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Posted Monday, January 4, 1999


Anti Defamation League's 1996 Press Release on

FDR, Anti-Semitism, and the Jews





New York, NY. May 17... The worst period of anti-Semitism in the history of the United States coincided with the presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. What impact did the interplay between American attitudes towards Jews in the 1930's and 1940s and decision-making by the White House and the State Department have on the momentous events of that time? European Jews trying to flee the Holocaust often met half-hearted, even callous American policies towards them. Was our government -- and the American people -- indifferent to Jewish victims? To the investigations of war crimes after the war? The troubling ambivalence and apathy of this country during the Nazi Era are the focus of the current issue of Dimensions: A Journal of Holocaust Studies, published by the Anti-Defamation League Braun Center for Holocaust Studies.

Some Jews revere FDR as a hero who welcomed minorities into his administration, encouraged talented Jews to enter government service, and fought for social justice. Others revile him as the one who -- among other questionable decisions -- appointed a zealous anti-Semite to oversee America's refugee policy during World War II. The contributors to this issue of Dimensions raise questions and challenge assumptions as they attempt to reconcile the contradictions and complexities of this legendary era.

Leonard Dinnerstein, author of the award-winning Antisemitism in America, inquires whether President Roosevelt's professed commitment to social justice was, in fact, a sham. Noting FDR was highly cognizant of the public mood. and rarely took steps to reform the nation's highly restrictive -- and strongly anti-Jewish -- immigration policy, Professor Dinnerstein points out that. "When he did make tentative attempts to do so, he was rebuffed by a staunchly conservative Congress."

Historian William L. O'Neill of Rutgers University explores the anti-Semitism that engulfed this country in the 1930s. noting. "Anti-Jewish hate speech in the U.S. was widespread and routine." He uses polls from that period to show that well over half of all Americans identified Jews with negative stereotypes." Delving into media coverage during the Roosevelt Era, Robert E. Herzstein, author of Henry R. Luce: A Political Portrait of the Man Who Created the American Century, looks at how Time. Inc., "the most powerful national enterprise in American journalism," covered Jews and the Holocaust. "Luce's beliefs and way of thinking were molded by the Christian missionary environment which had nurtured him as a boy.... Jews, and Judaism, made Luce uneasy," writes Professor Herzstein.

Also examined in this ADL publication are the American impetus for the Nuremberg War Crimes Trial and the role of crimes against Jews in an article from the forthcoming book by Michael R. Marrus, The Nuremberg War Crimes Trial. 1945-46: A Short History with Documents. Religion scholar Michael N. Dobkowski investigates pragmatism, moral imperatives and the study of history. and concludes that despite formidable obstacles the U.S. had to overcome to save great numbers of European Jews. "these obstacles cannot. in the final analysis, either fully explain or justify America's half-hearted, even callous, refugee and rescue policies." Dimensions includes a book review section with reviews of several new and noteworthy books. including An Obsession with Anne Frank: Meyer I Levin and the Diary, and The Bones of Berdichev: The Life and Fate of Vasily Grossman.

2 12/05/96 21:33:00


More on FDR and the Jews: William Hassett diary o | General Noguès o
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