April 19, 2012
Former president Herbert Hoover and other prominent Republicans actively promoted the rescue of Jews from the Nazis, a new book reveals.
The book, Herbert Hoover and the Jews: The Origins of the ‘Jewish Vote’ and Bipartisan Support for Israel, was authored by U.S. foreign relations professor Sonja S. Wentling and Holocaust historian Dr. Rafael Medoff, director of the Wyman Institute. It was released by the Wyman Institute on Holocaust Remembrance Day (April 19, 2012).
One of the initiatives that Hoover and other Republicans supported would have admitted 20,000 German Jewish refugee children to come to the United States. Teenage Holocaust diarist Anne Frank, who was a German citizen, could have qualified to come to America if the bill had passed.
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“Hoover and a number of other prominent Republicans pressed for the admission of Jewish refugee children, helped publicize Nazi atrocities against European Jewry, and repeatedly challenged President Roosevelt’s failure to help the Jews,” Dr. Medoff said. “These findings challenge the conventional assumption that Republicans in the 1930s and 1940s were all opponents of immigration and indifferent to Jewish concerns.”
Former U.S. senators Rudy Boschwitz and Tom Daschle, in their foreword to the book, point out: “Although Hoover himself never received significant Jewish electoral support, it was the result of his initiative that the major political parties first began to seriously court Jewish votes in the 1940s, that they both embraced the cause of creating a Jewish state, and that bipartisan backing for Israel ultimately became a permanent part of American political life. As lifelong participants in this bipartisan consensus, we take great pride in the fact that to this day, so many Americans, of all political leanings, continue to appreciate the essential justice of Israel’s cause and the compelling moral principles, so similar to our own, that guide its mission as a nation.”
Highlights from the book:
* One of Hoover’s final acts in office in early 1933, just before Franklin D. Roosevelt was inaugurated, was to instruct the U.S. ambassador in Berlin to intervene against Adolf Hitler’s persecution of German Jews. FDR, by contrast, deemed the issue of German Jewry “not a [U.S.] governmental affair.”
* Hoover endorsed a 1939 bill to admit 20,000 German Jewish refugee children, while the Roosevelt administration opposed efforts to admit more Jewish refugees to the United States. Teenage Holocaust diarist Anne Frank, who was a German citizen, could have qualified to come to America if the bill had passed.
* While the Roosevelt administration downplayed news of the Nazi slaughter of Europe’s Jews, Hoover lent his name to efforts such as the “We Will Never Die” pageant, which Jewish activists staged at Madison Square Garden in 1943 to publicize the plight of European Jewry.
* Hoover and other top Republicans, including Sen. Robert Taft, 1936 presidential nominee Alf Landon, and Rep. Clare Boothe Luce, had close ties to Benzion Netanyahu (the father of Israel’s current prime minister) and other U.S. Jewish activists in the 1940s. At Netanyahu’s urging, they inserted a plank in the 1944 GOP platform calling for U.S. action to rescue Europe’s Jews and create a Jewish state in British-controlled Palestine. This forced the Democrats to adopt a similar plank. It was the first time the two parties ever actively competed for the Jewish vote, and cemented bipartisan support for Israel as an enduring part of American political culture.
* Harry Truman’s recognition of the newborn State of Israel in 1948 was strongly influenced by the new competition for the Jewish vote. His advisers repeatedly warned him that he would lose Jewish votes in key states in that November’s presidential election unless he supported creation of a Jewish state.
What They’re Saying About Herbert Hoover and the Jews:
–U.S. Senator Joseph Lieberman: Herbert Hoover and the Jews tells the fascinating and largely unknown story about an American humanitarian who acted on our nation’s highest ideals and principles. This book will help establish President Hoover’s place as a courageous leader who stood up for decency at one of the darkest moments in history.
–Hon. Edward I. Koch (Mayor of New York City, 1978-1989): Democrats and Republicans alike should read Herbert Hoover and the Jews. Prof. Wentling and Dr. Medoff have uncovered a little-known chapter in the history of American Jewry’s complex and fascinating role in American politics–with important implications for our own time. If you want to understand why Jews vote the way they do–and whether or not that will change in the future–this is the book to read.”
–Jonathan D. Sarna (Professor of American Jewish History, Brandeis University):
Herbert Hoover and the Jews revises our understanding of American Jewry’s relationship with the humanitarian Republican, and points to the possibility that Jews might someday embrace the Republican Party once again. A treasure-trove of new information concerning Hoover, the Zionist movement, and the “Jewish vote.”
–John B. Judis (Senior Editor, The New Republic): Of all the groups pollsters survey, only African-Americans have voted more consistently Democratic than Jews. But as Sonja Schoepf Wentling and Rafael Medoff show in Herbert Hoover and the Jews, it is not necessarily because Democrats have been more dogged opponents of antisemitism or fervent supporters of a Jewish state. As the head of American relief in Europe after World War I, Hoover tried to protect Polish Jews from attack. And during the Holocaust years, Hoover promoted efforts to aid Jewish refugees fleeing the Holocaust. As today’s Republicans vie with their Democratic rivals for the support of American Jewry, Wentling and Medoff’s book is a reminder that this didn’t begin yesterday.