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FDR: Hero Or Villain?
Readers Respond To Robert Rosen
(Rabbi) Haskel Lookstein
But later that month, Richard Lichtheim, in the Agency’s Geneva office, sent the Agency leadership in Jerusalem the first eyewitness account of the mass-murder process in Auschwitz. In response, Agency representatives in various countries repeatedly urged Allied officials to bomb Auschwitz.
Chaim Weizmann and Moshe Shertok, in London, lobbied the British. Also lobbying for bombing were Moshe Krausz, the Agency’s representative in Budapest; Richard Lichtheim, in Geneva; Yitzhak Greenbaum, chairman of the Agency’s Rescue Committee, in Jerusalem; and Eliahu Epstein, chief of the Jewish Agency’s Middle and Near East Division, who lobbied Soviet officials in Cairo. Epstein reported on his efforts to Ben-Gurion.
Rosen writes: “The World Jewish Congress consistently told the Department of War and the War Refugee Board that it was opposed to bombing …”
Only one official of the WJCongress, A. Leon Kubowitzki, said that the Allies should attack the camp with paratroopers rather than bombing from the air. But Kubowitzki’s WJC colleague, Maurice Perlzweig, sent U.S. officials requests to bomb the camps. Their boss, World Jewish Congress co-chair Nahum Goldmann, lobbied U.S., British and Soviet officials to bomb Auschwitz. On p. 614 of Rosen’s own book, he mentions a July 3, 1944 letter from Goldmann to exiled Czech leader Jan Masaryk.
What Rosen did not tell his readers is that Goldmann wrote: “We have discussed with the War Refugee Board [a U.S. government agency] the idea that the Russian and American Governments be asked to look for a way to destroy these camps by bombing or any other means. This would certainly stop or at least hold up the massacres since all the infernal instruments used, such as gas chambers, vans, etc., would have to be rebuilt.”
Rosen claims: “Very few Jewish leaders asked the British and American governments to bomb the camps … Most Jewish groups and leaders opposed the bombing of Auschwitz …”
Wrong yet again. Bombing was advocated not only by the Jewish Agency and World Jewish Congress, but also the Labor Zionists of America; the Emergency Committee to Save the Jewish People of Europe (the Bergson Group); Slovak Jewish leaders Gisi Fleischmann and Rabbi Michael Dov Weissmandel; Czech Jewish leader Ernest Frischer; and Swiss Jewish businessman and rescue activist Robert Goldschmidt. The American Jewish Conference, a coalition of all major U.S. Jewish organizations, called for “all measures” to be taken by the Allies to destroy the death camps-clearly not ruling out bombing.
The editors of the Independent Jewish Press Service urged bombing the camps, as did columnists for Opinion (the magazine edited by Stephen Wise) and the Yiddish daily Morgen Zhurnal. The Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported sympathetically on the bombing idea, as did the National Jewish Ledger. The aforementioned A. Leon Kubowitzki was the only official of any Jewish organization who is known to have expressed opposition to the idea of bombing.
Yes, Jewish leaders were too quick to accept the Roosevelt administration’s rejections of their bombing requests. They should not have so readily taken “no” for an answer when twelve thousand Jews were being murdered in Auschwitz every day. But timidity is not the same as opposition. And the Jewish leadership’s timidity did not absolve the Roosevelt administration of its own moral responsibility to make at least some minimal effort to save innocent lives.
Rafael Medoff, Director
The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies
Editor’s Note: Mr. Rosen will reply in next week’s issue.
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