The Abandonment of the Jews — and All Other Refugees

Wyman, David S. Introduction by Elie Wiesel. The Abandonment of the Jews: America and the Holocaust, 1941-1945. New York: The New Press. 1998. ISBN 1-56584-415-7.

This passage is excerpted from Dr. Wyman’s Preface to his book.

In summary, then, these are the findings I find most significant:

  1. The American State Department and the British Foreign Office had no intention of rescuing large numbers of European Jews. … their policies aimed at obstructing rescue possibilities and dampening public pressures for government action.

  2. Authenticated information that the Nazis were systematically exterminating European Jewry was made public in the United States in November 1942. President Roosevelt did nothing about the mass murder for fourteen months, then moved only because he was confronted with political pressures he could not avoid and because his administration stood on the brink of a nasty scandal over its rescue policies.

  3. The War Refugee Board, which the President then established to save Jews and other victims of the Nazis, received little power, almost no cooperation from Roosevelt or his administration, and grossly inadequate funding. (Contributions from Jewish organizations, which were necessarily limited, covered 90 percent of the WRB’s costs.) WRB managed to help save approximately 200,000 Jews and 20,000 non-Jews.

  4. Because of State Department administrative policies, only 21,000 refugees were allowed to enter the United States during the three and one-half years the nation was at war with Germany. That amounted to 10 percent of the number who could have been legally admitted under the immigration quotas during that period.

  5. Strong popular pressure for action would have brought a much fuller government commitment to rescue and would have produced it sooner.

  6. American Jewish leaders worked to publicize the European Jewish situation and pressed for government rescue steps.

  7. In 1944, the United States War Department rejected several appeals to bomb the Auschwitz gas chambers and railroads leading to Auschwitz, claiming that such actions would divert essential air-power from decisive operations elsewhere. Yet, in the very months that it was turning down the pleas, numerous massive American bombing raids were taking place within fifty miles of Auschwitz. Twice during that time, large fleets of American heavy bombers struck industrial targets in the Auschwitz complex itself, not five miles from the gas chambers.

  8. … The record also reveals that the reasons repeatedly invoked by government officials for not being able to rescue Jews could be put aside when it came to other Europeans who needed help.

  9. Franklin Roosevelt’s indifference to so momentous an historical event as the systematic annihilation of European Jewry emerges as the worst failure of his presidency.

  10. Poor though it was, the American rescue record was better than that of Great Britain, Russia, or the other Allied nations.

At the end of the preface, Dr. Wyman asks:

Would the reaction be different today? Would Americans be more sensitive, less self-centered, more willing to make sacrifices, less afraid of differences now than they were then?

I think we all know that the answer is, “No.” Even the people now advocating turning away from refugees admit their own positions in this matter. They don’t care.

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