On the second of August 1934, Adolf Hitler finally took total control of Germany’s government. With complete command of the military, and both executive and legislative factions firmly under his control, Hitler was ready to move towards his two major goals: Germany’s dominance over all other countries, and the eradication of certain minorities, namely, the Jews. Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, the 32nd president of the United States presided over a country that was slowly recovering from its massive depression five years earlier. FDR wielded the extensive support of his country, who trusted him for his personal “fireside chats” and for his success in bringing the country out of its recession. Among his supporters were the vast majority of the American Jewish population.
This devotion to FDR by the American Jews can be mostly attributed to Roosevelt’s denouncing of anti-Semitism, which, at the time, permeated the world. In addition to that, Roosevelt surrounded himself with Jewish advisors and friends. However, even after Roosevelt publicly condemned anti-semites before the war and passed multiple executive orders assuring fair rights and treatment to minorities, (including Jews) he was not ready to make a single speech to try to save European Jews from Hitler’s reign of terror.
During what we now call the Holocaust, Hitler lead the Nazi party in a mass murder of six million European Jews and five million other “unfavorable” minorities. The Nazis did this through mass-gassings, death marches, drowning, and straight-out shooting. Most of these crimes against humanity occurred within sealed off death and concentration camps, but, nonetheless, escapees managed to arrive in America, bearing the news of Hitler’s terrible deeds, and pleading with the government to assist those who could not escape. However, even before the Nazis began to carry out extreme measures against the Jews, anti-Semitism permeated their culture and political agenda for a few years prior.
Gerhart Riegner, the Genevan representative to the World Jewish Congress, received almost daily telegrams detailing Nazi atrocities during the summer of 1942 (Beir 170). Reigner received information on everything from the location of the Death Camps, to the names and amounts of people killed. Riegner wanted his information heard, so he forwarded it to the US State Department, via the American Consulate in Geneva (Beir 172). Even though the State Department ignored this information completely, the information finally reached the right ears, and caused the formation of the War Refugee Board. As noble as its purpose seemed, the WRB had no military control, and, according to Newton, the board was “reluctant to pose requests to the military for missions such as the bombings of Auschwitz” (176).
Therefore, FDR did not really put in an effort to save the Jews because, even though he had all the information, the only agency he created to save persecuted foreigners was created halfway through the war (two years after FDR first learned of Auschwitz) and was fairly ineffective. These actions form a clear betrayal to the persecuted European Jews of the Holocaust, but the question is how. Franklin Delano Roosevelt betrayed the persecuted European Jews of the Holocaust by denying them the benefit of American assistance and effort that would have saved them from death at the hands of Nazi Germany.
The SS St. Louis
FDR betrayed persecuted European Jews of the Holocaust by not allowing them to enter the United States. After the SS St. Louis, carrying more than 900 Jews, was denied landing in Cuba, even though all of its passengers carried immigration forms that had been legal and sufficient when they had departed Germany, an attorney from the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee went to negotiate with the Cuban president, who eventually offered to take all of the refugees if someone paid their newly-instated $500 per person (a total of $48,500) immigration tax (USHMM...
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