web analytics
October 1, 2014 / 7 Tishri, 5775
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post
Meir Panim with Soldiers 5774 Roundup: Year of Relief and Service for Israel’s Needy

Meir Panim implements programs that serve Israel’s neediest populations with respect and dignity. Meir Panim also coordinated care packages for families in the South during the Gaza War.



FDR and the ‘Voyage of the Damned’


Front-Page-111811A

The question of unused quota places is important because when American Jewish refugee advocates privately asked the Roosevelt administration, in the 1930s, to permit more immigration, they were told nothing could be done because the administration could not persuade Congress to liberalize the immigration laws.

To this day, FDR’s supporters continue to blame the 1920s immigration laws as the obstacle to refugee immigration in the 1930s. “It has always seemed to me a bit unfair to blame President Roosevelt for a law that was passed and signed by … Calvin Coolidge,” military historian Gerhard Weinberg asserted in a recent radio interview. “Until the Congress changed the immigration law … President Roosevelt, like any other president, was obliged to enforce the law.”

Similarly, Roosevelt Institute president William vanden Heuvel wrote in American Heritage magazine: “Roosevelt’s critics severely underestimate limitations on presidential power . Clearly, the President could not unilaterally command an increase in quotas.”

But in fact, many lives could have been saved without changing a single law or fighting Congress. All FDR had to do was quietly instruct the State Department to admit as many refugees as the law allowed. That alone would have saved more than 100,000 German Jews before World War II – and nearly 200,000 more during the Holocaust years.

’20,000 Ugly Adults’

Meanwhile, just as the St. Louis crisis was escalating, members of Congress were considering legislation, introduced by Senator Robert F. Wagner (D-NY) and Rep. Edith Rogers (R-MA), to admit 20,000 German refugee children outside the quota system.

Supporters of the bill included prominent church figures, leaders of the AFL and CIO labor unions, university presidents, New York City mayor Fiorello La Guardia, the 1936 Republican presidential and vice-presidential candidates, and former First Lady Grace Coolidge, who announced that she and her friends in Northampton, Massachusetts would personally care for 25 of the children.

Nativist and isolationist groups vociferously opposed the Wagner-Rogers bill. Typical of their perspective was a remark by FDR’s cousin, Laura Delano Houghteling, who was the wife of the U.S. commissioner of immigration: she warned that “20,000 charming children would all too soon grow into 20,000 ugly adults.”

FDR responded negatively to a private appeal to him by First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt for his support of the bill. He did tell Eleanor that he would not object if she endorsed it, but she refrained from doing so. When a congresswoman inquired as to the president’s position on the bill, FDR returned the note to his secretary marked “File No action FDR.”

Mindful of polls showing most Americans opposed to more immigration, Roosevelt preferred to follow public opinion rather than lead it. Without his support, the Wagner-Rogers bill was buried in committee.

‘Roosevelt Was Apathetic’

FDR’s silence with regard to the St. Louis has long intrigued historians. On the one hand, Roosevelt is well known for his tendency to refrain from committing his private thoughts to writing. On the other hand, it is remarkable that an episode such as the controversy over the St. Louis, which made the front page of America’s major newspapers for nearly a week, and which raised important questions about U.S. policies, did not elicit any comment from the president.

A newly-discovered document offers a rare insider’s account of the Roosevelt administration’s response to the St. Louis.

The document was unearthed by Dr. Bat-Ami Zucker, a historian at Bar-Ilan University in Israel who has written extensively on America’s response to the Holocaust and whose latest book is Cecilia Razovsky and the American Jewish Women’s Rescue Operations in the Second World War (published by Vallentine Mitchell).

Cecilia Razovsky, a refugee advocate and senior official of the National Council of Jewish Women, went to Havana in May 1939 and took part in high-level discussions with Cuban and U.S. officials in an attempt to resolve the St. Louis crisis. In Razovsky’s papers, Dr. Zucker discovered an unpublished memoir about the St. Louis episode that Razovsky wrote after the war.

About the Author: Dr. Rafael Medoff is founding director of The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies, in Washington, D.C., and author of 14 books about the Holocaust, Zionism, and American Jewish history. His latest book is 'FDR and the Holocaust: A Breach of Faith,' available from Amazon.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “FDR and the ‘Voyage of the Damned’”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Peace partners for hate: Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas (R) and chief negotiator Saeb Erekat.
PA Chief Negotiator Compares Netanyahu with ISIS
Latest Indepth Stories

In the recent Gaza war and its aftermath, we saw a totally illogical reaction from the world.

champions

A., a teacher: “I do not know a single Gazan who is pro-Hamas at the moment, except for those on its payroll.”

terrorists

Is the global community clear in its response to these extremist groups?

obama

Like our fabled character, Don Quixote, President Obama has constantly spawned his own reality.

Boroujerdi was informed that “the pressures and tortures will increase until he has been destroyed.”

Fatah: Hamas stole relief aid for Gaza and distributed it amongst its followers in mosques.

Can teenagers seriously be expected to behave properly when they are surrounded by so much suggestive material? Is it fair to expose them (and ourselves) to so much temptation and then tell them, “Just say no”?

Washington remains ignorant of the need to dismantle alliances with various Muslim countries.

Defeating IS requires bombing its strongholds and recognizing the violent nature of Islam.

Abbas again used the UN to attack Israel, distort history, and undermine prospects for peace.

Israel and the Palestinian Authority cannot even agree to move their clocks back on the same day.

Shemita is about relating to each other by temporarily eliminating gaps of wealth power & status

David transcended adversity to become a leader; Who are we to make excuses for a lack of greatness?

sympathy: Feeling sorrow or pity for another’s tribulations; Empathy:sharing an emotional experience

Last week the president announced a four-point plan. Unfortunately, there’s little buy-in from our European and Middle Eastern allies. Here’s my own four-point plan that may be more palatable to our allies.

Rosh Hashanah has an obvious connection to God’s Kingship. We constantly refer to Him during the Asseres Yemei Teshuvah as Melech/King. The nusach of the tefillah, referring to Rosh Hashanah as “a remembrance of the first day” (of Creation), implies a certain dimension of divine kingship operating at the time of Creation and replicated every […]

More Articles from Dr. Rafael Medoff
U.S. Ambassador to Turkey Henry Morgenthau Sr. pictured in Turkish-ruled Palestine.

With generous support from the Egyptian Jewish community, the exiled family built a new life for itself in the Mafruza and Gabbari refugee camps near Alexandria.

Jan de Hartog

While grateful not to be returned to Germany, the passengers understood they were still in the middle of a danger zone.

These “Jewish Amazons” were living proof of the failure of the enemies of the Jewish people.

Jewish soldiers in the Polish forces often encountered anti-Semitic prejudice.

Sulzberger, one of the most famous “religious Jews” who opposed Zionism did not change his mind even after the Holocaust.

Meryl Streep condemned Disney for associating with extremists while doing the very same thing.

In 1943, just before Yom Kippur, some 400 rabbis marched to the White House.

When Secretary of State John Kerry appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in September to make the case for U.S. intervention in Syria, he offered a historical analogy.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/front-page/fdr-and-the-voyage-of-the-damned/2011/11/14/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: