical action was possible, but expressed a willingness to cooperate:

I think perhaps mass meetings may be of help and the expressions of the feelings that people have may penetrate into the Nazi countries so I do hope that all the agitation possible will go on. I do not see beyond the statements which the President has made, what more emphatically could be said. I will be glad to say anything or help in any way but I do not think it wise for me to formally go on any committee. [12]

Despite its preliminary problems, the Emergency Conference succeeded beyond most expectations. Fifteen hundred people attended the sessions, held July 20-25 at the Hotel Commodore. An impressive group of participants, many of them non-Jews, met in panels that dealt with such topics as transportation, diplomatic negotiations, military affairs, publicity, and the role of the church. Through three hot days, the panelists worked out rescue plans. Evening sessions, open to the public, featured prominent speakers, including Mayor Fiorello La Guardia, Dean Alfange of the American Labor party, writer Dorothy Parker, and (by radio) Herbert Hoover. [13]

Among others associated with the conference were Harold Ickes, Senators Guy Gillette, Edwin Johnson, William Langer, and Elbert Thomas, labor leaders William Green and Philip Murray, and journalists William Randolph Hearst and William Allen White. Plainly, people of greatly diverging views and backgrounds had come together to try to do something about the European Jewish tragedy. [14]

The Emergency Conference concluded that much could be achieved without hindering the military effort. The key step was formation of a U.S. governmental agency charged specifically with rescuing Jews. Beyond that, the conference called for several types of action. Pressure should be exerted on Axis countries to permit Jews to emigrate. Where emigration did not take place, Axis governments should be pushed to provide Jews with sufficient food and other basic necessities. If need be, the United Nations should furnish the supplies for distribution under Red. Cross or other neutral supervision. [15]

Regarding the problem of sanctuaries for Jews, the Emergency Conference recommended urging neutral countries to grant temporary asylum on the understanding that the United Nations would assist with food and arrange for removal of the refugees. In addition, all the United Nations should be pressed to take in Jews on a temporary basis. The conference concluded that the necessary transportation could be obtained without hindering the war effort. It pointed to rail and road traffic through Turkey and out to the Middle East. And it estimated that enough neutral ships were available to move 50,000 refugees at a time. Finally, the participants suggested a campaign to publicize the plight of the European Jews and build popular support for rescue action.

Before adjourning, the conference transformed itself into a new organization, the Emergency Committee to Save the Jewish People of Europe. The driving force in the new committee was the same Bergson group that had directed the Committee for a Jewish Army.

The planners of the Emergency Conference had arranged its sessions to draw maximum attention to the European Jewish situation. The result was extensive press and radio exposure. Newspapers across the nation published reports on the meetings. Coverage in the New York daily newspapers was especially thorough. The conference also generated several editorials. The most striking, written by Max Lerner, appeared in PM under the title "What About the Jews, FDR?" Lerner outlined some of the conference's recommendations, charged that "the State Dept. and Downing St. avert their eyes from the slaughter," and challenged Roosevelt: "You, Mr. President, must take the lead.... The methods are clear. Neither conscience nor policy can afford to leave them unused. And the time is now." [16]

The new Emergency Committee soon opened a two-pronged campaign: national publicity and lobbying in Washington. During August and September, the publicity drive revolved around several dramatic newspaper advertisements conveying information about the European Jewish tragedy and urging support for a government rescue agency. The first advertisement, illustrated with a picture of huddled refugees on the move, announced, "They Are Driven To Death Daily, But They Can Be Saved." Another proclaimed, "The Jewish people of Europe is still caught between the hammer of the enemy's brutality and the anvil of democracy's indifference." [i] Next came an open letter from Pierre van Paassen calling on Roosevelt and Churchill to initiate rescue action. Still another large advertisement featured Ben Hecht's "Ballad of the Doomed Jews of Europe." [17]

The campaign to build popular pressure for rescue received substantial help from William Randolph Hearst. In late August, Hearst ordered the thirty-four newspapers in his chain to publish the first of many major editorials supporting the Emergency Committee and appealing for nationwide backing for its proposals. The August editorial included a complete reprint of the Emergency Conference's recommendations. In September, the Hearst papers carried two more editorials advocating the Emergency Committee's rescue plans. [19]

Throughout its existence, Hearst backed the Emergency Committee, giving it more editorial support than any other publisher. [ii] His reasons are not clear. He was probably pleased to find a way to strike at the British, if only indirectly. He also seems to have been genuinely concerned about the terrible plight of Europe's Jews. In the editorials, he repeatedly pointed out an essential truth that very many of America's religious and secular leaders never grasped: "REMEMBER, Americans, THIS IS NOT A JEWISH PROBLEM. It is a HUMAN PROBLEM." [20]

The Emergency Committee's connections with Hearst and Hoover illustrated its policy of building the widest possible backing for rescue. The diverse support that had marked the Emergency Conference -- conservative and liberal, Jew and non-Jew -- carried over into the Emergency Committee. Certainly, numerous important liberals played key roles in the committee's campaigns, such people as Harold Ickes, Dean Alfange, Will Rogers, Jr., Max Lerner, and Fiorello La Guardia.

Along with the publicity drive, the Emergency Committee pressed forward with a lobbying effort in Washington. Responding to Eleanor Roosevelt's offer to "help in any way," Peter Bergson conferred with her in mid-August. The following day, Mrs. Roosevelt's syndicated "My Day" column dealt with the "hardships and persecution" of the Jews in Europe. But it fell short of calling for forceful action: "I do not know what we can do to save the Jews in Europe and to find them homes, but I know that we will be the sufferers if we let great wrongs occur without exerting ourselves to correct them." After the visit, Bergson sent Mrs. Roosevelt a copy of the "Findings and Recommendations of the Emergency Conference" along with a letter stressing again the need for a special government rescue agency. She passed these items to the President, but he was not very interested. He returned them with a note saying, "I do not think this needs any answer at this time. F.D.R." [22]

During her conversation with Bergson, Eleanor Roosevelt agreed to record a message of encouragement to the Jews of Europe for broadcast overseas by the Office of War Information. When Bergson contacted her about arrangements, she asked how long the speech should be. He suggested five to ten minutes and offered to provide whatever material she might wish to have in preparing it. Several days later, Eleanor Roosevelt drafted a comforting message, but it was very short (under two minutes). She explained the brevity in a note to her secretary: "Copy and send. Sorry too busy to write longer one." [23]

The broadcast was a valuable contribution, as the Emergency Committee gratefully acknowledged. It showed, though, that Eleanor Roosevelt had not modified her position on the rescue question. Her views continued to parallel those of the State Department. The message emphasized that "everything possible that can be done through our government" is being done, and stated that "we hope that ways may be found to save as many people as possible, but the best way to do that is to win the war as rapidly as possible and that the allied armies throughout the world are achieving." [iii] [24]

Emergency Committee efforts to reach the President met blank walls. The White House refused the first advance, advising that the President's schedule was so crowded that it would be "some time" before appointments were possible for any matters not "bearing directly on the war effort." Another attempt, during the Roosevelt-Churchill conference at Quebec in August, also failed. Max Lerner telegraphed presidential secretary Stephen Early in Quebec asking that Roosevelt receive Congressman Andrew Somers (Dem., N.Y.) and two others from the Emergency Committee. Early put them off, explaining that a meeting in Washington after the President's return would be much more productive. But, despite numerous follow-up requests, that meeting never took place. [26]

Approaches to the State Department were frustrating, but not entirely fruitless. In mid-August, Cordell Hull agreed to try to arrange travel priorities for six Emergency Committee representatives to go to Turkey, Spain, and Palestine to organize rescue efforts. But he turned the task over to Breckinridge Long, who insisted there was no need for these missions. The Intergovernmental Committee was now active, he asserted; furthermore, the American government was already doing everything possible. [27]

In the following months, despite Long, the Emergency Committee managed to send two people overseas. The first, Arieh Ben-Eliezer, was one of the Bergsonite inner circle. He left for Palestine in September. Although Ben-Eliezer dealt incidentally with rescue matters, the Berg. son group exploited this opportunity primarily to promote Irgun business. Ben-Eliezer found the underground army disorganized, poorly led, and virtually inactive. He applied himself to its revitalization until April 1944, when British authorities incarcerated him. [iv] [28]

Long delayed the departure of the other representative for months. He was Ira Hirschmann, a high executive at Bloomingdale's department store. Hirschmann, who had some experience in refugee matters, was prepared to go to Turkey. Although the American ambassador there telegraphed approval in early September, Hirschmann was not allowed to depart until late January. [30]

The Emergency Committee also approached Henry Morgenthau, Jr. Early in August, he told Bergson that he was deeply concerned to help stop the slaughter. But he declined to spearhead a drive to press the Roosevelt administration to act. Bergson wrote to Morgenthau three weeks later, distressed that Emergency Committee discussions with him, Hull, Long, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Attorney General Francis Biddle had won promises of support but no action. "Meanwhile," Bergson pointed out, "weeks pass and many more thousands of innocent Jews in Europe uselessly lose their lives." He appealed to Morgenthau to use his contacts within the government, especially to urge the establishment of a rescue agency. Morgenthau's reply was noncommittal. [31]

The Emergency Conference and the activity that grew out of it seemed to break the quiescence that had gripped the rescue cause since the Bermuda Conference. Pressures began to build again. Reinhold Niebuhr and several other intellectuals urged Roosevelt and Hull to ease the "unnecessarily rigorous restrictions [that] have practically stopped all immigration." The New Republic for August 30 included a fifteen-page section entitled "The Jews of Europe: How to Help Them." Its editors once more indicted the Western Allies:

The failure of the democratic powers to make any sustained and determined effort to stay the tide of slaughter constitutes one of the major tragedies in the history of civilization; and the moral weakness which has palsied the hands of our statesmen is nowhere more vividly disclosed than in the now conventional formula, so often on their lips, that only victory will save the Jews of Europe. Will any of these Jews survive to celebrate victory?

The Church Peace Union called for pressure on Axis satellites to let the Jews go and demanded that room be made for them in the United Stares, Palestine, and elsewhere. The Christian Century also appealed for action and advocated the admission of more refugees to the United Stares and Palestine. [32]

In September, AFL and CIO leaders saw Hull. They urged that the United Nations take in all Jews who could get out and declare the rest legally prisoners of war. Shortly after that, the AFL annual convention resolved that the United Nations, and specifically the United States, should temporarily suspend immigration restrictions to provide havens for the Jews. This step was a major departure from the AFL's traditional restrictionist stance. In another unusual development, the National Re publican Club and the National Democratic Club issued a joint statement calling on Congress to admit 100,000 refugees on condition that they return to Europe soon after the war. [33]

The renewed impulse for rescue led to another move to test the waters in Congress. One year earlier, Emanuel Celler had responded to the mass deportations from France by submitting legislation to set the quotas aside for refugees fleeing Nazi terror. It got nowhere. Now, in September 1943, Samuel Dickstein introduced a bill to allow refugees who would not endanger the public safety to come to the United States temporarily; they would have to leave within six months after the war. W. Warren Barbour (Rep., N.J.) sponsored a parallel measure in the Senate. [34]

The Emergency Committee supported this legislation, as did the Federal Council of Churches and several leading Jewish organizations. But the Roosevelt administration did not. The Justice Department and the Immigration Service declined to take a position on it. And the State Department opposed the resolution, explaining that it would not help "the persecuted political and religious minorities" still in Nazi territory, for they could not reach an American consul to obtain visas. On the other hand, "the persons who have already arrived at a haven of refuge do not require American visas to insure their safety." Furthermore, any relaxation of controls might open the way for Nazi agents to enter the United States. Neither Dickstein's nor Barbour's proposal ever reached the floor of Congress. [35]

Even with administration support, this legislation would have encountered great difficulty. The intense anti-immigration feeling that Congress had demonstrated the year before when it smashed Roosevelt's Third War Powers Bill had not lessened. Evidence of this reverberated in the House of Representatives again in June 1943. The issue was legislation that would have slightly simplified the naturalization procedure for aliens already living in the United States who had children in the American armed forces. It had nothing to do with immigration. Yet the mere mention of aliens Set off a storm of anti-immigration rhetoric. This mild naturalization bill was overwhelmingly defeated. [36]

Although the Emergency Committee supported the Dickstein-Barbour resolution, it concentrated most of its resources during fall 1943 on an intensive struggle for a government rescue agency. The drive began with full-page advertisements in the New York Times and Washington Post announcing a "call to action" on three fronts. One was a plan to collect millions of signatures on a petition to the President and Congress. It appealed for a rescue agency and for intervention with Britain to open Palestine. Simultaneously, a request went Out to Chris tian churches to set aside Sunday, October 10, as a Day of Intercession, a time to pray for the European Jews and to urge government action to save them. The petition campaign was reasonably successful. The call for a Christian Day of Intercession had little impact. [37]

The third step was a dramatic innovation that the Emergency Committee carried out with cooperation from the Union of Orthodox Rabbis and the Union of Grand Rabbis. On October 6, three days before Yom Kippur, 400 Orthodox rabbis arrived in Washington to participate in a pilgrimage for rescue. [38]

Early in the afternoon, the rabbis, conspicuous with their beards and long black coats, praying aloud, marched in a dignified procession from Union Station to the Capitol. They were met there by Vice-President Henry A. Wallace and a score of congressmen. Some rabbis sobbed audibly as their petition was read in Hebrew and English, then handed to Wallace. It called for a rescue agency and for the nations to open their gates to the stricken Jews. "The Vice President," reported Time magazine, "squirmed through a diplomatically minimum answer." His cautious remarks centered on pressing forward to win the war. [39]

At the Lincoln Memorial, in mid-afternoon, the rabbis prayed for America's lighting men, for a speedy victory, and for the remaining European Jews. Afterward, they walked to the White House. There, while most prayed outside the gates, five of their number presented a copy of the petition to presidential secretary Marvin McInryre, who received it in the President's absence. The pilgrimage then proceeded to a synagogue, where the rabbis rested and ate before departing for their homes. [40]

The Emergency Committee had tried for weeks to arrange for the President to receive the rabbis' petition personally, but the appeals were unavailing. On the day of the pilgrimage, the White House informed the press that the President could not see the rabbis "because of the pressure of other business." In reality, Roosevelt had a light schedule that day, and most of the afternoon was open. Moreover, he was aware that a delegation of rabbis hoped to visit him at four o'clock (or at any time convenient to him). Shortly before the rabbis arrived, Roosevelt slipped away to Bolling Field to observe a ceremony incorporating forty Yugoslavs into the U.S. Army Air Force and dedicating four bombers that they would fly. He then left for a live-day weekend at Hyde Park. [41]

The President's failure to meet the rabbis caused a ripple of criticism. Some observers doubted that a convocation of several hundred Protestant or Catholic clergymen would have been shunted off to a presidential secretary. It is not entirely clear why Roosevelt avoided the rabbis. But two background developments are known. Shortly before the pilgrimage, the President decided that "all requests ,of this kind from the leaders in Jewry" were to be referred to the secretary of state "to handle for him." Rabbis or no rabbis, rescue was a State Department matter as far as Roosevelt was concerned. Another part of the picture was continued Jewish opposition to the Bergson group, Some Jewish leaders, in cooperation with Samuel Rosenman (who frequently advised the President on Jewish issues), sought to prevent the march, then to influence Roosevelt to ignore it. [v] [42]

Press coverage of the pilgrimage must have disappointed the Emergency Committee, It was noticeably less than that generated by the "We Will Never Die" pageant and, the Emergency Conference. The main Washington newspapers all reported the event, but only the Post carried it on the front page. In New York, newspaper coverage was thin. Of the major news magazines, only Time mentioned it at all. [44]

During October, the Emergency Committee's campaign began to pick up support in Congress. Senator Elbert D. Thomas (Dem., Utah), a former Mormon missionary to Japan and university professor, sent draft legislation for a rescue commission to Secretary Hull. He asked for an opinion on whether the same end could be accomplished by the simpler device of an executive order. The response, which came from Breckinridge Long, argued at length against the whole idea of a rescue agency. [vi] [45]

William Langer also applied pressure. Addressing the Senate on the day of the rabbis' pilgrimage, he called for a special rescue commission and charged that "by doing nothing we have acquiesced in what has taken place over there." He again emphasized the failure at Bermuda and reminded Scott Lucas that five months had passed since he had promised an early report on the .conference. "Where is this report?" asked Langer. "Has anything been done?" [47]

Something was done that October for Jews trapped in Europe-but not by the United States, Britain, or the Intergovernmental Committee. The 8,000 Jews in Denmark escaped to life and freedom because Danes were willing to risk their lives for them and the Swedish government was willing to incur Germany's wrath to give them sanctuary. [48]

The Emergency Committee was quick to underscore the lesson. In advertisements in the New York Times and other newspapers, it declared that Denmark and Sweden had "destroyed completely the legend that 'nothing can be done.'" If the gates of Palestine and other lands would open too, thousands more would save themselves. The Emergency Committee also sponsored a "Salute to Sweden and Denmark," a mass meeting that overflowed Carnegie Hall in New York. Speaking there, Leon Henderson, former head of the Office of Price Administration, accused the Allied governments, and especially Roosevelt and Churchill, of "moral cowardice" for failing to counter the extermination of the Jews. He charged that the problem had been "avoided, submerged, postponed, played down and resisted with all the forms of political force available to powerful governments." [49]

As Henderson spoke, the Moscow Conference of American, British, and Russian foreign ministers neared adjournment. A few days afterward, a reporter asked Roosevelt whether the conference had taken action to aid "Jewish victims of atrocities or persecution." The President replied:

That I don't know. I won't be able to tell you that until I see Mr. Hull, because that is, as you know, that whole problem is -- the heart's all right -- it's a question of ways and means.

In fact, the issue of the European Jews was not on the Moscow Conference's lengthy agenda, and it did not come up in the two weeks of discussions. Even the stern war-crimes warning that emerged from the conference failed to mention the Jews. Yet it named several other peoples and threatened dire punishment for atrocities against them. [vii] [50]

The Emergency Committee struck back with an advertisement by Ben Hecht, which it ran in several major newspapers under the title "My Uncle Abraham Reports."

I have an Uncle who is a Ghost....

He was elected last April by the Two Million Jews who have been murdered by the Germans to be their World Delegate.

Wherever there are Conferences on how to make the World a Better Place, maybe, my Uncle Abraham appears and sits on the window sill and takes notes....

Last night my Uncle Abraham was back in a Certain Place where the Two Million murdered Jews met....

"Dishonored dead," said my Uncle Abraham, "... of the Moscow Conference I have this to report. The Conference made a promise that the world was going to punish the Germans for murdering all the different peoples of Europe -- Czechs, Greeks, Serbs, Russians, French hostages, Polish officers, Cretan peasants. Only we were not mentioned." ...

"In the Kremlin in Moscow, in the White House in Washington, in the Downing Street Building in London where I have sat on the window sills, I have never heard our name. The people who live in those buildings -- Stalin, Roosevelt and Churchill -- do not speak of us. Why, I don't know...."

A Woman Ghost from the Dynamite Dumps of Odessa spoke.

"If they didn't mention the two million murdered Jews in the Conference, isn't that bad for four million who are still alive? The Germans will think that when they kill Jews, Stalin, Roosevelt and Churchill pretend nothing is happening."

And from the Two Million Ghosts came a great cry....

My Uncle Abraham raised his hand.

"Little Children," my Uncle Abraham spoke: "Be patient. We will be dead a long time. Yesterday when we were killed we were changed from Nobodies to Nobodies. Today, on our Jewish tomb, there is not the Star of David, there is an Asterisk. But, who knows, maybe Tomorrow --!"

This ended the Meeting of the Jewish Underground.

My Uncle Abraham has gone to the White House in Washington. He is sitting on the window sill two feet away from Mr. Roosevelt. But he has left his notebook behind. [52]

Shortly after the Uncle Abraham advertisement appeared, the Bergsonites made their most crucial move. In the three months since the Emergency Conference, they had been pressing the need for a rescue agency on members of Congress. By November, they had won some powerful backing. On the ninth, resolutions were introduced in the Senate by Guy Gillette and eleven others and in the House by Will Rogers, Jr., and Joseph C. Baldwin. These identical measures urged the President to create "a commission of diplomatic, economic, and military experts" to act immediately to save the remaining Jews of Europe. At a press conference launching the Rescue Resolution, the Emergency Committee emphasized that the new commission should set up camps as quickly as possible in Spain, Portugal. North Africa, Switzerland. Sweden, and Turkey. That action would insure that all Jews who reached those countries would be allowed to enter. In time, they could be moved to Palestine or other United Nations territory. [53]

The next afternoon, Roosevelt told Undersecretary of State Edward R Stettinius, Jr., that he thought more could be done for Jewish refugees. [viii] The President suggested additional refugee camps and small offices staffed by Americans in Spain, Portugal, North Africa, Italy, and Turkey. This marked Roosevelt's first initiative to help the stricken Jews. [54]

Apparently, the Emergency Committee had forced the issue on the President. Samuel Rosenman, his chief speech writer, and Eleanor Roosevelt both noticed that the large advertisements were disturbing him. The President complained that the Uncle Abraham one in particular had hit below the belt. He was surely aware that the Rescue Resolution had significant backing in Congress. His suggestion to Stettinius was amazingly similar to the one made a day earlier by the Emergency Committee. Perhaps Roosevelt was moving at last to confront the extermination issue. Or perhaps he was maneuvering to cut the ground from under the Rescue Resolution. [55]

The day after he spoke with Stettinius, the President left for the conferences at Cairo and Tehran. In his absence, the State Department demolished his refugee plan by detouring it to the Intergovernmental Committee on Refugees. The ICR pondered it for six weeks, agreed to a truncated version, and then did not act for another four months. The final outcome was the double fiasco of Heathcote-Smith and Valentin-Smith. [56]

The State Department had nullified Roosevelt's initial response to the new round of pressure for rescue. His next move on that front would come only when events forced it on him, in January 1944. Then, however, the State Department would be powerless to sidetrack it.



[i] This advertisement commended the formation, a week before, of a government agency to save the art treasures of Europe from wartime destruction. But, it pointed out, the Jews needed an agency to save them too. [18]

[ii] The New York Post was also a very strong proponent of the Emergency Committee. [21]

[iii] After the war, Eleanor Roosevelt's deep concern about those who survived the Holocaust was translated into strong support for the establishment of the state of Israel. [25]

[iv] According to oral testimony, Ben-Eliezer probably carried a small amount of money to the Irgun.  

FBI records show that in Match 1945 the bureau thoroughly investigated the Bergson group in an attempt to locate evidence of an Irgun connection. They found none, but thought there was a chance that a few hundred dollars had been sent to the Irgun.

While in Palestine, Ben-Eliezer played a key role in the selection of Menachem Begin as the Irgun's new commander. [29]

[v]  Jewish congressmen tried to dissuade the rabbis from participating in the pilgrimage. But the effort went awry when Sol Bloom argued that it would be undignified for such an un-American-looking group to appear in Washington. This provoked the rabbis and reinforced their decision to take part. [43]

[vi] Long invoked the achievements of the Evian and Bermuda conferences, claimed again that the State Department had issued half a million visas to refugees, pointed to a special committee for refugee problems that operated within the Visa Division, and stressed the work of the Intergovernmental Committee. The conclusion: a new refugee  agency "would interrupt the relationships already established with the Intergovernmental Committee and might affect adversely the contribution this Government can make towards a solution of the refugee problem." [46]

[vii] In mid-November, Hull made a twenty-five minute speech to Congress on the Moscow Conference. It included a feeble attempt to rectify the omission of the Jews from the war-crimes warning. In his brief reference to the warning, he noted that the "bestial and abominable" Nazi crimes had been perpetrated "against people of all races and religions, among whom Hitler has reserved for the Jews his most brutal wrath." [51]

[viii] Stettinius had replaced Welles as undersecretary in September 1943.
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Re: The Abandonment of the Jews: American and the Holocaust,

Postby admin » Fri Apr 13, 2018 9:32 pm


Most appeals for rescue included the call for opening the gates of Palestine. The 550,000 Jews there constituted the only society on earth willing to take in masses of Jewish refugees. But the British government, which held the mandate over Palestine, had all but closed it to Jewish immigration in 1939. Arab anger and fear, aroused by the growth of the Jewish population there since World War I, had erupted in a series of riots. To allay Arab unrest and thus protect their own long-term interests in the Middle East, the British issued a White Paper in May 1939. It restricted future Jewish immigration to 75,000, to be spread over the next five years. This would limit the Jews to one-third of Palestine's population, assuring Arabs that no Jewish state would arise there. [1]

The European war broke out soon afterward, and with it Nazi persecution of Europe's Jews intensified. This did not, however, bring any easing of White Paper restrictions. Instead, the war strengthened British determination to minimize Jewish immigration to Palestine. Unrest there or elsewhere in the Moslem world could hamper military operations, threaten supply lines, and drain off British troops to maintain order. The British realized that the Jews could not turn against them. The Arabs might. So British policy called for appeasing the Arabs, even though that meant excluding imperiled Jews from the national home the British had promised them in the Balfour Declaration of 1917. [2]

Once the White Paper was imposed, ship after ship of desperate Jews was turned away from Palestine. Sometimes boatloads of refugees did reach shore, only to be interned indefinitely, as were 800 fugitives from Rumanian butchery who arrived on the Darien in March 1941. A few months before, 1,600 refugees "illegally" landed from the Atlantic were deported to Mauritius, 4,500 miles away in the Indian Ocean. A few of these rickety ships disappeared en route to Palestine; the Salvador, for instance, sank in the Sea of Marmara, dooming 200 refugees. [3]

To avoid risking Arab animosity, and to make the 75,000 openings last as long as possible, the British intentionally kept the White Paper quota undersubscribed. [i] By October 1943 (four and one-half years into the White Paper's five-year tenure), 31,000 places (over 40 percent) remained unused. [4]

An incident in early 1942 brought the consequences of the White Paper policy sharply to the world's attention. Crowded onto a small vessel, the Struma, 769 Jews fled Rumania for Palestine in December 1941. But they had no Palestine entry certificates. They soon reached Turkey and apparent safety; however, the boat's engine quit there and could not be repaired. For two months, the refugees waited off Istanbul, their fate in the balance. The Turkish government refused to let them land without assurance that they could proceed to Palestine. And British administrators, quietly determined not to encourage any more "shiploads of unwanted Jews," forbade their entry there. Despite the captain's insistence that the Struma was unseaworthy, Turkish authorities had it towed out of port in late February 1942. Once on the open sea, the crippled boat was torpedoed or struck a mine and broke up. Only one person survived the wreck. [ii] [6]

The Struma disaster brought outraged reactions in Britain and the United States. Albert Einstein asserted that the episode "strikes at the heart of our civilization." Eleanor Roosevelt asked why technicalities should keep such people out of Palestine when the tiny quota was not even filled; "it just seems to me cruel beyond words. U Responding to widespread criticism, the British Colonial Office explained that, since the refugees had come out of Axis territory, Nazi agents might have been planted among them. It added that supplies were short in Palestine. [8]

The prominent British historian and Zionist Lewis Namier quickly pointed out that the passengers could have been interned in Palestine and checked before release. He also noted that Polish, Yugoslav, Czech, and Greek non-Jewish refugees had been admitted to Palestine from Axis territory. A confidential memorandum by the British Foreign Office more closely approached the truth concerning the exclusion of the Struma refugees: to bypass the system of "regularized admission" of Jews to Palestine "would involve a risk of dangerous repercussions on the non-Jewish populations of the Middle East." [9]

Secretly, however, the British decided to modify the policy and permit refugee ships that reached Palestine in the future to land. The passenger~ would go to detainment camps for security investigation, then be freed gradually against the quota. The order had to be kept confidential, the policymakers claimed; otherwise the Germans would send not only Nazi agents but "every kind of unwanted person" from the Balkans to Palestine. Obviously, the real reason was somewhat different: general knowledge of the new ruling would have encouraged many thousands of Jews to escape to Palestine. The British, who were constantly in fear of such an exodus, had built their refugee policy around keeping that from happening. The State Department quietly but completely supported Britain's Palestine policy. [10]

More than a year later, another special arrangement initiated by British authorities exemplified their extreme care to avoid stimulating refugee flight even as they bent a little to pressures for a more humane policy. It specified that Jews who managed to reach Turkey would be allowed into Palestine. (There they would be put through a security check and counted against the White Paper quota.) The arrangement was revealed only to the Jewish Agency for Palestine (which distributed Palestine entry certificates), the State Department, and the Turkish government. No public announcement was permitted. The modification in policy brought an end to Turkey's persistent refusal to let escaped Jews enter its territory. But the lack of publicity guaranteed that the concession would help only a very small number of refugees. [11]

American Jewish organizations fought the White Paper from the start. All groups, including those opposed to Zionism, agreed that Pal estine must be opened to Jewish refugees. But an acrimonious controversy divided American Jewry on the question of establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine. And this disagreement prevented both a united struggle against the White Paper and a combined Jewish movement to press the American government for rescue action. The cleavage proved unbridgeable largely because Zionists insisted that the statehood issue was inseparable from either the White Paper issue or the rescue problem. [12]

Several Zionist leaders had been in the forefront of the pre-Bermuda Conference attempts to publicize the mass killings and to stir the government into action. Yet during those months the Zionist movement had concentrated its main efforts on the cause of a Jewish state. The overall strategy, initiated months before the news of extermination became known, aimed at building maximum support in the United States -- as rapidly as possible -- for a postwar Jewish state in Palestine. The haste arose from the Zionists' perception that their best opportunity for decades to come would materialize right after the war. The fluidity in international affairs that would emerge then would very likely reopen the status of Palestine. The Zionist movement had to be ready to wield all the influence it could when the postwar diplomatic settlements were made. Other factors that had led to increased Zionist activity in 1942 and 1943 were the disturbing consequences of the White Paper and early reports from Europe of mass atrocities against Jews. [13]

The first step toward maximizing American Zionist influence was to persuade the several competing Zionist factions to agree on a single policy. This was achieved at the Biltmore Conference in New York in May 1942. The formula, known as the Biltmore Program, called for the end of the White Paper, unlimited Jewish immigration into Palestine, and the establishment of Palestine as a Jewish commonwealth. [iii] [14]

Zionism at that time was still a minority movement among American Jews. Thus, immediately after the Biltmore Conference, plans went forward for the second step: to marshal American Jewry as a whole behind the Zionist program. The method chosen was to can all American Jewish organizations to a conference to work out a common program for the postwar problems of world Jewry. American Jews could then present a united front at the peace negotiations. Because non-Zionist organizations most likely would not respond to a Zionist initiative for such a conference, Zionist leaders, headed by Chaim Weizmann and Stephen Wise, persuaded Henry Monsky, the president of B'nai B'rith, to issue the invitations. Monsky was popular and respected among American Jews generally, and B'nai B'rith was considered neutral on the question of po1itical Zionism. Monsky's chances of convening the conference were thus very good, and his personal pro-Zionist views could only help the cause. [iv] [16]

Thirty-two national Jewish organizations accepted Monsky's invitation to send representatives to a pre-conference planning meeting in Pittsburgh in January 1943. Two did not. The American Jewish Committee and the Jewish Labor Committee, suspicious of Zionist motives and determined not to aid Zionist goals, refused to participate. Weeks of negotiations and pressure from the Jewish community induced them to support the conference. But the Labor Committee joined with misgivings, and the American Jewish Committee entered only after it was agreed that resolutions voted by the conference would not be binding on constituent organizations unless they also ratified them. [18]

Toward the end of May, the official conference call was issued. It stressed the importance of "common action to deal with post-war Jewish problems" and set dates for the elections of delegates. The agenda, which had been decided at the Pittsburgh meeting, had two key items: "the rights and status of Jews in the post-war world" and "implementation of the rights of the Jewish people with respect to Palestine." Rescue was not on the program. [19]

Through the late spring and summer of 1943, much of American Jewry turned its attention to the elections and other preparations for the convocation, now named the American Jewish Conference. During this time, the rescue issue was eclipsed, partly by this rechanneling of interest and partly because these were the weeks of despair that followed the Bermuda Conference. An article in June in a Zionist periodical reflected the shift: "The world at large replies to our protests and prayers and dramatizations only with resolutions and expressions of sympathy-never with deeds." "What can the Jew do now?" asked the writer. He supplied the answer himself: Jews must unite at the American Jewish Conference and demand Jewish postwar rights, especially in Palestine. [20]

Of the conference's 500 delegates, 125 were allotted to the sixty-five national organizations that finally participated. The rest were chosen by a complex system of local elections designed to provide the conference with a broadly representative character. If any doubt existed that the conference was essentially an endeavor to prove American Jewish support for the Biltmore Program, it was dispelled by the all-out election drives mounted by the Zionist organizations. Most of them agreed on joint slates of delegates for whom Zionists voted in blocs, thus defeating candidates with less thoroughly organized support. Zionist campaign rhetoric called for election of the maximum number of Zionist candidates because the main action at the conference would occur on the Palestine statehood issue and it was essential to show that American Jews were united in supporting that goal. The Zionists were extremely successful in the elections; 80 percent of the delegates were "avowed Zionists, II and few of the others were outright opponents of Zionism. [21]

Some complaints were raised about the representativeness of the elections. But more important dissension arose over the allotment of the 125 delegate slots that went to the various organizations. Both Agudath Israel of America and the Union of Orthodox Rabbis withdrew from the conference before it convened, declaring that they had been granted unfairly small numbers of delegates. [22]

Another key reason for the disenchantment of these two ultra-Orthodox, non-Zionist organizations was the American Jewish Conference's continuing failure to place rescue on the agenda. As far back as the Pittsburgh meeting, Agudath Israel had unsuccessfully urged concentration on rescue as well as ,on postwar issues. In its withdrawal statement, the Union of Orthodox Rabbis declared that the conference should raise a "powerful outcry over the destruction of the Jewish people and demand immediate means for the rescue of Jewish lives." Rescue was added to the agenda only in late July, a month before the conference met, and then only after persistent hammering by the Jewish Labor Committee. Even then, the conference's executive committee turned down a Labor Committee appeal to make the extermination of the European Jews the central issue. [23]

The American Jewish Conference took place at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotd in New York from August 29 through September 2, 1943. At the main sessions, audiences of up to 3,000 joined the 500 delegates, As expected, the Palestine issue dominated the proceedings. Convinced of the importance of winning united Jewish support for the conference's resolutions, Stephen Wise, Nahum Goldmann, James Heller, and a few other leading Zionists planned to press for a moderate position on Palestine. They recognized that all groups, including the influential American Jewish Committee, could agree on a demand to abolish the White Paper and open Palestine to unlimited Jewish immigration. Though fully committed to the Biltmore Program themselves, they believed the controversial Jewish commonwealth idea could wait for a later reconvening of the conference. [24]

The first speeches by Zionists stressed unity and reflected a moderate approach to the Palestine question. Two important addresses by non-Zionists- Joseph, Proskauer of the American Jewish Committee and Israel Goldberg of the Jewish Labor Committee-harmonized with the Zionists' attempts at accommodation. All these speakers emphasized their agreement on the need to end the White Paper and open the gates of Palestine. [25]

By the second evening of the conference, the compromise forces seemed to have established control: But militant Zionists managed at the last minute to add Dr. Abba Hillel Silver's name to the speakers' list for late that night. Seizing the unforeseen opportunity, Silver delivered a stirring pro-statehood address that galvanized the delegates into .fervent support for the full Biltmore position. A flood of pent-up emotion, swollen by over a year of terrible news from Europe, broke loose and swept through the hall. As Silver finished, the huge crowd rose to its feet shouting and cheering. "Hatikvah," the Zionist anthem, filled the air and many wept. [26]

Silver, then fifty years old, was the rabbi of an important Reform congregation in Cleveland. He was also the chairman of the United Palestine Appeal, a co-chairman of the United Jewish Appeal, and a major force in the American Emergency Committee for Zionist Affairs. A powerful orator and astute political strategist, be was probably the most militant of the front echelon of American Zionist leaders. By the time of the conference, he was engaged in a power struggle that would eventually see him supplant Stephen Wise as the leader of American Zionism. Silver had not participated in the Jewish leadership's efforts for government rescue action. [27]

In his speech that night, Silver insisted on a Jewish commonwealth in Palestine. He scorned "the thick blanket of appeals to Jewish unity" as an attempt to hide the' basic problem, Jewish national homelessness. It was Jewish homelessness, he declared, that was "the principal source of our millennial tragedy," the unbroken line of disasters from the start of the Dispersion until, now, the frightful Nazi onslaught. "The only solution is to normalize the political status of the Jewish people in the world by giving it a national basis in its national and historic home.... Are we forever to live a homeless people on the world's crumbs of sympathy, forever in need of defenders, forever doomed to thoughts of refugees and relief?" As for the pressing problem of rescue, Silver asserted that open immigration into Palestine would not come unless Jewish political rights to the country were recognized. "Our right to immigration in the last analysis is predicated upon the right to build the Jewish Commonwealth in Palestine. They are inter-linked and inseparable." The conclusion was evident: no solution existed, now or for the future, except through the Jewish commonwealth. [28]

The conference's Palestine Committee, responsible for recommending a resolution to the full body, first met on the day after Silver's address. A 'compromise proposal was put forward, but the delegates had no patience for compromise, and only a few moderates were bold enough to press for it. One of them, Robert P. Goldman, a longtime Zionist from Cincinnati, disagreed with Silver's analysis. He insisted that the Palestine issue involved both an immediate problem and a long. range problem, and the immediate problem was not Jewish homelessness.

The immediate problem, ladies and gentlemen, is rescue; and I don't care what else you say or how you characterize it, or what you say about me for saying it, that is the immediate problem and that is the problem that we should be concerned with.

Goldman warned that the demand for a commonwealth would hurt the rescue effort because it would only harden British and Arab resistance to Jewish immigration into Palestine. And it would do nothing to save the European Jews. [29]

The Palestine Committee was not impressed by Goldman's appeal or by the few other voices that pleaded for compromise. By a vote of sixty-one to two, it recommended a strong resolution that called for the reconstitution of Palestine as the Jewish commonwealth, the immediate withdrawal of the White Paper, and the opening of Palestine to unlimited Jewish immigration under Jewish control. The next day, the full conference adopted the resolution with only four negative votes and nineteen abstentions. Again, a tumultuous demonstration broke out in the auditorium, and the delegates and the audience sang "Hatikvah" and "The Star Spangled Banner." [30]

No such interest attended the conference's second main issue, Jewish rights in the postwar world generally. Resolutions were passed calling for an international bill of political and cultural rights, international agreements outlawing anti-Semitism, and postwar relief and rehabilitation of the European Jews. But, as a leading Jewish magazine noted, most delegates looked on this area as "a rather academic matter" and "fully relied on the work done by the experts." [31]

The third main issue, ,rescue, received little more attention, The conference had done no preparatory work on the rescue problem, Its Rescue Committee, which was not convened until halfway through the sessions, decided it could not formulate a program on such short notice, So, instead of plans for action, it discussed the proper contents of a resolution, This, despite the admonition by a leader of the World Jewish Congress that "unless we do our job, there may be no Jews for whom a postwar scheme of things is necessary." [32]

Some committee members were disappointed and upset, A woman delegate from Minnesota expressed their frustration:

If it is just a question of taking all the programs that have been presented on this subject before, by other groups, and by existing committees, and of taking ideas that we know already exist, and simply getting them into a draft form, there is no need to bring us here from all parts of the United States.

And a man from Chicago added:

We are told that nothing has to be done, that everything is being done. ... Ladies and gentlemen, the mere fact that a committee that organized this Conference was forced by pressure of Jewish public opinion to put this rescue question on the agenda speaks for itself, that the Jews of America have felt that not enough . .. was done to. rescue our brethren in Europe. . . . If we leave this Conference . .. satisfied merely with a paper resolution about rescue, we will be condemned by the Jews of America. [33]

In the end, a paper resolution was what emerged. It was no more than a weaker version of the proposals the Joint Emergency Committee had sent to Bermuda. The American Jewish Conference adopted it unanimously. Before it adjourned, the conference elected an Interim Committee of fifty-five people to press for action on its resolutions, attend to other necessary business, and reconvene the full assembly within twelve months. [34]

The Zionists had triumphed. A representative assembly that included nearly all segments of American Jewry had overwhelmingly ratified the Biltmore Program. Louis Levinthal, president of the Zionist Organization of America, hailed the outcome as "the culmination of almost a half-century of Zionist activity in this country." [35]

While in session, the conference dominated the pages of the Yiddish daily papers. For the most part, they were enthusiastically favorable, especially toward the Palestine resolution. But within a week doubts surfaced. For example, Dr. Samuel Margoshes, an ardent Zionist and a conference participant, pointed in his column in the Day to the lack of emphasis on rescue, describing it as "the most serious 'sin of omission of the Conference." David Eidelsberg of the Morning Journal, a Zionist and a staunch supporter of the Palestine resolution, was disturbed that the Palestine issue had eclipsed the rescue problem. "After all," he wrote, "the first task should be to save the Jews for whom Palestine is needed." He asserted that "by waiting till the last moment to discuss this question and by passing stereotyped resolutions, the leaders of the conference gave a signal to the powerful [governmental] ministries that nothing can be done and that we have to wait till the war is over." [36]

Not two months after the delegates dispersed, the fragile unity of the American Jewish Conference began to crumble. The American Jewish Committee withdrew, declaring that it could not support the demand for a Jewish commonwealth. This loss was critical. The American Jewish Committee was too significant a force on the American Jewish scene for the conference to be effective without it. [v] B'nai B'rith and four other organizations cooperated with the conference only partially, holding back on endorsement of the Palestine statement. (Stephen Wise described B'nai B'rith as "having one foot in and one foot out" of the conference.) And the anti-Zionist Jewish Labor Committee gave only tepid support before quitting the conference altogether, in December 1944. [37]

The Zionist victory had come at a high price. It ended the possibility of cooperation with the non-Zionist, ultra-Orthodox groups. And it eliminated or weakened the involvement of other important organizations. In addition, in many local Jewish communities it reawakened old Zionist versus non-Zionist animosities that had been dormant. [39]

A Louisville rabbi asserted that the American Jewish Conference had

wrecked Jewish unity in the United States. We were getting pretty close to harmony and genuine whole-hearted cooperation all over the country. We all wanted maximum help for Jews everywhere and were getting it. Was it imperative that just now the Jewish Commonwealth idea should have been pressed and everything else made secondary to it?

From St. Louis, a longtime Zionist who had been a delegate in New York replied to a funds appeal from the conference's headquarters, "You say you are in a precarious position. So are we." Because of the Zionist action at the conference, he explained, "the American Jewish community is now split wide open.... I was one of the few ... who pleaded for unity.... But my voice was unheeded." A prominent leader of Reform Judaism analyzed the conference's impact in mid-1944 and concluded that "American Jewry has never been more bitterly divided than it is today." He noted that many organizations were dissipating energy and funds lighting each other. These disputes had, in turn, set off strife in local communities. [40]

The conference's Interim Committee did not meet until six weeks after the delegates went home, thereby losing the interest and momentum built at the New York sessions. When it did convene, it elected three leading Zionists as its co-chairmen: Stephen Wise, Henry Monsky, and Israel Goldstein. It also put the conference on a semi-permanent basis by establishing commissions on postwar Jewish rights, rescue. and Palestine. Actually, the· commissions were little more than a means of affixing the prestigious label of an apparently broadly representative Jewish organization onto activities that Zionist committees already had under way. [41]

About all the Commission on Post-War Reconstruction did was issue a few statements concerning restoration of Jewish rights in Europe and a proposed international bill of rights. The statements were slightly revised versions of ones developed by the pro-Zionist World Jewish Congress and its subsidiary, the Institute of Jewish Affairs. The activities of the Commission on Rescue were essentially only a relabeling of the limited steps taken by the American Jewish Congress-World Jewish Congress partnership in the area of rescue. The Commission on Palestine was never more than a rubber stamp for the American Zionist Emergency Council, the political-action arm of the leading Zionist organizations. [42]

The conference's approach to rescue had its peculiarities. Two months elapsed between the New York meeting and the first actions related to rescue. Yet recent information from Switzerland had made Jewish leaders acutely aware, once again, of the ongoing devastation of the European Jews. [vi] When the conference finally did address the rescue issue, two of its first steps were attacks on Bergsonite activities, and a third was elimination of the Joint Emergency Committee.

At the end of October, conference officials appointed a small committee to investigate the Bergson-led Emergency Committee to Save the Jewish People of Europe. The objective was to prepare a public statement exposing and condemning it. That statement was released to the press late in December, at a critical stage in the Emergency Committee's campaign for congressional action on the Rescue Resolution. [44]

During the same weeks, the American Jewish Conference interfered with the Rescue Resolution itself. First, Stephen Wise and Herman Shulman pressed leading senators to replace it with legislation more agreeable to the conference's leadership. When that failed, conference officials attempted to have an amendment concerning Palestine attached to the resolution. After that fell through, they worked behind the scenes to frustrate the legislation. [45]

In the fall of 1943, American Jewish Conference leaders also snuffed out the Joint Emergency Committee on European Jewish Affairs. A month after the Bermuda Conference, the Joint Emergency Committee had met under a cloud of despair. It had appealed one more time to Sumner Welles for rescue action; his reply was noncommittal. In the next four months, only two more meetings took place. One was held in mid-July, after Jacob Pat of the Jewish Labor Committee protested the JEC's inertia. Although several suggestions were put forward then, no action resulted. In mid-August, the shocking report from Switzerland brought the group together again. It agreed on a number of moves, including approaches to the papal legate in Washington and Archbishop Francis]. Spellman of New York, and a message to President Roosevelt urging several rescue steps. These overtures achieved nothing. The meeting also discussed a march on Washington, a mass demonstration in the streets of New York, and warnings to the Roosevelt administration of large-scale defections of Jewish voters in the 1944 election if rescue action was not initiated soon. But these "more forceful" plans were referred to a committee on programs that did nor then exist and was apparently never set up. [46]

Even that late, the Joint Emergency Committee might have been revived. But it desperately needed a secretariat or some other apparatus to implement its plans. Lack of such machinery had always hobbled its efforts. An early decision to appoint an executive secretary and establish an office had never been carried out. [vii] After the Bermuda Conference, the Jewish Labor Committee pressed stubbornly for the formation of an administrative structure, but the step was continually deferred and died by default. [47]

When the Joint Emergency Committee convened again, three weeks after the American Jewish Conference's New York meeting, Zionist members tried to terminate it. They argued that the conference should now take responsibility for the united rescue effort. This first move to disband failed. At the next meeting, early in November, Stephen Wise proposed that the JEC dissolve itself and merge with the conference's Rescue Commission. Four of the JEC's eight organizations were decidedly non-Zionist. They strongly desired to continue the committee be cause it made cooperative efforts for rescue possible without working through the Zionist-dominated American Jewish Conference. Under normal circumstances, the vote would have been a four-to-four tie, and the motion to dissolve would have failed. But in a surprise maneuver, Hadassah-which had appealed for a place on the Joint Emergency Committee many months before and had been turned down-received voting rights and provided a fifth Zionist vote. [viii] The ]BC was eliminated. Only one of the non-Zionist organizations affiliated with the conference's Rescue Commission. The united front on rescue was finished. [49]

The Rescue Commission did not attempt actual rescue or relief work, but aimed at stimulating government action through publicity and direct contact with State Department and other officials. [ix] Its contribution was very limited, consisting mainly of participation in projects that the World Jewish Congress and the American Jewish Congress would otherwise have carried out on their own. About all the Rescue Commission could point to in its eighteen-month existence were a mass meeting in Carnegie Hall to commemorate the first anniversary of the Warsaw ghetto revolt, and an impressive outdoor demonstration in New York in July 1944 to demand government action to save the Hungarian Jews. [50]

The conference's Palestine Commission was headed by Abba Hillel Silver, who also directed the American Zionist Emergency Council, a political action committee working to implement the Biltmore Program. With the support of the conference's top leadership, Silver planned only one use for the Palestine Commission: to furnish the imprimatur of the American Jewish Conference for the AZEC's activities. AZEC minutes recorded Silver's expectation that, by utilizing the American Jewish Conference, "a good deal of our propaganda for the Jewish Commonwealth can be carried on not only in our name but in the name of American Jewry." The AZEC, discussing practical appli cations of this approach, decided that "the work [was] to be done by the Emergency Council and turned over to the Conference when representations to [the] Government were to be made." Moreover, in general, "the Conference should be used as the vehicle for public expression and public relations." [52]

In early 1944, the Jewish Labor Committee, hoping to join the fight against the White Paper without participating in the campaign for Jewish statehood, asked the conference's Interim Committee to divide the Palestine Commission into subcommittees. One would lead a united movement against the White Paper and for unlimited refugee immigration into Palestine; the other would carry on the Zionist drive for a Jewish commonwealth. Earlier, a similar suggestion had been submitted by a nonpartisan group within the conference. The Interim Committee refused, explaining that the two issues were too closely linked to be separated. Thus an opportunity was missed to broaden the struggle to end the White Paper, a rescue step that all Jewish groups could sup port. [53]

The victory at the American Jewish Conference in New York had completed the Zionist campaign to commit American Jewry to the Biltmore Program. The next objective was to win the backing of the American people and their government. Starting in September 1943, American Zionists poured large amounts of energy into that struggle, and they continued to do so until the Jewish state was won. Pivotal in the movement to build non-Jewish support, both in local communities and in Washington, was the American Zionist Emergency Council. [54]

Serving as the public-relations and political-action arm of the American Zionist movement, the AZEC attained a level of effectiveness seldom surpassed in American pressure-group politics. After struggling through four years of inadequate funding and excessive interference from its parent organizations, the AZEC Was revitalized in the late summer of 1943. [x] It was reorganized; its funding leaped from $100,000 a year to over $500,000; it changed its name (from American Emergency Committee for Zionist Affairs); and, most important, Abba Hillel Silver took the helm. [55]

A driving worker and an outstanding organizer, Silver rapidly created an efficient organization. In contrast to Wise and several other leaders, he saw little advantage in pleading with Roosevelt (whom he distrusted) and other high officials for their support. He believed in building public opinion and using it to apply pressure ro both political parties without becoming committed to either. [56]

Under Silver, the AZEC developed over 400 local councils, directed by volunteer leaders. They were situated in all major American communities. While the national office coordinated their operations and supplied them with information, the locals conducted a great variety of educational and political programs. They cultivated relations with their congressmen and senators as well as with local political leaders. They organized forums, provided speakers for Jewish and non-Jewish groups, obtained favorable editorials in the local press, mounted rallies, and when necessary sent deputations to Washington. [57]

These local councils secured pro-Zionist resolutions from scores of city governments, dozens of state legislatures, large numbers of Jewish organizations, and thousands of non-Jewish groups, including churches, labor unions, business federations, and fraternal associations. On short notice from the AZEC national office, the locals were able to rain letters and telegrams on Congress, the White House, and the State Department, from non-Jews as well as Jews. Politicians expressed astonishment at the amount of public interest shown. By the fall of 1944, three-quarters of the members of both the Senate and the House were on record in support of establishment of a Jewish commonwealth. [xi] [58]

The American Zionist Emergency Council proved that American Jewry could build a highly capable pressure organization, attract great energies, focus them on Washington, and provide the financing for a nationwide campaign. But no comparable drive for rescue was even attempted. Had the approach so effectively developed by the AZEC been applied to the rescue issue, Roosevelt's prolonged delay in initiating a program to save Jews might have ended substantially sooner. Moreover, the President might have been impelled to provide that program, once established, with the kind of support that it needed (but never received) for optimum results.

The AZEC launched its first campaign in October 1943. The main target was the White Paper. While local committees across America enlisted popular support, national Zionist organizations held mass meetings in many cities to demand open Jewish immigration to Palestine and establishment of a Jewish commonwealth. Such prominent Americans as Wendell Willkie, Dorothy Thompson, and Governor Thomas Dewey joined in the call. It echoed for weeks in newspaper editorials and in resolutions passed by Jewish and non-Jewish groups in all parts of the nation. [60]

On November 10, the British government announced that termination of Jewish immigration into Palestine, scheduled under the White Paper for March 31, 1944, would be postponed until the 31,000 remaining unused places had been filled. The announcement, which may have been timed to undercut growing Zionist pressures, did not slow Zionist momentum in any way. Rather, the AZEC soon decided to expand its campaign and press forward to commit the U.S. Congress to the Biltmore Program. [61]

At the request of the AZEC, resolutions were introduced in the Senate and House in January 1944 urging that "the doors of Palestine shall be opened for free entry of Jews into that country ... so that the Jewish people may ultimately reconstitute Palestine as a free and demo ocratic Jewish commonwealth." The legislation immediately drew wide support in Congress. After four days of successful hearings in the House Foreign Affairs Committee, all signs pointed to quick and favorable action. But the War Department stepped in and asked the House and Senate committees to put the question aside. It advised that further action on the resolution would stir up the Arab world and risk upheavals that would require the Allies to transfer troops to the Middle East. This halted the resolution. Actually, the State Department, which did not want to take responsibility openly, persuaded the War Department to block the legislation. The episode reflected the Stare Department's low-key, but persistent, anti-Zionist stance. In this instance, the President also secretly backed the decision. [62]

Several congressional leaders informed the AZEC that a milder resolution, one deleting the demand for a Jewish commonwealth and concentrating on a humanitarian appeal for free immigration of Jews into Palestine, would most likely win approval in Congress, and probably quite quickly. [xii] (The New Republic and the New York Post were already calling for such a modified resolution.) But even though immigration to Palestine was one of the most important keys to rescue, AZEC leaders turned the suggestion down. They reasoned that accepting it would mean the end of the commonwealth resolution, because Congress would certainly not act on more than one Palestine proposal. Worried by indications that the Bergson group' was about to press for such a modified resolution, AZEC officials sought to persuade congressmen not to introduce it. They also made plans for opposing it, should it reach Congress. [63]

Despite the setback to its resolution, the AZEC prepared for the next round. In March 1944, Wise and Silver saw Roosevelt and obtained a statement favorable to their general goals. At the national political conventions that summer, Zionist leaders persuaded Republicans and Democrats alike to adopt platform planks calling for unrestricted Jewish immigration into Palestine and establishment of a commonwealth there. Then, in the heat of the election campaign, Roosevelt and the Republican challenger, Thomas Dewey, both pledged strong support for a Jewish commonwealth in Palestine. Almost simultaneously, the War Department withdrew its earlier objection to the resolution. [65]

After the election, the AZEC moved to secure a seemingly certain victory. But the State Department, lit Roosevelt's instruction, persuaded the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to defer action on the resolution. Publicly committed to the Jewish state, yet afraid he would jeopardize American interests in the Middle East by alienating Arab governments, the President was stalling for time to devise a way out of his predicament. (He died without finding it.) [66]

This second failure of the resolution ignited the long-smoldering power struggle between Silver and Wise. Wise, loyal as always to Roosevelt, and believing him to be Zionism's best hope, blamed the defeat on Silver's insistence on pressing for action in the Senate committee despite signals from the administration to hold back. Silver acidly explained why he had not waited any longer for Roosevelt to flash the "green light" for the Palestine resolution: "It is now clear that the 'green light' is not given except at election time." [67]

Bitter strife between the Wise and Silver factions led to Silver's resignation from the AZEC. Continued fighting disabled the Zionist movement from December 1944 until July 1945. Finally, distressed Zionists throughout the country insisted on a reconciliation and Silver's return to frontline leadership. The resulting truce left Silver in control of the movement. [68]

The Palestine resolution at last reached the floor of Congress in December 1945. President Truman resisted it, asserting that its passage at that time would tie his hands in negotiating for admission of Jewish survivors into Palestine. The resolution nevertheless was adopted overwhelmingly by both houses. [69]

The struggle for the Palestine resolution had forced the question of Jewish statehood on Congress and brought it to the attention of the American public. The long debate had solidified Jewish opinion behind the statehood plan and had attracted considerable non-Jewish backing. Once adopted, the resolution served as a foundation on which broad American public support was built when Jewish statehood came before the United Nations in 1947. [xiii] [70]

While the Zionist campaign had survived setbacks and progressed, the American Jewish Conference had disintegrated. By mid-1944, its ineffectiveness was obvious, and criticism of its virtual inaction reverberated through the Jewish press and in Jewish gatherings. The conference's leading figure, Stephen Wise, admitted that his enthusiasm of a year ago had faded. Now, he lamented, "I rather feel as if I were ... saying Kaddish over the American Jewish Conference, which seems to have no life left in it." [72]

The conference declined even more in its second year. Bickering became commonplace among its member groups. When the delegates reconvened in Pittsburgh in December 1944, inter-organizational rivalry and strife dominated the sessions. Weak and ineffectual, the conference limped along until the end of 1948, then expired. [73]

What is the balance sheet on the American Jewish Conference? The main Zionist objectives for it were achieved. The delegate elections and the overwhelming vote on the Palestine resolution demonstrated that the Zionist position had attained majority support among American Jews. After August 1943, Zionist leaders could credibly claim in their publicity and their national and international contacts that their program represented the broad cross section of American Jewish opinion. The conference experience probably also helped prepare the ground for the postwar American Jewish unity that formed behind the cause of a Jewish state. [74]

On the debit side, Zionist insistence on committing the conference to a Jewish commonwealth in Palestine, a postwar objective, ended the chance for united Jewish action on the immediate issue of rescue and on the related issue of the White Paper. On those points, consensus existed and Jewish unity Was possible. The American Jewish Confer ence might have been the instrument of that unity, but by adopting the full Zionist program it lost the opportunity."

An unavoidable conclusion is that during the Holocaust the leader ship of American Zionism concentrated its major force on the drive for a future Jewish state in Palestine. It consigned rescue to a distinctly secondary position. Why would Jewish leaders, deeply distressed over the agony of their people in Europe, have allowed any issue to take precedence over immediate rescue? No sure answers are Possible. But enough evidence is available to suggest the explanation.

The Zionist leadership concluded that little hope for rescue existed. Hitler had a stranglehold on the European Jews, and the Allied powers showed themselves unwilling even to attempt rescue. A Zionist editorial in September 1943, a survey of the then-closing Jewish year of 5703, mirrored the widespread despair:

It was during the first few months of that year that the pitiless, horrifying word "extermination" became a commonplace in our vocabulary.... It was in that year, too, that all our cries and pleas for life-saving action were shattered against walls of indifference until we began to stifle in the black realization that we are helpless. It was the year of our endless, bottomless helplessness.

Thirty-live years later, in entirely separate interviews, two leaders of the Jewish statehood drive of the 1940s emphasized the same feeling of helplessness, the belief that little or nothing could be done. "Utter helplessness," recalled one, a foremost Zionist. "I think the enemy Was helplessness, a feeling of helplessness. It's a terrible feeling to bear." The other, a prominent Christian advocate of Zionism, explained why the Zionists did not concentrate on rescue: "They thought it was a useless gesture.... It's impossible to do anything right now. And we'll be told [by government officials] to go mind our business." [76]

Although some signs of despair appeared before April 1943, it was the Bermuda Conference that destroyed hope. The early efforts for government rescue action had failed to breach Washington's "walls of indifference." During that same spring of 1943, however, prospects for the basic Zionist program were rising as the American Jewish Conference movement began to gather momentum. Moreover, it was essential to press ahead rapidly with the statehood campaign in order to be ready to exert maximum influence when the crucial postwar diplomatic decisions were made. [77]

As limited as Zionist resources were, it seemed reasonable to concentrate them on the possible rather than on what appeared to be a nearly hopeless cause. One week after the Bermuda Conference, Nahum Goldmann stressed the point at a meeting of the Zionist leadership. Too little manpower was available, he said, both to continue the mass meetings for rescue and to launch a major campaign for the Zionist program. Bermuda convinced him that the emphasis should be on Zionist goals. [xiv] [78]

Reinforcing the Zionists' choice was their view of Jewish history through the centuries of the Diaspora. Abba Hillel Silver clearly expressed the view in his speech to the American Jewish Conference. The chain of disasters that made up the history of the Dispersion, he reminded his listeners, extended far beyond Hitler and the present mass slaughter. It encompassed two thousand years of world hatred and murder of Jews. No end to "this persistent emergency in Jewish life" would come, Silver warned, until Jewish homelessness ceased. And that would occur only with the creation of a Jewish state. The state offered the only real solution to the ceaseless tragedies that dominated Jewish history. [80]

The Zionist leadership, limited in the resources it commanded, faced two momentous obligations. For the immediate need -- rescue -- the prospects for achievement appeared bleak. For the postwar objective -- the Jewish state -- the tide was running and the goal looked attainable. The Zionists made their choice. Events would show, however, that they had misread the signs concerning rescue. Substantially more was possible than they recognized. Their insight into the past and their dedication to the future hampered their vision of the present. [xv]



[i]  The British tactics were similar to the State Department's visa-control methods.  Groups of Jews coming from Axis-controlled territory were excluded on the grounds that they were likely to be infiltrated with enemy agents. (No such agents were ever found, nor did the British have evidence that there were any.) Moreover, Palestine entry certificates were issued only through normal channels, making it almost impossible for escapees to receive them. [5]

[ii] It is quite possible that a Russian submarine torpedoed the Struma. A Soviet military report credited the sinking to the submarine Shch-213, noting that three of its crew "particularly distinguished themselves" in the action. Later the Russians insisted that the Struma's passengers were Nazi agents being infiltrated into the Middle East. [7]

[iii] This was the first time the American Zionist movement had explicitly advocated a Jewish state in Palestine. It constituted a fundamental shift from the previous position, which had accepted indefinite postponement of the statehood goal while concentrating on building up the Jewish community in Palestine. [15]

[iv] The small meeting at which Monsky agreed to act as convener took place during the first burst of activity following release of the extermination news. It was held December 2, 1942, the Day of Mourning and Prayer. Against that background, an outside observer might have expected the main issue under consideration to have been rescue. It was  not. The focus was on postwar problems, with the major emphasis on Palestine. [17]

[v] The American Jewish Committee lacked the broad-based organizational structure needed for many types of political action. But it had important contacts in many cities and access to high levels in the government. It could also raise considerable funds. It applied these strengths to the effort for rescue only to a small extent. [38]

[vi] A report, received in August from Riegner and Lichtheim, advised that the Jewish death toll had reached 4 million. Excluding those safe behind Russian lines, Riegner and Lichtheim estimated that no more than 1.5 to 2 million Jews remained alive in continental Europe. And the slaughter was continuing without letup. [43]

[vii] One crucial reason for the failure to set up an office was interagency rivalry. The American Jewish Congress quietly discouraged the move from the start, out of concern that a fully functioning Joint Emergency Committee might be exploited by the American Jewish Committee to increase its own prestige and influence. Moreover, the American Jewish Committee might put the JEC forward as a replacement for the then-forming American Jewish Conference. [48]

[viii] Hadassah was the women's Zionist organization. Actually, it was already represented on the JEC through the American Zionist Emergency Council, of which it was a member.

[ix] To associate itself with overseas rescue and relief, the Rescue Commission tried to establish close ties with the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee. But the JDC refused to be linked to the conference. [51]

Although the American Jewish Conference had no role in rescue operations, various other Zionist groups were responsible for the larger part of the rescue activity that was carried out in Europe. Among the most effective were units of the Jewish Agency for Palestine, the World Jewish Congress, and the Hechaluz (labor Zionists). The JDC and some Orthodox committees were also importantly involved in rescue efforts.

[x] Its sponsoring organizations were the Zionist Organization of America, Hadassah, the Mizrachi Organization of America (Orthodox Zionists), and Poale Zion (labor Zionists).

[xi] Two non-Jewish organizations worked closely with the AZEC. Both had been started and were funded by the Zionist movement. The American Palestine Committee (APC) was the main vehicle for Christian American support for the Jewish commonwealth. Its membership, even at its inception in 1941, included 3 Cabinet members, 68 senators, and about 200 congressmen. Many people prominent in religious and academic circles and the labor movement belonged to the APC. By 1946, it listed 15,000 members and 75 local committees.
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Re: The Abandonment of the Jews: American and the Holocaust,

Postby admin » Fri Apr 13, 2018 9:37 pm


During the last eight months of 1943, while the Bergsonites pressed for a government rescue agency and the Zionists consolidated their gains and opened the drive for a Palestine commonwealth, developments crucial to rescue were unfolding behind the scenes in the Roosevelt administration. The flow of events commenced in the State Department. Then, in June, the Treasury Department was drawn in. In the months that followed, as the Treasury intervened increasingly in rescue policy, relations between it and State moved closer and closer to the combustion point. [i] [1]

The explosion that finally resulted was set off by the Riegner plan, a promising rescue proposal that originated shortly before the Bermuda Conference. In early 1943, as has been noted, Gerhart Riegner dispatched a report confirming the extermination program from new sources and summarizing the terrible situation of the European Jews, country by country. Middle-level State Department officials reacted with a telegram (number 354 of February 10) to the American legation in Bern. It ordered a halt to the forwarding of further messages of that sort. The aim was to cut off the flow of information that had been fueling public pressure for rescue action. [3]

Despite the communications barrier, Riegner managed weeks later to notify the World Jewish Congress in New York that he had additional urgent news. Stephen Wise asked Sumner Welles to look into it. Welles, who was unaware of the stop order, telegraphed Leland Harrison, the American minister in Bern, directing him to obtain Riegner's latest message and relay it to Washington. Harrison did so on April 20. He also requested that

messages of this character should not (repeat not) be subjected to the restriction imposed by your 354, February 10, and that I be permitted to transmit messages from R [Riegner] more particularly in view of the helpful information-which they may frequently contain.

Welles's affirmative reply broke the blockade on extermination news. The incident did not end there, though. The matter of telegram 354 resurfaced months later, at the height of the State-Treasury conflict. [4]

Riegner's April 20 message, the basis. for the Riegner plan, outlined important new possibilities for "wide rescue action" in two countries. In Rumania, relief supplies could be obtained for the Jews in Transnistria; moreover, the children there could be removed to Palestine if funds were available. In France, where deportations continued, funds were needed to support hidden Jewish children and to finance escapes of young people to Spain. In no instance would the money move into Axis territory. Sufficient local currency could be borrowed in both Rumania and France if repayment were guaranteed by transferring funds from the United States to blocked accounts in Switzerland. The accounts would be controlled by American officials there and frozen until after the war. Funds for the plan were to come from American Jewish organizations. [5]

Shortly after receiving Riegner's message, Stephen Wise imd Nahum Goldmann opened negotiations on the plan with State Department officials. For the next eleven weeks, department personnel, searching for defects in the proposal, advised each other that it was too "vaguely phrased" to permit a decision, or that it might be a World Jewish Congress scheme to transfer money for ransom purposes, or. that approval might encourage other organizations to ask to send reelef funds to Europe. In the meantime, the World Jewish Congress received indications that Rumanian officials, for $170,000 in Rumanian currency, might revive the earlier offer to let all 70,000 Jews in Transnistria leave for overseas. [6]

It was late June before the State Department even mentioned the Riegner plan to the Treasury Department's Foreign Funds Control Di vision, the agency legally charged with issuing the licenses required for transferring funds overseas during World War II. Three weeks later, when State and Treasury officials finally met to consider the proposal, R. Borden Reams argued that the funds should not be transferred because the plan was not workable. [ii] Later in the discussion, though, Reams revealed the State Department's real objection: the proposals might actually succeed. Reams considered it unrealistic to encourage large-scale rescue because only 30,000 places remained available under the Palestine White Paper quota and he "did not know of any other areas to which the remaining Jews could be evacuated." This reasoning, though standard currency in the State Department, was not convincing to the Treasury. The next day, July 16, Treasury advised State that it was prepared to issue the license. [7]

Unaware of these developments, but anxious about the long delay, Wise discussed the Riegner plan with Roosevelt during a White House visit on July 22. The rabbi emphasized that it could not possibly interfere with the war effort, because none of the funds would he unblocked until the war ended. Roosevelt agreed to the plan, informed Morgenthau, and on August 14 signed a letter to Wise reporting that the Treasury Department had approved and all arrangements were complete except for "a further exchange of cables between the State Department and our mission in Bern regarding some of the details." [9]

But even the President's intervention failed to daunt Breckinridge Long and his group. They delayed the license another six and one-half weeks, asserting that Riegner's plan would somehow provide the enemy with foreign exchange. Within the State Department, only Herbert Feis, the adviser on international economic affairs, and Bernard Meltzer, acting chief of the Division of Foreign Funds Control, pressed for issuance of the license. [iii] [10]

Ultimately, on September 28, the State Department telegraphed the Treasury license to Harrison in Bern. Harrison, who had been aware that the license was in the works, had already expressed his readiness to relay it to Riegner. Moreover, he had left unanswered an earlier Treasury Department message asking him to spell out any problems he foresaw in issuing the license. Yet, when he received it, he telegraphed back that he wanted a specific State Department order before delivering it to Riegner. He also mentioned that, in line with standing instructions concerning such transactions, he had discussed the license with British authorities in Switzerland and they opposed it on economic-warfare grounds. [12]

The State Department took no action on Harrison's telegram. It did not order him to issue the license, nor did it inform the Treasury of his message. When the Treasury learned of it (through informal contacts it had elsewhere in the State Department), it drafted a telegram for the State Department to send to Harrison instructing him to issue the license. Treasury officials insisted that British clearance was not necessary, because the license had been carefully drawn to safeguard it from abuse. Moreover, the British had carried out comparable relief actions without consulting American authorities. [13]

Reams resisted the Treasury demand, claiming that issuance of the license would incense the British, single out "a special group of enemy aliens" for help, and improperly bypass the Intergovernmental Committee. But Long, apparently wary of a confrontation with the Treasury, gave in. On October 26, he cabled Harrison to issue the license. Within the State Department, he justified his action on the grounds that similar transmissions of funds had been allowed in the past, the chance that this one could help the enemy was remote, and the President supported it. [14]

Harrison still did not act. Seventeen days later, the British Ministry of Economic Warfare (MEW) lodged official objections to the license through the British embassy in Washington and the British legation in Bern. Only then did Harrison reply, stating that the British in Bern had orders to withhold consent until MEW had discussed the matter with the Treasury. Before defying the British, Harrison explained, he would really need specific instructions to do so from the State Department. [15]

When Treasury officials learned of the latest complications, they drafted a letter, which Morgenthau sent to Hull. It pointed out that three and one-half months had passed since the Treasury Department had embarked on "the relatively simple matter of getting our Minister in Switzerland to issue a license," The message outlined the obstacles encountered and closed with a request for Hull's assistance. Accompanying the letter was a telegram that Morgenthau asked Hull to dispatch to John G. Winant, the American ambassador to Great Britain. It asked Winant to approach the Ministry of Economic Warfare, explain that the proposed license was fully safeguarded, and try to get the British to withdraw their objections. The telegram went out without delay. [16]

Winant complied immediately, but two more weeks passed before the British responded. Their reply, finally delivered on December 15, showed that the economic-warfare argument had been a pretext which the British now realized was not going to stop the Treasury Department. Aware that Treasury's interest in the Jewish situation went beyond the Riegner license and could lead to a serious American rescue drive, the Foreign Office had stepped in. The resulting message, described by Morgenthau as "a satanic combination of British chill and diplomatic double-talk, cold and correct and adding up to a sentence of death," revealed the real British objection to the Riegner plan. It brought into sharp focus the underlying fear that had determined the entire British policy toward rescue-a fear that had similarly shaped the State Department's response to the Holocaust. The core of the message follows:

The Foreign Office are concerned with the difficulties of disposing of any considerable number of Jews should they be rescued from enemy occupied territory.... [Such operations would be] greatly hampered by the difficulties of transportation, particularly shipping, and of finding accommodation in the countries of the Near East for any but a very small number of Jewish refugees. They [the Foreign Office] foresee that it is likely to prove almost if not quite impossible to deal with anything like the number of 70,000 refugees whose rescue is envisaged by the Riegner plan. For this reason they are reluctant to agree to any approval being expressed even of the preliminary financial arrangements. [iv] [17]

Treasury officials were shocked. The four men closest to the license battle -- all of them non-Jews and tough-minded lawyers accustomed to Washington's bruising administrative politics -- reacted with pain and anger:

JOSIAH E. DUBOIS, JR.: The British say condemn them to death and we say they should get out.... Their position is, "What could we do with them if we got them out?" Amazing, most amazing position....

RANDOLPH PAUL: I don't know how we can blame the Germans for killing them when we are doing this. The law calls [it] para-delicto, of equal guilt....

JOHN PERLE: The British are saying, in effect, that they don't propose to take any Jews out of these areas.... Now, that is the general, broad, enormous issue that has been, to some extent, flushed out....

ANSEL LUXFORD [referring to the State Department]: That is a stock reply when you hit the Jewish problem.... You can find a million reasons why you can't get them out of Europe, but if somebody put their mind to getting them out, you can then spend the next ten years on what you are going to do with them. [v] [19]

The British message dissolved the smoke screen of excuses that the State Department and the Foreign Office had used throughout the preceding year to conceal their actual opposition to rescue action. Now that the real issue was out in the open, Morgenthau's staff began to press him to urge Roosevelt to remove the rescue question from the State Department. The President, they argued, had to be persuaded to form a special agency to try to save European Jews. [21]

Off and on since June 1943, Oscar Cox of the Lend-Lease Administration had tried to convince Morgenthau, and the State Department as well, that a separate rescue agency was essential. Cox suggested a board appointed by the President and based on the State Department, the Treasury Department, and the Foreign Economic Administration (because it was responsible for lend-lease funds). This "War Refugee Rescue Committee" would "attack the whole problem afresh" by formulating rescue plans, developing the necessary funding, asking the various countries to accept a fair share of refugees on an emergency basis, and pressing Europe's neutral nations to let refugees enter. In October, the State Department had rejected Cox's plan, claiming that such a commission would duplicate and interfere with the work of the Intergovernmental Committee. Nor had the Treasury shown much interest in the proposal. But in mid-December, during the uproar over the British message, Cox again pressed his plan. This time he had the support of several of Morgenthau's staff. Moreover, he asserted, Roosevelt favored the idea. [22]

But Morgenthau still held back, convinced that polite pressure on Hull would activate the State Department. His Foreign Funds Control staff disagreed with this optimism. But they did not object when he insisted that before going to Roosevelt he must at least confer with Hull. That afternoon (Saturday, December 18), Morgenthau telephoned and made an appointment for Monday morning. State Department personnel realized what was in store, for on the preceding day Morgenthau had sent a courteous message to Hull which spelled out once more the many complications that had prevented the Treasury from transmitting the license to Riegner. [23]

When Morgenthau, Pehle, and Paul arrived for the meeting with Hull, they were amazed to learn that on Saturday, at Breckinridge Long's initiative, the State Department had dispatched an extremely sharp message to Ambassador Winant for delivery to the British government:

Your telegram under reference has been read with astonishment by the Department and it is unable to agree with the point of view set forth. ... It is desired by the Department to inform you immediately of the fact that the philosophy set forth in their telegram is incompatible with the policy of the United States Government and of previously expressed British policy as it had been understood by US. [24]

That was not all. That same Saturday, despite British disapproval and Harrison's objections, Long had sent the long-sought license, authorizing an initial $25,000. He acted in such haste that, contrary to all practice, the final version was not cleared with the Treasury. Two days before Christmas, Harrison reported that he had personally taken the license to Riegner. Thus, eight months after he had requested the funds, Riegner was free to carry out his now outdated rescue plans. [25]

During the Monday morning conference, Hull explained to Morgenthau, "The trouble is, the fellows down the line.... I don't get a chance to know everything that is going on. You just sort of have to rip things out if you want to get them done." Hull was correct that recalcitrance and obstruction "down the line" were at the center of the problem. But he himself, even though his wife came from a Jewish family, had paid almost no attention to his department's policies concerning the destruction of the Jews. [vi] [26]

Breckinridge Long, uneasy about the recent turn of events, tried to use the conference to disassociate himself from the policies of his own clique. He asked Morgenthau to talk with him alone in another room. There he said, "I just want to tell you that unfortunately the people lower down in you~ Department and lower down in the State Department are making a lot of trouble." He proceeded to put most of the blame on Bernard Meltzer who, he claimed, had thrown technical difficulties in the way of the license and had spread accusations of anti-Semitism. [28]

Morgenthau, aware that Metzer and Herbert Feis had fought alone in the State Department to put the license through, turned the conversation back on Long. Later in the morning, he summarized the discussion that resulted:

So I said, "Well, Breck, as long as you raise the question, we might be a little frank. The impression is all around that you, particularly, are anti-Semitic!" I looked him right in the eye. He said, "I know that is so. I hope that you will use your good offices to correct that impression, because I am not." I said, "I am very, very glad to know it."

Morgenthau continued:

Well, also, since we are being so frank, you might as well know that the impression has grown in the Treasury that the feeling in the State Department is just the same as expressed in that cable from London about the Foreign Office; there is no difference.

Long protested, assured Morgenthau of his commitment to rescue, and said he hoped he and the Treasury could cooperate toward that end. [29]

Immediately following the conference, Treasury officials gathered to assess the situation. Morgenthau maintained that Hull's assistance was now assured and, consequently, there was no need for a special rescue agency. Others disagreed, arguing that cooperation by Long and his group would disappear when the heat let up. It was evident that the State Department's biting reply to the British and its sudden issuance of the license had come only after Morgenthau had arranged to see Hull. [30]

Shortly before the meeting with Hull took place, Josiah DuBois, chief counsel for Treasury's Foreign Funds Control Division, had uncovered a sensational instance of State Department malfeasance. The earliest telegram that the Treasury Department had received from the State Department concerning the Jewish situation in Europe was a message that Harrison sent from Bern on April 20, 1943. It included a reference to State Department cable 354, dispatched to Bern on February 10. Treasury officials thought 354 might contain additional information on the Riegner plan. So they asked for a copy. The State Department refused, claiming that 354 did not concern the Treasury. [31]

Eventually, DuBois managed to see 354, but only through the cooperation of a friend in the State Department, Donald Hiss, who knowingly risked his job to help. Hiss also showed DuBois a telegram to which 354 made reference, number 482 from Bern to the State Department on January 21. The latter carried Riegner's report reconfirming the Nazi extermination plan and detailing the situation then confronting the Jews of Europe. Number 354, as previously noted, was the instrument by which the State Department had cut off the flow of information from Riegner. But 354 by itself did not specify the type of information that was to be blocked. To comprehend its real meaning, one had to read it in conjunction with 482. [32]

At the State Department conference, Morgenthau managed, offhand edly and without revealing his purpose, to get Hull to tell Long to send a copy of cable 354 to the Treasury. Long did so, that same day. But the line in the cablegram that referred to 482 had been deleted. Thus the only clue to the real meaning of 354 was missing. Only because DuBois had already seen a true copy of 354 did the Treasury realize what had happened. Morgenthau immediately sent one of his staff to look at Long's copy of 354. Noticing its reference to 482, the Treasury official told Long that Morgenthau would also want a copy of 482. The next day, 482 reached the Treasury, confirming DuBois's disclosure. [33]

Even knowledge of the scheme to silence Riegner and discovery of the deceitful attempt to cover it up did not convince Morgenthau that the rescue issue had to be taken out of the State Department. But Cox and others in the Roosevelt administration were becoming increasingly anxious about growing support in the press and on Capitol Hill for the Bergsonite legislation calling for a government rescue agency. They wanted Roosevelt to take action before it was forced on him, particularly since several supporters of the legislation were opponents of I President. During the rest of December, Cox unsuccessfully pressed Morgenthau to go to Roosevelt and emphasize the need for him to set up a rescue commission. [34]

By January 10, all of Morgenthau's staff who had been working on the rescue question agreed with Cox. They were sure that Hull could not or would not do the job and that Long's cooperation would cease when the pressures slackened. What finally convinced Morgenthau was an eighteen-page memorandum on State Department obstruction entitled "Report to the Secretary on the Acquiescence of This Government in the Murder of the Jews." Led by DuBois, the Foreign Funds Control staff prepared this searing indictment, which charged that the State Department was "guilty not only of gross procrastination and wilful failure to act, but even of wilful attempts to prevent action from being taken to rescue Jews from Hitler." [35]

The report documented the long struggle for the Riegner license and the story of cable 354 as well as the deception employed in trying to keep it secret. It also pointed to the State Department's strategy of sidetracking rescue proposals to the ineffective Intergovernmental Committee, its inordinately tight restrictions on visa issuance, and its role in the fraudulent Bermuda Conference. Morgenthau received the report on January 13. Within two days, he decided to go to Roosevelt, explain the situation, and urge him to establish a rescue agency. [36]


One passage in the "Report to the Secretary" accused State Department officials of "kicking the [rescue] matter around for over a year without producing results," The State Department's own records bear that out. While the Riegner license was bogged down in the bureaucratic morass, the State Department was holding back a parallel effort by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee to transfer funds to Switzer land for relief and rescue. After the breakthrough on the Riegner license, the Treasury forced the State Department to issue a license for the JDC. [37]

Another project caught in the State Department maze in 1943 was the Goldmann plan, probably the most ambitious of the wartime proposals to aid Jews inside Europe. In September, Nahum Goldmann of the World Jewish Congress asked Breckinridge Long for help in providing food and medicines to Jews still alive in Poland, Czechoslovakia, and the Balkans. The aid, to be channeled through the International Red Cross, would cost about $10 million. Goldmann stated that American Jewish organizations could furnish $2 million. He hoped the U.S. government might supply the other $8 million. Long replied that he knew of no government funds for such a purpose, but he offered to submit the proposal to the Intergovernmental Committee on Refugees. Under the ICR's new setup, Long explained, funds for specific projects that it approved would be provided by Britain and the United States on a fifty-fifty basis. [38]

On the surface, this arrangement looked like a workable answer to Goldmann's call for help. In reality, it was another runaround. Diverting the project through the ICR meant indefinite delays and no results. Ansel Luxlord of the Treasury Department described the State Department's handling of the Goldmann plan: "Long first tossed it into the waste-paper basket; namely, the Inter-Governmental Committee." [39]

By January 1944, nothing more had happened concerning the Goldmann plan. When a Jewish leader inquired about it, Long explained that the ICR had approved some of its projects, but no government funds were currently available for them. Yet, less than two months earlier, Long had told a congressional committee about the Goldmann plan, citing it as' important evidence of the State Department's vigorous efforts for refugees. He stated unequivocally that "we have agreed to finance half of the cost. It would be $4 million for each government." Moreover, in January, when Long insisted that no government funds could be found, a Treasury Department inquiry confirmed that $80 million remained available in the most obvious account for such undertakings, the President's Emergency Fund. The other side of the Goldmann plan collapsed in January when it became clear that the British government had no intention of participating. [vii] [40]

The Riegner, Joint Distribution Committee, and Goldmann proposals were not the only plans that were bottled up in the State Department. A fifty-page State Department internal memorandum of July 1943 summarized several rescue projects then under consideration. Only two ultimately succeeded, and they concerned non-Jewish refugees. One involving Jews, the refugee camp in North Africa, did provide a minor benefit, but only after a thirteen-month delay. None of the other projects advanced beyond the preliminary stages. [42]

Six months later, the State Department compiled another report on its current rescue programs. Again, the projects concerned with Jews had been pursued without enthusiasm and had achieved nothing. In the judgment of Treasury's John Pehle, one needed only to read the memorandum to see "the way they kick this stuff around.... All of a sudden, right in the middle of something, they will refer [it] to the Intergovernmental Committee and nothing will happen.... Really, they are things that. something could have been done on." [43]


Why did the State Department respond so inadequately to the Holocaust? Lack of knowledge was not the problem; it had the fullest available information. Nor was disbelief a factor. Even R. Borden Reams, the most skeptical of the officials involved, described the terrible reports as "essentially correct.'' [44]

The failure stemmed in part from plain bureaucratic inefficiency. Close study of State Department records leaves one with the impression of a poorly administered unit where initiative and imagination were scarce. Furthermore, the absence of any comprehensive approach to rescue meant that opportunities for action were handled in piecemeal fashion. Even then they were usually fumbled. An additional handicap was the widespread belief within the department that nothing much could be done anyway; One Jewish leader described the results: "interminable delay, miles and miles of paper work, little measures for gigantic problems and gigantic difficulties for little problems." [45]

By far the most important cause for State Department inaction was fear that sizable numbers of Jews might actually get out of Axis territory. (Sizable numbers meant more than a very few thousand.) This fear determined the State Department's entire response to the Holocaust, as it did that of the British. Behind it loomed the problem that both governments regarded as unsolvable: Where could masses of Jews be put if they did come out? It was apprehensiveness about stimulating an outflow of Jews that underlay the State Department's consistently negative approach to rescue. Its own documents reveal that the basic policy was not rescue but the avoidance of rescue. [viii]

Closely related to the fear of a large exodus of Jews from Axis Europe were two other aspects of the State Department's response to the Holocaust. One was the visa policy that shut the United States to all but a tiny trickle of refugee immigration. The other was the department's quiet, but unwavering, support for Britain's policy of very tight limits on refugee entrance into Palestine. Thus two of the most likely havens of refuge were virtually dosed. And other countries were provided with justification for their own barred doors.

Under such circumstances, large-scale removal of Jews appeared impossible; yet public pressures for action could not be kept down. The State Department's solution to that quandary was the Intergovernmental Committee. Proclaimed as the international engine of rescue, its ineffectiveness hidden behind a supposedly necessary veil of secrecy, it provided an excuse for State Department inaction. Rescue proposals could be relayed to it with confidence that nothing significant would develop, that no outflow of Jews would result.

