Robert L. Beir is to be admired for producing, at the age of 85, this view of a man we thought we knew so well. The author calls himself “Rooseveltian,” but is filled with doubts.
For example, Beir tells the familiar story of the S.S. St Louis, which set sail from Hamburg, Germany, for Cuba, but was turned away. Roosevelt refused to let the ship dock in the US, and it was forced to return to Europe, where most of its 937 Jewish passengers ultimately perished in Auschwitz and other concentration camps.
Why hadn’t he acted to save these people? Was he afraid to challenge and further alienate an anti-immigrant, isolationist and anti-Semitic Congress? This and other instances in which Roosevelt and his anti- Jewish advisors could have responded to aid Germany’s Jewish victims is the substance of Beir’s work.
One can hardly call this book enjoyable reading, but it is an excellent scholarly exposé of shameful events that occurred during Roosevelt’s administration.