tv Book Discussion on FDR and the Jews CSPAN February 8, 2014 4:30pm-5:49pm EST
more of this -- the economics of it. you hire somebody and train them and then they leave you don't recoup your investment, and in the old days we had apprenticeshipship systems where you made sure they didn't leave. student loans are almost a form of involuntary servitude now, but not -- so that's an issue. but i don't think it's unbeatable. i think there is a growing -- one of the places pushing certification, for example, is the manufacturing industry, which people are pushing stackable certificates that show people have skills. so i think you will see more of that. whether it will get to the point writ substantially displaces college degrees, i would like to see that because i think it would be good. but i don't know they will. mcdonald's has hamburger university, you go there and learn a lot and it's valuable to them.
>> thank you very much, glenn richmonds. [applause] [inaudible conversations] >> welcome to booktv on c-span2 2. 48 hours of nonfiction books and authors every weekend. this weekend, the cia's former legal counsel discusses his 30 years at the agency. watch ishmael bea sos his followup book to "a long way gone" and watch programs on reconstruction the relationship between the pope and mussolini. all this and more on c-span 2 this weekend. the full schedule is available at booktv.org.
>> richard breitman is next on booktv. he examines the historical debate over whether president franklin d roosevelt was indifferent to or defender on the jews in europe during world war ii. this an hour and 15 minutes. >> thank you, paul, for that generous introduction, too generous, and i'm grateful to the center for advanceed holocaust studies for the invitation and the preparation work done by krista and nicole. fdr and the jews was published in march of last year, and has generated a good deal of response since then. i regret to report that not all reactions were positive.
i want to start by talking about two messages sent to me by unknown readers. they were not the worst but they were certainly not the best. the reason i'm singling them out is that they say something to us that may cause you to listen to the rest of my lecture with slightly different ears. so, one person wrote: all you have to do is go to the holocaust museum to see that you're wrong. well, i'm not sure this lecture is what he has in mind.
and since our book offers a mixed judgment on franklin roosevelt, i can only guess at what he thought was wrong, but i would guess that he thought the positive elements were wrong. the second person claimed to have very specific information that in 1943, franklin roosevelt was presented with aerial photographs of the areas around the extermination camps, and identification of their functions, and he simply ignored it.
the person wrote: i can think of no explanation other than indifference or antisemitism. well, this one i couldn't let pass. i wrote back that, american planes could not reach the extermination camps during 1943 and could not possibly have taken such photographs. he then wrote, well, maybe it was 1944. i wrote back, all of the extermination camps, other than -- were shut town by 194 -- and we know today there were some photographs taken
accidentally of the extermination camp at auschwitz berken-nau by reconnaissance planes looking at the damage done to industrial facilities in the region. but the photo reconnaissance specialist who finally found these photos did so either in the late 1970s or the early 1980s, and he wrote an article for a historical journal on why photo analysts during world war ii had failed to identify auschwitz as an extermination camp. at this point, correspondent
stopped writing. still, let's think a bit about these two e-mails. both of these people had reading thises or learned things about the holocaust. and the second critic could only explain roosevelt's behavior through negative motives. this tells us perhaps that we have a problem. call it the problem of success. there once was a time when people avoided the subject of the holocaust. that time is long past. now we have not only a multitude
of scholarly works about the holocaust in virtually every country affected, some of them geographically distant, but the holocaust has become a part of popular culture, and there are fictionalized movies, novels, some people complain that there is too much attention to the holocaust. so, people know or think they know a good deal about the holocaust. but some of those people block out the context in which it took place. the war and the climate of the times. they are harder to represent visually in museums. and in the mass media.