The State Department's policies arose to some degree from the personal anti-alien, anti-immigrant attitudes that prevailed among those involved in refugee affairs. Breckinridge Long was an extreme nativist, especially with regard to eastern Europeans. His subordinates shared his anti-alienism. Their altitudes influenced not only visa policy but the department's entire response to the European Jewish catastrophe. [47]

The extent to which anti-Semitism was a factor is more problematic. The fact that few Jews held State Department posts points to a generally anti-Semitic atmosphere. But direct proof of anti-Semitism in the department is limited. [ix] [48]

In any case, much of the top and middle-level leadership seemed little moved by the European Jewish catastrophe. Cordell Hull was uninterested in and uninformed about his department's rescue policies. (It is striking that almost nothing about refugees appears in the voluminous Hull files in the Library of Congress.) Undersecretary Sumner Welles and Assistant Secretary Adolf Berle appear to have been sym- pathetic, but neither responded effectively to the challenge. By May 1943, Berle had concluded that nothing could be done to save Jews short of defeating Hitler's forces. Welles's reaction to the Holocaust remains an enigma. On many occasions, he cooperated with Jewish leaders and seemed on the point of forcing middle-level officials to act. But he seldom followed through. Edward R. Stettinius, Jr., named undersecretary in September 1943 and secretary of state in December 1944, was genuinely concerned. Under his leadership, the department's record improved, but only slightly. [50]

The people in the State Department who were most closely associated with the rescue issue were Assistant Secretary Breckinridge Long and several middle-level officials. They included George Brandt, Long's executive assistant, James Dunn and Wallace Murray, departmental advisers on political relations, Ray Atherton, acting chief of the Division of European Affairs, Howard Travers, chief of the Visa Division, and a number of lesser officers, especially R. Borden Reams. These men were indifferent to the tragedy of the European Jews. Randolph Paul of the Treasury Department described them as an American "underground movement ... to let the Jews be killed." [51]

Since neither Roosevelt nor Hull paid much attention to the European Jewish tragedy, the main responsibility for American rescue policy fell to Long and his subordinates. Instead of sensitivity to the human values involved, Long brought strongly nativist attitudes to the situation. [x] Moreover, he was difficult to work with, unless his ideas prevailed. And he was extremely suspicious, as his diary clearly reveals. He viewed himself as under persistent attack from "the Communists, extreme radicals, Jewish professional agitators, [and] refugee enthusiasts," as well as "the radical press" and "Jewish radical circles." "They all hate me," he believed. The supposed assaults came also from within, from limy colleagues in the Government." Long was certain that some of them disliked him intensely, interfered with his work, and conspired against him. Toward the end of his tenure, he even concluded that he had borne "the brunt of the worst attack made against any officer of this Government." With a person of such perceptions and attitudes in charge, little chance existed for a positive American response to the difficult problem of helping the Jews of Europe. [52]

As 1944 opened, however, Morgenthau and the Treasury Department were about to challenge the grip that Long and his followers had on rescue policy. At the same time, the legislation calling for a special rescue agency that had been in Congress since November was nearing a showdown vote. Its prospects appeared good. [54]



[i] Conflict between State and Treasury was no novelty. Many foreign-affairs problems had important economic dimensions, and Morgenthau and Hull (and their subordinates) frequently disagreed on policy. Areas of contention included, among others, the China silver problem of the 1930s, lend-lease arrangements, the freezing of Argentine assets during the war, plans for postwar monetary policy; and the question of deindustrialization of Germany after the war. [2]

[ii] This point was irrelevant. Hundreds of licenses for funds transfers had been issued and not used. The idea was to have the funds available for rapid action if an opportunity arose to utilize them. [8]

[iii]  Privately, Meltzer expressed amazement at the arguments raised by Long and his followers. Usually, when such questions came up, it was Meltzer's Foreign Funds Control Division that opposed issuing licenses and the others in the department who insisted that political factors outweighed such minor economic-warfare considerations. [11]

[iv] A week later, the British position was clearly spelled out again. A. W. G. Randall, head of the Foreign Office's Refugee Department, noted in an internal communication, "Once we open the door to adult male Jews to be taken out of enemy territory, a quite unmanageable flood may result. (Hitler may facilitate it!)" [18]

[v] The anger and bitterness were slow to recede, as the transcript of a Treasury staff meeting held weeks later shows:

HENRY MORGENTHAU, JR.: When you get through with it, the attitude to date is no different from Hitler's attitude....

HERBERT GASTON: You are unfair. We don't shoot them. We let other people shoot them, and let them starve....

HARRY DEXTER WHITE: It is curious how many different reasons can be thought up for not taking action.

RANDOLPH PAUL: Haven't got any water -- haven't got any ships.

WHITE: Yes, didn't have any water down in North Africa.

PAUL: How the devil a lot of these people lived there before, I don't know. [20]

[vi] At a follow-up conference three weeks later, Morgenthau told Hull that he had gone carefully over the State Department's rescue record and found it "most shocking." Hull replied that "he had no doubt of that." Yet he came to that meeting completely unprepared and had no idea what the discussion was about, even though he had been given a file briefing him on the issues. Moreover, to everyone's embarrassment, he was unable to introduce four of the five State Department officials involved in refugee affairs who accompanied him to the meeting. [27]

[vii] The State Department's treatment of the Goldmann plan differed markedly from its quick allotment earlier in 1943 of $3 million from the President's Emergency Fund for transportation to Mexico and maintenance there of up to 28,000 non-Jewish Polish refugees. [41]

[viii] See chapters 5 and 6.

In October 1943, a State Department adviser on political relations stressed the point again: "There are grave objections to a direct approach to the German Government to request the release to us of these people. Despite the fact that such an offer would almost certainly be refused, a counter offer on the part of the German Government to deliver a large number of refugees at a specified point would have even graver consequences.  Lack of a place of temporary refuge and the impossibility of diverting the necessary shipping from the war effort would make it impossible for us to take them. The net result would be the transfer of odium from the German to Allied Governments." [46]

[ix] Josiah DuBois, who had close contacts in the State Department, has maintained that several of its officials were anti-Semitic. But the research for this book turned up only two documented examples. One, in 1934, concerned a visa official who told a representative of a Catholic organization that it was a relief to have someone come to him who was not attempting to get Jews into the United States. The other instance involved an official in the department's Western European Division who reportedly denounced Morgenthau as "that damned Jew in the Treasury."

There is no doubt about the existence of anti-Semitism among American consuls overseas. It was widespread. [49]

[x] Whether Long was also anti-Semitic is not clear. The record does not show him to be overtly negative toward Jews simply because they were Jews. He appears to have had good relations with the more conservative Jewish leaders -- that is, the ones who did not rankle him or openly criticize him.
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Re: The Abandonment of the Jews: American and the Holocaust,

Postby admin » Fri Apr 13, 2018 9:46 pm


Congressional approval of the Rescue Resolution would not in itself have created a governmental rescue agency. The measure was advisory legislation that urged the President to take that step. [i] Nonetheless, the Emergency Committee to Save the Jewish People of Europe initiated the proposal with the expectation that its passage would force Roosevelt to act. The State Department evidently shared that perception, to judge from Breckinridge Long's maneuvers to block the resolution. In the struggle over the legislation, which began even before it was introduced, its supporters also encountered opposition from the Zionist leadership and from the most influential Jewish Congress, Sol Bloom.

But the Emergency Committee, anticipating resistance, had waged an intensive lobbying campaign and had lined up important backing in Congress. Senator Guy Gillette (Dem., Iowa) originally sponsored the resolution. Eleven other senators joined him in introducing it. Among them were two consistent Bergson supporters, Elbert Thomas (Dem., Utah) and Edwin Johnson (Dem., Col.). Two of the cosponsors were Republicans, Robert Taft (Ohio) and Homer Ferguson (Mich.). Six of the twelve sat on the Foreign Relations Committee, where the proposal would probably face its most critical Senate test. [ii] [2]

In the House, Will Rogers, Jr. (Dem., Calif.) was the chief proponent of the resolution. Its cosponsor was Joseph c. Baldwin, a liberal Republican from New York City. Both congressmen were members of the Emergency Committee. [3]

Endorsement by many major newspapers across the country helped build public support. The New York Post was emphatically favorable. It kept the resolution in the news spotlight and printed several editorials on it. William Randolph Hearst ran a series of friendly editorials in all his newspapers. The Emergency Committee further publicized the issue through radio broadcasts. Several featured Dean Alfange, the American Labor party leader who had run a strong race for governor of New York in 1942. Alfange, an ardent New Dealer, nonetheless censured Roosevelt for his "tragic inaction" and the State Department for its inertia. He called on Roosevelt and Hull to endorse the Rescue Resolution. Petitions supporting the legislation flowed into Congress, as did individual messages from Alfred E. Smith, Wendell Willkie, Chief Rabbi Isaac Herzog of Palestine, and many others. [4]

Action on the Rescue Resolution opened in the House Foreign Affairs Committee, where five days of hearings were held. Although press accounts of the first three days emphasized the vigorous endorsements made by Willkie, Alfange, and Fiorello La Guardia, Sol Bloom, chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, actually used much of that time to attack the Emergency Committee and Peter Bergson. [iii] Bloom, at one time a Yiddish-speaking vaudeville comedian, took a sharp, no-nonsense stance. On the first day, he tried to intimidate Herbert Moore, a non-Jew who was president of Transradio News Features and an officer of the Emergency Committee. Moore's offense had been the production of a radio script, broadcast two days before, that charged Bloom, along with "large Jewish groups." with maneuvering to undermine the Rescue Resolution. Despite Bloom's repeated demands, Moore refused to retract the accusation. [5]

Bloom also denounced a telegram recently sent by the Emergency Committee to 200 of its members asking for funds "to mobilize public opinion throughout country to force passage resolution." He made a major issue of the word force and seized on the telegram as grounds for several harsh attacks on the group. He even turned most of one day's hearing into an interrogation (under oath) of Peter Bergson concerning the Emergency Committee's activities and Bergson's personal affairs. [6]

Bloom's negative attitude toward the Emergency Committee extended to the Rescue Resolution as well. Although he denied that he opposed the legislation, his behavior proved he was determined to choke it off. Throughout the hearings, he claimed that the Bermuda Conference had dealt thoroughly with the problem arid the United States and the revitalized Intergovernmental Committee on Refugees were already doing all that was possible for the European Jews. [7]

Bloom also implied, by underscoring the coxts involved, that mass rescue was virtually impossible. On the first day of the hearings, he twice talked about the expense of rescuing 100,000 people: "You have to figure at least $2,000 a person, so that would be $200 million." At the following session, he again stressed the cost factor. It was Congressman Andrew Schiffler (Rep., W.Va.), a non-Jew, who remarked, "I do not think money is of primary importance" in these circumstances. A columnist in the New York Yiddish-language Forward wrote in exasperation, "It is truly difficult to understand why it is such a life and death matter for Congressman Bloom to dig up arguments against the resolution." [8]

By the third day of the hearings, pressures had built to the point that Bloom put himself on record in a telegram to New York Post editor Ted Thackrey: "I personally agree that the resolution should pass." Later that day, he told reporters that he was 100 percent in favor of the proposal and predicted that the full House was going to approve it. Yet, two days afterward, Bloom and the State Department collaborated in a maneuver intended to kill the resolution. [9]

On November 26, the fourth day of the hearings, Breckinridge Long testified at a closed meeting of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. He insisted on secrecy because, he claimed, the Germans might block projected refugee-aid operations if they found out what he was about to reveal. In a three and one-half hour session, Long convinced the committee that the United States and the Intergovernmental Committee were already doing everything humanly possible to save Jews. He greatly exaggerated the little that had been attempted since Hitler's rise to power, assigned most of the credit for it to the State Department, and, with a verbal magic wand, turned the inert Intergovernmental Committee into an effective mechanism for rescue. [10]

Long's words and his apparent dedication to the refugee cause greatly impressed the congressmen. Karl Mundt (Rep., S. Dak.) termed the testimony "a rather complete rejoinder" to the claims of earlier witnesses that little was being done to rescue Jews. One after another, committee members expressed their gratitude to Long for all the State Department had quietly accomplished. Some asked Long for his opinion on the Rescue Resolution. He indicated that its passage might be construed as a repudiation of the work of the State Department and the Intergovernmental Committee. But he carefully avoided going on record against the measure. When Robert Chiperfield (Rep., Ill.) raised the possibility of the committee's voting against it, Long advised, "I think it would be very dangerous to vote it down, very unwise, in a way." [11]

Several of the congressmen perceived that they were dealing with legislation that had become, in Mundt's words, a "hot poker." They began to look for a way to sidestep the resolution, with its implied criticism of the State Department and the Intergovernmental Committee, and yet avoid antagonizing American Jews. The answer, suggested by James Wadsworth (Rep., N.Y.) and encouraged by Bloom, Mundt, and Luther Johnson (Dem., Tex.), was to obtain authorization to publicize an item Long had brought to the committee's attention -- the still- secret mandate of the supposedly revived Intergovernmental Committee. [12]

This document, which originated at the Bermuda Conference and appeared to confer broad new powers on the ICR, had impressed the congressmen as compelling evidence that all feasible steps were already under way. It thus offered, as Wadsworth pointed out, a basis on which the committee "could rest its case for failure to act affirmatively" on the resolution. Mundt saw the idea as "a perfect answer to the dilemma in which we all find ourselves." Long offered to move immediately to arrange for public release of the secret ICR mandate. Within four days, the British government and the Intergovernmental Committee agreed to its publication. [13]

Long's testimony crippled the Rescue Resolution in the House committee, and Bloom managed to keep it from ever reaching the House floor. But the favorable response from the congressmen, who were generally ignorant about the refugee situation, misled Long and Bloom. They concluded that release of the entire transcript of Long's remarks, rather than the ICR mandate alone, would prove even more effective in quieting Jewish pressures. Vanished was the need for strict secrecy that had supposedly been essential to safeguard the interests of the refugees. On December 10, Long's testimony was made public. Instead of the result envisioned, however, it ignited a burst of criticism. [14]

Long's testimony contained several inaccuracies, the most flagrant of which concerned the numbers of refugees who had reached the United States. Along with other erroneous statistics, Long claimed that "we have taken into this country since the beginning of the Hitler regime and the persecution of the Jews, until today, approximately 580,000 refugees." People familiar with the situation knew that not over 250,000 had come and many of them were not Jews. [15]

It was more difficult to check Long's statements about the Intergovernmental Committee, because secrecy surrounded its activities. But the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, after inquiry at the ICR's London headquarters, revealed that one of Long's key assertions about that organization was wrong. He had declared that under the new mandate ICR officials had "plenary authority to do whatever they can, within and without Germany and the occupied territories." Patrick Malin, the ICR's vice-director, flatly contradicted that claim, pointing out that his committee did not have the power to deal with Germany. [16]

Long had also misrepresented the situation regarding ocean transportation. Discussing the low rate of refugee immigration to the United States, he had explained that "demands for a wider opening cannot be justified for the time being because there just is not any transportation." While the congressmen had believed this statement, in refugee-aid circles it was commonly known that Portuguese and Spanish passenger ships, which plied the Atlantic throughout the war, were sailing to the United States less than one-fourth full. [17]

Like the Foreign Affairs Committee, most of the press assumed that Long's information was accurate. The New York Times reported it at the top of the front page. Headed "580,000 Refugees Admitted To United States in Decade," the story marked the first time that Holocaust- related news received such prominent notice in the Times. Long's misleading statements also opened the way for restrictionists to whip up suspicions that Jewish refugees were flooding the country. The Chicago Tribune, the most influential newspaper in the Midwest, subheaded its report: "'Open Door' Policy Bared; Quotas Disregarded." [18]

The New York Post and a few other newspapers analyzed Long's testimony more carefully and raised serious questions about it. The Post labeled it "false and distorted." The Nation and the New Republic also refuted it. The Nation asserted that Long's "attempt to confuse the issue and mislead the House Foreign Affairs Committee" only proved the need for a special government rescue commission. Shortly afterward, news releases from the American Jewish Conference and the World Jewish Congress, as well as a long letter in the New York Times from the Yiddish Scientific Institute, thoroughly documented Long's inaccuracies. [19]

The President's Advisory Committee on Political Refugees and the American Jewish Committee wrote Long asking for clarification. He replied that he had meant to say that 580,000 visas had been authorized, not that 580,000 refugees had entered the United States. On all other questions, he doggedly insisted that he had been correct or misinterpreted. [iv] [20]

The controversy echoed in the halls of Congress. Samuel Dickstein assailed Long for having created the false impression of action. Emanuel Celler angrily exclaimed that Long "drips with sympathy for the persecuted Jews, but the tears he sheds are crocodile." He called for Long's resignation on the grounds that he was "woefully lacking in knowledge" or else "he did not tell the truth." Either way, Celler asserted, he was not fit to supervise refugee policy. A month later, Celler read into the Congressional Record a full critique of Long's testimony as well as an analysis of the State Department's nearly impenetrable visa-control system. [22]

Long had succeeded with the House Foreign Affairs Committee. But the furor over his inaccurate testimony helped end his control of refugee policy. Publicity about his remarks crested in late December, at the same time as the Treasury Department's showdown with him over the Riegner license. These developments played their part in a State Department reshuffling that saw Long relinquish his refugee and visa responsibilities, although he continued as an assistant secretary until he left the department a year later. [23]

While all groups concerned about rescue deprecated Long's misstatements, the Emergency Committee worked almost alone for passage of the Rescue Resolution. Zionist leaders, acting through the American Jewish Conference, even hampered its progress. When they first learned that the Emergency Committee planned to introduce the resolution, they pressed its sponsors in Congress to replace it with one closer to their own specifications. After that failed and the Emergency Committee's proposal was introduced, they maneuvered behind the scenes for addition of an amendment calling for opening Palestine to Jewish refugees. When this attempt foundered, they carried the issue to the hearing room of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. [24]

The fifth and final day of House testimony on the Rescue Resolution came on December 2. Spokesmen for the AFL and the CIO appeared and urged approval of the measure. The main witness that day, however, was Stephen Wise, representing the American Jewish Conference. Wise criticized the legislation as "inadequate" because it proposed no concrete program for rescue. Most important, he emphasized, it failed to call for immediately opening Palestine to Jewish refugees. He advocated amending it to that effect. [v] [25]

Will Rogers, Jr., who was a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, doubted "the wisdom of injecting this ancient and acrimonious Palestine question into a resolution specifically involving ... rescue." He pointed out that the Palestine issue had been intentionally omitted from the legislation because it was so controversial. (In fact, leaders of the Emergency Committee, after consultation with their friends in Congress, had purposely excluded all specific plans from the resolution because almost any particular recommendation could alienate some potential supporters. Concrete proposals could come after the battle for a commission was won. Most of all, they wanted to keep issues as politically sensitive as Palestine out of the picture. Moreover, they were certain that the commission, once established, would quickly discover for itself the crucial need for opening Palestine.) [27]

Wise had based his testimony on policy set by Zionist leaders of the American Jewish Conference. This group, which included Wise, Abba Hillel Silver, Nahum Goldmann, Herman Shulman, and Rabbi Irving Miller, had taken soundings in Congress and must have realized that pressing the Palestine issue could not help the Rescue Resolution and might jeopardize it. Whether they actually intended to undermine the legislation is not entirely clear. Minutes of their meetings show that on the eve of the resolution's introduction in Congress they definitely "did not favor" it. Two weeks later, the position had changed slightly: it "does not go far enough" -- it should be broadened to include the opening of Palestine and other concrete proposals. Miller and Shulman, however, believed that the conference should support the legislation with or without the changes. Yet when Wise gave his testimony, it fell far short of endorsement. [28]

The Emergency Committee, parts of the Jewish press, and even one prominent Zionist, Rabbi Meyer Berlin, publicly accused Zionist leaders of intentionally obstructing the Rescue Resolution. They asserted that the Zionists turned to indirect methods, such as bringing in the controversial Palestine question, because they did not dare openly to oppose a measure to rescue Jews. This view took on added cogency in late December when the American Jewish Conference, in a stinging press release, disparaged the Rescue Resolution but stopped short of outright opposition. [29]

Senator Gillette, a dedicated friend of Zionism, candidly discussed the obstruction he encountered from Zionist leaders:

These people used every effort, every means at their disposal, to block the resolution. ... [They] tried to defeat it by offering an amendment, insisting on' an amendment to it that would' raise the question, the controversial question of Zionism or anti-Zionism, . .. or anything that might stop and block the action that we were seeking.

