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Their morally redeeming outrage (and their direct threat to go public) eventually forced FDR to take refugee and rescue affairs away from the State Department. The new rescue agency, the War Refugee Board, which is generally credited with saving 200,000 Jewish lives in occupied Europe, did help to get thousands of Jews out of Transnistria. Had the U.S. acted earlier, tens of thousands more Romanian Jews would have survived.
Short of defeating Nazi Germany, the U.S. had no means to rescue most of the Jews who ultimately perished in concentration camps such as Auschwitz. But that was not true of the Transnistrian Jews and therefore their plight became a morally defining moment. The State Department should acknowledge its shameful past by creating its own memorial to the Romanian Holocaust victims. The memorial would not simply be an act of expiation, but rather a permanent reminder that, as the Talmudic saying goes, “To save one life is as if you have saved the world.”
About the Author: Gregory J. Wallance is a lawyer and writer in New York City and a long-time human rights activist. His most recent book is “America’s Soul in the Balance: The Holocaust, FDR’s State Department, and the Moral Disgrace of An American Aristocracy.”
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