this problem, plus an increasing tendency to emphasize moral issues, moral choices, during the holocaust, creates an unrealistic picture. this is history chosen selectively, in some case is inaccurately, too, to support a moral or a political point. how can we do this better? i can only tell you how a historian, in this case two historians, have done it. we tried to place franklin
roosevelt in the context of his era, american politics, diplomacy and the war. not too bury the holocaust, and not to excuse everything that roosevelt did. but if you want to understand franklin roosevelt, you have to go back into his world. roosevelt did not see the holocaust the way we have come to study the holocaust. the word itself was not commonly used. for what we understand it to be today. he perceived it in blurry form,
and as part of the war against evil powers. and other elements of that war influenced how he reacted. so, let me start by talking about the flow of information out of europe about the holocaust. and then let me shift to a picture of franklin roosevelt's agenda and his world. not his whole world. not his private world. and not even the war in asia that he had to deal with simultaneously. but let's say the world in europe and north africa that
conceivably influenced how he responded to what we call the holocaust. there were, of course, reports almost from the beginning of the holocaust, which most scholars in this country would date to sometime in 1941. there were reports from beginning of nazi killings of jews. it was impossible to keep such things secret. but there were also reports of other nazi atrocities. widespread civilian suffering in occupied territories. and the early reports, especially in this country.
were not sufficiently numerous distinctive enough quality that it forced government officials to ponder the overall shape of nazi policy. most government officials, including franklin roosevelt, were predisposed to thinking that nazi germany posed a threat to judaism and christianity. to western civilization. and they preferred to state it in those terms. because franklin roosevelt had a long history of having to deal with a set of right-wing extremists who attacked him as being the puppet of american jews.
and the isolationists that he combated shortly before the war and during the early part of the war, argued that american jews were trying to drive the u.s. into the war -- into a war which was not in america's interests. so, roosevelt had political reasons as well as an intellectual predisposition not to single the jews out, and these early reports of nazi shootings simply fit into a broader picture of nazi atrocities. by the summer of 1942, there were more reports about larger numbers of jews dying or being killed.
and then in august 1942, came a truly alarming message, which is now well known in the literature. some of you probably know it well. i will review it briefly. a man named gerhart weeinger weigner, representative in switzerland of the world jewish conference, received word that hitler's headquarters was considering a plan to exterminate three and a half to four million jews by poison gas in separate facilities and the gas was the gas used at auschwitz.
wigner wanted to alert britain the united states and he wanted to alert his colleagues in the world jewish congress. particularly in london and in new york. he took a telegram to the american consulate and the british consulate in geneva, and asked american and british diplomats to send it out in code with appropriate security as quickly as possible. and he wanted the message passed on to his colleagues in the world jewish congress. the message went to london, where foreign office officials looked at it and were taken
aback. they didn't believe it. they didn't really want to deliver it. but the head of the british section of the world jewish congress was a machine named sidney silverman, who was a member of parliament. and a foreign office bureaucrat could get into trouble by withholding a message for an m. p. so silverman got weingers telegram. the message came to washington, where state department officials reacted much the same way. they didn't believe it. and they didn't think there was anything the united states could do even if it turned out to be
true. so, they decided not to pass it on to rabbi steven weiss in new york, the head of the american jewish congress. but weigner had taken the precaution of asking silverman in london to notify weiss in new york, and so with considerable delay, because it had to go through private mail in wartime, weiss got the message. he rushed down to washington, to speak to a man named sumner wells. the undersecretary of state. the number two man in the state department.
wells was not only in some ways more powerful than the secretary of state, cordle hull, he was ralph's man in the state department, which is important in this case and -- he was roosevelt's man in the state department which is important in this case for the book because the wells papers are quite good. and they were donated and made available only in the 1990s. when we don't have direct information about franklin roosevelt's comments and attitudes, we can use sumner wells as a kind of proxy. wells said to weiss that he didn't believe this telegram because the nazi regime was
short of labor. and why in the world would the nazis be executing millions of jews if they needed slave labor. weiss said, can we be reassured? in other words, do you really have solid information? and wells responded, who can tell when you're dealing with that mad man. meaning hitler. so, wells asked for time. he said he wanted to launch an investigation. he undoubtedly did not know that his own subordinates. some of whom he was going to turn to for that investigation, had already sat on the telegram
for near -- nearly a month, but he did launch an investigation. as part of that investigation, the american minister in switzerland met with gerhart weigner on october 22, getting the name of weigners source, powerful german industrialist, and two days later, he wrote wells about the results, tending to confirm weigners telegram. he was not the only source of information from europe. the president had -- or wells had asked the american envoy to
the vatican to get what information it could out of the vatican and elsewhere. this man, myron taylor, returned to the united states during october, met at least briefly with wells and with roosevelt, on october 16th. there's no record of their conversation. taylor apparently left a set of documents that he had gathered in europe. on october 20th, he followed up writing fdr about his unsuccessful efforts to get information about what we call the holocaust, out of the vatican, and his inability to elicit a denunsation of nazi
atrocities by pope pius xii. he said if roosevelt spoke out perhaps he could go back to the pope and try again. now i will shift. what was roosevelt doing in late october 1942, or to put it better, what was roosevelt particularly concerned with at that time? on october 21st, the president met with rear admiral henry kent hewitt and major general george s. patton, jr., to discuss the launch of what was code named operation torch. the invasion of french algeria and morocco. this operation had the ultimate
goal of controlling north africa from the atlantic to the red sea. its most important short-term goal was to capture tunisia, especially the port of tunis which was relatively close to sicily, and that would lead the allied forces to the possible invasion of europe. but direct landings in tunisia were judged far too risky. in fact, even landings in morocco and algeria were judged to be very, very risky. large amphibious operation which roosevelt pushed over the resistance of the war department. the president said he wanted u.s. ground troops in action in
the theater in the calendar year 1942, and no one thought that the united states or britain was in a position to invade france. roosevelt wanted an american operation because these areas were under the control of the french and the french might not resist the americans the way they would resist their hereditary enemy, the british. but roosevelt relented and this turned out to be a joint american-british operation. in mid-october 1942, winston churchill, prime minister of britain, said, if operation
torch fails, i am done for. the commander in chief of operation torch, a familiar name, even in this museum, dwight d. eisenhower, years later wrote that the hours he spent in gibraltar waiting for the start of the invasion were his most excruciating ones during the entire war. worse than d-day. algeria, morocco, tune -- tunisia were not the only aread of concern in north africa. on the other side of the continent, on october 23, began the second battle atel al aminimum. if german forces won, they would
capture egypt, penetrate to the suez canal, and they had plans to move into palestine. it is worth reminding ourselves that at the beginning of november 1942, the axis still seemed to be winning the war. france, the colonial power in northwest africa, had a predominantly muslim population there, eight divisions of troops, and a substantial navy. no one knew whether they would fight or how hard they would fight against operation torch.
bihi had also enacted discriminatory laws against 330,000 jews in morocco, algeria and tunisia. if germany prevailed, worse would follow, as it already had or had started to in metropolitan france. bishi police in coops with adolph ikeman's men, had recently begun deportations of jews in france to the east. in september, the american charge deaffairs in paris made a kind of diplomatic effort to get the premiere of france,
lavalle to exempt 4,000 french jewish children from the deportations. lavae refused. the diplomat told washington, the only way to save these children was perhaps to give them visas to the united states. the state department proposed 1,000 visas. the president raised the number to 5,000. but undersecretary wells asked jewish organizations, please do not publicize this decision. nonetheless, at a press conference, wells was asked directly about this rumored
step. he equivocated. he said, the children were of no particular race or nationality and all of this was being done under regular immigration laws and procedures. nonetheless, there were articles published, and the publicity enraged the french premiere, who decided he would only permit bona fide orphans to leave france. these children, their parents, had been deported to the east. lavalle was in effect saying their parents are still alive. what happened to the children? about 500 were later smuggled out through spain and portugal against the efforts of french and german authorities.
and some of them, along with some other children, in north africa, ultimately made it to the united states on those authorized visas but it was nothing like 5,000. just before the launch of operation torch, came mid-term elections. the democrats lost 47 seats in the house and nine seats in the senate. you can judge from the climate today how big a setback that was. the democrats barely held control of the house of representatives, and a coalition of republicans and right-wing democrats now held the balance of power. which meant that the president had limited influence in
congress. november 8th, the invasion was launched. after days of fighting in algeria, and substantial allied casualties, french admiral darlon, who happened to be in algiers, was recognized by the allies and called upon french troops to stop fighting. so the fighting in algeria ceased, but not elsewhere as we'll see. november 11th, the end of the second battle of el al-amin and the fighting in egypt. general rommel had to retreat. he had to retreat in part
because british forces there had superior intelligence and superior equipment. president roosevelt had diverted 300 sherman tanks from a planned shipment to the soviet union, to british forces in egypt, and they were better than the mark tanks that rommel had. the nazis had already set up an commando egypt, a mobile killing squad designed to be active against jews in egypt and in palestine. but the retreat of rommel's forces ended that possibility.
back to northwest africa. the germans rushed 25,000 troops. battle-hardened troops, into tunisia, to prevent allied forces from reaching their objective. general eisenhower wrote, on november 18th, if we don't get to tunisia quickly, we surrender the initiative, give the axis seem to do at is pleases, encourage all of our enemies in the area, the battle is not, repeat not, won. on november 20th, premiere lavalle gave a speech in which he expressed his hope for a german victory in the war, to prevent communists and jews from gaining control of france and
extinguishing french civilization. back in washington, roosevelt had already asked congress to pass the third war powers act, which contained an interesting provision, authorizing the president to suspend laws and regulations, hampering the free movement of persons, property, and information, in and out of the u.s. we do not know why that provision was in there. we do know why it was taken out. the house ways and means committee worried that the president would use this clause to open the doors to unrestricted immigration,
stripped it out. in late november -- in fact on thanksgiving day -- the president tried to persuade house and senate leaders to restore it, but the speaker of the house declined and roosevelt backed off. this was the climate, this was the time, two days earlier, when undersecretary wells called rabbi weiss back too -- back to washington and said, the state department investigation confirms your deepest fears. for reasons that you will understand, wells said, i cannot give these to the press, but there is no reason you should not. it might even help if you did.
again, think of wells as a proxy for president roosevelt. the president had, on his desk, metaphorically, if not literally, plenty of reports from the state department, from the office of strategic services, from the office of war information, and from military intelligence, that all too many muslims in north africa saw the allies as fighting a war on behalf of the jews. something that nazi propaganda emphasized day after day. in late november, assistant secretary of state burly wrote in his diary, only god knows
whether the arar tribes will rise. when eisenhower made his way to algiers, he found there rumors that he was jewish and that he had been sent by the jew roosevelt to establish a jewish state, not in palestine, but in north africa. surely this and the fate of allied troops in north africa, was the most immediate reason why franklin roosevelt did not speak out personally and forthrightly against the nazi policy of genocide. at best, it was a distraction that brought complications, at worst it might damage the success of the invasion.
of course, his earlier worries had not disappeared. he was still worried about american perceptions that he was manipulated by his jewish advisers and american jews generally. we think he was excessively worried but this is much easier to say in retrospect. so,wise held his press conference and displayed the telegram and the evidence collected to support it. he got greater publicity than any single atrocity store had obtained before, but that was
only a relative success. the "new york times" put the story on page 10. the "washington post" on page 6. "the los angeles times" was the best of the major papers, put it on page 2. late november was also the time when the now-famous courier surfaced in london with his own alarms stories of nazi extermination camps. his debriefing in london put some pressure on british officials to do something, and washington and london began to negotiate, something which did bear fruit in mid-december. on december 5th, the president told visiting canadian prime
minister, mckenzie king, that he thought -- he really meant he hoped -- the german situation resome belled resembled that of 1917-1918. germany would crumble at any moment. that would have been an easy way out of what faced him. but roosevelt had misread the lessons of world war i, which germany lost on the battlefield, and germany in 1942 was far from crumbling. even as he spoke, hardened german troops counterattacked in tunisia and the battle there dragged on for many months. on december 8, 1942, the first anniversary of the president's date of infamous speech about pearl harbor, four american
jewish representatives entered the oval office at noon. the president sat behind this desk, smoking a cigarette. he greeted rabbi steven weiss, the only one whom he knew personally, and weiss introduced the others. an orthodox rabbi named rosenberg, led a brief prayer, and then everyone was seated. weiss read a portion of a memorandum, very detailed memorandum, that the world jewish congress had prepared about the evidence on the nazi policy of genocide. he appealed to the president to bring this to the world's attention, and to make an effort to stop it.
