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April 21, 2014 / 21 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Wyman Institute’

Peacenik McGovern: We Should Have Bombed Auschwitz

Wednesday, October 24th, 2012

George McGovern is widely remembered for advocating immediate American withdrawal from Vietnam and sharp reductions in defense spending. Yet despite his reputation as a pacifist, the former U.S. senator and 1972 presidential candidate, who died Sunday at 90, did believe there were times when America should use military force abroad.

Case in point: the Allies’ failure to bomb Auschwitz, an episode with which McGovern had a little-known personal connection.

In June 1944, the Roosevelt administration received a detailed report about Auschwitz from two escapees who described the mass-murder process and drew diagrams pinpointing the gas chambers and crematoria. Jewish organizations repeatedly asked U.S. officials to order the bombing of Auschwitz and the railroad lines leading to the camp. The proposal was rejected on the grounds that it would require “considerable diversion” of planes that were needed elsewhere for the war effort.

One U.S. official claimed that bombing Auschwitz “might provoke even more vindictive action by the Germans.”

Enter McGovern. In World War II, the 22-year-old son of a South Dakota pastor piloted a B-24 “Liberator” bomber. Among his targets: German synthetic oil factories in occupied Poland – some of them fewer than five miles from the Auschwitz gas chambers.

In 2004, McGovern spoke on camera for the first time about those experiences in a meeting organized by the David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies with Holocaust survivor and philanthropist Sigmund Rolat and filmmakers Stuart Erdheim and Chaim Hecht.

McGovern dismissed the Roosevelt administration’s claims about the diversion of planes. The argument was just “a rationalization,” he said, noting that no diversions would have been needed when he and other U.S pilots already were flying over that area.

Ironically, the Allies did divert military resources for other reasons. For example, FDR in 1943 ordered the Army to divert money and manpower to rescue artwork and historic monuments in Europe’s battle zones. The British provided ships to bring 20,000 Muslims on a religious pilgrimage from Egypt to Mecca in the middle of the war. Gen. George Patton even diverted U.S. troops in Austria to save 150 of the famous Lipizzaner dancing horses.

“There is no question we should have attempted…to go after Auschwitz,” McGovern said in the interview. “There was a pretty good chance we could have blasted those rail lines off the face of the earth, which would have interrupted the flow of people to those death chambers, and we had a pretty good chance of knocking out those gas ovens.”

Even if there was a danger of accidentally harming some of the prisoners, “it was certainly worth the effort, despite all the risks,” McGovern said, because the prisoners were already “doomed to death” and an Allied bombing attack might have slowed down the mass-murder process, thus saving many more lives.

At the time, 16-year-old Elie Wiesel was part of a slave labor battalion stationed just outside the main camp of Auschwitz. Many years later, in his bestselling book Night, Wiesel described a U.S. bombing raid on the oil factories that he witnessed.

“[I]f a bomb had fallen on the blocks [the prisoners' barracks], it alone would have claimed hundreds of victims on the spot. But we were no longer afraid of death; at any rate, not of that death,” Wiesel wrote. “Every bomb that exploded filled us with joy and gave us new confidence in life. The raid lasted over an hour. If it could only have lasted ten times ten hours!”

At the time, McGovern and his fellow pilots had no idea what was happening in Auschwitz.

“I attended every briefing that the air force gave to us,” he said. “I heard everyone, from generals on down. I never heard once mentioned the possibility that the United States air force might interdict against the gas chambers.”

Ironically, in one raid, several stray bombs from McGovern’s squadron missed the oil factory they were targeting and accidentally struck an SS sick bay, killing five SS men.

McGovern said that if his commanders had asked for volunteers to bomb the death camp, “whole crews would have volunteered.” Most soldiers understood that the war against the Nazis was not just a military struggle but a moral one, as well. In his view they would have recognized the importance of trying to interrupt the mass-murder process, even if it meant endangering their own lives in a risky bombing raid.

A New York Election That Sent A Message To Truman

Thursday, September 13th, 2012

By the summer of 1947, British Mandatory Palestine was in flames. Jewish underground fighters waged guerrilla warfare against the British administration. Refugee ships, such as the S.S. Exodus, challenged London’s refusal to let Holocaust survivors enter the Holy Land. A United Nations committee visited the region and returned with a plan to partition Palestine into Jewish and Arab states.

Under an avalanche of pressure from American Jews, Christian Zionists, and prominent Republicans, the Truman administration endorsed the UN plan. But as soon as President Truman saw that Arab rejection of the plan was intractable, he began to back off. By early 1948, Truman and his State Department advisers were preparing to announce that U.S. preferred “international trusteeship” over Palestine – meaning no Jewish state.

That’s when an unexpected development in the Bronx sent shock waves through the White House.

A special election was called in February to fill a vacant congressional seat in the Bronx. The Democratic nominee, Karl Propper, was fully backed by the local party machine, headed by Truman confidante Ed Flynn. The district was so overwhelmingly Democratic that the Republicans did not even mount an active campaign. Instead, Propper’s main challenger was the almost-unknown nominee of the left-wing American Labor Party, Leo Isacson.

It was just at that time that former vice president Henry Wallace was making serious plans to run as a third-party candidate in the 1948 presidential election. Wallace hoped his Progressive Party would win the support of followers of the American Labor Party. Wallace and Isacson decided to turn the Bronx race into a test of Jewish anger over Truman’s Palestine policy – and perhaps an indication as to whether Jews might choose Wallace over Truman in November.

The Democrats decided to bring out their big gun–the beloved former first lady, Eleanor Roosevelt. Mrs. Roosevelt spoke at a Propper election rally on February 13, and wrote a syndicated column blasting Isacson. “A candidate must be 100 percent for the Communist program to receive support from the [ALP],” she declared. Mrs. Roosevelt claimed that “the Communists have been concentrating their workers in this [part of the Bronx].” She predicted that Isacson, if elected, would cast votes that would “help to create chaos in Europe, [which] is one of the prerequisites to the acceptance of Communism.”

But Mrs. Roosevelt’s Red-baiting support of Propper was less successful than Wallace’s support of Isacson. He repeatedly visited the Bronx district to campaign for Isacson, hammering away on the Palestine issue. Truman “talks Jewish but acts Arab,” Wallace charged, urging Jewish voters to reject Propper as a way of sending the administration a message about its Palestine policy.

They did.

Isacson swamped Propper, 55 percent to 31 percent. Jewish voters had fired a loud warning shot at the administration.

Taking a page from Leo Isacson’s playbook, Brooklyn Jewish activist Bob Weintraub decided he would try to send a similar message to the White House from his East New York neighborhood. In the spring of 1948, the hardworking Jewish community organizer and his friends reconvened the network of grassroots activists who had produced the stunning Republican triumph in the 22nd New York State Assembly race in 1946. (See last week’s Jewish Press front-page essay, “The Jewish Vote and the 1948 Election.”)

Their target: Democratic incumbent Eugene Keogh, representing the 9th congressional district. Keogh, who was serving his sixth consecutive term in congress, was not accustomed to serious opposition. “The local Democratic Party leaders were more than a little angry,” Weintraub recalled, when he and his friends persuaded a dynamic young attorney, George Sassower, to challenge Keogh in the Democratic primary.

Weintraub and his fellow activists knocked on doors, gave speeches on street corner soapboxes, and handed out campaign literature. “We were all volunteers. I think our whole budget for the campaign was about $30.” Hour after hour, day after day, they canvassed the streets for Sassower, on just one issue: a Jewish state in Palestine.

“The Brooklyn county party leaders called us in,” Weintraub recounted. “They were afraid our message was resonating with Jewish voters. They desperately wanted to get us out of the race. They threatened to find ‘something’ that would give them grounds to haul Sassower before the American Bar Association’s character committee. At the same time, they promised they would communicate to the White House and the national Democratic leadership the level of anger among Jewish voters in Brooklyn. That, in the end, was all we really wanted. So Sassower dropped out. But our mission was accomplished.”

The Jewish Vote And The 1948 Election

Wednesday, September 5th, 2012

THE JEWISH VOTE, THE HOLOCAUST AND ISRAEL
A conference sponsored by the David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies Fordham U. Law School
140 West 62 St. (between Columbus Ave. & Amsterdam Ave.)

Sunday, September 23 – 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
featuring Mayor Ed Koch, Prof. David Wyman and other prominent speakers
Info: 202-434-8994 or www.WymanInstitute.org

* * * * *

Bob Weintraub chuckled appreciatively the first time he heard that Barack Obama described his job before he went into politics as “community organizer.”

Bob knows a thing or two about community organizing: during the late 1940s, he helped organize a series of remarkable grassroots election campaigns in New York City that sent a powerful warning to President Harry Truman about the Jewish community’s unhappiness over his administration’s waffling on Zionism.

The story of Jewish activists who used local elections to influence America’s Mideast policy in the 1940s resonates strongly this election season – especially after Jewish voters in New York played such a crucial role in the unprecedented election of a Republican to fill Congressman Anthony Weiner’s old seat last September.

Weintraub grew up in Brooklyn’s East New York neighborhood and attended Thomas Jefferson High School during the politically tumultuous 1930s. “It was like a yeshiva in those days – 95 percent Jewish,” he told me in a recent interview. “But most of the Jewish kids had very little interest in Zionism or other Jewish concerns.”

As a result, a handful of students affiliated with the pro-Communist American Student Union and led by future historian Howard Zinn exercised disproportionate influence on campus. “Our teachers sometimes organized debates on issues of the day, such as disarmament, or the role of the federal government,” Weintraub recalled. “Usually Howard represented one side, and I represented the other.”

The events of the Hitler years convinced Weintraub that a Jewish state was the only solution for the Jews. “I was struck by photos in the newspapers of bearded, elderly Jews being forced to scrub the streets of Vienna, while crowds laughed and cheered,” he remembered. “I realized these kinds of outrages would never end unless the Jews had their own country.”

Most of his fellow students were “apathetic,” he said. “Even when news of the mass killings started reaching us, not many people seemed terribly concerned.”

“My parents were immigrants from Galicia,” he noted. “They corresponded regularly with their parents and siblings, who were still in Europe. As the years wore on, the letters from Europe told of things getting worse and worse for the Jews. And then at a certain point, the letters stopped coming.”

Eventually he learned that his father’s and his grandmother’s brothers and sisters, along with their spouses and children, were all murdered by the Germans and their Ukrainian collaborators.

Drafted in 1943, Weintraub was sent by the U.S. Army to Mississippi for infantry training before eventually being shipped out to Germany following the Battle of the Bulge.

* * * * *

When Weintraub returned home to East New York in the spring of 1946, he found a Jewish community engulfed in political turmoil.

The press was filled with stories about the plight of the hundreds of thousands of Holocaust survivors in European Displaced Persons camps, waiting for permission to go to Eretz Yisrael. U.S. envoy Earl Harrison had recently returned from a visit to the camps and reported that the DPs suffered from inadequate medical care, shelter, food, and clothing. Some had nothing to wear but German SS uniforms. Conditions were so poor, Harrison asserted, “we appear to be treating the Jews as the Nazis treated them except that we do not exterminate them.”

The overwhelming majority of the DPs wanted to go to Israel, but the British White Paper of 1939 had shut the country’s gates to all but a handful of Jews, and London showed no signs of relenting.

American Jews, Weintraub found, were deeply shaken as they came to grips with the full extent of the Holocaust. “People watched the newsreel footage in the movie houses of Allied troops liberating the death camps,” he pointed out. “They saw the piles of dead bodies. They were in anguish over what they were seeing. And more than a few felt guilty – and rightly so – that they had voted 90% percent for Roosevelt in 1944 as if nothing had happened.”

Honoring The Memory Of Jan Karski

Thursday, May 31st, 2012

By the time he was 26, Jan Karski had been imprisoned by the Soviets, tortured by the Gestapo, and nearly drowned while escaping from a hospital in German-occupied Slovakia.

Had he chosen then to end his service in the World War II-era Polish underground, few would have challenged his decision. Instead, he to chose to risk his life again, to bring news about Hitler’s mass murder of European Jewry to the outside world.

At a White House ceremony on May 29, Karski was awarded, posthumously, a Presidential Medal of Freedom for his courage and sacrifice, and taking action when, as President Obama recently said, “so many others stood silent.”

Karski, a Polish Catholic, was smuggled into the Warsaw Ghetto in 1942, as the Nazis were deporting hundreds of thousands of Warsaw’s Jews to the gas chambers of Treblinka. Walking through the ghetto, he saw corpses piled in the gutter, emaciated children clothed in rags, dazed men and women slumped against decrepit buildings.

At one point, gunfire erupted and Karski’s comrades pulled him into a nearby apartment. He saw two uniformed teenagers with pistols in the street. “They are here for the ‘Jew hunt,’ ” Karski was told. For sport, Hitler Youth members would venture into the Jewish part of the city and shoot people at random.

Days later, Karski and a compatriot, disguised as Ukrainian militiamen, took a six-hour train ride to a site in southeastern Poland called Izbica. It was a “sorting station”; when Jews were shipped to a death camp, Karski learned, the Germans would first take them to Izbica, rob them of their last belongings, and then send them off to the gas chambers.

Having seen hell on earth, Kaski now was determined to alert the world to what he had witnessed. His life in danger at every step, he traveled by train across occupied Belgium, Germany, and France. Thanks to an injection from a sympathetic dentist that swelled his jaw, Karski was able to avoid conversation that might have revealed his Polish identity. He hiked across the Pyrenees into Spain, and from there traveled to London.

Karski was able to secure a meeting with British Foreign Minister Anthony Eden, but Eden showed little interest in Karski’s account of the slaughter of the Jews. The prime minister, Winston Churchill, was said to be too busy to see him at all. Karski did succeed in generating a number of sympathetic reports in the British press and on BBC Radio.

The enterprising young Pole arrived in the United States in July 1943. One of his first meetings was with Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter. Karski described the Warsaw Ghetto, the Izbica transit station, and the systematic annihilation of European Jewry. Frankfurter’s response: “I am unable to believe you.”

On July 28, the young Polish courier met with President Franklin D. Roosevelt, in the Oval Office, for more than an hour. Karski began by describing the activities of the Polish underground. The president listened with fascination, asked questions and offered unsolicited advice, some of it a bit eccentric – such as his idea of putting skis on small airplanes to fly underground messengers between England and Poland during the winter. But when Karski related details of the mass killings of the Jews, Roosevelt had nothing to say. The president was, as Karski politely put it, “rather noncommittal.”

Roosevelt seemed to view the suffering of the Jews as just another unfortunate aspect of what civilians suffer in every war. He did not believe it was justified for the U.S. to use its resources to rescue Jews from the Nazis. And he did not want hundreds of thousands of Jewish refugees on his hands, clamoring to be admitted to the United States.

Although disheartened by his encounter with the president, Karski did not give up. He authored a harrowing first-person account of the situation in Hitler’s Europe, “Story of a Secret State,” and spent much of 1945 delivering hundreds of lectures around the United States about his experiences.

In the waning days of World War II, Karski was called upon for one last mission – this time, for Herbert Hoover.

The former president feared the new Soviet-backed regimes in Eastern Europe would confiscate, alter, or destroy documents relating to the activities of the governments-in-exile that had fled to London when the Nazis invaded. The Kremlin had every incentive to delegitimize the regimes they had supplanted. Hoover recognized that the documents would be a crucial source of information about the exiles’ wartime efforts, including their attempts to publicize the plight of the Jews and promote rescue. So he enlisted Karski to save the historical record.

Letters To The Editor

Wednesday, May 9th, 2012

Jews And Obama (I)
I was alarmed by the report that a majority of American Jews support President Obama for reelection in November (“With Election Six Months Away, Obama Still Leads Among Jews,” front page news story, May 4).

It is difficult for me to understand how American Jews could be taken in by the president. As you have noted in your editorials for many months, there is little to suggest that his sharp about-face on the Middle East was dictated by anything other than his fear of losing the support of the Jewish community and other supporters of Israel.

