Now with the embattled immigration issues posed by our president’s policies, we need to understand the relevance and reality of our immigration history, not letting it “get swept under the rug.”
It was brought to mind recently in a discussion of past U.S. presidents at a book club meeting I attended.
A question was brought up about Franklin D. Roosevelt not willing to do more to save the Jews and others from annihilation during World War II.
People need to know the truth… about the Holocaust … the whole truth … that many thousands, perhaps a million or more, could have been rescued from the ovens of Auschwitz and numerous other death camps.
My father (of blessed memory) thought so highly of FDR as a “friend of the Jews” as did many others, but if they only knew the whole truth.
The truth was that FDR could be considered anti-Semitic.
The excuses for not bombing the railroad lines to the death camps and crematoriums while the Germans were losing in 1944 and not using empty ships returning from war zones to carry Jews to safety do not hold up to scrutiny.
The usual reason given for the Allies not bombing the railroad lines to the death camps and crematoriums was that these bombers were needed elsewhere to help end the war, when in reality bombing runs often came close enough that at one time, Auschwitz was mistakenly bombed.
Merchant ships were returning to the states empty of cargo, often needing ballast to help maintain stability. Jewish refugees seeking refuge from the gas chambers could have served adequately as ballast for those ships.
The evidence for FDR’s anti-Semitism is overwhelming. FDR found reasons for blocking safe havens for the desperate Jewish refugees who could have escaped to Alaska, the Dominican Republic and the Virgin Islands.
According to Rafael Medoff in his recent book, “The Jews Should Keep Quiet: Franklin D. Roosevelt, Rabbi Stephen S. Wise, and the Holocaust,” the close relationship between FDR and Wise is described as being a way that FDR was able to control American Jews to remain politically loyal.
FDR considered Stephen S. Wise, leader of the American Jewish Congress, the one person representing most American Jews.
According to Medoff, Rabbi Wise was so enthralled by being invited to visit and associate with the president, speaking to each other on a first-name basis, that he failed to realize that he was not getting approval of additional help rescuing Jews heading for extermination at the end of the war, which was the reason for initiating contact in the first place.
Now perhaps the various esteemed presidential historiographers such as Jack Warren, David McCullough, Doris Kearns Goodwin, Robert Caro, and others will stop protecting the textbook image of FDR and include the whole truth.
I predict that Hollywood, also reluctant to expose FDR for what he was, will eventually produce a film or two, finally revealing Franklin Roosevelt’s anti-Semitism in not aiding Holocaust victims when he had the opportunity.
FDR’s approval of the forced removal of Japanese Americans from the West Coast into internment camps when in reality there was no evidence of spy activities is another indication of Roosevelt’s stereotypical prejudices.
He believed that Japanese Americans were incapable of assimilation.
Incidentally, Rebecca Erbling, prize-winning author of “Rescue Board,” describing the Jewish War Refuge Board’s efforts to save Europe’s Jews in World War II, will be speaking at the Aaron Family JCC at 7 p.m. Thursday, March 12.
She may have something to say about the accusations against FDR and Rabbi Stephen Wise.
Remember, this is not just a Jewish issue. Our protective immigration policies apply to all bona fide refugees seeking peace and asylum in the United States.
We should never forget: We are a nation of immigrants.