Roosevelt’s Administration Humanitarian Record; Consistently Favored Jewish National Home In Palestine (Vol. 10, Issue 9)
Realizing the sincere humanitarianism and love for democracy on the part of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, his sympathetic attitude and positive actions on behalf of the Jews are readily understood. The President understood that racialism and anti-Semitism must inevitably undermine the foundations of democracy and enduring peace. Therefore, throughout this past decade that has seen such an unbelievable calamity befall the Jewish People, President Roosevelt reiterated his denunciation of the Nazis for their terrible crimes against the Jews.
In November 1938, while the world still slumbered peacefully unaware of impending doom, Hitler let loose a wave of pogroms against the Jews. People were murdered, synagogues burned and stores plundered throughout the Third Reich.
Roosevelt Denounces Nazis
Without hesitation the President indicted the German Government in the sharpest of terms despite the fact that diplomatic relations were still in force.
“The news of the past few days from Germany has deeply shocked public opinion in the United States. Such news from any part of the world would inevitably produce a similar reaction among the American people in every part of the nation.
“I myself could scarcely believe that such things could occur in a twentieth-century civilization.
“With a view of gaining a first-hand picture of the situation in Germany I asked the Secretary of State to order our Ambassador in Berlin to return at once for report and consultation.”
Shortly afterwards when word reached the President in the “little White House” in Warm Springs, Georgia, that the immigration quota for Jews entering Palestine would be increased, he said:
“It is reported that the number of refugees to be permitted entry into Palestine will be materially increased and in particular that many children and young people will be given refuge there.
“I have no means of knowing the accuracy of this report, but I hope that it is true.”
President Praises Zionists
Throughout his years in public office President Roosevelt continuously expressed his desire to see the creation of a Jewish Homeland in Palestine. He praised the wonderful accomplishments of the Zionists and pointed out how the welfare of Arabs in Palestine was bettered. It was in October 1932 when he said:
“Out of the World War came a matter of great spiritual significance, the establishment of a Homeland for the Jewish people recognized as such by the public law of the world. In the realization of this aim the United States played a leading role.
“Jewish achievement in Palestine since the Balfour Declaration indicates the high hope which lay behind the sponsorship of the Homeland. The Jewish development in Palestine since the Balfour Declaration is not only a tribute to the creative powers of the Jewish people but by bringing great advancement into the sacred land has promoted the well-being of all the inhabitants thereof.”
Advocates Jewish Commonwealth
In October 1944 when the eyes of American Jewry were turned towards the President asking support for their aspirations in Palestine he did not hesitate. He sent a letter to Senator Robert F. Wagner of New York asking him to express his support for a Jewish Commonwealth to the Atlantic City Convention of the Zionist Organization of America.
Knowing that you are to attend the 47th Annual Convention of the Zionist Organization of America I ask you to convey to the delegates assembled my most cordial greetings. Please express my satisfaction that in accord with traditional American policy and in keeping with the spirit of the Four Freedoms, the Democratic Party at its July convention this year included the following plank in its platform:
“We favor the opening of Palestine to unrestricted Jewish immigration and colonization, and such a policy as to result in the establishment there of a free democratic Jewish Commonwealth’, …
“Efforts will be made to find appropriate ways and means of effectuating this policy as soon as practicable. I know how long and ardently the Jewish people have worked and prayed for the establishment of Palestine as a free and democratic Jewish Commonwealth. I am convinced that the American people give their support to this aim; and if reelected I shall help to bring about its realization.
With cordial regards and best wishes,
Franklin Delano Roosevelt.”
Warns Germans On Atrocities
In the summer of 1942 when the Germans perpetrated their hideous crimes of mass murder against the Jews of Europe, and the world was so shocked that it could hardly believe its eyes, the President warned the Germans of future retribution.
“The Nazis might have learned from the last war the impossibility of breaking men’s spirits by terrorism. Instead they developed their ‘Lebensraum’ and ‘New Order’ by depths of frightfulness which even they have never approached before. These are the acts of desperate men who know in their hearts that they cannot win. Frightfulness can never bring peace to Europe. It only sows the seeds of hatred which will one day bring fearful retribution.”
Reprimands Argentine Fascists
President Roosevelt was equally forthright in “his dealing with anti-Semitism in this hemisphere. In 1943 when the Peron Government suspended the Jewish publications in Argentine, the President’s sharp reprimand caused the withdrawal of the suspension.
...“While this matter is of course one which concerns primarily the Argentine government and people, I cannot forebear to give expression to my own feeling of apprehension at the taking in this hemisphere of action obviously anti-Semitic in nature and so closely identified with the most repugnant features of Nazi doctrine. I believe that this feeling is shared by the people of the other American republics.”
In recognition of his devotion to the creation of good will and brotherhood among people, the President was presented with the American Hebrew Magazine medal in the Spring of 1939, President Roosevelt acknowledged his award with a message on brotherhood and tolerance.
Brotherhood of Mankind
“After all, the majority of Americans, whether they adhere to the ancient teachings of Israel or accept the tenets of the Christian religion, have a common source of inspiration in the Old Testament. In the spirit of brotherhood we should, therefore, seek to emphasize all those many essential things in which we find unity in our common biblical heritage.
“If we labor in that spirit, may we not hope to attain the ideal put forth by the propet Micah: ‘And what doth the Lord require of thee but to do justly and to love merey and to walk humbly with thy G-d?”
On the eve of last Rosh Hashonah the President greeted the Jews of America. He expressed his sympathy for the Jews in view of their great tragedy.
“Upon this celebration of the New Year, I extend to my fellow citizens of the Jewish Faith most cordial greetings, mindful of the tragedy in which so many of their faith still live and die abroad, and determined withal to persevere until justice, tolerance and peace are reestablished.”
Creates Oswego Camp
One of the most notable acts of Franklin Delano Roosevelt as President of the United States was the creation of the refugee camp in Oswego, New York. Although by 1944 the tide of war had turned definitely in favor of the United Nations, the Nazis relentlessly persisted in carrying out their plans to totally eradicate the Jewish people in Europe. Those Jews who managed to escape could not find a haven since few countries were favorably inclined towards immigation. Therefore President Roosevelt, acting by executive decree, set aside a place to accommodate a group of one thousand refugees who would be permitted to find safety in the United States until such time as they could return home. And so in July 1944 nearly one thousand Jewish refugees arrived at the Oswego camp to find safety from Nazi persecution.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt by fighting to preserve freedom, democracy and tolerance did more than any other man in the world to protect the Jewish people from anti-Semitism. He recognized that the world can not be half slave and half free, and for that he has won the everlasting love and gratitude of Jewry.