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April 17, 2014 / 17 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘u.s. history’

A Holocaust Pageant that Was too ‘Political’ for FDR

Wednesday, March 6th, 2013

Seventy years ago this week, 40,000 New Yorkers watched as Jewish activists and Hollywood celebrities joined hands to bring news of the Holocaust to the vaunted stage of Madison Square Garden. But a requested message of greeting from President Franklin D. Roosevelt never arrived, because the White House decided the mass murder of the Jews was too “political” to touch.

In January 1943, a Gallup poll asked Americans, “It is said that two million Jews have been killed in Europe since the war began. Do you think this is true or just a rumor?” Although the Allied leadership had publicly confirmed that two million Jews had been murdered, the poll found only 47 percent believed it was true, while 29 percent dismissed it as a rumor; the remaining 24 percent had no opinion.

The failure of the news media to treat the Nazi genocide as a serious issue contributed to the public’s skepticism. To some extent, editors were following the lead of the Roosevelt administration, which, after issuing a condemnation of the mass murder, made no effort to publicize the tragedy or aid Jewish refugees.

Ben Hecht, the newspaper columnist and Academy Award-winning screenwriter, responded in the way he knew best: he picked up his pen and began to write.

With his outsized dramatic sense in high gear, Hecht authored a full-scale pageant called “We Will Never Die.” On a stage featuring forty-foot-high tablets of the Ten Commandments, it would survey Jewish contributions to civilization throughout history, describe the Nazi slaughter of the Jews, and culminate in an emotional recitation of Kaddish, the traditional Jewish prayer for the dead, by a group of elderly rabbis.

“Will it save the four million [Jews still alive in Europe]?” Hecht wrote on the eve of the opening. “I don’t know. Maybe we can awaken some of the vacationing hearts in our government.”

Hecht was involved with a small group of Jewish activists led by Hillel Kook, a Zionist emissary from Palestine who operated under the pseudonym Peter Bergson. The Bergson Group booked Madison Square Garden for the evening of March 9 and set about trying to convince the established Jewish organizations to cosponsor “We Will Never Die.”

Bergson’s well-meaning attempt at Jewish unity flopped. A meeting of representatives of several dozen Jewish groups, hosted by Hecht, deteriorated into shouting matches. It was an example of what the historian Henry Feingold has described as the sad tendency of some Jewish organizations to “allow themselves the luxury of fiddling while Jews burned.”

Hecht succeeded, however, in persuading some of Hollywood’s most prominent Jews to volunteer their services. Actors Edward G. Robinson, Paul Muni, Sylvia Sydney and Stella Adler assumed the lead roles; Kurt Weill composed an original score; Moss Hart agreed to serve as director, and famed impresario Billy Rose signed on as producer.

It was Rose who decided to approach Roosevelt. Through White House adviser David Niles, Rose asked the president for a “brief message” that could be read aloud at the pageant. Nothing bold or controversial, of course – something that would say “only that the Jews of Europe will be remembered when the time comes to make the peace.”

Rose assured the White House, “There is no political color to our Memorial Service.”

But apparently even the very mention of the Jews was “political” in the eyes of official Washington. White House aides warned the president that sending the requested message would be “a mistake.” Despite Rose’s assurance, “it is a fact that such a message would raise a political question,” Henry Pringle of the Office of War Information advised.

What Pringle meant was that publicizing the slaughter could raise the “political question” of how America was going to respond to the Nazi genocide. And since Roosevelt had decided the U.S. was not going to take any specific steps to aid the Jews, raising that question would be embarrassing. Hence Rose was informed that the “stress and pressure” of the president’s schedule made it impossible for FDR to provide the few words of comfort and consolation the Bergson Group sought.

None of this deterred the irrepressible Ben Hecht and his comrades from making sure the show would go on. More than 20,000 people jammed Madison Square Garden on the frigid evening of March 9. Since there were so many people gathered on the sidewalks outside who were unable to enter the packed hall, the cast decided to do a second performance immediately after the first. The second show, too, filled the Garden.

Why Do US Elite Believe their Country Is Evil?

Thursday, January 31st, 2013

Originally published at Rubin Reports.

One of the highlights of the 1961 inauguration of President John F. Kennedy, 52 years ago, was a poem by the beloved Robert Frost. That morning I had watched the new vice-president, Lyndon Johnson, leave his home down the street and a bit later watched Frost read the poem on television that snowy day, looking at the same snow outside my window a few miles away.

The poem was entitled, “The Gift Outright,” and it began:

The land was ours before we were the land’s. She was our land more than a hundred years Before we were her people. She was ours In Massachusetts, in Virginia, But we were England’s, still colonials…. That poem could not be read today and if it were the result would be attacks, condemnation, and derision.

Why? Let’s count the reasons:

–The poem defines the birth of America as based on a gift. Today it would be said to be based on theft.

–A gift from whom? The implication is from God. To claim such a thing would be seen as hubris and dangerous non-atheism.

–It claims the land during the colonial period belonged to the colonialists whereas it is assumed now that it belonged to the “Native Americans” and thus such a statement is racist.

–It identifies America with people from England which would be the kind of racist, chauvinist thinking that could not be more derided. After all, what about the slaves as well as the Native Americans?

The fact that Frost was basically correct, that America in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries arose from English settlers, that it belonged at the national level to those who became Americans, that it shaped those people in a positive way, and that the founders (who Frost is echoing in the poem) saw things in a similar way, are all deemed irrelevant.

But how can America exist as a legitimate nation if Frost’s view is condemned, even if one takes into account the country’s later direction and development?

This discussion reminds us that the hegemonic elite in the United States today has largely achieved something never done elsewhere: it has convinced itself and a large portion of the country’s youth that America’s whole history is evil. There is one other country (I’ll mention below) that has far more logically convinced most of its people to believe just one part of its history is evil. See if you can guess.

I don’t want to exaggerate here. Obviously not everyone feels that way and equally this sentiment is not applied to all things. In his second inaugural speech, President Barack Obama put forward contradictory ideas. On one hand, he tried to bridge the gap by saying that the founders were merely outdated and that he had now assumed their mantle. On the other hand, he played subtly on the evil rich white male heterosexual slaveholder theme.

So they succeed in having it both ways: America was a great idea but the way it was organized is obsolete; America has a terrible bloodstained history because it is so innately corrupted. Either way it has to be fundamentally transformed.

The patriotic trimmings when invoked by those in charge nowadays seem cynical afterthoughts for political advantage rather than sincere sentiments. This is especially true in many classrooms which are shaping the next generation. It is no accident that one of the main textbooks used was written by a genuine Communist. The left-wing fringe rhetoric of the 1960s has now become the new normal.

The main theme is that America has been unfair, racist, sexist, homophobic, Islamophobic, a bully in the world, an oppressor of its own working class, etc. And of course it stole the land from the original inhabitants.

That country certainly sounds like a disaster. Why did its people even bother to continue such a failed experiment? Clearly it must be fundamentally transformed, no doubt.

And yet the French don’t say: How terrible is our country based on a thousand years of feudalism—nobility grinding the peasants’ faces in the mud, the bloody revolution, 25 years of aggressive war by Napoleon, decades of revolution and repression, the collapse of four republics, humiliating defeats in war, collaboration with the Nazis in World War Two, a colonial empire, and imperialist wars in Algeria and Indochina. They don’t say we are evil; our system is rotten; our souls deeply corrupted; we need fundamental transformation.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/analysis/rubin-reports/why-do-us-elite-believe-their-country-is-evil/2013/01/31/

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