Meir Panim implements programs that serve Israel’s neediest populations with respect and dignity. Meir Panim also coordinated care packages for families in the South during the Gaza War.
On the eve of President Obama’s meeting with American Jewish leaders last week, a prominent Jewish journalist urged the White House to take the unusual step of providing a transcript of the conversation.
“Transparency – this administration came into office pledging plenty of it.… Now’s a good time to put those ideals into action,” wrote Jewish Telegraphic Agency editor in chief Ami Eden in his daily blog.
“The question is whether the Obama administration wants to force millions of American Jews to be dependent on the leaks, spin and judgment of a select few, or empower them to make up their own minds.”
If such transparency had been practiced during the Holocaust years, history might have turned out differently. American Jewry’s untarnished image of President Franklin Roosevelt remained intact only because Jewish leaders never revealed what FDR was saying to them in private.
On December 8, 1942, Rabbi Stephen Wise, longtime leader of the American Jewish Congress and the American Zionist movement, headed a delegation of five Jewish leaders to the White House. Afterward, Wise said that the president was “profoundly shocked” by the Nazis’ mass murder of European Jewry; that Roosevelt said “the American people will hold the perpetrators of these crimes to strict accountability”; and that FDR promised the Allies “are prepared to take every possible step” to “save those who may still be saved.”
It must have been very reassuring to American Jews to hear that the president was so concerned and doing whatever he could to save Jews from Hitler.
But an account by another participant, Jewish Labor Committee president Adolph Held, told a different story. Held privately told his colleagues that FDR began the meeting by joking about his choice of Governor Herbert Lehman, a Jew, to head the postwar administration in Germany.
Rabbi Wise then spoke briefly about the Nazi atrocities. Roosevelt replied that he was “very well acquainted” with the massacres but it would be “very difficult” to stop them since Hitler was “an insane man.” FDR asked the Jewish representatives for their suggestions. Four of them spoke, but “the entire conversation on the part of the delegation lasted only a minute or two,” Held wrote. “The President then plunged into a discussion of other matters.”
Of the 29 minutes the delegation spent with the President, “he addressed the delegation for 23 minutes.” As soon as FDR finished speaking, he “pushed some secret button, and his adjutant appeared in the room” to usher the Jewish leaders out.
What would the American Jewish public have thought if it was known that Roosevelt spent 23 of the 29 minutes telling jokes and commenting on subjects other than Europe’s Jews?
Fifteen months later, Wise covered up for FDR again. On March 9, 1944, Wise and fellow Zionist leader Rabbi Abba Hillel Silver met with Roosevelt. The British White Paper of 1939, which had almost completely shut the doors of Palestine to Jewish refugees, would expire shortly and Wise and Silver hoped the president would oppose its renewal.
Wise and Silver told the press afterward that Roosevelt said the U.S. “has never given its approval to the White Paper,” and had the “deepest sympathy” for the goal of a Jewish National Home. Once again, American Jewry could feel confident it had a stalwart friend in the Oval Office.
But private accounts of the next day’s cabinet meeting, by Vice President Henry Wallace and Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau, Jr., filled in some crucial blanks. FDR boasted to the cabinet that he told Wise and Silver “where to get off.”
He berated the Jewish leaders, “Do you want to start a Holy Jihad?…. If you people continue pushing this recommendation [for a Jewish national home in Palestine] on the Hill, you are going to be responsible for the killing of a hundred thousand people” (meaning that “enraged Arabs” would attack Americans in the Mideast as revenge for U.S. support of Zionism).
It was only after this dressing-down, Wallace wrote in his diary, that Roosevelt proceeded “to cause Wise and Silver to believe that he was in complete accord with them and the only question was timing.… The President certainly is a waterman. He looks one direction and rows the other with the utmost skill.”
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.
Comments are closed.
Myth #1: It is easy to be a B’nai Noach. It is extraordinarily hard to be a B’nai Noach.
The question of anti-Semitism in Europe today is truly tied to the issue of immigration.
Polls indicate that the Palestinians are much more against a two state solution than the Israelis.
Emigration from Israel is at an all-time low, far lower than immigration to Israel from Europe.
Leon Klinghoffer’s daughters: “‘Klinghoffer’ is justified as ‘a work of art’…This is an outrage.”
Do you seriously think that as you kidnap our children we should medically treat and help yours?
Sometimes collective action against the heinous acts of the majority is not enough. The world should not only support the blockade of Gaza; it must enforce the dismantling of Hamas.
The Arab Spring has challenged Jordan with the task of gradual reform with regard to its monarchy.
Israel offered Syria the entire Golan Heights, only to find that the Syrians were demanding MORE!
Israeli hasbara too can be described at best as pathetic, at worst non existent.
A ‘good news’ story from the Nepal avalanche disaster to warm your heart. Take out your Kleenex.
Journalists see the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as morality play: Israel=evil; Palestine=innocent
Warsaw Ghetto: At its height, the Nazis walled in some 500,000 Jews within the1.3 square mile area.
While police officers face dangers every day on the job, Jews also face danger in their daily lives.
The long ordeal of the Armenian Orphan Rug, held hostage to fears of angering Turkey, has finally ended. Or has it?
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-jewish-leaders-meet-presidents/2009/06/22/
Scan this QR code to visit this page online: