Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Richard Breitman & Allan Lichtman's "FDR and the Jews"

Richard Breitman is Distinguished Professor in the Department of History at American University. Allan J. Lichtman is Distinguished Professor in the Department of History at American University.

They applied the “Page 99 Test” to their latest book, FDR and the Jews, and reported the following:
Page 99 of FDR and the Jews offers a quick overview of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s interest in moving large numbers of Jews out of Europe before the outbreak of possible war. The Neutrality Acts had sharply limited Roosevelt’s ability to shore up Britain and France against possible German expansion and aggression. By taking more German Jews into the U.S. and encouraging other Western Hemisphere countries to do so as well, in 1938 Roosevelt hoped to make a statement against Germany and at least to mitigate Nazi Germany’s “Jewish problem.” But he got precious little support from other world leaders and other major powers. Because of Roosevelt’s fear of anti-Semitism at home and abroad, Roosevelt preferred to use the term political refugees--to avoid giving the impression that most of those seeking to leave Germany were Jews.

Another part of p. 99 explains the relationship between FDR and Sumner Welles, who became undersecretary of state in 1937. Welles had ties to FDR that stretched back to his childhood, and he was more liberal than most high officials in the State Department. He was willing to serve as the facilitator of a president who, in effect, wanted to be his own secretary of state. Welles took charge of FDR’s refugee initiatives abroad, working them into a broader vision of American foreign policy.

Welles tried to appeal to American isolationists by arguing that finding refuge for these endangered populations in Central Europe might help to prevent war. Roosevelt’s and Welles’s refugee initiatives lasted into 1939, but did not survive the outbreak of war and his 1940 presidential campaign.

FDR and the Jews traces four stages of presidential attitudes and policies: an early first stage in which Roosevelt largely abstained from reactions to Nazi persecution; a second (1937-39) stage summarized above; a third stage in which Roosevelt became a narrow guardian of national security and manager of a war effort; and a fourth stage in which, under some pressure, he belatedly endorsed an effort to save the lives of Jews and others threatened by the Nazis. Our book seeks to place Roosevelt in his world--to explain him before we praise or condemn him. We present a great deal of new evidence, including some new material about his 1938 initiatives.
Learn more about FDR and the Jews at the Harvard University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue