Wyman Institute letter in the N.Y. Jewish Week re: the Bergson Group

As published in the New York Jewish Week – Dec. 22, 2006

Sign of the Times

Letters to the Editor
New York Jewish Week
Dear editor:

According to Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, there have been occasions when the Conference “submitted ads that [th e New York Time s] would not publish” because Times editors considered the ads to be “too opinionated.” (Jewish Week “Media Watch,” Dec. 1)

Sadly, this phenomenon is nothing new.

During the 1940s, the Emergency Committee to Save the Jewish People of Europe, an activist lobby better known as the Bergson group, placed numerous ads in the Times urging the Roosevelt administration to rescue Jews from Hitler. With headlines such as “Action–Not Pity–Can Save Millions Now” and “Time Races Death–What Are We Waiting For?,” the ads played a key role in raising public awareness of the mass killings and increasing pressure on the administration to take action.

“I think the most effective technique of all of the methods we used was the ads,” recalled U.S. Congressman Will Rogers, Jr., a Bergson Group supporter (and son of the famous entertainer). “They were hard-hitting and they carried tremendous impact … I can remember when they appeared in the paper, around the halls of Congress, there was conversation…I would go down to the floor of Congress and theyw ould be talking about it … ‘Look at this’ or ‘Isn’t this outrageous?’ or ‘Shouldn’t something be done’ Very effective. Very effective.”

But editors at the Times insisted on deleting from the ads what they considered to be “inflammatory, exaggerated, and misleading statements” that went “too far” in criticizing Allied policy. “Sometimes [we would have to delete] a sentence, a phrase, a word, this and that,” Samuel Merlin, one of the leaders of the Bergson Group, said in a postwar interview with Prof. David Wyman. “And then at a certain point, they stopped. They said we aren’t going to take any more of your ads.”


Dr. Rafael Medoff
The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies
Washington, D.C.