Photo Credit:
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt

I was seven years old in 1943 and becoming comfortable in the United States, where my parents and I had arrived as refugees from Poland, via Japan, in 1941.

Almost from the moment we hit the blessed shores of America, my father, Rabbi Dr. Isaac Lewin, z”l, worked day and night with the Va’ad Le-Hatzala to rescue the Jews trapped in Poland and the rest of Europe. They included my grandfather, Rabbi Aaron Lewin, z”l,the revered rabbi of Rzeszow who had twice been elected to the Polish parliament, and who had – unknown to my father – already been murdered by Ukrainians in Lvov in June 1941.

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I remember the days leading up to Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur 1943, as news of the slaughter of Jews by Hitler and his cohorts dribbled out to the free world and reached American media. I was already a New York Yankees fan, and attention was focused on the World Series between my Yankees and the St. Louis Cardinals. As a seven year old, I could not really appreciate why my father was ignoring the World Series and was busy soliciting volunteers among the Orthodox rabbinate and rank-and-file Jews to make the arduous train ride from New York to Washington to convey personally to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt how precarious the lives of Jews in Europe had become and to request decisive action against the death camps to which Jews were being transported.

A delegation of 400 rabbis, including my father, Rabbis Eliezer Silver, Israel Rosenberg, Moshe Feinstein, and Joseph B. Soloveitchik, zichronom le-veracha,arrived in Washington’s Union Station on October 6, three days before Yom Kippur – the second day of the World Series — with the announced intention of marching to the White House to meet with the president and voice their concern over the slaughter of their brethren. They were an orderly dignified group – no signs, no loud battle cries, no histrionics.

My father reported to us when he returned from Washington (I was grieving that the Yankees had lost the second game of the Series) that the group had been greeted by congressmen and had marched to the Lincoln Memorial. The rabbis assigned a select group to meet with President Roosevelt at the White House. They were shocked and offended to be told that the president did not have even a few minutes to meet with them.

They returned to New York after being shunted off to the vice president, Henry Wallace, whose influence on Roosevelt and U.S. policy was negligible and who many classify as “America’s Worst Vice President.” Their dire warnings regarding the fate of Europe’s Jews were, of course, entirely accurate. But the president, like his successor in office more than 70 years later, was not interested in meeting with Jewish leaders and having them describe to him directly the life-threatening danger facing Jews abroad.

How important was it that Roosevelt meet with a representative delegation from the rabbis’ entourage? Cynics might claim the trip to Washington was designed to generate publicity for the rescue of European Jewry and whether or not the president invited rabbis to the White House made little difference in the formulation of American priorities in waging the war. It is difficult to believe, however, that Roosevelt would have been totally unmoved by the pleas of American Orthodox Jewry’s foremost spokesmen. Rabbi Eliezer Silver, z”l, had already established a reputation as an exceedingly articulate English-speaking advocate for Jewish causes. His description of the horrors that had been reported might very well have made a difference had Roosevelt been willing to listen.

Accounts of personal meetings that Eddie Jacobson and Chaim Weizmann had with Roosevelt’s successor, Harry Truman, regarding the Zionist dream of an independent Jewish state have shown that U.S. presidents can be moved – and American foreign policy can be affected – by face-to-face discussions with the occupant of the most important and powerful office in the world.

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78 COMMENTS

  1. President Roosevelt had it within his power to save many lives had he only been willing to listen to the right people. Certainly these distinguished Rabbis should have been allowed to plead their case and speak of the desperate plight of the Jewish people. He turned a deaf ear for way too long. This will always be a blight on his presidency!

  2. Really?
    Well, I think of millions of Jews he could have saved.
    I think of Japanese-Americans placed in internment camps.
    I think about his affair with Lucy Mercer and how badly he treated his wife, Eleanor.
    I think of him not sharing information with Truman. Truman had to learn fast when Roosevelt died.

  3. He did what you said but he was still very anti Jewish and did turn a ship back of Jewish refugees and refused to meet with rabbis. You can not sanitize history and pretend he did no wrong. He was also a very exploitive and betraying and cruel husband to Eleanor and cheated almost in front of her. She was a splendid woman who did not deserve the shabby treatment.

  4. Roosevelt and Truman were in vastly different circumstances. It’s not valid the try to hang Roosevelt for not reacting as Truman was able to react, for so many reasons that I’d take a book to list and explain them. And to try to hang Roosevelt with the same noose that could be used on Obama is ludicrous.

  5. Very odd comments.
    Some of his closest political associates, such as Felix Frankfurter, Bernard Baruch and Samuel I. Rosenman, were Jewish. He appointed Henry Morgenthau, Jr. as the first Jewish Secretary of the Treasury and appointed Frankfurter to the Supreme Court. Historian Doris Kearns Goodwin cites statistics showing that FDR’s high level executive appointments favored Jews (15% of his top appointments at a time when Jews represented 3% of the U.S. population) which subjected Roosevelt to frequent criticism. The August, 1936 edition of "The White Knight" published an article referring to the New Deal as the “Jew Deal.” Pamphlets appeared such as "What Every Congressman Should Know" in 1940 (featuring a sketch of the Capitol building with a Star of David atop its dome) that proclaimed that the Jews were in control of the American government. Financier and FDR confidant Bernard Baruch was called the “Unofficial President” in the anti-Semitic literature of the time. The periodical Liberation, for example, accused FDR of loading his government with Jews.[2]

    During his first term, Roosevelt condemned Hitler's persecution of German Jews. As the Jewish exodus from Germany increased after 1937, Roosevelt was asked by American Jewish organizations and Congressmen to allow these refugees to settle in the U.S. At first he suggested that the Jewish refugees should be "resettled" elsewhere, and suggested Venezuela, Ethiopia or West Africa — anywhere but the U.S. Morgenthau, Ickes and Eleanor pressed him to adopt a more generous policy but he was afraid of provoking the men such as Charles Lindbergh who exploited anti-Semitism as a means of attacking Roosevelt's policies. This led to increased tension.

  6. After 1942, when Roosevelt was made aware of the Nazi extermination of the Jews by Rabbi Stephen Wise, the Polish envoy Jan Karski and others, he told them that the best solution was to destroy Nazi Germany. At Casablanca in 1943 Roosevelt announced there would be no compromise whatsoever with Hitler. In May 1943 he wrote to Cordell Hull (whose wife was Jewish): "I do not think we can do other than strictly comply with the present immigration laws." In January 1944, however, Morgenthau succeeded in persuading Roosevelt to allow the creation of a War Refugee Board in the Treasury Department. This allowed an increasing number of Jews to enter the U.S. in 1944 and 1945. It also financed Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg's work in Budapest, where he and others helped to save 100,000+ Jews from deportation to death camps. By this time, however, the European Jewish communities had already been largely destroyed in Hitler's Holocaust.

    In any case, after 1945 the focus of Jewish aspirations shifted from migration to the U.S. to settlement in British mandate of Palestine, where the Zionist movement hoped to create a Jewish state.

  7. Here,here Kenneth Arthur Marguilies: When a ship with thousands of Jewish refugees arrived in Cuba and were rejected – they then applied to the US. The most influential women's group in the US (the DAR) if i remember correctly (Daughter's of the
    American Revolution?) lobbied Roosevelt that if he supported this Jewish group they would not support him for president. He blocked the ship – it returned to Europe- all but one perished…. remember. Source — Time Magazine.

  8. “I think one man is just as good as another so long as he’s not a or a Chinaman. Uncle Will says that the Lord made a White man from dust, a nugger from mud, then He threw up what was left and it came down a Chinaman. He does hate Chinese and Japs. So do I. It is race prejudice, I guess. But I am strongly of the opinion Negroes ought to be in Africa, yellow men in Asia and white men in Europe and America.” – Truman, FDR’s VP, who killed 500,000 Japanese civilians when they had already expressed intentions of surrendering

  9. All of these comments are truly meaningless as the Jews vote solidly Democratic in every election. They not only vote as Democrats, they also donate hundreds of millions of dollars to these anti semites. Who can be more anti semitic than the current occupant in the White House, yet the Jews flock to him, and still donate money to him. Regardless of the tragedy of the Holocaust or the plight of the St Louis not being able to discharge its passengers, the attitude of the Jews remains fixed upon their forgetting that they are Jews, and wish to become something else.

  10. That chalaria Rooseveld's name should go down in history as another
    Haman.
    He killed thousands of Jews who could have ben saved if he would have bombed the railway lines leading to Aushwitz, which the Jews asked him to order. Instead, he sent military personnel to find all the art treasures which were more important than thousands of Jewish human lives.
    His name should be cursed in every Shabbat and Yom Tov service.

    this should be introduced in every Jewish House of prayer all over the world.
    He refused to meet with the Rabbis which shows what a swine he was.

  11. Most people do not see that Roosevelt was an anti-Semite. They don't know that Truman made a political decision, but didn't really care for Jews either. It may have been Truman's White House that recognized Israel as a State, but that was political expedience. Who brought the matter up in the UN is more important, and it was not the US. It was the Soviet Union. (Why this is never mentioned is not a mystery).

  12. The difficulties that prevented the Alleis from bombing Auschwitz have been cited many times as the reason why this happen. However, it was bombed by mistake since it proved entirely feasible to mount a bombing raid against the IG Farben factory at Monowitz 7 kilometers away that was using slave labor to produce synthtic oil. Aerial photos of the area were taken prior to the raid but were not properly scrutinised. These photos were taken by the RAF and conveniently forgotten for decades, as a recent documentary on British TV showed. The truth is that the Allies knew about the death camps and the slave labrers who were worked to death but did notthing about this since this massive genocide requiered the expenditure of resources that were thus diverted from Nazi Germany's struggle to survive the regime's inevitable end, at a cost of millions of lives of both Jews and non-Jews.

  13. The Jews who were advising Roosevelt were people like Bernard Baruch. This man's family was from the American South, married to a gentile woman, and was as Reformed a Jew as one could get. His other co conspirator was Rabbi Steven Wise, who was the King of the Reform Jewish movement and quite frankly hated his Jewish co religionists. Rabbi Wise did not want to flood the USA with undesirable Jewish refugees. These two devils worshipped at the alter of Moloch, and the Jews of America went along with their actions until they learned the truth about them.

  14. Something good still came from President Roosevelt, although it took long time..I September 1939 erupted hell of Polish Jews when Hitler occupied Poland. On March 19, 1944, Hitler occupied Hungary and Eichmann was sent there.
    In January 1944 President Roosevelt delivered a radio Speech in which he condemned Germany's brutal deeds and ordered deportations of Jews to be stopped. He had by then established a "refugee-board" in hopes to prevent deportations. This speech, which was broadcast over the world, was heard in Stockholm and by Raoul Wallenberg. By now the Western Allies also knew Roosevelt’s speech.
    In June 1944, Sweden decided on this US initiative to send a representative to the "refugee-board", the young Raoul Wallenberg from Stockholm to Budapest. The US- backed Refugee.board accounted for all costs to rent premises, provide food, refugee passport … etc

  15. Ettie Kryksman We must always remember that the Democratic Party stood for the Jim Crow laws, and true segregation. It was the Republicans that freed the slaves, yet this is never mentioned by anyone today. The USA has become a third rate country right behind Mexico under this President. The Jewish voters are facilitating this move and in the end, the Jews will be blamed once again for their stupidity.

  16. That was the work of the us ambassador to British Joseph Kennedy, he telegraphed the FBI warning them that a ship purchased by rich German Jews was full and heading to us shores… The head rabbi of British cursed him and the Kennedy family for generations… While a Japanese embassy representative in Germany wrote thousands of visas for Jews to travel to Japan and thereby saved lives was blessed by a rabbi and his family went on to success his name Mitsubishi…

  17. 5775-MY DEAR FRIENDS: Led by my Beloved Grandfather RABBI ELIEZER SILVER z"l, the '400 Grand Rabbis March' took place 3 Days Before Yom Kippor, 1943. Within a mere 72 hours all of the Rabbis assembled to demand that Delano-FDR-intervene in behalf of 6 million JEWISH innocents, including 1.5 million JEWISH children. ZAIDI is, was, and forever will be an irreplacable 'ONE MAN ARMY.' delano chose to play golf rather then pay attention to the JEWISH crises. He and his 'Court' JEWs, with the exception of Morganthau, are complicitous and collaboraborators in Hitler's 'Final Solution'.
    I have a picture Of ZAIDI & VP Henry Wallace In my Living-room.
    Be assured if RABBI ELIEZER SILVER z"l was alive today, his constant pressure on the US government would assure no to the NUCLEAR iran!
    I AM TRULY BLESSED–AM YISROEL CHAI–
    JUDY–NEVER AGAIN–NEVER FORGET