one of the participants in this meeting later wrote a detailed reconstruction, which is the only first-hand account, and that what i'm quoting from. roosevelt responded. the government of the united states is very well-acquainted with most of the facts you are now bringing to our tapings. -- to our attention. unfortunately we have received confirmation from many sources. we cannot treat these matters in normal ways. we are dealing with an insane man, hitler -- and the group that surrounds him represents an example of a national psycho pathic case. we cannot act towards them by normal means. it is not in the best interests of the allied cause to make it
appear that the entire german people are murderers or are in agreement with what hitler is doing glaus must be in germany elements now fully subdued but who at the proper time will, i'm sure, rise up and protest against the atrocities and against the whole hitler system. i shall certainly be glad to issue another statement as you request. when roosevelt asked for other suggestions, one of the other jewish representatives mentioned asking neutral countries to intercede with germany, and there were few other suggestions. roosevelt then shifted the discussion to north africa. he said he had given orders to free jews from concentration
camps there, and to abolish bishis special discriminatory laws against jews. he then said that muslims hadless suffered under french colonial rule. they had fewer rights than frenchmen and jews, and there were 17 million muslims. the u.s. would fight for equal rights for all. it was not in favor of greater rights for one group over another. most people who have analyzed this meeting, including me, at an earlier stage of research and writing, have looked at roosevelt's comments on north africa as off the central point.
actually, they tell us what was foremost on roosevelt's mind. it is not necessary to see franklin roosevelt as indifferent to the holocaust or as an antisemite. it is better to see him as a juggler who had just taken on a new and very difficult task in north africa, and was worried about the consequences of failure. the american-british negotiations did produce a statement. on december 17th, 1942, the allied governments collectively issued their first official
denunsation of the nazi policy of extermination of the jewish people. that was a step forward but neither as dramatic nor as influential as a ringing personal presidential speech. each person will have to decide whether roosevelt behaved properly or improperly under these circumstances. that discussion will probably continue for a very long time. you will have to read our book to see exactly what we say about it. instead of going there, let me
conclude by saying that another correspondent said to us, you know, your final quote sums up the whole book, so let me read you the final quote. two weeks after president roosevelt's defendant. supreme court justice felix frankfurter wrote, fluctuations of historic judgment are the lot of great men and roosevelt will not escape it. but if history has its claims so has the present. for it has been widely said that if the judgment of the time must be corrected by that of posterity, it is no less true that the judgment of posterity
must be corrected by that of the time. thank you very much. [applause] [applause] >> we now do have some time for questions and answers, and i would invite people who would like to ask a question of our speaker, to come to the microphones in the two stairwells and i'll try to move from side to side to keep us even. sir? you first. >> thank you, professor breitman. by the way, we were at the same trial in 1993. the lithuanian holocaust
perpetrator. we were both witnesses. the question is about a lecture you gave near 1993 which ties into today's theme, where you pointed out that despite the resistance of the state department, all the state department opposition to holocaust rescue collapsed after the publication of the memo by the three treasury department officials. i may by misstating what you said but that how i remember it. at that point the u.s. policies created the refugee board and started rescue operations in your opinion how many jews were saved by that period? we've seen figures as low as 20,000, figures as high as 250,000. i'd like your historical insight on that. >> let's hope this is on. i need -- feel the need to move around a little for questions.
are you hearing in back okay? all right. so, you asked a -- this is a request for precision and i have to explain first the complications before giving you a number. first of all, there were refugee effort did a lot of things that involved encouraging of others to try to rescue. broadcast to occupied countries in europe. warnings to nazi satellite countries. requests to neutral countries to engage with nazi officials in budapest and elsewhere, so that's one problem. if you're talking about the direct numbers, you're talking about a small figure.
