American Jews have long considered Franklin Roosevelt to be the fourth patriarch. You know, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Franklin.
Had you asked American Jews who they would choose to conduct American foreign during the Hitler Era, they would unanimously have chosen FDR.
Convinced that Republicans were racists and anti-Semites, they were happy to entrust the fate of European Jewry to a philo-Semite like FDR.
Even today they know that if Republicans had been running American foreign policy during the Hitler years, there would have been a Holocaust of European Jews.
The belief is an article of faith. It is impervious to fact and to reason.
In 1939, for example, a German ocean liner carrying 937 German Jewish refugees tried to unload in Miami. The Roosevelt administration refused to allow it to dock, so the refugees were returned to Europe where a third of them were exterminated in Nazi concentration camps.
American Jews shrugged.
American Jews have always defended FDR. He was their man. Thus, anyone who criticized him was also attacking their judgment. We can't have that.
Despite the whitewash of FDR, many nay-sayers have always insisted that he could have done more to help European Jews. They have presented an extensive array of facts to support their position. To no avail.
So, the myths have overwhelmed the facts. It is commonly believed in the Jewish community that FDR did the best that anyone could have done under the circumstances. It is commonly held that the primary obstacle to his doing more was isolationist and anti-Semitic Republicans. And it is commonly accepted that FDR’s primary duty was to win the war, and that tactics to slow down the Nazi death machine would have diverted assets from the war effort.
Now, historian Rafael Medoff, director of the Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies has written a new book, FDR and the Holocaust: A Breach of Faith in which he argues that Roosevelt could have done much more than he did, but that he did not because he did not like Jews and did not want very many more of them in America.
It’s an incendiary charge, leveled by a reputable scholar, threatening a liberal Jewish icon. You can be sure that the media will ignore it.
In an interview with The Daily Caller, Medoff outlines his case against FDR:
He could have quietly permitted the immigration quotas to be filled to their legal limit — that alone would have saved 190,000 lives. (Instead, the administration imposed extra requirements that disqualified most would-be immigrants.) He could have pressed the British to open Palestine’s doors to Jewish refugees. He could have authorized the use of empty troop-supply ships to bring refugees to stay in the U.S. temporarily, until the end of the war. He could have permitted refugees to stay as tourists in a U.S. territory, such as the Virgin Islands, until it was safe for them to return to Europe. He could have authorized the bombing of Auschwitz or the railway lines leading to it, which would have interrupted the mass-murder process.
Could allied forces have bombed Auschwitz without diverting resources from the war effort? Medoff responds:
Bombing Auschwitz would not have required any diversion of resources, because U.S. planes were already bombing targets that were less than five miles from the gas chambers, during the summer and autumn of 1944. Incidentally, one of the American pilots who flew over Auschwitz in 1944 was young George McGovern, the future presidential nominee.
All of the arguments that Roosevelt administration officials made against bombing Auschwitz were disingenuous. They claimed they had done a study that found bombing Auschwitz was not feasible; but no such study was ever done. They claimed bombing Auschwitz would require a diversion of resources; but U.S. planes repeatedly flew within a few miles of the death camp in 1944 and did not have to be diverted from anywhere else. They claimed bombing Auschwitz would provoke the Germans to take “more vindictive action”; but there was nothing more vindictive than gassing 12,000 Jews daily.
It is true that during the Great Depression, the one that the New Deal was supposed to have solved but that didn’t, there was significant opposition to any modification in the immigration laws.
Medoff explains that even under the immigration laws that were in place at the time, FDR could have done more:
It’s true that there was strong public and congressional opposition to liberalizing the immigration laws. But FDR didn’t need to start a fight with Congress over the issue. All he had to do was quietly permit the existing quotas to be filled. The quotas from Germany and Axis-occupied countries were less than 25 percent filled during most of the Roosevelt years. If FDR had allowed them to be filled — without any public controversy, announcements, or battles — 190,000 lives would have been saved. The main problem was not domestic considerations; the main problem was President Roosevelt’s desire to keep Jewish refugee immigration to a minimum.
When he asks what accounted for FDR’s failure to save more Jews from the Holocaust, Medoff responds that the great liberal icon was afflicted with anti-Semitism:
In his private, unguarded moments, FDR repeatedly made unfriendly remarks about Jews, especially his belief that Jews were overrepresented in many professions and exercised too much influence and control on society. This prejudice helped shape his overall vision of what America should look like — and it was a vision with room for only a small number of Jews who, he said, should be “spread out thin.” This helps explain why his administration went out of its way discourage and disqualify would-be immigrants, instead of just quietly allowing the immigration quotas to be filled to their legal limit.
Have a nice day!