Gillette also disclosed a comment made by one of his colleagues the day the Senate Foreign Relations Committee was to vote on the measure:

I wish these damned Jews would make up their minds what they want. I could not get inside the committee room without being buttonholed out here in the corridor by representatives who said that the Jewish people of America did not want the passage of this resolution. [30]

Zionist leaders insisted to Gillette and others that they did not oppose the resolution but were convinced it was inadequate because "there could be no concrete and constructive approach to the problem which did not include Palestine." Yet, even if it were granted that they did not work against the Rescue Resolution, the fact would remain that they publicly criticized it very harshly and lent it no support whatever. Why? [31]

The key reason was their extreme animosity toward its sponsor, the Emergency Committee. By October 1943, Zionist hostility toward the Bergson group was already nearing the flash point, and plans were under way for a scathing public attack on the Emergency Committee. Then Zionist leaders learned that the Emergency Committee intended to introduce rescue legislation. This placed them in a dilemma. They could not openly and directly oppose a step for rescue. But it was impossible to assist, or even to refrain from interfering with, the project of a group they viewed as virtually an enemy. They recognized that success for the resolution would bring prestige, additional popular support, and more strength to the Bergsonite faction. If they could have replaced or amended the Rescue Resolution, and thus claimed it as their own, they would probably have supported it. But their attempts in that direction failed. [32]

As December passed, it became clear that neither Long's testimony, Bloom's maneuvers, nor Zionist criticisms had stopped the Rescue Resolution. Instead, it picked up additional backing in the Jewish press. And one of the seven Jews in Congress finally endorsed it. Emanuel Celler wrote to the House committee, "I am in favor of this Resolution. . . . While [it] is limited in scope, it is nevertheless a step in the right direction." In a Christmas message, eight prominent religious leaders called for rapid adoption of the proposal. And over the weeks, the Emergency Committee kept pressing the issue in large newspaper advertisements carrying such titles as "HOW WELL ARE YOU SLEEPING?" "TIME RACES DEATH -- WHAT ARE WE WAITING FOR?" "ONE VICTORY FOR HITLER?" and, in Yiddish, "FROM THE NAZI VALLEY OF DEATH OUR BROTHERS AND SISTERS CALL WITH THEIR LAST STRENGTH: AMERICAN JEWS, WHY DON'T YOU SAVE US?" [33]

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee saw no need for hearings, but waited to act on the resolution until shortly before Christmas. The delay stemmed from reservations held by committee chairman Tom Connally (Dem., Tex.). When Connally was absent from a meeting, Gillette and Thomas brought the issue up, and committee members approved it unanimously. Their report to the Senate penetrated to the heart of the issue:

The problem is essentially a humanitarian one. It is not a Jewish problem alone. It is a Christian problem and a problem for enlightened civilization. . . . We have talked; we have sympathized; we have expressed our horror; the time to act is long past due. [34]

The resolution was scheduled to come before the full Senate in January, shortly after Congress returned from the holiday recess. The New York Post predicted "practically no Senate opposition." Gillette forecast passage "without a dissenting vote." Thus, as 1944 closed, pressures were mounting on the White House. The Senate was poised to act on the resolution. And, although Sol Bloom had bottled it up in his committee, it could break onto the House floor at any time. [35]

Bloom's obstruction had drawn angry reactions from some constituents and the threat of a campaign to block his reelection. A bitter editorial that appeared in Anglo-Jewish newspapers assailed him as a tool of the State Department, both at the Bermuda Conference and in his recent collusion with Long. It left its sharpest thrust for last: "We would not be happy in your place, Mr. Bloom.... We would feel blood, Jewish blood on our hands." In mid-January, Celler tried to persuade Bloom to act on the resolution. He also asked him to publish the testimony given at the hearings. Bloom met neither request. [vi] [36]

Sol Bloom, despite his influential position in Congress, attempted next to nothing for the Jews of Europe. True, he arranged for several individual Jewish refugees to enter the United States. And he assisted the Orthodox rescue agency, Vaad Habatzala, in some small ways. But when possibilities for major action arose, he consistently allied himself with the State Department. He seemed most of all concerned to use his post as chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee to win the esteem of the State Department elite. Three decades later, Celler concluded that "Sol Bloom did a great deal of harm because of his attitude. He was a mere sycophant of the State Department." [37]

In the case of the Rescue Resolution, Bloom's actions probably were also motivated by loyalty to the Roosevelt administration. If the resolution had reached the floor of the House, it could have touched off an embarrassing debate on the administration's record concerning the European Jews. In addition, Bloom's own prestige was at stake. For him to acknowledge the need for a new· rescue commission would amount to repudiation of his role at Bermuda and his long-standing claim that the Bermuda Conference had exhausted all practical avenues of relief. [38]

Late in December, while the Rescue Resolution hung in the balance, the American Jewish Conference released to the press its long-planned attack on the Bergsonites. The widely distributed statement castigated the Emergency Committee as a sensationalist faction whose activities accomplished nothing of value and only interfered with the work of responsible organizations. A case in point, the press release declared, was the Rescue Resolution, which had been introduced "in complete disregard" of the rescue programs that the authorized Jewish groups were pressing in Washington. [39]

This assault may have slowed the momentum of the Rescue Resolution. But it came too late to blunt its impact, for pressures in Congress were far advanced by then. Treasury Department officials, along with Oscar Cox of the Foreign Economic Administration, were keeping a close eye on the situation. They noted that Bloom was having "to do everything he can possibly do" to prevent his committee from reporting the resolution to the House floor. They were convinced that if it came before either house it would pass or, at the very least, precipitate a debate in which the State Department's record and Long's testimony would "be ripped open." [40]

Although intensely committed to the idea of a rescue commission, Cox and the group around Morgenthau worried that Roosevelt might be hurt by a congressional airing of the question. They were also anxious for the President to move before Congress approved the resolution and forced his hand. Otherwise, sponsors of the legislation who were not on his side -- such men as Taft, Gillette, Van Nuys, and Ferguson -- could claim credit for the rescue agency. [41]

The obvious solution was for Morgenthau to go to Roosevelt and press him to, create the commission: Their strongest leverage on the President, as Morgenthau himself pointed out during a staff conference, was "the imminence of Congress doing something." Acknowledging the key importance of the Rescue Resolution, Morgenthau added:

Really, when you get down to the point, this is a boiling pot on the Hill. You can't hold it; it is going to pop, and you have either got to move very fast, or the Congress of the United States will do it for you. [42]

On January 15, two days after his staff handed him its comprehensive "Report to the Secretary on the Acquiescence of This Government in the Murder of the Jews," Morgenthau decided to see the President. [vii] The following day, a Sunday, he, Pehle, and Paul met with Roosevelt for twenty minutes in the early afternoon. They brought a shortened version of the "Report to the Secretary." They also had a proposed executive order, provided by Cox, that would establish a rescue commission headed by Morgenthau, Hull, and Leo Crowley, director of the Foreign Economic Administration. [43]

The President did not read the memorandum but listened attentively to an oral summary of the facts. He glanced at the executive order, suggested that Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson replace Crowley, and consented to the plan. [45]

Roosevelt's quick agreement indicates that he had already appraised the pressures in Congress and recognized that he could no. longer sidestep the rescue issue. The recent negative publicity over Long's misleading testimony may also have influenced his decision. Morgenthau's disclosures concerning the scandal in the State Department furnished the last push. [viii]

At that, the President acted at the final moment. The Rescue Resolution was scheduled to go before the Senate on January 24. All signs, including a mid-January poll of both houses, pointed to ready passage. On January 22, Roosevelt issued the executive order establishing the War Refugee Board. Gillette then removed the resolution from the Senate calendar, explaining that "the president's action attained the goal we were seeking." Roosevelt, in the opinion of experienced Washington news correspondents and lobbyists, had seized the initiative and "forestalled certain action in Congress." The American government stood at last on the threshold of a genuine commitment to rescue. [47]

The War Refugee Board resulted from the convergence of two sets of developments. One revolved around the Treasury Department's persistent steps for action once it was drawn into the rescue issue; The other was the long campaign for a rescue agency waged by the Emergency Committee and, earlier, by the Committee for a Jewish Army. Several other groups, mostly Jewish, contributed vitally over the months by publicizing the extermination news and creating a limited, but crucially important, amount of public concern and political support for rescue. In the forefront were the American Jewish Congress, the World Jewish Congress, and the Joint Emergency Committee on European Jewish Affairs. Others included the Union of Orthodox Rabbis, Agudath Israel, the Jewish Labor Committee, and the American Jewish Committee.

Contrary to views expressed by many journalists and political leaders, spokesmen for the American Jewish Conference denied that the Emergency Committee or the Rescue Resolution had any connection with the President's action. Rather, they claimed, their organization's efforts had brought the War Refugee Board into existence. Actually, American Jewish Conference leaders had backed a behind-the-scenes plan for a rescue commission that was to operate under the thumb of the State Department. State Department officials and Congressman Bloom had devised it in a last attempt to undermine the Rescue Resolution. [48]

The Rescue Resolution's central role in the establishment of the War Refugee Board emerges clearly from the records of private discussions among the men most closely involved. John Pehle, who became the WRB's executive director, consistently maintained that the resolution had led to the formation of the board. This view was shared by his colleagues in the Treasury's Foreign Funds Control unit. And Morgenthau agreed completely, as shown by comments he made at meetings with his staff in March 1944:

After all, the thing that made it possible to get the President really to act on this thing-we are talking here among ourselves-was the thing that the resolution . .. to form this kind of a War Refugee Committee. ...

Now we have I group together, and we are a little bit more frank, if you know about the Resolution in the House and in the Senate by which we forced the President to appoint a Committee. [49]

Why did it take fourteen months from the time Stephen Wise announced the news of extermination, in November 1942, until an American commitment to rescue was won? Three interrelated explanations stand out. First, State Department officials did what they could to choke off the growth of public pressure for rescue, This was seen, for instance, in their attempts' to suppress extermination information and in their cunning use of the Bermuda Conference and the Intergovernmental Committee. Second, the indifference of most Christian leaders, secular and religious, along with the inadequate media coverage of Holocaust news, greatly weakened all steps to enlist American popular support. Finally, American Jewry, by failing to forge a united and sustained movement for rescue, substantially diminished the influence it might have exerted on the general public, Congress, and the Roosevelt administration.


During the last months of the struggle for an American rescue initiative, Allied military forces were advancing, slowly but steadily, on all fronts, In November 1943, the, Russians took Kiev, As the new year opened, they crossed the pre-war frontier into Poland. In March, they would break into Rumania.

In Italy, winter rains and harsh terrain retarded the Allied drive north. But in January the main offensive reopened, though determined German resistance delayed the capture of Rome until early June. Two developments with important ramifications for the European Jews emerged from the Italian campaign before 1943 ended. Seizure of the Foggia airfields, which exposed central European and Balkan targets to Allied heavy bombers, brought the Auschwitz gas chambers and railways leading to them within striking range. And small boats began ferrying thousands of Yugoslav refugees across the Adriatic to Allied-occupied Italy, opening an escape route that could conceivably be extended to reach the Jews in east central and eastern Europe.

From England, great fleets of American and British bombers were pounding Hitler's strongholds. Meanwhile, preparations went forward for the long-expected cross-channel attack. Pre-invasion air strikes on France commenced as early as January.

In the Pacific theater, the slow march toward Japan continued. Late in 1943, American forces subdued the Solomon Islands stronghold of Bougainville. In the Central Pacific, marine and army units seized vital points in the Gilbert Islands and prepared for a January invasion of Kwajalein, the key to the Marshall Islands.

The War Refugee Board was born, then, at a time when the Allies had unmistakably established predominance and the Axis satellites and bordering neutral nations recognized that Allied victory was certain. The favorable military situation brightened the prospects of the new rescue drive. It might even help offset, to a small degree, the many precious months that had been lost.

(For additional information on the conflict between the regular Zionists and the Bergsonites, see appendix B.)



[i] The resolution, introduced on November 9, 1943, declared that Congress "recommends and urges the creation by the President of a commission of diplomatic, economic, and military experts to formulate and effectuate a plan of immediate action designed to save the surviving Jewish people of Europe from extinction at the hands of Nazi Germany." [1]

[ii] Other Senate cosponsors, all Democrats, were: Bennett Champ Clark (Mo.), Sheridan Downey (Calif.), Allen Ellender (La.), Joseph Guffey (Pa.), James Murray (Mont.), George Radcliffe (Md.), and Frederick Van Nuys (Ind.). Clark, Gillette, Guffey, Murray, Thomas, and Van Nuys were members of the Foreign Relations Committee.  

[iii] Bloom's motivation was undoubtedly related to his long-standing animosity toward the Bergson group for its widely publicized characterization of the Bermuda Conference as a "mockery." Bloom had been a delegate at Bermuda and had publicly endorsed its actions.

[iv] Long neglected to mention that the figure of 580,000 included all visas, permanent and temporary, whether actually used or not, for people from all countries that eventually fell under German control, for all the years since Hitler came to power. [21]

[v] Wise twice stated that the American Jewish Conference favored the resolution. But each time he immediately hedged the endorsement. The whole thrust of his testimony was opposition to the legislation unless the Palestine issue were added to it. [26]

[vi] Bloom had already released Long's remarks. He suppressed the rest of the testimony. It did not become available until 1976.

[vii] There is some evidence that Morgenthau finally agreed to press Roosevelt because Josiah DuBois threatened that if he did not do so he, DuBois, would resign from the Treasury, call a press conference in Washington, and rip the lid off the entire State Department refugee scandal. [44]

[viii] Sensitivity to the Jewish vote might also have been a factor. Syndicated columnist Edgar Ansel Mowrer thought the reason for the President's sudden interest in rescue was obvious. "That's right," Mowrer reminded readers, "1944 is an election year and even Jews have votes." Ben Cohen had earlier hinted that the question of the Jewish vote would carry weight with Roosevelt on this issue. But solid evidence is lacking. It seems most unlikely that American Jews would have turned against Roosevelt in any case. [46]
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Re: The Abandonment of the Jews: American and the Holocaust,

Postby admin » Fri Apr 13, 2018 9:54 pm

Part 1 of 2



Launching the WRB

Executive Order 9417, which created the War Refugee Board, endowed it with great potential. It directed the State, Treasury, and War departments to provide whatever help the board needed to implement its programs, subject only to the stipulation that they be "consistent with the successful prosecution of the war." it also required all other government agencies to comply with the board's requests for assistance. [i] [1]

This order, which carried the force of law, should have opened the way for a powerful rescue campaign. But the WRB did not receive the cooperation that was promised. Consequently, its capacity for rescue was always substantially less than it should have been.

Only the Treasury Department met its full responsibilities. Besides housing the WRB and providing most of its staff, the Treasury was a constant source of assistance. Moreover, Morgenthau himself kept in close touch with the board. [2]

Secretary of War Stimson believed in the WRB's mission, but could spare almost no time for it because of his other heavy duties. The job of War Department liaison with the board fell to Assistant Secretary John J. McCloy. Although he seemed concerned about the European Jews, McCloy was privately skeptical that the military should take a role in their rescue. The War Department's contribution to the work of the board was very small. [3]

Cordell Hull, who preferred a limited State Department connection with the WRB, designated Undersecretary Edward R. Stettinius, Jr., to represent him. Stettinius had enthusiastically welcomed the board's formation. But he, too, had little time for rescue matters. So George Warren of the President's Advisory Committee on Political Refugees served as the State Department's main liaison with the WRB. Despite his long service in the area of refugee aid, Warren did little to counteract the opposition to the board that prevailed among the department's middle-level officials. The way was left open for them to interfere with its activities. [4]

The War Refugee Board staff, which never numbered more than thirty, revolved around a dozen people, mostly non-Jewish and mostly veterans of the Treasury's battles with the State Department over the rescue issue. They were, as one observer remarked, "young, dynamic, bold, clear and a bit brash." They were also hindered during the board's first two weeks by unnecessary delay in the selection of its executive director. [5]

Morgenthau and the rest of the Treasury group wanted John Pehle in the post. However, attracted by the President's suggestion that they find a nationally prominent person for the job, they decided on a combined leadership. Pehle could head the actual rescue work, while a public figure in the executive director's position would be invaluable in the board's relations with high government officials, Congress, and the public. [6]

Roosevelt presented several names himself but kept putting off a decision. After thorough deliberation, Morgenthau and his staff concluded that Wendell Willkie was the ideal choice. He was nationally and internationally known and respected, and he had already demonstrated deep concern about the refugee problem. But Roosevelt rejected Willkie out of hand. Presidential secretary Grace Tully, referring to Willkie's recent global tour for the President and his resulting book, One World, told Morgenthau, "I think he has had all the build-up he has coming to him on that trip." That ended an unparalleled chance to develop the board into a highly visible, high-powered rescue unit. [7]

Morgenthau then recommended Frank P. Graham, a southern liberal who was president of the University of North Carolina and a member of the War Labor Board. When Roosevelt rejected him, Morgenthau pressed for the appointment of Pehle. Hull and Stimson concurred. The President agreed, but insisted on holding the news for his press conference the next morning. His interest in the issue must have evap orated overnight, however, for he made no announcement about the board at the news conference. In fact, when a reporter asked whether the director had been named yet, Roosevelt said no. The President, after delaying the choice for nearly two weeks and then insisting on releasing the news himself, had thrown away an opportunity for a valuable burst of publicity for Pehle and the fledgling board. [ii] [8]

Meanwhile, the WRB had begun to organize for action. During February and March, it chose representatives to direct its overseas opera tions and assigned them to locations on the borders of Axis Europe: Turkey, Switzerland, Sweden, North Africa, Italy, and Portugal. They were granted diplomatic status as special attaches to the American missions in those· countries. But efforts to place representatives in Russia, Spain, and Egypt failed. The Soviet government was unresponsive to the plan. The American ambassador to Spain, Carlton J. H. Hayes, opposed such a move. And the State Department blocked the board's attempt to send Charles R. Joy to Egypt. Joy (and his employer, the Unitarian Service Committee) had been too outspoken and too politically active to satisfy State Department standards for that appointment. [10]

From the start, the WRB solicited advice from the many private agencies involved in rescue and relief activities. Nearly a score of them submitted comprehensive suggestions for rescue. [iii] Once in action, the board regularly coordinated its projects with those of the private groups. And, whenever possible, it used its status as a government body to facilitate their work. For instance, the board arranged to use the State Department's coded telegraphic communications system not only for its own purposes but also for transmission of messages between the American private agencies and their representatives overseas. [11]

Under pressure from Stettinius, the State Department furnished some valuable early help to the WRB. State sent cablegrams, drafted by the board and ordering full cooperation with it, to all American diplomatic missions abroad. Soon afterward, special instructions were dispatched to American missions in neutral nations close to Nazi territory. They were directed to urge the neutral governments to permit entry of all refugees who reached their borders and to publicize their willingness to take them in. To reinforce the message, the board immediately assured the neutral powers that it would provide maintenance for the new refugees and would arrange their evacuation as soon as possible. In another early step, the WRB offered its assistance to the International Red Cross. The State Department quickly approved the message and dispatched it via the American legation in Switzerland. [13]

But middle-level State Department officials, thrust aside in the first rush of WRB action, soon moved to reestablish their grip on diplomatic affairs. By mid-March, six urgent WRB cablegrams were stuck in the State Department awaiting clearance. Delays of a month and more hobbled such important measures as warnings to Axis satellites to refrain from collaborating in atrocities and efforts to persuade the British to set up a refugee reception camp in Libya. [14]

The problem eased somewhat by April. But the board had to press constantly to obtain State Department cooperation and even then could never count on it. Yet that cooperation was vital, both to secure the crucially important assistance of the American diplomatic missions abroad and to carry on negotiations with neutral and Allied governments, Instead of providing the nearly unlimited help promised in Executive Order 9417, the State Department often stood in the way of board operations. The same was true, less frequently, of the War Department. [15]

Another impediment was the negative response of the British. They refused to establish a parallel rescue committee to work with the WRB. Only grudgingly did they cooperate with the board's efforts to evacuate refugees from the Balkans through Turkey to Palestine. They attempted to restrict the activities of the WRB representative assigned to southern Italy. And they persistently tried to block the board's program of licensing private agencies to transmit money to Europe for rescue and relief projects. [16]

Probably the most crucial difficulty to confront the WRB concerned funds. From the beginning, the board acted mainly as facilitator and coordinator of projects carried out by the private organizations. Even when it initiated rescue operations itself, it usually called on the private agencies to fund them. In sum, government funding was very limited, the board's work was mainly administrative, and the predominately Jewish private agencies financed and implemented most projects. Rescue had finally become official government policy. Yet American Jews, through contributions to their own organizations, had to pay most of the costs. [iv] [17]

Jewish leaders realized at the outset that the Jewish organizations lacked the resources needed for a comprehensive rescue program. Soon after the WRB was formed, officials of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) and the United Jewish Appeal (UJA) met with the board's staff to explore the problem. [v] They were disheartened to hear Pehle state emphatically that the board would not look to government funds for rescue operations but would depend on the private agencies for most of the financing. The reason was not stated explicitly, but apparently the WRB feared that Congress would refuse to appropriate funds for rescue. Earlier, when a WRB inner-staff meeting had touched on the funding question, Pehle had asserted, "The last thing I think you want to do is go to Congress." [18]

For weeks, the JDC and UJA attempted to convince the board of the need for "the maximum use of Government funds." But the WRB insisted it would not seek a congressional appropriation unless and until it succeeded in developing "a large-scale systematic program" of rescue. That time never came. [19]

In its sixteen months of action, the War Refugee Board spent $547,000 of government funds, drawn from $1,150,000 set aside for it in the President's Emergency Fund. The $547,000 went largely for salaries and other administrative expenses of the board. In addition, the President allotted the board $1,068,750 specifically to buy and ship food parcels to concentration camp inmates. [vi] The other projects sponsored by the WRB were funded almost entirely by the Jewish organizations. The Joint Distribution Committee spent in excess of $15,000,000; the Vaad Hahatzala (Orthodox rescue committee) supplied over $1,000,000; the World Jewish Congress expended more than $300,000; and other groups provided lesser amounts. [vii] [20]

A minor problem for the WRB in its opening weeks involved the Intergovernmental Committee on Refugees. According to Stettinius, Myron C. Taylor had been "very angry" on learning of the establishment of the WRB, partly because he feared it would eclipse the ICR's work. Taylor wanted the WRB to agree to confer with the ICR before initiating projects and to channel all its approaches to foreign governments through the ICR. Pehle rejected such time-consuming procedures and offered only to keep the ICR informed of the board's activities. [23]

To clarify the situation, the top ICR officials, Sir Herbert Emerson and Patrick Malin, came to Washington in April 1944. The resulting understanding left the WRB free to develop its programs independently. The two organizations agreed to cooperate whenever possible and to keep each other informed of their respective operations in order to prevent duplication. The WRB thus avoided a clash with the ICR; but its more critical problems remained. [24]

Several factors, then, diminished the War Refugee Board's effectiveness. Although Executive Order 9417 clearly required their full cooperation, the State and War departments offered almost as much encumbrance as help. The Russians would not participate. The British were obstructive. Roosevelt took little interest except as a source of occasional favorable publicity. Morgenthau soon realized that his influence with the President on rescue matters was very limited, and he lessened pressures in that direction. Moreover, the funding situation weakened the board from the start. [25]

What looked at first as though it might become a potent government rescue machine turned into a valuable, but limited, collaboration between the government and the private agencies. And the relatively weak private organizations carried most of the load. Nevertheless, the WRB staff was determined to do all it could, despite the difficulty of the assignment and the handicaps under which it had to operate.

Working mainly with proposals that the Jewish organizations had long been urging, the War Refugee Board forged a wide-ranging rescue program. Its main contours included (1) evacuating Jews and other endangered people from Axis territory, (2) finding places to which they could he sent, (3) using psychological measures (especially threats of war-crimes trials) aimed at preventing deportations and atrocities, and (4) shipping relief supplies into concentration camps. [26]

As for evacuation, the obvious potential outlets were Turkey, Spain, Allied-occupied southern Italy, Sweden, and Switzerland.