ten thousand to 20,000 people directly saved by the war refugee board, but most people are now familiar with the efforts of wellenberg in buddh budapest. he was sent with the encouragement and given the funds of the war refugee board, and his efforts combined with american warnings to the hungarian government and an accidental bombing of budapest, which reinforced those warnings, helped to persuade the hong garyan government to cease deportations for three months and as a result of that cessation, about 100,000 jews in budapest survived. so you start to add in the indirect things, you quickly get to a number that approaches or proximate mates 200,000, and
that is a number used by david weinman, one of roosevelt's harshess critics and a conserve number we have used in our book. so, i don't feel we're going far out on a limb with that. >> can you confirm my memory that roosevelt allowed the very small immigration quotas from eastern europe to be used up to the year 2000? i don't know when it was but it did, as i remember it, allow certain relatives of mine to get into the u.s. >> okay. we now get into the whole complication of immigration quotas and to the changes over time. i will say that this is a major area of emphasis in the book
because it fed into our conclusion that roosevelt was very different at different times, and we talk about four phases of roosevelt's attitudes and policies. so, the first term roosevelt did not do much to attenuate the restrictionist policies of the state department, but the second term roosevelt did, and most of the immigration quotas, not only from germany, which had a large quota, but the smaller quotas of the eastern european countries, were filled in 1938, 1939, and in many cases into 1940. so i guess i'm confirming your recollection. at that point, a lot of things changed and roosevelt's
attitudes changed, but above all, the state department decided that we had a grave security threat and all of the earlier progress was reversed, and it became extraordinarily difficult for jews and other foreigners to get into the united states during much of the war. the war refugee board changed things in the way of action in europe, but even the board had trouble opening the gates of the united states. >> thank you for an interesting talk. i teak history at george washington university, and every semester one of the most lively discussions with studentses is this very question of u.s. response to the holocaust. and certainly very interesting your point on roosevelt's concern with arab opinion and how it might affect the war in north africa. i hadn't considered that before
and will in the future. some of the issues my students like to discuss the most, you didn't touch upon, things like the impact of the great depression, impact of world war i, domestic, political -- domestic politics of the united states and that's of course because you begin your discussion and 1941, but i'm interested to know why you choose to start in 1941 and how you feel those other incidences in mid-to late '30s would impact the story? >> i have lectured about other portions of this book elsewhere. i thought at the holocaust museum, roosevelt's reaction to early news of the holocaust was kind of a natural. i do think, yes, influence of world war i in the way of creating a kind of revulsion against american involvement in
european quarrels and the influence of the depression certainly had a tremendous impact on the willingness of government officials and also the public to accept immigrants. in fact, sharpest cutback in immigration camin' 1930, not at a result of anything that was happening in nazi germany. there was no nazi germany. but president hoover issued a new instruction that anybody who wasn't independently wealthy was likely to become a public charge and was therefore ineligible, and roosevelt in 1933 had to decide whether to loosen those draconian cutbacks, and he kind of wanted to do something about he didn't want to take a lot of political heat for it. so in his first term he didn't do that much. but that's as well as i can do
quickly with that question. >> what was the role of eleanor roosevelt? did she concretely change her husband's attitudes or behavior at any key points? >> i am aware that eleanor roosevelt still has millions of admirers. and i always disappoint them. eleanor roosevelt grew up in an antisemitic family, and some of her early letters are filled with negative comments about jews. she grew out of it gradually, but she was not a mover and shaker on most of what we call holocaust issues. she did have a particular
concern for children, and she was a supporter of the wagner-rogers bill in 1939 which proposed to admit 20,000 german children outside of the regular quotas. it failed. she took a public stance in favor of it. her husband did not. he was waiting to see how things were going to go in congress, and it didn't come close to passing. she wrote a daily newspaper column. she first mentioned nazi persecution of the jews in 1943, and she wrote that she didn't know what could be done except to win the war as quickly as
public evidence that she was the force behind the scenes for the more humanitarian faces of franklin roosevelt. >> your last comment is a segway into my question which is a little off your central topic, but i hope you'll indulge me. based on your historical research, if roosevelt had served out his term, would there have been a state of israel in 1948? >> well, probably. truman had to grow into believing that a jewish state was necessary, and roosevelt probably would have had to -- he did enforce the idea of it in the democratic platform in 1944. there was an endorsement of it. but he was a little uncomfortable doing so, and then
in two months before his death, he conferred with very zionist leader, rabbi steven wise, and wise came away thinking roosevelt is still with us, he believes in a jewish state. and then roosevelt met with the non-zionist jewish leader joseph process cower, and he came away thinking roosevelt has misgivings about a jewish state. so there's no guarantee. but i think he leaned in that direction. and he probably would have grown the way truman grew with the force of events. >> thank you. >> and i'd like to thank you for your talk also. i have two questions which bear on details you've talked about.