Should he end up being reelected with the support of the Jewish community and indeed revert back to his past positions on the Middle East, we will have only ourselves to blame.
Richard Wilner
(Via E-Mail)

 

Jews And Obama (II)
It may be an uncomfortable reality for those of us in the Orthodox community to accept, but most non-Orthodox Jews have never shared our vision of a greater Israel beyond the Green Line. They are therefore comforted by Obama’s constant refrain of his “rock solid” commitment to Israel’s security – even though that commitment does not necessarily refer to East Jerusalem and the West Bank.

And of course the vast majority of American Jews support the liberal agenda of the Democratic Party. So despite the constant – and indeed mindless – demonization of Obama on many Orthodox blogs and websites, most of our fellow Jews will happily vote for him in November. And then we’ll realize just how small and relatively insignificant a force we are in national politics.
Miriam Adelman
Los Angeles, CA

 

Jews And Obama (III)
If Obama wins a second term he will be free to restart his attacks on Israel, decimate the economy and military and pursue his stated goal to “fundamentally transform” America.

Obama enjoys the support of almost every Jewish politician and a majority of American Jews despite his clear hostility to Israel and the damage he has done to the interests of Jews and all other productive, working Americans.

Jews who support a president who is a danger to Israel and wants to fundamentally transform the best country in history for Jews exhibit a profound self-destructive mental pathology that defies logic and understanding.
George Rubin
New York, NY

 

Wiesel And Obama
It is not surprising that Elie Wiesel would say nothing about President Obama’s homogenizing the Holocaust but bend over backward to create the false impression that Prime Minister Netanyahu did the same thing and criticize him for it (“Wiesel Versus Netanyahu,” editorial, May 4.)

Wiesel, for all his gravitas and dues he has paid, has long been a Democratic Party partisan. Only recently he called upon Mitt Romney to condemn the Mormon practice of posthumously baptizing Jews. It is a deplorable practice, to be sure, but what does Romney have to do with it? He is a presidential candidate who happens to be a Mormon, not “The Mormon Candidate.” Why do I believe Wiesel was trying to make the American public uncomfortable with Romney’s faith?

I don’t recall Wiesel calling on candidate Obama to denounce the Reverend Wright or criticizing Obama for being Wright’s devoted parishioner for more than 20 years.
Max Greenstein
(Via E-Mail)

 

Pollard And Peres (I)
Last week’s Pollard editorial (“The Pollard Petition”) pointed to an interesting anomaly. President Shimon Peres is soon to be presented with America’s highest civilian award by President Obama, doubtless with great rhetoric. Yet someone who spied for Israel during Peres’s term as Israel’s prime minister will continue to languish in jail unless Obama grants him a pardon, something he and his predecessors have refused to do despite calls for the same from many former high U.S. government and elected officials.

If the spying episode, for which the former prime minister is ultimately responsible since it happened on his watch, is not considered reason enough to deny Peres such great honor, why is it considered reason enough to keep the hapless Pollard in jail?
Saul Kaminer
(Via E-Mail)

 

Pollard And Peres (II)
I’m not sure I understand the logic of petitioning Israeli President Shimon Peres to do more to persuade President Obama to release Jonathan Pollard. Peres has done much on Pollard’s behalf, as has Prime Minister Netanyahu, all to no avail.

The resistance to freeing Pollard has come from several U.S. presidents and American defense and intelligence bureaucrats.

Yes, the continued incarceration of Pollard under a life sentence is unprecedented given his spying for an ally of the United States and is grossly disproportionate to the sentences meted out to spies who pleaded guilty to the level of crime he committed. And it is all too often overlooked that Pollard did not plead guilty to espionage, but to stealing classified documents, a much lesser crime. But what does any of that have to do with Israeli leaders?
Asher Weinberg
Jerusalem

Benzion Netanyahu’s Role In American Politics

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2012

Benzion Netanyahu – historian, one-time political activist and father of Israel’s prime minister – died Monday in Jerusalem at 102. An accomplished scholar and the patriarch of one of Israel’s most important political families, he also played a surprising and little-known role in American political history.

Netanyahu was born in Poland in 1910 to a family deeply immersed in the world of religious Zionism. His father, Rabbi Nathan Mileikowsky, a popular Zionist preacher, brought the family to British-ruled Palestine in 1920. He Hebraicized the family name to Netanyahu.

