August 9, 2005
Historians who specialize in the question of America’s response to the Holocaust are urging the Franklin D. Roosevelt Museum, to correct a panel in its exhibit that claims there was nothing President Roosevelt could have done to save many more Jews from the Holocaust.
Twenty-five historians who are experts in this field have signed a non-partisan petition, organized by The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies, which was sent to the Museum’s curator, Herman Eberhardt, on July 6, 2005. The signatories include Prof. David Wyman, author of the best-seller The Abandonment of the Jews; Prof. Samantha Power of Harvard University, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning ‘A Problem from Hell’: America and the Age of Genocide; Prof. Greg Robinson of the University of Quebec, author of By Order of the President: FDR and the Internment of Japanese Americans; and Prof. Blanche W. Cook of the City University of New York, author of the award-winning two-volume biography, Eleanor Roosevelt.
The text in the museum’s panel states that “even Roosevelt’s bitterest critics concede that nothing he could have done–including bombing the rails leading to Auschwitz in 1944–would have saved significant numbers from annihilation, let alone dissuaded the Nazis from [murdering Jews].”
Wyman Institute director Dr. Rafael Medoff, commented: “The Roosevelt Museum is wrong to suggest that historians believe nothing could have been done by FDR to rescue Jews from Hitler. In fact, the opposite is true. Among scholars who specialize in this subject, there is an overwhelming consensus that Roosevelt could have taken many steps to save Jewish lives–as this non-partisan petition, signed by Jewish and non-Jewish historians alike, demonstrates.”
The historians’ petition describes the museum’s text as “misleading and inaccurate,” and explains: “There are numerous steps that the Roosevelt administration could have taken to save lives, such as granting refugees temporary haven in America or in Allied-controlled regions; pressuring the British to open Palestine to refugees; ordering the bombing of the gas chambers at Auschwitz or the railways leading to them; and giving broader funding and power to the U.S. War Refugee Board.”
(The full text of the petition follows below.)
In an email reply today, Mr. Eberhardt wrote today that the Museum’s director, Dr. Cynthia Koch, “is considering the matter and will be responding to the petition as soon as possible.”
The museum, a federally-funded institution, is part of the official Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library. It is located in Hyde Park, New York, where the Roosevelts lived.
Prof. Michael Berenbaum, former research director for the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, in Washington, D.C., described the Roosevelt museum’s panel as “unbearable. It lacks all shame,” and Marvin Kalb, of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, noted that “even a less-than-serious review of World War II history would show that the Allies could have disrupted rail lines into Auschwitz and thereby damaged Hitler’s killing machine.” (New York Sun, July 6, 2005 – http://www.nysun.com/article/16539)