  18. It became known later that Roosevelt knew all about the slaughter of Jews going on in Europe at that time. It was also known that the political Roosevelt controlled the humanitarian Roosevelt to the extent that he had been warned (perhaps even threatened) by anti-Semitic congressmen largely from our southern states not to take a pro-Jewish position on this. If he did, it would be political suicide. Another historical factoid here revealed that back in the 1920's, and still in force in the 1940's, immigration policy dictated that Northern and Western European nations had pretty much free reign to move about, and their citizenry could come here with no difficulty. Only Northern and Western European nations were, when the Nazi threat was launched, in no eminent danger yet. Our immigration laws dictated at the same time that Southern and Eastern European nations could not move freely and were trapped and doomed to die, while our immigration policy remained unyielding and these self-same Southern congressmen were not about to change our antiquated laws to save Jewish lives. So today, we have a leader who won't greet or even acknowledge a Jewish prime minister here to plead for Jewish lives. And we have similarly unyielding immigration laws that will surely shut our shores and doors in stopping us from allowing Jewish immigrants to find sanctuary here, if events resembling the Nazi takeover of Europe are duplicated in our time.

  19. that is just sad, if you don't hear then you don't have to act….I read that Ho came to us from Vietnam shortly before the war and he was fobbed off on some drunkard minor functionary…I wonder if it was really necessary to spend all those lives over there…

  20. The SS St Louis was not owned by "rich German Jews" it did contain German Jews seeking their freedom. What we all should remember is that for the most part, the Jews of America did very little to help these refugees. When the ship went to Cuba, the Cubans wanted a fortune to allow the jews to enter. If not for the efforts of gangsters like Meyer Lansky and his crowd of thugs raising money furiously, and to no avail as the Cubans wanted more and more money, the ship could have landed and discharged its cargo of human beings. Hardly anyone in the USA did anything like organize a demonstration, or conduct a sit down to try and help these doomed Jews. Ironically, the complacency of the Jews in the USA today in support of Israel is equal to the Jews in 1939 in their support for the Jim Crow Party of the Democrats.

  21. It should be noted that just because FDR had nominated and appointed some Jews to his cabinet and inner circle doesn't really make him a lover of the Jewish People. There are jews who work in the inner circle of Obama's White House, and even though they are traitors to Judaism, west count them as Jews. We have to realize that many Jews in the 1930's were Communists or at best Socialists, who were extremely left wing. The entire "New Deal" was created using Socialistic models, that eventually were all stricken down by the Supreme Court. The New Deal was the Jew Deal, make no bones about that. The Jews tried to recreate a socialism that never really worked anywhere in the world for any amount of time. Likewise, these 1930's Jews became the puppets of the Democrats and especially FDR. Much like their children and grandchildren of today that are the puppets of the extreme Left Wing Obama. We all know how this story is going to end.

  22. Cody, your comments are filled with hate and paranoia, and a hatred for jews who support either Roosevelt or obama. You see the world as black and white, with no grey. The people you cite as betraying Judaism because they married out of the faith or were liberal have had more positive impact and were greater people than an angry little man spewing hatred in anger filled posts. Lighten up, and seek truth from facts, not political dogma.

  23. And people equating Roosevelt with Hitler have lost their senses. Absolutely bizarre and irrational comments by people so blinded with hate and rage that they post nonsense unrelated to factual history. Some comments here are insane. Facts don't matter to these people who spew hate. Just sitting at a keyboard making up facts does not make things true. Absolutely absurd. Do you people sit around all day and just watch Fox News?

  24. Cody Flecker There is no explanation, excepting that they foolishly put HERR obama, the Democrat Party and alleged liberalism BEFORE the safety and security of the JEWISH Homeland, ISRAEL. I cannot explain why 2 million very Right Wing Conservatives did not vote either, can you?

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