The first WRB. representative to see action overseas was Ira Hirschmann, a prominent New York department-store executive who had attended the ill-fated Evian Conference of 1938 and had continued to be deeply concerned about the European Jews. His post, Turkey, offered important possibilities for rescue, for hundreds of thousands of Jews were still alive -- and in danger -- in the nearby Balkans. In Hirschmann's words, Turkey was "a window into the Balkans, The job, as I saw it, was to attempt to make out of the window, a door." [27]

When he reached Ankara, in mid-February 1944, Hirschmann found the movement of Jews out of the Balkans, into Turkey, and on to Palestine distressingly small. Since 1940, Chaim Barlas of the Jewish Agency had worked to open this route to safety. Finally, during 1943, he managed to evacuate as many as 1,100 Jews. Most came by railroad via Bulgaria, the rest by small boats from Greece. Hirschmann learned that Barlas had to contend with an obstacle course of restrictions; red tape, and delays devised by Rumanian, Bulgarian, Turkish, and Turkish- based British officials. Spurred by the realization that the Balkan Jews lived under constant threat of deportation, and aware that tens of thousands of them were penned in disease-ridden camps, the WRB representative focused his first efforts on widening the outlet through Bulgaria. [28]

The British agreed to permit all Jews who reached Turkey to go to Palestine. Hirschmann then persuaded the Turkish government to let 200 Jews enter from Bulgaria and continue on to Palestine every ten days. But the results were not very encouraging. Only 131 came during the first month of the arrangement, and the numbers decreased in subsequent months. Although much of the problem stemmed from a tight Bulgarian policy on the exit of Jews, Turkey also kept the influx down by insisting on advance procurement of Turkish transit visas while quietly making them practically unavailable. By the end of the summer of 1944, the WRB had brought only about 450 Jews out via Bulgaria. [29]

In the meantime, late in February, the WRB in Washington had telegraphed its basic plan for Turkey to the American ambassador there, Laurence A. Steinhardt. It called for diplomatic pressures on Ankara to relax its immigration controls and to announce publicly that all fleeing Jews would be permitted to enter the country. In return, the board would agree to maintain the refugees while in Turkey, possibly in temporary reception camps, and move them on to other havens. [30]

Hirschmann, who had received only the most meager and grudging cooperation from the Turks, advised the board that no chance whatever existed that they would assent to this plan. Drawing on the excuse that American and British policymakers had invoked so often, Ankara had already insisted that easing border controls would open the way for Axis agents to flood into Turkey and then scatter throughout the Allied world. Time and again thereafter, Turkish officials relied on this pretext to justify their nation's reluctance to serve as an escape channel. [viii] When leaders of the World Jewish Congress in New York learned about Turkey's recalcitrance, they urged the WRB to ask President Roosevelt to raise the problem with the Turkish head of government. But nothing in the records indicates that the board did so. [31]

Hirschmann next tried to open an evacuation route across the Black Sea. His plan was to charter a good-sized passenger vessel and use it over and over again to ferry Jews directly from Rumania to Turkey. From there they would travel by rail to Palestine. The search led to the Vatan, a privately owned Turkish ship capable of carrying 800 people. But the Turkish government, pleading a shortage of ships and the danger of mines, stood in the way of leasing it. Strong pressure by Ambassador Steinhardt forced Turkish consent, but only on condition that the United States agree to replace the vessel if it should be sunk. [ix] The WRB in Washington obtained such a commitment from Admiral Emory S. Land of the War Shipping Administration. Land also dispatched a WSA shipping expert from Cairo to Ankara to assist Hirschmann with Black Sea shipping problems. [33]

Before arrangements for the Vatan were completed, Hirschmann located and shifted his attention to the Tari, a vessel that could hold 1,500 passengers. But weeks passed before the WRB could persuade Admiral Land to guarantee replacement of such a large ship. Even with that assurance, Steinhardt had to threaten Turkish authorities with an anti-Turkish press campaign in the United States to extract permission to lease the Tari. [x] By then, two months had elapsed since Hirschmann had begun the search for a ship. Yet one crucial problem still remained. The Turkish government would not let the Tari sail without safe-conduct assurances from the belligerents. Although the others agreed, Germany rebuffed all requests. Thus the plans and hopes that had grown up around the Tari evaporated. Concurrent efforts to borrow Swedish and other ships operating in the eastern Mediterranean failed. [35]

While the board unsuccessfully sought to open its sea route, another evacuation program was achieving some results. In late March, the Jewish Agency (with WRB support and Joint Distribution Committee funds) initiated a limited exodus from Rumania to Turkey by hiring three Bulgarian boats (at exorbitant rates). These tiny vessels, unseaworthy and overloaded, running belligerent waters without safe-conduct assurances, brought out 1,200 people. Included were a few score orphans from the Transnistria concentration camps. The New York Times correspondent in Istanbul described them: "The children had a scared look in their eyes. They jumped at the slightest noise and often raised their hands to protect their faces as if expecting beatings. They said they had been beaten by German and Rumanian soldiers." [37]

Returning without passengers after a mid-May trip to Turkey, one of the three boats, the Maritza, sank in a Black Sea gale. Fearing more ship losses, the Bulgarian government forbade further open-sea voyages by small vessels. At about the same time, the WRB and the Jewish Agency decided to redirect their attempts at Black Sea evacuation to small Turkish boats whose owners (and the Turkish government) were willing to let them sail without safe-conducts. Four vessels were located. During July and early August, they moved 1,500 refugees from Rumania to Turkey. [xi] [38]

But disaster struck shortly after midnight on August 5. Not far off the Turkish coast, three German gunboats sank one of the tiny vessels, the Mefkura, then machine-gunned its passengers in the water. Of 295 refugees on board, a hundred were children. There were five survivors. Among the dead were two sisters, eleven and seven years old. The parents, who had been separated from their children and were in New York, had gone to enormous lengths to get the two girls and their two older brothers out of Rumania. The boys reached Istanbul safely in October. They, too, had been scheduled to sail on the Mefkura, but had been turned back at the last minute for lack of room on the boat. [40]

Almost all of the 2,700 who reached Turkey by sea between late March and August 1944 arrived without Turkish transit visas. Many had to board the boats secretly in Rumania, so they could not apply for visas. But a major difficulty was that the Turkish consulate in Rumania, undoubtedly on orders from Ankara, issued transit visas extremely sparingly. When the first boat, with 239 of these "illegal" refugees, appeared in Istanbul harbor, the Turkish authorities refused to let it land. The Turkish foreign minister maintained that to do so would "open the flood gates" to ships full of illegal refugees, including spies. Following forceful intervention by Ambassador Steinhardt, the foreign minister, as a special exception, allowed this group to land and move on to Palestine by rail. When the pattern repeated itself with the arrival of the second boatload, it was clear that Steinhardt's pressure had broken the transit-visa roadblock. Steinhardt doubted, however, that he could prevail upon the Turks to extend the arrangement to more than 500 "illegals" per month. [41]

Another escape route, across the Aegean Sea from Greece to Turkey, saved about 900 Jews during the year before Greece's liberation in October 1944. These refugees also went on to Palestine. This project, set up by a Jewish organization before Hirschmann arrived in Turkey, relied on small fishing craft and other tiny boats. It could have been expanded if it had been possible to obtain a definite landing and reo fueling base in Turkey. Hirschmann sought Turkish permission for this, but Ankara stalled on it until the Germans left Greece. In addition, the British, who controlled the coastal area, opposed the whole project on security grounds. [42]

Hirschmann's most impressive achievement did not directly involve Turkey. In early 1943, the State Department and the British Foreign Office had brushed aside a Rumanian offer to release 70,000 Jews from terrible camps in Transnistria and turn them over to the Allies. Later, pressures from Jewish organizations persuaded the State Department to take steps to help these desperate Jews. Assisted by the International Red Cross, the State Department induced the Bucharest government late in 1943 to begin transferring them from Transnistria to Rumania proper. But after evacuating 6,400, the Rumanians gave in to German pressure and ceased the operation. [43]

The situation reached the point of extreme danger soon after the WRB came into existence. Rampant disease and starvation continued in the camps. Even worse, the German army, falling back before the Soviets, was entering Transnistria. The Jews were in the path of the retreat. The WRB used all available diplomatic channels to press the Rumanian government, but the break came through Hirschmann's personal intervention with Alexander Cretzianu, Rumania's minister to Turkey. [44]

Hirschmann told Cretzianu that America was outraged at Rumania's treatment of Jews and warned him that his nation would be well advised to turn about and help save them. Cretzianu said, "If this means so much to you in the United States, why didn't you come sooner? You could have saved more lives." He agreed to urge his government to transfer the Jews from Transnistria to the interior of Rumania. The Rumanian government responded positively and in March recommenced the evacuations. Thus the 48,000 Jews still alive in Transnistria were safeguarded. The weakening German position in the Balkans con tributed importantly to this outcome, but the WRB had played a key role in the episode. [xii] [45]

In July, Hirschmann met again with Cretzianu. He also held talks with Nicholas Balabanoff, the Bulgarian minister to Turkey. With German power close to collapse in the two Balkan countries, Hirschmann sought to play on their governments' hopes to gain American goodwill. From Rumania, he received a commitment to accept, secretly, Jews fleeing from Nazi terror in Hungary. The Rumanians also agreed to cooperate in the exit of Jews from their country. [47]

Hirschmann believed that evacuation was nor the best answer for Bulgaria's 45,000 Jews, now that the threat of deportation was over. Rather, he sought an end to the persecution of Jews in Bulgaria and the extension of full rights to them. He urged these steps on Balabanoff. In late August, partly because of Hirschmann's efforts, Bulgaria abolished its anti-Jewish laws and reinstated Jewish property rights. Bulgarian Jews had the possibility of rebuilding their lives. [48]

Rumania surrendered to Russia on August 23, and two weeks later the Soviets took control of Bulgaria. Hirschmann concluded that the main WRB mission in Turkey had ended. The Jews of Rumania and Bulgaria needed aid, but they were safe. He departed for home in early October, leaving Herbert Katzki to complete the board's work. [49]

Kataki, a person of wide experience with the Joint Distribution Committee, had joined the WRB in Turkey in early summer. After Hirsch mann left, Katzki tried to place JDC relief teams in Rumania and Bulgaria. But the Soviets blocked that plan. [50]

Because of the widespread destitution among Balkan Jews, the Jewish Agency reinstituted its evacuation efforts in fall 1944. With Kataki's cooperation, it soon brought out 2,000 more Jews. But the British halted this exodus, insisting that, with the Germans gone, Jews in Rumania and Bulgaria were now safe and thus not eligible for admission to Palestine. The WRB closed its office in Turkey in February 1945. [51]

In all, nearly 7,000 Jews left the Balkans and reached Palestine via Turkey under the aegis of the WRB. Hirschmann's diplomatic negotiations affected far larger numbers by breaking up the abominable Transnistrian camps and bargaining for the greatest possible protection for Jews who Were still alive in Rumania and Bulgaria. Hirschmann pointed out that the very formation of the WRB had accomplished something else of importance. Its birth, according to numerous Jews passing through Turkey, had "injected new life and hope into ... refugees throughout the European continent." One group of fugitives explained, with obvious emotion, "For two years there has been only one phrase on everyone's lips, 'When are the Americans coming?'" [52]


After Turkey, Spain appeared to be the most important escape hatch from Axis Europe. Deportations of Jews from France to the gas chambers had continued, with interruptions, since the great roundups of the summer and fall of 1942. And they would go on until France's liberation. A rush of escapes to Spain had followed the 1942 roundups. But after early 1943 only a few hundred Jews a month managed to cross the Pyrenees. The WRB planned to change that trickle into a steady flow. [53]

Germany's occupation of Vichy France in November 1942 had sent another wave of refugees, mostly non-Jewish, into Spain. The new exodus, much larger than the earlier one, ultimately numbered about 25,000 people. They were predominantly French males of military age who hoped to reach North Africa to join the Allied forces. For military reasons, the American and British- diplomatic missions in Spain acted to help them and to hasten their evacuation. [54]

Only infrequently had Spanish authorities turned refugees back. But neither had they done anything to facilitate their escape. [xiii] Rather, they discouraged it by incarcerating the fugitives-men, women, and children -- in prisons and concentration camps. Conditions were wretched. An American embassy report told of the vast overcrowding and pointed out that inmates were "sleeping, despite the bitter cold of winter, without blankets on cold concrete floors, crowded together with inadequate sanitary facilities, and forced to subsist on a starvation diet." In one prison, three toilets served 1,900 men. Each man slept in a nearly airless space only one foot by five and one-half feet. A three-year-old girl suffered through scarlet fever and typhoid in a prison cell with her mother. [xiv] [55]

In January 1943, under American and British pressure, Spanish authorities agreed to allow prisoners to transfer to hotels and boardinghouses, but only if their support was assured and arrangements were under way for their departure from the country. Thanks to funds provided by the American, British, and French North African diplomatic missions, the male French escapees (along with some Dutch, Belgian, and Polish nationals) left the prisons. During 1943, the Allies evacuated them to North Africa. [58]

But most of the Jewish refugees had no source of help. The Joint Distribution Committee and the American Friends Service Committee managed to place a Friends worker, David Blickenstaff, in Madrid in late January 1943. With full cooperation from the American ambassador, Carlton]. H. Hayes, Blickenstaff established the Representation in Spain of American Relief Organizations and took responsibility for these refugees. Blickenstaff's organization freed hundreds of them by supplying money for their maintenance, sent aid to those still incarcerated, and worked persistently to locate emigration possibilities for the fugitives. [59]

By the time the War Refugee Board came into existence, the American and British embassies had virtually resolved the French non-Jewish refugee crisis, and Blickenstaff had the problem of the Jewish refugees under control. Furthermore, emigration plans for the bulk of the 2,500 Jewish refugees still in Spain appeared to be falling into place. As few new fugitives were entering the country, the refugee situation had been stabilized. Hayes considered the problem solved. But the WRB saw removal of the earlier refugees as only the first step. Spain was to become a channel for bringing many more threatened people out of Axis Europe. [60]

The basic WRB plan for Spain called for the American ambassador to urge the Spanish government to relax its border restrictions and publicly announce its willingness to receive refugees. Spain should also be asked to set up three reception camps along the French border. They would remain under Spanish control, but the WRB would finance them and would see that the refugees moved promptly through them and out of Spain. [61]

The Treasury and War departments agreed to the plan, but State Department officials resisted it at first. They claimed that any pressure on Spain would threaten the nearly completed, but very sensitive, wolfram negotiations. Wolfram (tungsten), necessary for hardening steel, was essential for production of vital war materials such as machine tools and armor plate. Germany depended on Spain and Portugal for its supply. For several months, a program of large American and British purchases of Spanish wolfram had almost foreclosed its availability to the Nazis. Hayes was now in the midst of negotiations with Spain for full stoppage of wolfram exports to Germany. In early February, he arranged a temporary embargo. [62]

With help from Stettinius, the board succeeded in mid-February in persuading the State Department to instruct Hayes to press the WRB rescue plan with the Spanish government. Hayes was expressly advised to present. the refugee matter on humanitarian grounds, move it along rapidly, and keep it entirely separate from other negotiations with Spain. [63]

Hayes replied that he did Rot believe the plan would increase the refugee flow and that he was not presenting it to the Spanish govern ment. He asserted that relaxation of Spain's border controls would only facilitate entry of German agents and encourage efforts to smuggle wolfram out to German purchasers. He did not explain how German agents could avoid detection in the proposed reception camps. Nor did he reveal how easing controls on the entry of persons would weaken restrictions on the exit of bulky goods. [64]

No amount of pressure could change Hayes's position. He only responded with additional unsubstantiated arguments against the plan. It would somehow jeopardize Blickenstaff's work. It would hinder the escape from France of downed Allied airmen. It would antagonize the Spanish government. [65]

Hayes's reaction to the rescue plan was only one part of his noncooperation. Immediately after the WRB was formed, the State Department ordered all its diplomatic missions to inform their host governments of the new American rescue policy and to ask them to specify ways in which they would be willing to help. Hayes refused. He explained that he had regularly kept the Spanish government informed of American refugee policy, so special action on that part of the instructions was unnecessary. As to requesting Spanish cooperation, the time was inop portune because of "the present crisis in our relations with Spain." He promised to take it up some other time, "when a better opportunity presents itself." He did, after a fashion, five months later. [66]

Hayes also kept the board from placing a representative in Spain. Blickenstaff seemed the appropriate choice, and his sponsoring group, the American Friends Service Committee, stated that it could find a replacement for him. But Hayes, insisting that Blickenstaff could not be spared from his current assignment, consented to ,accept him as WRB representative only if he held both posts. The board replied that it needed a full-time person and offered to send James J. Saxon, a Treasury officer then in French Africa. Hayes answered that he saw no need for a full-time representative in Spain, that there was nothing the WRB could accomplish there that he and Blickenstaff were not already doing. If a person were appointed, though, it should be Blickenstaff -- on a part-time basis. (Blickenstaff himself saw plenty of reason for a full-time WRB representative, but Hayes did not consult him on the question.) [67]

The stalemate continued until Hayes visited the United States in mid-July 1944. He then admitted to Pehle that more could have been done for rescue in Spain, and he reluctantly agreed to accept the WRB's James H. Mann as representative-for a two-month trial period. A month later, the State Department approved Mann. But by then the Allies were far along in the reconquest of France. The chance for important rescue work through Spain had passed. [68]

Hayes also tried to keep funds for rescue from going into Spain. In March, the WRB approved a license authorizing the Joint Distribution Committee to send $100,000 for evacuation of refugees, mostly children, from France to Spain. Part of the money was to hire border guides to smuggle the fugitives through the Pyrenees. Hayes refused to trans mit the license to the JDCs agent, Samuel Sequerra. If a private agency sponsored such clandestine operations, he claimed, the Spanish government might close down all refugee-relief work, including Blickenstaff's program. In addition, Sequerra's activities might help German agents posing as refugees to penetrate Spain and move on to Allied territories. (In fact, Germany had no trouble infiltrating agents into Spain.) Furthermore, the ambassador asserted, Sequerra's loyalty to the Allies was doubtful. (WRB investigations found this charge entirely without basis.) Fortunately for the few hundred brought out with the funds, the license took effect despite Hayes's opposition. [xv] [69]
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Re: The Abandonment of the Jews: American and the Holocaust,

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The board tried, but failed, to budge Hayes. Pehle persuaded Eleanor Roosevelt to seek the President's help. She reported, "I spoke to Franklin & asked if perhaps a change might be advisable & Franklin said wearily 'well the complaints are mounting.''' Morgenthau approached Roosevelt directly, asking that he send Wendell Willkie to set Hayes straight on this and other American problems in Spain. FDR, who could readily have brought Hayes into line if he had cared to, shunted Morgenthau off to Hull. In June 1944, the WRB sent James Mann to Spain to confer with Hayes. Mann made virtually no progress. The following month, while Hayes was in Washington, Pehle saw him twice, but failed to gain any cooperation apart from the acceptance of Mann as the WRB representative in Spain on a trial basis. [71]

Hayes's behavior remains a riddle. He was not entirely insensitive toward Jewish refugees, or he would not have supported Blickenstaff's work so strongly. Nor can he be considered anti-Semitic; his service as a co-chairman of the National Conference of Christians and Jews continued even while he was ambassador to Spain. Furthermore, Hayes interceded with the Spanish government on two rescue matters. In 1943 and 1944, he encouraged Spain to furnish safe haven for a few hundred Sephardic Jews, descendants of Jews expelled from Spain five centuries earlier. And when the Hungarian Jews were confronted with terror and death, his approaches in Madrid helped stimulate efforts to protect Jews by the Spanish legation in Budapest. [72]

Hayes's failure to cooperate with the WRB apparently stemmed from his view of his mission in Spain. In April 1942, just before taking up his post, Hayes told a small gathering of Americans involved in rescue and relief work that he had accepted the assignment in order to expedite the winning of the war. His main goal was going to be to stop Spanish sales of strategic materials to Germany. He also intended gradually to swing Spain away from the Axis and toward the Allies. [73]

Hayes's official communications regarding rescue and the WRB reveal an undertone of anxiety that a diplomatic misstep on his part might antagonize the Spanish government and impede progress toward his main objectives. To get French men of military age out of Spain to North Africa, he would run this risk. That would contribute to his cardinal aim, victory over the Axis. He would even approach the Spanish authorities on behalf of other imprisoned refugees, for that pointed toward their emigration &om Spain, a goal ardently desired by the Spanish government. But to press for cooperation in bringing about an influx of new Jewish refugees would, in Hayes's view, provoke the Spanish government and jeopardize his central policy. [74]

In reality, Hayes was too timid. During early 1943, caution might have been necessary. But after the Axis surrendered in North Africa in May 1943 (and even more by January 1944, when the WRB emerged), Spain knew who would win the war and acted accordingly. Moreover, by December 1943, Hayes had achieved virtually all his prime objectives. As he reported to the State Department that month, Spain had rechanneled most sales of strategic materials (including wolfram) away from Germany and to the Allies, had withdrawn its Blue Division from the Russian front, and was cooperating in numerous other ways. Final agreement on a total stoppage of the small remaining flow of wolfram to Germany was incomplete. But by the time the WRB's requests reached Hayes, a temporary embargo was in effect. Its continuation was virtually guaranteed-not by Hayes's restrained diplomacy, but by an American threat to sever Spain's oil lifeline. [75]

Hayes nonetheless concluded that diplomatic pressures for the WRB's programs might interfere with the final steps of his wolfram negotiations. He apparently considered the board's work of too little significance to justify any risk. To Carlton Hayes, a renowned historian, the battle over Spanish wolfram, a battle that was already won, loomed far larger than the genocide of the Jews. [76]

It is impossible to determine what the WRB might have accomplished in Spain with Hayes's cooperation. With minimal outside help, a handful of people working in Spain for the World Jewish Congress, the Jewish Agency, and the Joint Distribution Committee proved that escapes from France were still possible. But their isolated and usually secret operations had no support services, no WRB coordination. and no diplomatic backing. Only a few score refugees came through each month-probably not many more than 1,000 altogether between the beginning of 1944 and late August, when the need for flight to Spain ended. [77]

The main refugee action in Spain in 1944 involved the evacuation of stateless escapees who had arrived there in 1943 and earlier. Although the WRB facilitated it somewhat, this movement was not a board project. It represented the fruition of plans that Blickenstaff and others had worked on for over a year. One ship sailed for Palestine in January and another in October. They carried a total of 875 refugees to permanent haven. In the spring, Canada took 220 others. And in May, a small refugee camp near Casablanca, the only achievement of the Bermuda Conference, finally opened its gates. During the next two months, it received 630 people from Spain. Adding the handful who managed to obtain U.S. visas and the few others who went to England and Latin America raises the total evacuated in 1944 to 1,800. A thousand others remained in Spain at the start of 1945. The WRB had visualized Spain as a conveyor belt, moving thousands and thousands to freedom. That hope was dashed utterly. [78]

