Apologists for FDR Top List of 2009’s Ten Most Absurd Holocaust Statements

News Release
January 27, 2010

WASHINGTON – Authors claiming that President Franklin Roosevelt was helpless to rescue any Jews from the Holocaust topped the 2009 annual list of ten most absurd statements about the Allies’ reaction to the Nazi genocide.

The annual list for 2009 was released this week by The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies, in conjunction with International Holocaust Remembrance Day, which is commemorated on January 27, the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.

(To view the 2008 list, click here.)

“Despite mountains of evidence to the contrary, some FDR apologists still claim there was nothing he could have done to rescue Jews from the Holocaust,” said Wyman Institute director Dr. Rafael Medoff. “Like the last Japanese soldier holding out on a remote island years after World War II ended, these diehards simply refuse to face the facts.”

Medoff said the purpose of the annual list is to “expose the most severe misrepresentations of the Allies’ response to the Holocaust, so that the public will have an accurate and balanced account of those crucial historical events.”

The nominees were judged by a panel of scholars who have researched the Allies’ response to the Holocaust: Prof. David S. Wyman, author of The Abandonment of the Jews; Prof. Laurel Leff, author of Buried by ‘The Times’; Dr. Racelle Weiman, founding director (emer.) of Hebrew Union College’s Center for Holocaust and Humanity education; Prof. Bat-Ami Zucker, author of In Search of Refuge; Prof. Judith Baumel-Schwartz, author of Unfulfilled Promise; Dr. Alex Grobman, author of Denying History; and Wyman Institute director Medoff, author of Blowing the Whistle on Genocide.

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The Ten Most Absurd Statements in 2009
About the Allies’ Response to the Holocaust

1. “The only meaningful way to save the intended victims of HItler’s murder machine was to win the war as quickly as possible.”

(William J. Vanden Heuvel, longtime president of the Franklin & Eleanor Roosevelt Institute, on NewYorkTimes.com, 5 October 2009.)

[COMMENT: There were, in fact, a variety of ways that Jews could have been saved before the war ended, such as using empty troop supply ships returning from Europe to bring refugees for temporary shelter to the United States; bombing the Nazi death camps or the railway lines leading to them; and pressing the British to open Palestine to Jewish refugees.]

2. “[W]e have to keep in mind that the German army controlled everything after 1940. Nobody was escaping. The uh–the uh, nobody could get out….The Jews of Europe had been Hitler’s prisoners since 1940. They couldn’t get out. It didn’t matter whether we let ’em in, they couldn’t get out.”

(Robert N. Rosen, author of ‘Saving the Jews,’ speaking on May 7, 2009 at the Hauenstein Center for Presidential Studies, Grand Valley State University, Allendale, MI)

[COMMENT: In fact, Hitler Europe was far from hermetically sealed. For example, more than 26,000 European Jewish refugees escaped to Palestine between 1941 and 1944; about 8,000 Jews escaped from German-occupied Denmark to Sweden in 1943; thousands of Jews fled from German-occupied territory to Soviet territory during 1940-1945; several thousand refugees, mostly Jews, were smuggled out of Vichy Francy in 1940-1941 by Varian Fry’s rescue network; and thousands of Jewish refugees escaped from elsewhere in Europe to Italy, 1,000 of whom were brought to the United States in 1944.]

3. “[A]ll presidents are required to take an oath of office to enforce the laws of the United States, and the then-in-effect law, that of 1924, prohibited more than 100,000 people coming into this country a year, and that 100,000 were allocated by a complicated formula. So the fact that a president [such as Roosevelt] doesn’t like a particular law doesn’t somehow mean that there is automatically a change in the law.”

(Prof. Gerhard Weinberg, speaking on the radio program “MTSU on the Record” [Tennessee] on October 18, 2009.

[COMMENT: The maximum number that could have been admitted in any one year was 154,000, not 100,000. The fact that President Roosevelt could not unilaterally alter the immigration law does not change the fact that the Roosevelt administration could have saved many Germany Jews without changing the law, simply by permitting the existing quotas to be filled each year. A total of 184,525 immigrants could have been admitted to the U.S. from Germany (and, later, German-annexed Austria) from 1933 to 1939, but the actual number of German Jews admitted during those years was only about 70,000.]

4. “We have found some fundamentally new information about the president’s views and policies before and during the Holocaust…” (p.4) “[W]e have uncovered some key episodes in changing American refugee polices previously overlooked … President Roosevelt promised McDonald and George Warren, under the right circumstances, to ask Congress to appropriate $150 million to help resettle refugees in various parts of the world.” (p.335)

(Richard Breitman, Barbara Stewart McDonald, and Severin Hochberg, eds. Refugees and Rescue: The Diary and Papers of James G. McDonald 1935-1945. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, in association with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.)

[COMMENT: The episodes Breitman et al claim to have “uncovered” were not “previously overlooked”; they were described in, among other works, David S. Wyman’s Paper Walls (1968) and Henry Feingold’s The Politics of Rescue (1970). McDonald did not succeed in “changing American refugee policies”; indeed, the Roosevelt administration’s intransigence was the whole problem. Roosevelt’s statement to McDonald and Warren may or may not have constituted a “promise,” but in any event he did not fulfill it; he never asked Congress to appropriate funds to resettle refugees. Finally, the term “under the right circumstances” is an elastic loophole that in effect cancels out the rest of that “promise”; for when it came to FDR and the Jews, “the right circumstances” never arrived.]

5. Concerning the Wagner-Rogers bill, which would have admitted 20,000 refugee children from Germany outside the quota system, and which FDR refused to endorse:
“[President Roosevelt] saw that bill as a gesture–not a solution. He was a man of grand vision who wanted to resettle a much larger number of refugees from Germany.” (p.335)

(Richard Breitman, Barbara Stewart McDonald, and Severin Hochberg, eds. Refugees and Rescue: The Diary and Papers of James G. McDonald 1935-1945. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, in association with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.)

[COMMENT: There are no known documents in which FDR states that he disliked Wagner-Rogers because it would have saved too few Jewish refugees.]

6. “Bombing the railway lines to Auschwitz and other camps would only have achieved a temporary respite for the Jews, and distracted attention and resources from the larger purpose of overthrowing the regime that was killing them.”

–Richard J. Evans, The Third Reich at War (New York: Penguin Press, 2009), p. 560

[COMMENT: Even a temporary respite might have saved many lives by disrupting the mass murder process. The claim that bombing the railway lines would have “distracted resources” was made by the Roosevelt administration in 1944, and was baseless, as demonstrated by the fact that U.S. bombers were already in the area, flying over Auschwitz repeatedly in the summer and autumn of 1944 as they struck German oil factories in the vicinity, some of them less than five miles from the gas chambers.]

7. “McCloy, he was Assistant Secretary of War, and he’s a very convenient target, because he’s kind of a WASP, mildly anti-Semtitic guy, who belongs to some clubs in New York that Jews don’t belong to, and so he’s kind of a good guy to make into a villain.”

Robert N. Rosen, author of ‘Saving the Jews,’ speaking on May 7, 2009 at the Hauenstein Center for Presidential Studies, Grand Valley State University, Allendale, MI)

[COMMENT: In fact, scholars have criticized McCloy not because of his ethnic background or club memberships, but because of his opposition to the use of even minimal U.S. military resources to aid refugees or interrupt the mass murder process; his instruction to an aide to “kill” a request to bomb the railways to Auschwitz; his knowingly false claims, in rejecting bombing requests, that bombing would require the diversion of planes from elsewhere in Europe; and his decision to pardon or commute the sentences of large numbers of Nazi war criminals when he was High Commission of Germany from 1949 to 1952.

8. “[American c]ollege and university presidents defended cultural exchanges [with Nazi Germany] as a good way to enhance mutual understanding between the people of Germany and the United States. … In the 1930s, of course, leaders in higher education didn’t have the luxury of hindsight.”

–Glenn C. Altschuler, in the Boston Globe, July 26, 2009, in his review of The Third Reich in the Ivory Tower, by Stephen Norwood.

[COMMENT: The violence, antisemitism, and totalitarianism of Nazi Germany was well known when such cultural exchanges took place during the early and mid-1930s –not only “in hindsight.” Among the well known features of Nazi Germany during this period were the mass expulsion of Jews from most professions; the book burnings, suppression of political dissidents, and state takeover of the news media; the Nazification of all school and university curricula; the Berlin pogrom of 1935; and the Nuremberg Laws.]

9. “The United States accepted about twice as many refugees as the rest of the world combined, 200,000 of 300,000.”

Robert N. Rosen, author of ‘Saving the Jews,’ speaking on May 7, 2009 at the Hauenstein Center for Presidential Studies, Grand Valley State University, Allendale, MI)

[COMMENT: In fact, while the United States did admit about 200,000 Jews between 1933 and 1945, the “rest of the world combined” admitted about 365,000. Thus the U.S. admitted about one-third, not two-thirds, of the world total. (The most widely-accepted figures for Jewish immigration to destinations other than the U.S. from 1933 to 1945 are: Palestine, 138,000; Latin America, 85,000; Great Britain, 70,000; Canada, 5,000; Australia, 15,000; Switzerland, 22,000; Shanghai, 18,000, and Sweden, 12,000.)]

10. “[W]hen Allied long-range bombers were able to make flights from our airbase in Foggia, Italy, with long-range fighter support, they were unaware of what was going on down below in the ‘death camps.’ Could they then have bombed the marshalling yards at Birkenau? Yes, they could have, but by that time all activity had really ceased and the Germans by November 29, 1944 were dismantling the crematoria at Auschwitz, and making efforts to re-locate, or kill the balance of the Jews that remained.”

Richard J. Garfunkel, radio talk show host, June 16, 2009, “The Bombing of Auschwitz and Jewish Reaction to the Holocaust: Fact, Feelings and Reactions.”

[COMMENT: The Allies had sufficient information about Auschwitz-Birkenau and control of the skies in the region to bomb it by the early summer of 1944. The mass deportation of hundreds of thousands of Hungarian Jews to Auschwitz was still underway at that time; it is not true that “by that time all [mass murder] activity had really ceased.”

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ABOUT THE WYMAN INSTITUTE: The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies, located in Washington, D.C., is a research and education institute focusing on America’s response to the Holocaust. It is named in honor of the eminent historian and author of the 1984 best-seller The Abandonment of the Jews, the most important and influential book concerning the U.S. response to the Nazi genocide.

The Institute’s Advisory Committee includes Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Elie Wiesel, Members of Congress, and other luminaries.
The Institute’s Academic Council includes more than fifty leading professors of the Holocaust, American history, and Jewish history.
The Institute’s Arts & Letters Council, chaired by Cynthia Ozick, includes prominent artists, writers, musicians, and filmmakers.

(A complete list is available upon request.)