web analytics
December 21, 2014 / 29 Kislev, 5775
 
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post
8000 meals Celebrate Eight Days of Chanukah – With 8,000 Free Meals Daily to Israel’s Poor

Join Meir Panim’s campaign to “light up” Chanukah for families in need.



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.

One FBI report about Bergson activist Maurice Rosenblatt derisively referred to the left-wing Coordinating Committee for Democratic Action, in which Rosenblatt was active, as “this Semitic Committee.” The FBI complained that Rosenblatt and his colleagues were trying to “smear” Nazi sympathizers in New York City.

“When there is a genuine threat, governments sometimes have to do things like eavesdrop,” Jack Yampolsky concedes. “But in our case, they were doing it for political reasons, and anti-Semitism also played a role. The fact that we vocally disagreed with U.S. government policy regarding the Holocaust and Jewish statehood was not a valid reason for the Roosevelt administration to enlist the FBI and the IRS in a war against the Bergson group.”

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
Dr. Ben Carson at the Western Wall.
Black GOP Leader Prays at the Western Wall for ‘Solomonic Wisdom’
Latest Indepth Stories
KidSport-Everybody-Is-A-Winner1

“D-e-t-e-r-m-i-n-a-t-i-o-n!”

This masked "soldier" carrying a machine-gun is not part of a terrorist organization, according to the European Court of Justice.

Hamas is continuing to prepare its next war against Israel instead of improving conditions in Gaza

UN Flags

If the UN Grants national recognition to Palestine, why stop there? Tibet, Chechnya, Basque…

The annual  Chabad menorah lighting in Sydney has been called off this year because of the murders in the Lindt cafe.

The decision to not publicly light the Menorah in Sydney, epitomizes the eternal dilemma of Judaism and Jews in the Diaspora.

Am Yisrael is one family, filled with excruciating pain&sorrow for losing the 4 kedoshim of Har Nof

What is its message of the dreidel?” The complexity and hidden nature of history and miracles.

Police play down Arab terrorism as mere “violence” until the truth can no longer be hidden.

The 7 branches of the menorah represent the 7 pillars of secular wisdom, knowledge, and science.

Obama obtained NO verifiable commitments from Cuba it would desist from acts prejudicial to the US

No one would deny that the program subjected detainees to less than pleasant treatment, but the salient point is, for what purpose?

For the past six years President Obama has consistently deplored all Palestinian efforts to end-run negotiations in search of a UN-imposed agreement on Israel.

It’s not an admiration. It is simply a kind of journalist fascination. It stands out, it’s different from more traditional Orthodoxy.

For Am Yisrael, the sun’s movements are subservient to the purpose of our existence.

Israelis now know Arab terrorism isn’t caused by Israeli occupation but by ending Israeli occupation

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: