Pre­lude to Cat­a­stro­phe: FDR’s Jews and the Men­ace of Nazism

Robert Shogan
  • Review
By – September 1, 2011
To the Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ty of the Unit­ed States, Franklin Delano Roo­sevelt was a hero. He was seen by the Jews as their mod­ern day Moses. For the first time in mod­ern polit­i­cal his­to­ry Jews were giv­en a respect­ful seat in the world of pol­i­tics — FDR even gave them a seat around his table.

He was a rar­i­ty, the first pres­i­dent of the Unit­ed States to allow Jews access to the inner sanc­tum of the White House. Dur­ing the war FDR’s priv­i­leged Jews were involved in a con­stant strug­gle to under­stand whether they were to pur­sue a Jew­ish or an Amer­i­can agen­da. They knew how dan­ger­ous it was to split their alle­giance. But they also knew full well that the Jews of Europe were being mur­dered and that the Unit­ed States was doing noth­ing to stop the geno­cide. What should the pres­i­dent of the Unit­ed States be asked to do?

The Jews were caught in a cult of grat­i­tude. Almost every­one was silent on the issue. FDR’s go-to rab­bi was Steven Wise, a close friend. FDR’s chief speech­writer was Samuel Rosen­man, who had been his speech­writer since Roo­sevelt was gov­er­nor of New York. The author of the all-impor­tant New Deal was Ben­jamin V. Cohen. Hen­ry Mor­gen­thau was an old time neigh­bor of the Roo­sevelt fam­i­ly and as Sec­re­tary of the Trea­sury he became the first Jew­ish cab­i­net mem­ber.

The only per­son who real­ly pushed the pres­i­dent and even then only by writ­ing a report— nev­er face to face — was Hen­ry Mor­gen­thau. The Spe­cial Report to the Pres­i­dent on the Mur­der of the Jews of Europe, writ­ten by Morgenthau’s assis­tants, did, how­ev­er, stim­u­late the cre­ation of the Bermu­da Con­fer­ence and the War Refugee Board. But it was too lit­tle and too late to save most of the Euro­pean Jews.

The rest, as they say, is history.
Mic­ah D. Halpern is a colum­nist and a social and polit­i­cal com­men­ta­tor. He is the author of What You Need To Know About: Ter­ror, and main­tains The Mic­ah Report at www​.mic​ah​halpern​.com.

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