web analytics
July 31, 2015 / 15 Av, 5775
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post


Home » InDepth » Op-Eds »

A Holocaust Pageant that Was too ‘Political’ for FDR

Shattering the wall of silence surrounding the Holocaust was the first crucial step in the process of mobilizing the American public against the slaughter.
Franklin D. Roosevelt

Franklin D. Roosevelt

Editor and children’s book author Miriam Chaikin, who at the time was a member of the Bergson Group’s office staff, attended the first performance. “The atmosphere was electric,” she recalled. “People in the audience were stunned by the pageant – and by the whole idea of Jewish issues being presented in such a place. In those days, it just wasn’t done. It really brought home the suffering of Europe’s Jews in a very powerful way, which really shook people up.”

“If there was a dry eye at Madison Square Garden Tuesday night, it wasn’t mine,” wrote reviewer Nick Kenny in the New York City daily PM. “It was the most poignant pageant we have ever witnessed. It is a story that should be made into a moving picture, just as it was presented at the Garden, and shown in every city, town and hamlet in the country.”

The Bergson Group did, in fact, take the show on the road. In the months to follow, “We Will Never Die” was performed before sellout crowds in Chicago Stadium, the Boston Garden, Philadelphia’s Convention Hall, the Hollywood Bowl, and Washington’s Constitution Hall. All together, more than 100,000 Americans attended the performances.

More than 200 members of Congress, numerous members of the international diplomatic corps (“ambassadors from everywhere,” Hecht called them), six justices of the Supreme Court, and Eleanor Roosevelt attended the Washington event. It was not the first time the famously independent first lady failed to toe the president’s line.

Mrs. Roosevelt was so moved by the performance that she devoted part of her next syndicated column, “My Day,” to the pageant and the plight of Europe’s Jews. For millions of American newspaper readers, it was the first time they heard about the Nazi mass murders.

Shattering the wall of silence surrounding the Holocaust was the first crucial step in the process of mobilizing the American public against the slaughter. Throughout 1943, Bergson and Hecht organized a series of public rallies, full-page newspaper ads, and Capitol Hill lobbying efforts that culminated in the introduction of a congressional resolution urging the creation of a U.S. government agency to rescue Jewish refugees. The public controversy caused by Congressional hearings on the resolution, combined with behind-the-scenes pressure from Treasury Department officials, convinced President Roosevelt to establish that agency, the War Refugee Board, in January 1944.

The War Refugee Board’s activities, which included financing the rescue work of Raoul Wallenberg, helped save the lives of an estimated 200,000 people during the final 15 months of the war. Seventy years ago this week, “We Will Never Die” helped set in motion the process that led to the saving of those lives.

(JNS)

About the Author: Dr. Rafael Medoff is the founding director of The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies and coeditor of the Online Encyclopedia of America's Response to the Holocaust.


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.

9 Responses to “A Holocaust Pageant that Was too ‘Political’ for FDR”

  1. Gil Gilman says:

    This article actually fills in a few blank spots in the holocaust literature of which I have read extensively.

  2. Gil Gilman says:

    This article actually fills in a few blank spots in the holocaust literature of which I have read extensively.

  3. Gil Gilman says:

    This article actually fills in a few blank spots in the holocaust literature of which I have read extensively.

  4. Gil Gilman says:

    This article actually fills in a few blank spots in the holocaust literature of which I have read extensively.

  5. Gil Gilman says:

    This article actually fills in a few blank spots in the holocaust literature of which I have read extensively.

  6. Gil Gilman says:

    This article actually fills in a few blank spots in the holocaust literature of which I have read extensively.

  7. eleanor roosevelt was a saint. her husband, the president, was a politician.

  8. Tim Riks says:

    never forget the US was an accessory to this murder, by politicians like Cordell Hull and Breckinridge Long to doing all they can to make sure the US took in as little Jewish Refugees as possible, to starting the Eugenics movement with the 1924 Immigration act which was designed to keep as little Jews as possible out of the US.

  9. Thank you for this revelation as to FDR's failure to support the Jews as did not establishment Jewry of the time. So, what else is new with current Jewish leadership or lack of thereof? Jerome S. Kaufman

Comments are closed.

Current Top Story
Matt Lee of the Associated Press at the State Department press briefing.
ObameDeal Exposed: It’s not ‘Secret’ from Congress but not in Writing
Latest Indepth Stories
Silhouette of "hilltop settler."

“Yesha” and Binyamin Regional Council leaders said the attack “is not the path of Jews in Judea and Samaria.”

Schwartz-073115

The occasion? The rarely performed mitzvah of pidyon peter chamor: Redemption of a firstborn donkey.

Rabbi YY Rubinstein

American leftists have a pathological self-inflicted blindness to the dangers of political Islam

Tobin-073115

Hillary should THANK Trump; By dominating the news he’s overshadowed the implosion of her campaign

Hard to remember when Jewish youth were so hostile to their heritage as they are on campuses today.

Names of the enablers of Iran’s Nuclear weapons will be added next to Hitler’s on the list of infamy

By most accounts, the one person with the political muscle to swing enough Democratic votes to override a veto is Sen. Schumer.

The next day, in a speech in New York to the Council on Foreign Relations, Mr. Kerry substantially upped the ante.

In Israel, the judiciary has established itself as superior to ALL other branches of the government.

The Fifteenth Day of the month of Av became a day of national rejoicing. The moment that had seemed hopeless became the moment of Redemption.

I think the melodies in our religious services have a haunting sound to them that just permeates your guts and gets into your soul. If you have any musical inclination, I think they inspire you to compose.

Cavalier analogies to the Holocaust are unacceptable, but Huckabee’s analogy was very appropriate.

Pollard was a Jewish-head-on-a-pike for all American Jews to see and to learn the explicit lesson.

If the Iran deal passes, Obama’s WH becomes world’s leading financier of terrorism against Americans

More Articles from Dr. Rafael Medoff
Former Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau

Morgenthau’s speech echoes history, reprising his father’s role of speaking truth to power: FDR

Ralph Nader

By using linguistic trickery, Nader is purposely looking to confuse the issue of anti-Semitism

An estimated 1.5-million Jewish men/women served in US, British, Soviet & Allied armies in WWII

Israeli history now has its version of “Dewey Defeats Truman” with headlines from 2 anti-Bibi papers

Prominent Jewish leaders acknowledged that their predecessors had mistreated the Bergson Group.

The long ordeal of the Armenian Orphan Rug, held hostage to fears of angering Turkey, has finally ended. Or has it?

Carter developed a fondness for Arafat believing “they were both ordained to be peacemakers by God”

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.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/a-holocaust-pageant-that-was-too-political-for-fdr/2013/03/06/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: