Victory in World War II was never a sure thing for the Allied powers. If, for instance, the United States had not been able to get its industrial capacity quickly up to speed, things could have rapidly gone wrong on the battlefield, perhaps irrevocably. The opportunity to turn the tide against Germany, Japan, and Italy might well have been lost in the first year of the War, which is important to bear in mind when discussing the work of men like Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau, Jr. and this new book about him.
Morgenthau helped get the United States back on industrial footing in time to assist the forces aligned and allied against Adolf Hitler even before Pearl Harbor, then saw to it that President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s effort did not lack for funds as the most costly war in modern history went on. Morgenthau led the various undertakings that raised billions of dollars to pay for all the troops and weapons, as well as aid to Britain, the Soviet Union, China, and others.
A non-religious Jew for much of his life, Morgenthau also led the fight against apathy and deliberate obstruction in the U.S. government (particularly in the State Department) when it came to efforts to rescue Europe’s Jews. There were not many avenues open during World War II — the iron fist of Germany by 1941 controlled the fates of millions of Europe’s Jews — but Morgenthau’s War Refugee Board has been credited with helping to rescue some 200,000 Jews. The author chronicles this work, along with Morgenthau’s awakening Jewish identity.
That being said, the title The Jew Who Defeated Hitler does seem like an overreach. Morgenthau is certainly praiseworthy, but the author clearly does not care much for FDR, whose economic policies and his leadership are assailed in the book, and thus seems eager to overextend credit to the Treasury Secretary. It’s a flaw that occasionally diminishes the book, which is unfortunate, because otherwise this is a finely researched and informative work on a man underrated by historians.
Bibliography, Charts, Footnotes, Index, Photos.