James G. McDonald sailed to Europe in 1933 to assume a League of Nations post as High Commissioner for Refugees.
The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies
NEW YORK- New evidence shows that U.S. diplomat James G. McDonald repeatedly challenged President Roosevelt on his response to the Holocaust–contradicting earlier portrayals of McDonald as a defender of the president’s Jewish refugee policies.
The new documents were uncovered by the David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies, in Washington, D.C. They are part of a new report called “James G. McDonald, FDR, and the Holocaust,” that is being published on the Institute’s web site, www.WymanInstitute.org, in conjunction with Holocaust Remembrance Day (May 1, 2011).
“Our research shows that U.S. diplomat James G. McDonald turned sharply against the Roosevelt administration in 1943-1944, over FDR’s failure to respond to the Holocaust,” said Wyman Institute director Dr. Rafael Medoff, author of the new report as well as twelve books about the Holocaust, Zionism, and Jewish history. “This new information contradicts previous depictions of McDonald’s relationship with President Roosevelt.”The documents show that in 1943-1944, McDonald, in articles, letters, and speeches, publicly and privately criticized the Roosevelt administration’s positions with regard to the plight of European Jewry. He did so at a time when he was still chairman of the President’s Advisory Committee on Political Refugees. Key findings of the report:
“Endless Discussions”: In a March 1943 article, McDonald challenged the forthcoming American-British conference in Bermuda on the refugee problem, saying “the time for lengthy discussion of this problem is long past.” He criticized the Allies’ “old-time diplomacy …endless discussions and committees and unwillingness to face the peremptory need for bold planning and prompt action.”
“Lip Service”: In a speech in Buffalo on May 22, 1944, McDonald charged that the United States and its allies “paid only lip service” to the plight of Hitler’s Jewish victims before the war, and “diplomats do not seem to have learned from past mistakes” and “today again are acting as if refugee problems were relatively minor matters.” He said “timidity and fear of not being re-elected” were to blame for indifference to the plight of Jews in Nazi Germany.
“Pitifully Insufficient”: In a speech in Chicago on November 19, 1944, McDonald said the Allies’ response to the Holocaust was “pitifully insufficient.” He accused the Allies of “hesitancy, procrastination, half-heartedness” and “calamitous blindness.”
“Face-Saving Manuevers”: In a letter to Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter on November 30, 1944, McDonald charged that the Allies “have almost never faced the realities of the tragedy of the refugees but that instead they have been guilty of face-saving maneuvers while millions of innocent men and women have been needlessly sacrificed.”
The Wyman Institute’s research reveals a side of McDonald very different from the one presented in the widely-publicized book Refugees and Rescue: The Diaries and Papers of James G. McDonald 1935-1945, by Richard Breitman, Severin Hochberg, and Barbara McDonald Stewart, which was published in 2009 by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and Indiana University Press. The book claimed McDonald’s diaries showed that Roosevelt tried to rescue Jewish refugees. It also gave the impression that McDonald consistently supported FDR’s policy toward European Jewry.
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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.
image via online.wsj.com