Sunday, September 25, 2022

Ken Burns on FDR and the Holocaust

Last week famed documentarian Ken Burns offered up a few words about Gov. Ron DeSantis and Martha’s Vineyard.  He opined that sending Venezuelan migrants to the Vineyard was somehow equivalent to the Holocaust. 

Obviously enough, a man who cannot distinguish between Martha’s Vineyard and Treblinka is not a documentarian. He is a propagandist. His goal is not to expose the truth but to distort history in order to shore up the reputation of the great liberal idol, Franklin Roosevelt.

You see, the leftist narrative, the one that has been pushed on us for decades now, is that FDR did everything imaginable to save European Jews, and that he was stymied by the Republican Party, especially the American First isolationist movement. 

This means, FDR was in charge of the government, but Republicans were at fault. Where have we heard that before?

One recalls here a concept introduced by Winston Churchill, regarding the World Wars. I do not recall when and where he said it, but Churchill explained that there was only one man who could have stopped these wars before they became world consuming conflagrations.

And that means, feckless leadership by Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt contributed mightily to the horrors that these wars visited on the world. Neither liberal leader was especially concerned by any of it, and FDR, we must mention, did nearly nothing to stop Hitler for eight years-- until Germany declared war on us. 

The issue, in other words, goes beyond the Holocaust. Obviously, anti-Semitism was ongoing from the time that Hitler took over Germany in 1933. It was ongoing at different levels, but it was not being hidden. During the first eight years of Nazi rule, FDR essentially did nothing to stop it. He did nothing to stop the Third Reich when it could more easily have been stopped.

So, if war is diplomacy by another name and if the world wars were produced by failed diplomacy, performed by liberal Democratic presidents, then perhaps we will understand that the propaganda machine of the American media has gone all-in defending FDR. Liberalism depends on his glorification.

As for the Ken Burns propaganda effort, the Times of Israel consulted with Rafael Medoff to set the record straight:

Medoff is an American professor of Jewish history and the founding director of The David Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies, which is based in Washington, DC. He is the author of “FDR and the Holocaust: A Breach of Faith,” among other works on the Holocaust and Zionist history.

Apparently, the documentary traffics in the lie that America admitted more Jewish refugees than anyone else. And that it could not do more because public opinion did not want it to. For the record, public opinion is a euphemism for FDR’s labor union supporters. 

Medoff makes the salient point, FDR was the man in charge and the man in charge is responsible:

Public opinion was not in charge of US immigration policy; President Roosevelt was. It was the Roosevelt administration, not the public, that decided to suppress immigration below what the existing law permitted, by searching high and low for reasons to disqualify visa applicants. One of the main reasons the waiting list was long was because the German quota was kept unfilled in 11 of Roosevelt’s 12 years as president. More than 190,000 quota places that could have been used for Jewish refugees instead sat unused. The year that the Frank family tried to immigrate, 1941, the quota was only 47% filled; there was plenty of room for Anne and her family — if the administration had not been trying so hard to keep Jews out.

In other words, Anne Frank and her family, which applied for immigration status, was kept out because the administration did not use all of the allotted the quota spaces.

And you will recall the time when Hitler filled a ship called the St. Louis with nearly a thousand Jewish refugees and sent it to America. Hitler declared that FDR would not allow them to debark in America because he was just as anti-Semitic as everyone else.

Of course, admitting refugees to America was one thing. In fact, as Medoff remarks, the administration had been given a green light to land in the Virgin Islands. FDR choose otherwise and sent the refugees back, where they were admitted by several European countries, eventually to be slaughtered:

After the Kristallnacht pogrom, the governor and legislative assembly of the US Virgin Islands offered to open their doors to Jewish refugees. So when the St. Louis was hovering off the coast of Florida six months later, Morgenthau asked Secretary of State Cordell Hull about letting the passengers stay in the Virgin Islands, on tourist visas. Hull consulted with the president, then told Morgenthau it couldn’t be done because to qualify for tourist visas, the refugees would have to prove they had a safe place to which they would later return.

