Amer­i­ca’s Soul in the Balance

Gre­go­ry J. Wallance
  • Review
By – October 23, 2012

Wal­lance, an author of his­tor­i­cal nov­els as well as a fre­quent legal com­men­ta­tor on CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and NBC’s The Today Show, has direct­ed his con­sid­er­able tal­ent to the con­tro­ver­sial role of the Roo­sevelt admin­is­tra­tion dur­ing the Holo­caust. America’s Soul in the Bal­ance is a riv­et­ing account of the man­ner in which the U.S. State Depart­ment obstruct­ed efforts to res­cue Jews from the Nazis and their satel­lite gov­ern­ments bent on the destruc­tion of Euro­pean Jew­ry.

Draw­ing on the work of schol­ars such as Arthur Morse and David Wyman, as well as min­ing the archives of the State and Trea­sury Depart­ments, Wal­lance has made an impor­tant con­tri­bu­tion to the debate sur­round­ing the Roo­sevelt admin­is­tra­tion and the pol­i­tics of res­cue. Wal­lance has also researched the back­ground of many of the impor­tant offi­cials in the State Depart­ment, espe­cial­ly those who were prod­ucts of pri­vate schools such as Gro­ton, where anti-Jew­ish sen­ti­ment pre­vailed, and con­clud­ed that a vir­u­lent anti-Semi­tism on the part of many offi­cials in the State Depart­ment con­tributed to their cov­er-up of reports of the Nazi exter­mi­na­tion of Jews, and their efforts to block the res­cue of Jews in Nazi satel­lite coun­tries such as Roma­nia.

Because Wal­lance is a nov­el­ist, it is no sur­prise that his his­to­ry reads like a thriller where­in the Trea­sury Depart­ment under Hen­ry Mor­gen­thau, a Jew, and his Chris­t­ian staff emerged tri­umphant over the sub­terfuge and prej­u­dices of the State Depart­ment. Although the moral indif­fer­ence of such State Depart­ment fig­ures as Breck­en­ridge Long and Bor­den Ream were exposed, it came too late to save the major­i­ty of Europe’s Jews killed in the Holo­caust. Nev­er­the­less, thanks to the efforts of Morgenthau’s staff, Pres­i­dent Roo­sevelt was per­suad­ed to issue an Exec­u­tive Order (1944) which cre­at­ed the War Refugee Board, which sub­se­quent­ly res­cued 200,000 Jews. Wallance’s his­to­ry of this moral­ly rep­re­hen­si­ble page in Amer­i­can his­to­ry deserves a wide read­ing audience.

Jack Fis­chel is pro­fes­sor emer­i­tus of his­to­ry at Millersville Uni­ver­si­ty, Millersville, PA and author of The Holo­caust (Green­wood Press) and His­tor­i­cal Dic­tio­nary of the Holo­caust (Row­man and Littlefield).

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