web analytics
January 31, 2015 / 11 Shevat, 5775
 
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post


Home » InDepth » Op-Eds »

When FDR Used The IRS Against Jewish Activists

President Franklin D. Roosevelt

President Franklin D. Roosevelt

The news that the Internal Revenue Service unfairly targeted conservative groups has brought renewed spotlight on a 2010 lawsuit filed by the pro-Israel group Z Street, which alleges it was also singled out by the IRS when applying for tax-exempt status.

The Z Street case, whose first hearing is set for July 2 in U.S. District Court in the District of Columbia, has raised eyebrows in the Jewish community. But Z Street’s claims, if true, would not mark the first time the IRS has been used against Jewish activists.

During the Holocaust era, the object of U.S. government wrath was the Bergson Group, a political action committee led by Peter Bergson (Hillel Kook), a Zionist emissary from Palestine. The group used newspaper ads, rallies, and lobbying to press the Franklin Delano Roosevelt administration for the rescue of Jews from the Nazis.

The president was not happy about those protests. One senior White House aide reported that FDR was “much displeased” when the Bergson Group brought 400 rabbis to Washington to plead for rescue.

First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt told Bergson himself that the president was “very upset” about one of the group’s ads, which FDR felt was “hitting below the belt” because it accused him of turning a blind eye to the Nazi massacres.

The U.S. State Department, too, was annoyed by Bergson’s campaign for rescue. Assistant Secretary of State Breckinridge Long privately complained that the group’s newspaper ads “made it very difficult for the Department.”

Long’s deputy, Robert Alexander, claimed that the slogan used in one Bergson ad, “Action – Not Pity,” had actually been invented by the Nazis as part of a conspiracy to embarrass the Allies.

It was not long before the administration sent both the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the IRS after Bergson. They were looking for evidence of criminal activity, but their motivation was political. An internal FBI memo I obtained under the Freedom of Information Act bluntly explained the reason for U.S. government action against Bergson: “This man has been in the hair of [Secretary of State] Cordell Hull.”

FBI agents began by getting background information from what they called “persons in New York City who are familiar with Israelite matters.” Then they eavesdropped on the Bergsonites’ telephone conversations, opened their mail, went through their trash, and planted informants in the group to steal documents from Bergson’s office.

The goal was to find proof the Bergson Group was secretly assisting the Irgun Zvai Leumi underground in Palestine. They found no such evidence.

The second goal was to find a link between Bergson and the Communist Party. One FBI memo approvingly quoted a rival Jewish organization’s description of the Bergsonites as “a group of thoroughly disreputable Communist Zionists.” In a private letter, J. Edgar Hoover referred to the playwright Ben Hecht and six other leading Bergson activists as “fellow travelers.” But the FBI’s spying on Bergson did not turn up any evidence of a Communist link, either.

At the same time, the IRS launched a full-scale inquiry into the Bergson Group’s finances, seeking to revoke its tax-exempt status. For nearly a year, IRS agents repeatedly visited the group’s New York City headquarters, once for a stretch where they stayed from morning until night for more than two weeks.

Louis and Jack Yampolsky, the father-and-son accounting team that handled Bergson’s finances pro bono, had to dig out and reconcile every piece of financial information in the group’s records.

“There were no photocopy machines in those days, so we had to hand-copy every disbursement and every receipt that was given for every donation,” Jack told me. “And because the Bergson Group had enormous grassroots appeal, it received literally thousands of one-dollar or two-dollar donations from people all over the country.”

In the end, the IRS investigators were unable to find evidence of any wrongdoing. In fact, as the IRS team became familiar with the group’s work, they came to sympathize with it, and “when they finished, [they] made a contribution between them – every one of them gave a few dollars,” Bergson later told Prof. David S. Wyman.

The sympathy expressed by the IRS agents contrasted sharply with the sentiments expressed in some of the FBI documents I obtained.

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.

One Response to “When FDR Used The IRS Against Jewish Activists”

  1. Anonymous says:

    RABBI BERNHARD ROSENBERG 5 fairhill rd. edsion nj 08817 732 572 2766.

    Subject: CALL on the Hearings of IRS for targeted Jewish/pro-Israel groups. 202-225-3625

    The committee that held hearings for the targeted Tea Party groups needs our support and our voice to tell them to also investigate Jewish and pro-Israel and Christian groups the IRS targeted.

    Please call and thank them for the Tea Party/IRS hearings and asked them to do the same for Jewish/pro-Israel and Christian groups that were targeted by Obama's IRS cronies that can share their stories. They too must be heard.

    Ways and Means Committee Office.

    1102 Longworth House Office Building.

    Washington D.C. 20515

    P: 202-225-3625

    F: 202-225-2610

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Jeremy Bird, working for Israeli campaign outfit V15, shown at Ted Talk, May 20, 2014.
V15 US Political Operative Marinated in Hate-Israel Activism
Latest Indepth Stories
Eli Weiss

Shepherding in the Shomron isn’t your usual kind of shepherding – despite his business-minded beginnings, Eli has discovered that a strong ideological impetus powers the job.

Resnick-013015-Pilot

I said to myself, “This story has got to be told. We’re losing this generation of World War II and if we don’t listen to them now, we’ve lost it.”

Eller-013015

His entire existence was about spreading simcha and glorifying G-d’s name on a daily basis.

IRAN-US-POLITICS-MILITARY

An Israeli strike could theoretically damage Iran’s nuclear program; only US can terminate program

At some point we need to stop simply defending and promoting Israel and start living in Israel

“We Jews are the only people who when we drop a book on the floor pick it up and kiss it.”

Though Zaide was the publisher of The Jewish Press, a big newspaper,I always remember him learning

Speaker Silver has been an extraordinary public servant since his election to the Assembly in 1975 and has been an exemplary leader of that body since 1994.

He spent the first leg of his daylong visit to the French capital at Hyper Cacher.

Drawing Congress into the Iran nuclear debate is the last thing the White House wants.

Great leaders like Miriam and like Sarah Schenirer possess the capacity to challenge the status quo that confronts them.

Obama’s foreign policy is viewed by both liberals and conservatives as deeply flawed

Many journalists are covertly blaming the Charlie Hebdo writers themselves through self-censorship.

Why does the Times relay different motivations and narratives for jihadists in Europe and Israel?

More Articles from Dr. Rafael Medoff
Charley Levine

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

Armenian Orphan Rug

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.

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.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/when-fdr-used-the-irs-against-jewish-activists/2013/05/22/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: