Friday’s NY Times discussed Pres. Franklin Roosevelt’s efforts to save Jews imperiled by Nazi Germany just prior to World War II, as revealed in a new book. It’s called “Refugees and Rescue: The Diaries and Papers of James G. McDonald, 1935-1945,” published by Indiana University Press in association with the United States Holocaust Museum. It shows, contrary to prior beliefs, that FDR made consistent efforts to persuade Western and Latin American countries to take in Jews in a concerted and rationally planned way.
“Roosevelt supported using German, French and British colonies in Africa and elsewhere as well as countries in South America as possible havens. And he privately nudged the British to let more Jews into Palestine.” With the exception of Bolivia (cited as having taken in 20,000 Jews), these efforts largely came to naught and were abandoned altogether in 1940 when other priorities displaced FDR’s focus.
I’m inclined to side with the skeptics quoted in the article, David Wyman and Rafael Medoff, who are more than conversant with the failures of the Roosevelt administration on the issue of rescue. My own parents almost fell victim to the antisemitic policy of the US State Dept. in 1941, which was explicitly directed by Under Secretary of State Long to obstruct lawful Jewish immigrants as much as possible. The US consulate in Belgrade, Yugoslavia made my father go through totally unnecessary hoops before handing him visas that had already been authorized; if the Germans had attacked Yugoslavia weeks or even days earlier than they did, this policy would have succeeded in getting my parents murdered.
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