you indicated that eisenhower said that his most excruciating time was waiting for operation torch. if you could elaborate on that. and my second question is the more i hear over time, the worse the french come out. if you could elaborate on that also. [laughter] >> well, eisenhower you have to realize that the american army of 1942 was completely untested. and that a major amphibious landing was a big gamble. you put these two things together, and eisenhower had reason to be worried. nobody knew whether this was going to work, and nobody knew whether the americans could work well with the british.
so there were all kinds of concerns there at that time that there were not by june 1944. of course, that was a very risky operation too. because there was at least the potential that the germans would be very well tug in and ready -- dug in and ready to mobilize tremendous forces against a small initial force. unfortunately, that didn't happen. but 1942 was kind of the first time, the baptism of fire, and eisenhower had plenty of reason to be worried. now, i'm not sure i got all of your concern with the french, but let me talk sort of generally about the i governmen. it is well established today
among scholars that the government was not simply obedient to germany, but actually persecuted jews in france on its own. first, foreign jews, but then french jews as well. and so the notion of deporting jews for what the nazis said was resettlement was not a tough sell. particularly if there were been fits to be obtained for the french government in the way of germans releasing french p.o.w.s or fewer economic demands on france. it was not much in the area of concern of french officials to be worried about their jews. >> hello. i was -- well, many seem to believe that the -- i'm sorry,
i've gotten very flustered. [laughter] seem to believe that it would have had a major impact if the pope and/or fdr had spoken out regarding the holocaust, and i'm wondering whether you agree with that proposition and what scenario you envision there, you know? under what circumstances would that have had major impact? >> okay. so the question is, you know, what if roosevelt and pope pius xii had spoken out. would it have made a real difference? there was nothing that the united states could do militarily in december 1942 that it was not already doing. so we're not talking about a military response to the
holocaust then or for a considerable period of time. it does become a feasible option sometime in the second half of 1944, but that's another long story. so when you talk about speaking out, the argument is, well, people aren't going to think about rehere or rescue -- relief or rescue until they understand what is happening. and if item isny is not going -- if germany is not going to change its policies, what about countries like bulgaria and romania and slovakia who were allied with germany? were they as fanatical as the nazis were? and the answer in general is, well, different things in different places. but they were not.
so there was the opportunity to have some influence upon the course of events, if not to stop the holocaust or to deter germany. that's about as well as i can do quickly with that one. >> could you speak about the interaction between the treasury department and the state department and the negative effort at state which eventually led treasury to go to roosevelt which eventually led to the establishment of the war refugee board? >> it's a story we coffer in our -- cover in our book, and plenty of earlier scholars have written in detail about it. we have great materials because of the morganthau diaries as
well as treasury department records. so the world jewish congress was trying one option after another to save lives in eastern europe, and the state department was throwing up one obstacle after another, and some of it was assistant secretary of state breckenridge, but some of it was other state the president officials. state department officials. and eventually, the treasury department became convinced that the state department was going far beyond the proper and necessary in enforcing regulations, and the treasury department turned up evidence that the state department had suppressed some of the information about the holocaust going out of switzerland. a man named josiah duboise jr.
