December 15, 2006
WASHINGTON, D.C.- The author of a recent book about President Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Holocaust has admitted that he wrongly portrayed two Holocaust rescue activists as draft-dodgers.
South Carolina attorney Robert N. Rosen, author of Saving the Jews: Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Holocaust, has admitted that he was wrong to claim that Yitshaq Ben-Ami and Dr. Alexander Rafaeli, two leaders of the activist Bergson Group, “sat out the war in America, preferring to agitate for the overthrow of the British in Palestine rather than enlist and fight Nazis themselves.”
Rosen’s admission came in response to protests by the families of Rafaeli, Ben-Ami, and other Begson Group leaders, represented by Washington, D.C. attorney Jeffrey Weiss.
Rosen’s book staunchly defends FDR’s response to the Holocaust and harshly attacks those who, in the 1940s, pressed the Roosevelt administration to aid Jewish refugees. Rosen devotes a portion of the book to attacking the Bergson Group, a Jewish activist group that used rallies, newspaper ads, and lobbying Congress to try to bring about U.S. rescue of refugees from the Holocaust. One of the major points of Rosen’s attack on the Bergson Group is his claim (on p.313) that the group’s leaders “sat out the war in America, preferring to agitate for the overthrow of the British in Palestine rather than enlist and fight Nazis themselves.”
In fact, two of the group’s five leaders, Ben-Ami and Rafaeli, enlisted and fought in the U.S. Army. Ben-Ami fought in the Battle of the Bulge and elsewhere; Rafaeli fought in Normandy, the liberation of Paris, the Battle of the Ruhr, and the liberation of Maastricht (in Holland), and served in the army’s Counter-Intelligence Corps (CIC). The other three Bergson Group leaders –Peter Bergson (Hillel Kook), Samuel Merlin, and Eri Jabotinsky, were classified 4-F and thus exempt from military service.
The families, in requesting an apology and retraction from Rosen, pointed out that Rosen had access to accurate information about the Bergson leaders’ military service, since that information appears in other books which Rosen mentions in Saving the Jews.
In correspondence with Mr. Weiss in recent weeks, Rosen acknowledged that his statement about Ben-Ami and Rafaeli was wrong, and promised that it would not appear in any future editions of the book. At the same time, however, the families expressed their strong disappointment that Rosen, instead of issuing an unambiguous public apology, claimed that his statements had been misunderstood.
The families of Ben-Ami, Rafaeli, and a third Bergson group leader, Eri Jabotinsky, issued this statement through The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies:
“Robert Rosen’s error about our parents is not some minor point; it is an important part of his book’s attempt to denigrate all those who challenged FDR’s refusal to rescue Jews from the Holocaust. The draft-dodging charge is an attempt to undermine the credibility and integrity of the Bergson Group. In his book, Rosen smears our parents as fascists and terrorists who were supposedly disloyal to the Allied war against Hitler. This accusation is blatantly false. We are glad that his erroneous statement about Yitshaq Ben-Ami and Alexander Rafaeli will not appear in future editions of his book. We are disappointed that he refused to issue a simple, clear, public apology for smearing our parents. We are equally disappointed that the publisher of his book, Thunder’s Mouth Press, has not had the decency to publicly apologize for publishing erroneous statements that harm a person’s good name.”
Earlier this year, fifty-five leading Holocaust scholars denounced Rosen for writing, in Saving the Jews, that criticism of President Franklin Roosevelt’s response to the Holocaust is “anti-American” and “America-bashing.” The scholars’ protest was the subject of a recent feature story in the Washington Post. (For the full text of the petition and the list of signatories, call the Wyman Institute at 202-434-8994 or visit www.WymanInstitute.org)