That was a Catch-22: Hull was saying that because the country from which they came was unsafe, the Roosevelt administration wouldn’t give them haven — and thus sent them back to that same unsafe place. Although it seemed at first that they would have to return to Nazi Germany, four other European countries took in the St. Louis passengers — but three of those countries were invaded by the Nazis less than a year later.

And then there was the issue of bombing Auschwitz or the railroads leading to it. FDR refused, on shaky grounds:

The Roosevelt administration never said the reason it wouldn’t bomb Auschwitz was because the prisoners might be harmed. In fact, the US bombed the Auschwitz oil factories, and the Buchenwald rocket factory, in broad daylight — in other words, knowing that slave laborers would be there — and indeed, some of them were killed or injured. So that was never a factor in the US administration’s decision-making at the time; it’s just an excuse concocted in recent years by defenders of FDR’s Holocaust record.

In any event, if US officials had been worried about hitting prisoners, they could have bombed the railways and bridges to Auschwitz, where there were no prisoners. That would have interrupted the deportations of hundreds of thousands of Hungarian Jews to Auschwitz. Bridges in particular took a long time to repair. When 12,000 Jews were being gassed to death in Auschwitz every day, even a brief interruption could have saved lives.

Naturally, the FDR administration had its excuses. Naturally, the media, led by the New York Times ran cover for it:

At the time, US officials claimed they couldn’t bomb those railways because it would require diverting American planes from distant battlefields. But that was false. US planes were already bombing the Auschwitz oil factories, and they also bombed railways throughout Europe — but not the ones leading to Auschwitz. The real reason they rejected the bombing proposals — which were made by at least 30 different Jewish officials and publications — was that the Roosevelt administration had decided that, as a matter of principle, it would not use military resources for humanitarian purposes. That policy was adopted four months before the requests to bomb Auschwitz began, and US officials simply applied it when those requests were made.

Is it true that the American military never used its resources for non-military purposes. Not quite:

The terrible irony is that the US did sometimes use military resources for non-military purposes, such as when American troops were sent to rescue the Lipizzaner dancing horses, or when military personnel was used to rescue medieval paintings and other cultural artifacts. Apparently, horses and paintings were a higher priority than Jews.

The issue is accountability. For the liberal left, FDR did not wrong. Ken Burns blames public opinion. One is only mildly surprised that he did not blame Donald Trump.

Presidents should be held accountable for their policies. Burns is wrong to blame “public opinion” for FDR’s choices. The public didn’t force Roosevelt to keep the St. Louis passengers out of the Virgin Islands. The public didn’t compel him to leave 190,000 quota places unfilled.


IamDevo said...

Burns made his rep by featuring a truly great historian, Shelby Foote and overlaying a truly great sound track on a video photo montage (who can ever forget "Ashokan Farewell" once hearing it as played in that series on "The Civil War"?), none of which was his personal work. He is a hypocritical poseur of the first water, as well as a kind of creepy, feminine epigone to boot. He used to live in NYC, but bugged out to Whitopia, NH when the neighborhood became too vibrant. (I don't fault him for moving, but for his glaring hypocrisy.) All one needs to do to confirm his second-rate status is compare his "The Brooklyn Bridge" series with the truly interesting and informative work authored by the late David McCulloch.

Anonymous said...

Public opinion is against the current flood of illegal immigrants but the President has no problem with a policy that ignores the public and the Republicans.

SCOTTtheBADGER said...

The Democrats have always been anti Semetic. They always been nothing more than a criminal organization, masquerading as a political party.

Walt said...

The last ten minutes of the Burns doc, clearly tried to tie Trump to the Charlottsville Nazis and to further deliver tne message that turning back a single illegal border-crosser was the same as turning back the genuine and desperate asylum-seeking Jews.