In the wake of the Palestinian Arab riots of 1929, Netanyahu was attracted to the militant wing of the Zionist movement, Revisionist Zionism, headed by Vladimir Ze’ev Jabotinsky. His literary talents were recognized early on, and he served as editor-in-chief of the Revisionist newspaper HaYarden in the 1930s.

In 1940, Jabotinsky sent several of his leading disciples, including Netanyahu and future Knesset member Hillel Kook (better known as Peter Bergson), to the United States to seek funds and public support for the rescue of Europe’s Jews and creation of a Jewish state in Palestine.

“It was a brand new world for us,” Netanyahu told me in one of my interviews with him. “I had never been to America. But I had to learn quickly – there was no time. The world of European Jewry was going up in flames.”

Netanyahu became executive director of the U.S. wing of the Revisionist Zionist movement and editor of its magazine, Zionews. His essays were notable for their passion, political insights and high level of fluency in a language he only recently had mastered. One 1944 editorial criticized mainstream Jewish leaders as “too cautious, too appeasing, and too ready to swallow the meaningless statements of sympathy that [are] issued from high places.”

Bergson and Netanyahu employed tactics not commonly used by the American Jewish community at the time, including placing full-page advertisements in The New York Times and other newspapers. Some of the ads challenged the Roosevelt administration’s stance on refugees. Others took aim at the British government’s White Paper policy of closing Palestine to Jewish immigration. One that Netanyahu authored was headlined “The White Paper Must Be Smashed, if Millions of Jews are to be Saved!”

Netanyahu divided his time between Revisionist headquarters in New York City and Capitol Hill, where he sought to mobilize congressional backing for the Zionist cause. At the time, mainstream Jewish leaders such as Rabbi Stephen S. Wise were strong supporters of President Franklin D. Roosevelt and stayed away from the Republicans. Netanyahu, by contrast, actively cultivated ties to prominent Republicans such as former president Herbert Hoover, as well as dissident Democrats such as Sen. Elbert Thomas of Utah, a Mormon.

In 1944, Netanyahu sought to have the Republican Party endorse Jewish rescue and statehood.

In the months leading up to that year’s Republican national convention, the Revisionists undertook what they called “a systematic campaign of enlightenment” about Palestine among GOP leaders such as Hoover, Sen. Robert Taft, who chaired the convention’s resolutions committee, and Rep. Clare Booth Luce, wife of the publisher of Time and Life magazines.

The GOP adopted an unprecedented plank demanding “refuge for millions of distressed Jewish men, women, and children driven from their homes by tyranny” and the establishment of a “free and democratic” Jewish state. The Republicans’ move compelled the Democrats to compete for Jewish support and treat the Jewish vote as if it were up for grabs. The Democratic National Convention, which was held the following month in Chicago, for the first time endorsed “unrestricted Jewish immigration and colonization” of Palestine and the establishment of “a free and democratic Jewish commonwealth.”

These events helped ensure that support for Zionism and later Israel would become a permanent part of American political culture. Every subsequent Republican and Democratic convention has adopted a similar plank. To do less became politically inconceivable.

In recent years, pundits have speculated on the extent to which Benzion Netanyahu may have influenced his son’s actions as prime minister. While it is difficult to draw a direct connection between father and son on specific policy matters, there is a parallel in their efforts to cultivate support for Israel on both sides of the political aisle.

While working as a political activist in the 1940s, Benzion Netanyahu also managed to complete a doctorate in medieval Jewish history at Dropsie College in Philadelphia. He later taught Jewish history at Dropsie, and then at the University of Denver and Cornell University. Netanyahu’s magisterial study, The Origins of the Inquisition in Fifteenth Century Spain, widely considered a groundbreaking work in his field, was published in 1995. He spent time in both Israel and the United States over the years, returning to Israel permanently in 1976, the same year his son Yoni was killed while leading the Entebbe rescue operation.

Harvard Never Learns

Wednesday, March 7th, 2012

This past weekend Harvard hosted a One-State Solution Conference, designed to promote the dissolution of Israel. It is only the latest example of that university’s longstanding practice of facilitating the spread of anti-Semitism.