which i had the product of interviewing wrote up a scathing memorandum. and morganthau was persuaded to -- he toned it town a little bit, but he took the memo to the president. >> what was the title of that memo? >> report on the acquiesce sense of this government in the mass murder of the jews. and the president decided to take jurisdiction away from the state department and to establish the war refugee board. >> you talked before about the u.s./british negotiations on a joint statement. i was wondering if you could give us the cliff notes version of a churchill and the jews book. [laughter] how you would describe his involvement. >> i don't think i'm going to do that one from memory.
sir martin gill breath and i have had disagreement on matters of interpretation, and he has a more, what shall i say, more consistently pro-jewish churchill than i have found in the records. and it turned out it was anthony eaton who did much of the negotiations on this particular statement. so i think i'll -- that's about all i'll say on that. there wasn't a great deal of disagreement at that point on issuing a, ap allied -- an allied statement. i think both sides came to think that it was time to do this. i mean, eaton himself was anti-semitic, and he came to the conclusion that it was time to do this.
what i think roosevelt wanted to avoid was having his own personal declaration because it would have fed into all of the anti-roosevelt propaganda that he was too close to the jews. but an inter-allied statement, that was fine. >> thank you. >> would you please comment on roosevelt's role or behavior or lack thereof in the evian conference and the voyage of the st. louis? >> let's see -- >> how much time do we have? [laughter] >> all right. the evian conference is easy. first of all, it was roosevelt's idea. the evian conference was designed to get jews out of europe, more jews out of europe
than the united states could admit under its quota laws. it didn't can work very well. or -- it didn't work very well, but that was the goal of the evian conference. >> but did he not send myron taylor as a represent trifrom the -- representative from the united nations who was not a cabinet member? >> yes, he tried. i think his first choice was henry stimson who became a cabinet member. he failed. he tried someone else who was prestigious which failed, and he ended up with myron taylor. i mean, the people who are critical of roosevelt in the evian conference need to think about what other world leader there was at that time who was trying to encourage the emigration and resettlement of jews from europe. and the evian conference set up a new organization called the
intergovernmental committee on refugees which was supposed to negotiate with nazi germany for an orderly emigration of most german jews. it tried. the nazis didn't cooperate. and in retrospect, it looks bad. but who else was trying then? okay. the voyage of the st. louis. i sometimes -- i probably won't do it with this audience because of time constraints. i sometimes ask people what happened to the passengers of the st. louis. and the answer that i usually get is they all went back to item isny and went to -- germany and went to the extermination camps. the st. louis was denied entry
to -- most of the passengers were denied entry to cuba. they were going to cuba because of initiatives taken by the roosevelt administration to encourage latin american countries to take in jews. there were 5,000 to 6,000 jewish refugees in cuba who came in after a meeting between franklin roosevelt and colonel baa thies that -- baa thies that in november 1938. the american immigration quota was filled. most of these people trying to get into cuba were on the waiting list. if they got into cuba, they could wait their turn under the american quota. they kept their spot under the german quota.
so roosevelt could not legally admit them. he had tried once before to stretch the quotas. he made an announcement that 10-15,000 american jews -- german and austrian jews in america on visitors' visas would not be sent back because he could not in good conscience throw them out. he took flak in congress. for that move. some senators said it was unconstitutional. so roosevelt in the summer of 1939 was trying to persuade congress to pass an amendment to the neutrality laws which would enable him to aid britain in
case of a war with germany. he was not about to behave illegally for 900 passengers if it meant losing his chance to get a modification of the neutrality laws through congress. so what happened? the intergovernmental committee on refugees negotiated, that's the body that was set up as a result of the evian conference, the intergovernmental committee on refugees negotiated with brinks france, belgium and the netherlands which took in all the passengers. -the summer of -- this was the summer of 1939. there was no war yet. there were no extermination camps yet. not one passenger went back to germany. it looked like a good compromise
settlement at the time. later germany conquered much of western europe, and the passengers who were on the continent had to scramble. we know as a result of the research of -- the painstaking research of sarah ogilvy and scott miller of this museum -- that approximately two-thirds of the passengers survived. contrary to the version in "voyage of the damned," whether you read the book or saw the movie. i've had people tell me, oh, no, that's not right. well, we're here in the holocaust museum, so i will defer to a study that came out of this museum andra