In contrast, the WRB encountered no difficulties in the other Iberian nation, Portugal. The American minister there, R. Henry Norweb, cooperated fully. On the WRB's assurance that the United States would move them to other places, the Portuguese government agreed to open its doors to all refugees coming through from Spain. The board's representative, Robert C. Dexter of the Unitarian Service Committee, had long experience in refugee work and was thoroughly familiar with Lisbon. Dexter arrived in April and began preparations for the expected flow of refugees. But very few arrived, for the conduit through Spain never opened. Dexter occupied himself with a variety of minor projects, but for the most part he waited in Lisbon for a task that failed to materialize. [79]

Southern Italy

Allied advances in Italy following the invasion of September 1943 opened another escape route from Axis Europe. By November, refugees were streaming across the Adriatic Sea from Yugoslavia to southern Italy. Most of this exodus was organized by the Tito-led Yugoslav resistance movement. [80]

Until March 1944, the Allied military cooperated fully with the Yugoslav evacuation. The British navy transported thousands of refugees across the Adriatic. Thousands more came in small partisan boats. (Later, some were flown out in Allied aircraft.) The British army sheltered and fed the fugitives in Italy and, using two troopships, transferred them to camps at El Shatt and Khatatba, in Egypt. Nearly all of these refugees were Yugoslav civilians. Few were Jewish. (The Nazis had exterminated most Yugoslav Jews.) The Jews among them (500 of the first 15,000) remained in Italy because the British camp administration in Egypt opposed bringing Jews there. [81]

By spring 1944, El Shatt and Khatatba were three-fourths full, and refugees were still entering Italy at the rate. of 1,800 per week. Concerned that the camps in Egypt would reach capacity and the escapees then pile up in Italy and overburden Allied facilities there, the military authorities issued orders to discourage further refugee movement across the Adriatic. The instructions did not stop Yugoslavs from sailing to Italy. But the absence of Allied assistance cut the influx by two-thirds. [82]

Even before the military moved to stem the refugee flow, the War Refugee Board began to look into the situation in Italy. In March, a Treasury Department agent based in Africa made an exploratory trip. Soon afterward, Leonard E. Ackermann, the WRB's representative in North Africa, was appointed its representative in Italy as well. The board's inquiries found the Tito forces willing to try to open an escape route through partisan areas of Yugoslavia and out to the Adriatic for the gravely endangered Jews of Hungary. But the Yugoslavs themselves were hampered by insufficient boats, funds, and supplies. [83]

While seeking solutions to those problems, Ackermann learned of the military's order to slow the refugee flow into Italy. He and the board in Washington recognized that a crisis had arisen. Additional temporary havens were essential to keep the Adriatic route open. If it closed, the chance for an outlet from Hungary would also disappear. At that time, May 1944, Eichmann and his henchmen were concentrating massive numbers of Hungarian Jews for deportation. The long, crowded death trains had already started to wind through the Slovakian mountains to Auschwitz. [84]

In Washington, Morgenthau called the situation to Roosevelt's attention at a Cabinet meeting. The President responded instantaneously that under no circumstances should the refugee flow across the Adriatic be hindered. Directly afterward, instructions went to the military in Italy to lift the restriction discouraging the influx. To help relieve the pressure, the President agreed to a WRB proposal to move a thousand refugees from Italy to an emergency internment camp in the United States. He also ordered an intensive search for havens in the Mediter ranean area, including in Italy itself. [85]

One brief statement in a Cabinet meeting rapidly dissolved the problem in Italy. Allied military authorities quickly found that they could accommodate many more refugees in Italy than previously estimated. They also initiated steps to open a camp at Philippeville, in French North Africa, to harbor up to 7,000 people. And UNRRA, which had recently taken over the Egyptian camps, increased their capacity from 30,000 to 40,000. The refugee movement across the Adriatic recommenced in June and continued through the summer. By late August, though, the Nazi threat to Yugoslav civilians had virtually ended. When the exodus stopped, in September 1944, over 36,000 Yugoslavs, nearly all non-Jews, had escaped to Italy. About 28,000 of them had moved on to the camps in Egypt; the rest remained in Italy until they were repatriated. [xvi] [86]

Little came of the hopes for opening an escape route out of Hungary. Tito's forces wanted to help. But the only partisan-held territory close to the Hungarian border, an area along the Drava River, was tightly guarded on the Hungarian side. Furthermore, the partisans in that sector were nearly isolated and were too hard pressed themselves to initiate rescue operations. They did take in and protect the few Jews who managed to get through. [88]

With WRB support, an attempt was made, through the Pope, to save the Jews in German-occupied northern Italy. In August 1944, Sir Clifford Heathcote-Smith, the Intergovernmental Committee's delegate in Italy, and Myron C. Taylor, Roosevelt's personal representative to the Vatican, spoke with the Pope. They asked him to urge the German government to stop the deportations from Italy and to release the Jews to the Allied-held part of the country. [xvii] [89]

The Pope agreed unhesitatingly. He told Heathcote-Smith that neither his conscience nor history would forgive him if he did not make the effort. But his approach, made through the nuncio in Berlin, brought nothing but an evasive response. [91]


In Sweden, determined work by the WRB representative, Iver C. Olsen, brought disappointingly limited results. Olsen, previously the American legation's financial attache, received close cooperation from the American minister in Sweden, Herschel V. Johnson. The Swedish government was also helpful. But the WRB came too late; comparatively few Jews remained alive in the northern tier of Axis Europe by 1944. And the obstacles to reaching them and getting them out of Axis territory were immense. [92]

Olsen organized and funded committees that sent rescue teams across the Baltic Sea into Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania to bring out Jews and non-Jewish political refugees. These units developed underground contacts and obtained fast cabin cruisers, fuel, supplies, and false identification papers. But although the program operated throughout the summer of 1944, it rescued only 1,200 people, none of them Jews. Most Jews still alive in the Baltic states were in hiding and afraid to come out. Non-Jewish escapees reported that many Jews could have fled on WRB boats, but they suspected a German trap and would not take the risk. [93]

Plain bad luck also plagued the Baltic Sea rescue effort. Action did not get under way until mid-June, and by then the short summer nights hindered operations. The Lithuanian program suffered from the start because Olsen's key agent did not return from a preliminary trip to make rescue· arrangements. In time, the Germans captured five of the boats running to Lithuania. One launch used in the Latvian project was caught by the Nazis, who threw its crew and fifty refugees into a concentration camp. Eight others who worked in the Latvian rescue effort were killed or disappeared. At the end of September, Olsen called off the Baltic operations. As the Russians advanced, military action in that region made further rescue attempts impossible. [xviii] [94]

Olsen transferred the Baltic Sea boats to another operation that was already ferrying endangered Norwegians to Sweden. This project, financed from America and sponsored by the AFL and the CIO, moved several thousands to safety. Evacuations from Norway, both across the land border and by sea in the south, proved to be the WRB's main achievement in Sweden. Ultimately, the board helped bring 15,000 refugees out of Norway. Again, none were Jews. [96]

Rescue efforts could not count on much help from the small, but comfortably situated, Swedish Jewish community of about 7,000. The main Jewish communal organization was not very interested in rescue. Olsen believed the Swedish Jews feared that an influx of refugees would put a financial burden on them. They also worried that anti-Semitism, not then a problem, would develop if more Jews came in. Olsen reported that the Swedish Jews had been "most apathetic" to the rescue of the Danish Jews in October 1943. They had done nothing for the Norwegian Jews who managed to flee to Sweden. And even when thirty Jewish orphans reached Sweden from Central Europe in 1943, the Swedish Jews "did not want to be bothered." The children went into Christian homes. [97]

Several difficulties, then, impeded Olsen's plans. But the WRB's Swedish effort did accomplish a little for Jewish refugees. With Minister Johnson's assistance, Olsen persuaded the Swedish government to bring in the 150 Jewish refugees in Finland. This was a precaution against possible danger in that Axis nation. Together, Johnson and Olsen developed an aid program for needy refugees in Sweden, three· fourths of whom were Jewish. [xix] They also organized a relief system for thousands of anti-Nazis in Norway. Despite its illegality, it operated with the full cooperation of the Swedish Foreign Office and the Swedish diplomatic mission in Oslo. [98]

Near the end of the war in Europe, Olsen and Johnson lent their support to a series of secret negotiations that led in April 1945 to the transfer of two groups of concentration camp inmates to Sweden. First to come out were 425 Jews whom the Nazis had deported from Den mark. Soon afterward, 7,000 women, half of them Jews, arrived in Sweden from the wretched Ravensbruck camp. This resulted from talks between SS Chief Heinrich Himmler; Felix Kersten, Himmler's doctor and confidant; Hillel Storch and Norbert Masur of the Swedish section of the World Jewish Congress; and Count Folke Bernadotte, represent ing the Swedish Red Cross. [100]

Because the WRB's Swedish operations helped few Jews, Olsen was sharply criticized in some quarters. But a representative of the Joint Distribution Committee who went to Sweden in the fall of 1944 looked carefully into the situation and concluded that Olsen had done all that anyone could have. The WRB leadership in Washington was also convinced that he did the best job possible under the circumstances. [101]


The WRB accomplished more in Switzerland than it was able to in Spain, Italy, or Sweden. Because of its location close to much of Nazi Europe, the small mountain nation became the nerve center of the board's overseas work. It was the best corridor for sending funds into Europe. It served as a vital relay point for communications into and out of Axis territory. And the Swiss government, which maintained relations with the Axis nations, provided a channel for diplomatic contacts with Germany and its satellites. [102]

The WRB was fortunate to find a person already in Switzerland who was highly qualified to serve as its representative. Roswell McClelland, director of the American Friends Service Committee's refugee-relief program there, brought to the WRB post a thorough knowledge of refugee matters and experience in dealing with high government officials. He also enjoyed good relations with several rescue and relief organizations. Many of them had underground connections and communications networks reaching into Nazi Europe. These contacts would become essential to much of his activity. [103]

From a discretionary fund of $250,000 supplied by the Joint Distribution Committee, McClelland financed numerous undercover programs: relief operations in Axis territory, production of false documents, an underground courier service, and escape projects. (The escape work required small-scale bribery of border officials and police as well as payments to "passeurs" who guided refugees through the mountains and across the Swiss border.) Financial transactions often involved what McClelland called "dime store" goods. Pocket knives, bars of soap, razor blades, cheap Swiss watches, and other small commodities were far more valuable than money, because of their scarcity in Axis countries. They were smuggled out of Switzerland in secondhand suitcases under the averted eyes of "a sterling Swiss customs guard:' Conducted for the most part by already existing underground and resistance groups, board operations extended into France, Germany, Italy, Czechoslovakia, and Hungary. They enabled thousands of endangered people in Axis Europe to survive and other thousands to escape. [104]

In France, Jews and anti-Nazis who were in hiding received essential supplies, money, and forged documents (identification cards, work permits, birth and baptismal certificates, ration cards). The WRB also furnished badly needed supplies to French resistance workers and their families in return for their help in protecting Jews. Similarly, McClelland sent funds to non-Jewish resistance groups located along the French-Spanish frontier who assisted Jews trying to cross the Pyrenees. [105]

The nearly 8,000 Jewish orphans who were hidden in France in Christian homes, schools, and convents were a matter of deep concern to the WRB. It sent funds from Switzerland to contribute to their maintenance. When the Nazis unleashed a campaign to track them down for deportation, WRB money helped persuade minor officials and local authorities to cooperate in keeping the hunters off the trail. [106]

The WRB was anxious to move the most endangered of the children to Switzerland. But the Swiss government would not accept them unless a responsible government guaranteed to remove them when the war ended. The British refused, insisting that they could not reserve Palestine certificates for after the war. The State Department also declined, claiming that it could not bind a future administration to issue visas. But WRB pressure induced State to authorize postwar immigration of up to 4,000 of the children, and the program went forward. By August 1944, when the threat had passed in France, 650 of the orphans had reached Switzerland and about 600 other Jewish children had entered with their parents or relatives. [107]

In German-occupied northern Italy, resistance forces and religious leaders used funds supplied by McClelland to conceal and care for Jews and other endangered people. WRB money enabled Hechaluz, a Swiss-based Zionist underground organization, to arrange the escape of 2,000 Jews from Hungary into Rumania and of a few hundred others into Yugoslavia. The facilities of Swiss, Swedish, and Turkish diplomatic couriers and even the papal nunciature's pouch were made available to smuggle the Hechaluz funds into Axis territory. [108]

In general, WRB efforts to help Jews escape to Switzerland had limited success. Yet several thousand did reach Swiss territory during 1944 and 1945. Besides the 1,250 children, more than 3,000 Jewish adults entered from France before that country became safe for Jews, in the late summer of 1944. Attempts to bring refugees in from northern Italy were mostly ineffective because of tight German controls along that frontier. In August 1944, during the Hungarian Jewish crisis, the American and British governments guaranteed refuge for all Jews allowed to leave Hungary. With that assurance, the Swiss government agreed to ease its immigration restrictions to let in up to 13,000 additional Jews on a temporary basis. Complex negotiations between Swiss Jewish leaders and Nazi officials led to the release from Nazi concentration camps and delivery to Switzerland of nearly 3,000 Jews. Finally, in April 1945, another 1,400 camp inmates, mostly non-Jewish French women, reached Switzerland. [109]

Until August 1944, the refugee question was the focus of a heated dispute between the Swiss government, which restricted the entry of Jews, and influential segments of the Swiss public, which objected strongly to that policy. Social-welfare organizations, Christian church groups, newspapers, and some political leaders argued on humanitarian grounds for opening the borders to all fleeing Jews. They were incensed that their government turned many Jews away at the frontier, leaving them to the mercy of the Gestapo or the French police, and even expelled some who had succeeded in entering the country secretly. [110]

Exact figures are not available, but in relation to its size Switzerland was unquestionably more generous in taking in refugees than any other country except Palestine. At the end of 1944, some 27,000 Jewish refugees were safe in Switzerland -- so were approximately 20,000 non-Jewish refugees and about 40,000 interned military personnel. What upset many people, however, was the basic Swiss policy. The country's borders were wide open to all who were in danger because of their political beliefs, to escaped prisoners of war, and to military deserters. Usually, the following categories of Jews were also allowed to enter: young children (and their parents if accompanying them), pregnant women, the sick, the aged, and close relatives of Swiss citizens. All other Jews who managed to reach Switzerland were liable to be turned back at the border and left more exposed to peril than if they had not attempted to escape. [111]

That the Swiss authorities turned back many Jews is indisputable. Moreover, whenever significant numbers of Jews began to arrive at the borders, as at the time of the great deportations from France in 1942, the Swiss government tightened its controls on Jewish immigration. The purpose, Swiss officials explained, was to discourage more from coming, because the country could not absorb everyone who wanted asylum. Actually, Switzerland had the capacity to take in many more Jews than it did, according to an authority on Swiss policy, Edgar Bonjour. In his view, the stringent policy was caused by the government's fear of antagonizing Germany (a compelling problem, given Switzerland's economic and military vulnerability) and by the anti-Semitism that was widespread in Swiss society. If the policy had really been unacceptable, he maintains, the people could have overturned it. Like that of other countries, the general population of Switzerland was not disposed to sacrifice very much to help Jews. [xx] [112]

The number of Jews turned back will never be known. Also unknown is the number who, aware of Switzerland's policy, were deterred from risking flight and ultimately fell to the Nazis. [114]

During its sixteen months of active service, the War Refugee Board encountered an endless procession of difficult problems. But it never confronted any greater challenge than the Nazi campaign to annihilate the 760,000 Jews in Hungary. The Hungarian crisis began when the board was only eight weeks old. It lasted nearly a year. [115]



[i] Executive Order 9417 charged the WRB with carrying out "the policy of this Government [which is] to take all measures within its power to rescue the victims of enemy oppression who are in imminent danger of death and otherwise to afford such victims all possible relief and assistance consistent with the successful prosecution of the war."  The order also specified, "It shall be the duty of the State, Treasury and War Departments, within their respective spheres, to execute at the request of the Board, the plans and programs [developed by the board]. It shall be the duty of the heads of all agencies and departments to supply or obtain for the Board such information and to extend to the Board such supplies, shipping and other specified assistance and facilities as the Board may require in carrying out the provisions of this Order."

[ii] No such carelessness marked Roosevelt's intervention on behalf of a former official of the discontinued National Youth Authority. The WRB placed her in one of its top staff positions. [9]

[iii] A promising effort to develop rescue plans came from a new group, the Committee on Special Refugee Problems. This largely non-Jewish, New York-based initiative was partially funded by the board. Its three dozen members included several emigre political, educational, and labor leaders who were familiar with the European scene and had vital underground contacts in Axis Europe. The WRB dissolved the committee after four months, though, because the State Department and the board were worried that publicity might surface concerning the leftist political connections of a few of the members. [12]

[iv] In contrast, the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration, which aided people who were already liberated, could count without question on American government appropriations. No such support was accorded the War Refugee Board, the agency charged with saving captive people from mass murder.

[v] The JDC was by far the largest Jewish organization conducting overseas relief. The UJA was the major American Jewish fund-raising agency and the main source of the JDC's income.

[vi] This $1,068.750 came from the general appropriation for foreign war relief voted by Congress annually from 1940 through 1945. The total amount appropriated was $85,000,000. The American Red Cross and the International Red Cross disbursed the rest of the funds in a great variety of projects, mostly unrelated to Jewish refugees. [21]

[vii] When drafting legal papers for the establishment of the WRB, Oscar Cox and his assistant, Milton Handler, originally planned $25,000,000 from the President's Emergency Fund for the board's expenses. This could have paid for rescue operations on a fairly large scale, as well as for administration. For reasons that are not clear, the idea was dropped before the board was formed. [22]

[viii] The argument was preposterous. Refugees could have been detained and carefully checked. In fact, those who did get through were thoroughly screened. No Axis government would have been so stupid as to send its agents into such a trap.

Incidentally, permanent Jewish residents in Turkey (non-refugees) received such bad treatment that a small but steady flow of them moved to Palestine during 1944. [32]

[ix] In 1940 and 1941, while ambassador to Russia, Steinhardt, himself a Jew, had pressed for tighter American restrictions on refugee entry and had hindered Jewish immigration from eastern Europe to the United States. Writing in the newspaper PM in the fall of  1943, journalist I. F. Stone drew on government documents to expose Steinhardt's actions. Stone's article received wide attention in the Jewish press. As ambassador to Turkey in 1944, however, Steinhardt worked to facilitate rescue. On a trip to the United States in spring 1944, Hirschmann spoke with numerous Jewish opinion leaders in an effort to rehabilitate Steinhardt's reputation."

[x] At the same time, Steinhardt was extremely critical of the Allied governments. In an acid message to Washington, he pointed out that, despite several requests from him and Hirschmann, no American or British vessel, not even a small one, had been made available for the Black Sea route. He underscored the incongruity of the American and British failure to furnish as much as a single 4,000-ton boat at the very time they were "posing as the saviors of the refugees before the rest of the world," and while "incessant  U.S. propaganda" was boasting of American construction of over 1.5 million tons of shipping a month. [36]

[xi] The WRB worried about operating without safe-conduct assurances, but saw no alternative in view of German unwillingness to issue them. The Jewish Agency and the JDC agreed with the board's decision. Refugees were forewarned of the risk. In actuality, Jews were ready to sail on any kind of vessel to get out of Rumania. [39]

[xii] To encourage him to cooperate, Hirschmann offered Cretzianu asylum in the United States. Later, while in Washington for consultation, Hirschmann quietly arranged for immigration visas for the Rumanian diplomat and his family. [46]

[xiii] Spain made it abundantly clear during World War II that it did not want to shoulder any of the refugee burden. A Quaker representative summed it up in a report from Madrid in late 1943: "The attitude here seems to be limited to the demand: 'Get out!'  and 'Now!'" [56]

[xiv] An inmate described conditions at the largest camp, Miranda de Ebro: "We sleep on the floor, without mattress, without pillow, tortured by innumerable flies and bedbugs. Everything is covered with a thick stratum of dust which, when raised by the wind, penetrates everywhere and especially in the food. The most terrible thing is the almost complete lack of water." [57]

[xv] The WRB was not alone in clashing with Hayes. The Office of Strategic Services and the Office of War Information had trouble keeping agents in Spain because of conflicts with the American embassy there. On the basis of experience in Lisbon, a Unitarian Service Committee official advised the board as early as February that opening Spain as an escape channel would be nearly impossible unless Hayes was replaced or the Franco government fell. A little later, Myron C. Taylor informed Morgenthau that he and the Intergovernmental Committee "have not been able to do anything in Spain, thanks to Mr. Hayes." [70]

[xvi] In 1944, over 4,000 Jewish refugees were in southern Italy. Most were there before the Allied invasion. Some came with the Yugoslavs. In May, 571 left for Palestine; in July, 874 sailed for the internment camp in the United States. Most of the rest eventually went to Palestine. [87]

[xvii] The British objected to the plan, claiming that southern Italy could not accommodate more refugees. Later, after learning from the military in Italy that room was available, the Foreign Office yielded."

[xviii] Because Olsen's main projects developed in the summer of 1944, a serious, if ludicrous, handicap to his work was the near sanctity in Sweden of the summer vacation. Especially in July, he found it extremely difficult to transact business in Stockholm. "There was," he reported, "scarcely a brain left in town." One Swedish Jewish leader departed on schedule for his month's vacation the very next day after Olsen gave him the $10,000 he needed to proceed with a rescue assignment he had agreed to carry out.  The man's financial integrity was unimpeachable. [95]

[xix] From January 1944 until April 1945, Jewish refugees in Sweden numbered about 12,000: roughly 8,000 from Denmark, 1,000 from Norway, and 3,000 who had come from Central Europe before the war. [99]

[xx] Government concern about the postwar situation was also a factor. Jewish refugees, most of whom were stateless, might very well not be repatriated, or otherwise removed. Almost all other fugitives would. [113]
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