The virulently anti-Israel Harvard student organizations that sponsored the event, including the Palestine Solidarity Committee, Justice for Palestine, the Palestine Caucus, and the Arab Caucus, acknowledge in the program that the One-State Solution Conference would not have been possible without the support of the Carr Center for Human Rights at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and funding from the Harvard Provost’s Office and the Center for International Affairs.

Harvard president Drew Gilpin Faust and her administration did not express any concern over the conference’s heavily biased and non-scholarly nature. Not one of the speakers is known to be sympathetic to Israel, and many are prominently involved in the campaign to boycott Israel’s universities and to pressure American schools to divest any holdings in corporations that do business there.

Benny Morris, a leading scholar of the Arab-Israeli conflict, has described keynote speaker Ilan Pappé, a supporter of Israel’s minuscule Communist party, as “at best… one of the world’s sloppiest historians; at worst, one of the most dishonest.”

Harvard Law School professor Duncan Kennedy, the opening speaker, has denied that Hamas is committed to Israel’s destruction, even though the Hamas charter accuses Jews of plotting to take over the world, and claims they caused the two world wars and the French and Bolshevik revolutions.

Unfortunately, there is nothing new about Harvard’s tolerating and even assisting anti-Semitic propagandists. In 2000, Harvard’s Divinity School accepted funds from United Arab Emirates dictator Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan to endow a professorship in Islamic Religious Studies named for him. The dictator had already established a Zayed Centre in his own nation that condemned Israel’s existence and promoted Holocaust denial. Harvard planned faculty exchanges with the Zayed Centre.

No Harvard administrator or professor publicly criticized the university’s acceptance of the sheik’s funds. The endowed professorship was withdrawn only because a graduate student, Rachel Fish, mobilized public support against it.

By contrast, the Harvard administration refused to host an academic conference on American responses to the Holocaust that the David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies proposed in 2004. Many of the world’s leading Holocaust scholars are affiliated with the Wyman Institute. The institute asked me to present the keynote lecture, on Harvard’s response to Nazism. As a courtesy, I sent then-Harvard president Larry Summers a detailed summary of my lecture. Summers’s office replied several months later that it would not host the conference. It emphasized that no Harvard administrator would attend if it were held elsewhere. Boston University’s Elie Wiesel Center for Judaic Studies was delighted to serve as host.

My lecture focused on how Harvard and other elite universities forged friendly ties with Germany’s Nazified universities, helping the Hitler regime improve its image in the West. Harvard sent a delegate to Heidelberg University’s 550th anniversary celebration in 1936, a Nazi propaganda festival orchestrated by Josef Goebbels. This occurred after Germany’s universities expelled their Jewish faculty members and the Nuremberg Laws stripped Jews of their citizenship. Heidelberg University promoted Nazi “racial science” and “Aryan Physics.”

Harvard warmly welcomed to its campus Hitler’s foreign press chief Ernst Hanfstaengl, a fanatical anti-Semite. Harvard president James Conant called anti-Nazi protesters who demonstrated against Hanfstaengl’s visit “ridiculous.” Harvard Law School dean Roscoe Pound accepted an honorary degree from Berlin University, personally presented by Nazi Germany’s ambassador, Hans Luther. Harvard Law professor Felix Frankfurter unsuccessfully pleaded with Conant not to allow the ceremony to be held on campus.

Sadly, there is consistency in Harvard’s complicity in helping Nazi Germany present itself as civilized during the 1930s; accepting funds from a Holocaust denier, Sheik Zayed; trying to suppress a scholarly conference on the Holocaust; and now serving as a platform to promote the destruction of the Jewish state.

Stephen H. Norwood is professor of history at the University of Oklahoma and author, most recently, of “The Third Reich in the Ivory Tower: Complicity and Conflict on American Campuses” (Cambridge University Press, 2009).

The Mormon Senator Who Tried To Save Anne Frank

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

The news that a Mormon temple in the Dominican Republic recently conducted a posthumous proxy baptism of Anne Frank, the most famous diarist of the Holocaust, undoubtedly will cause some offense in the Jewish community. Evidently the baptizers believe they were saving Anne’s soul. Of greater significance, however, is what Mormons tried to do to save Anne’s life.

Millions of Americans know the story of the German Jewish teenager who hid for more than two years in an Amsterdam attic until she and her family were discovered by the Nazis and sent to the death camps. Anne Frank’s heartbreaking diary is required reading in schools throughout the United States.

What was not known, until a few years ago, is that before they went into hiding, the Franks requested permission to immigrate to the United States but were turned away. Anne’s mother, Edith, wrote to a friend in 1939, “I believe that all Germany’s Jews are looking around the world, but can find nowhere to go.”

Immigration to the U.S. was determined by quotas that had been set up in the 1920s to reduce the number of “undesirable” immigrants – particularly Jews and Italians. Even those quotas were almost never filled because the Roosevelt administration imposed bureaucratic obstacles designed to disqualify visa applicants. As a result, during the Holocaust, only 10 percent of the quotas from Axis-controlled European countries were utilized – and nearly 190,000 quota places went unused.

Most Americans opposed more immigration. Fear of foreigners and the difficulties of the Great Depression hardened many hearts. But there were exceptions. One was the most famous and influential Mormon in America, Sen. William H. King, Democrat of Utah. In early 1939, refugee advocates in Congress proposed legislation to admit 20,000 German Jewish refugee children outside the quota system. One of the children who theoretically could have qualified to come to the U.S. under the bill was Anne Frank. Senator King supported the bill, although that meant defying most of his Democratic colleagues, as well as President Roosevelt.

Laura Delano Houghteling, a cousin of FDR and wife of the U.S. commissioner of immigration, typified opposition to the bill when she remarked that “Twenty thousand charming children would all too soon grow up into 20,000 ugly adults.”

Unfortunately, Houghteling’s sentiment carried the day. The legislation was buried. On May 10, 1940, Germany invaded the Netherlands and completed its conquest in five days. Trapped under the heel of the Nazi jackboot, the Franks and other Jews in Holland now found themselves in an increasingly desperate position.

Coincidentally, that same week in Washington, the U.S. House of Representatives held hearings on legislation sponsored by Senator King to open Alaska to European Jewish refugees. This bill, too, might have enabled Anne Frank and her family to come to America.

Sparsely populated and strategically located, Alaska was in urgent need of development. Immigrant laborers could serve a vital national purpose. The Labor Department and the Interior Department endorsed King’s bill. But President Roosevelt told Interior Secretary Harold Ickes he would support only a watered-down version of the plan in which just 10 percent of the workers would be Jews, so as “to avoid the undoubted criticism that we would be subjected to if there were an undue proportion of Jews.”

The State Department and anti-immigration groups strongly opposed using Alaska for the resettlement of any refugees, and Roosevelt soon dropped the whole idea. The bill went nowhere.

Meanwhile, throughout 1941, Otto Frank continued writing to American friends and relatives, and U.S. government officials, in the hope of securing permission for his family to immigrate.

Little did he know the Roosevelt administration was quietly inventing new ways to shut the nation’s doors even tighter. In the summer of 1941, the State Department began automatically disqualifying all visa applicants who had “close relatives” in occupied Europe – on the specious theory that the Nazis might hold the relatives as hostage to blackmail the emigrants into becoming Axis spies. (No such spies were ever discovered.)

The new regulation may have disqualified the Franks, since one of their “close relatives,” Anne’s paternal grandmother, Rosa Stern Hollander, was ill with cancer in late 1941 and probably would not have been able to make the cross-Atlantic journey.

William H. King concluded his Senate service in 1941 and returned to Utah having failed to open America’s doors to European Jewish refugees – but not for lack of trying. His state had few Jewish voters, and his party was largely against more immigration, but King was driven by his Mormon faith to aid the downtrodden. Another Mormon U.S. senator from Utah, Democrat Elbert Thomas, would soon pick up where King left off and help lead the campaign to rescue Jews from the Nazis in the 1940s.

Anne Frank occupies a special place in the hearts of Jews, and any affront to her memory naturally arouses Jewish ire. Some members of the Jewish community have even urged presidential candidate Mitt Romney, today America’s best-known Mormon, to speak out against posthumous baptisms of Holocaust victims.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/the-mormon-senator-who-tried-to-save-anne-frank/2012/02/29/

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