Rafael Medoff’s June 17 article was very interesting except for his lack knowledge of American history. For sure the State Department was anti-Jewish and Medoff is entitled to his opinion of FDR, but he is not entitled to make up his own facts.
He writes, “The Roosevelt administration was determined to reduce immigration to the bare minimum.”
The real fact is that Congress changed the immigration laws back in the 1920s, making immigration from eastern Europe almost impossible. That was done a decade before FDR became president.
He writes that in 1941, “the United States had not yet entered World War II, and the Roosevelt administration was trying to maintain cordial relations with Germany.”
Did Medoff hear of Lend-Lease or of the fact that the U.S was sending all kinds of war supplies to England at the risk of its merchant fleet being sunk, as well as Navy ships being fired on?
The U.S cut diplomatic relations with Germany months before Pearl Harbor. That’s maintaining cordial relations?
Rafael Medoff responds:
The immigration quota laws passed in the 1920s certainly made immigration more difficult, but the Roosevelt administration made the situation even worse, by creating bureaucratic obstacles to reduce immigration to levels far below what the law allowed. During Hitler’s first year in power, 1933, only 5.3 percent of the German quota was filled. The following year, only 13.7 percent of those spaces were filled. During the entire period of Hitler’s reign, 1933-1945, only 35.8 percent of the German-Austrian quota places were used. During the years that the Nazis were slaughtering six million European Jews, that is, 1941-1945, nearly 190,000 quota places from Axis-controlled countries sat unused – 190,000 lives that could have been saved, had President Roosevelt shown even a minimal amount of humanitarian interest in their plight.
As for the Roosevelt administration’s effort to maintain cordial relations with Nazi Germany prior to World War II, that is hardly a secret. Consider, for example, FDR’s decision to avoid offending Hitler by refraining from publicly mentioning the plight of German Jewry. In the 82 press conferences that President Roosevelt held in 1933, the subject of the persecution of the Jews arose just once, and not at Roosevelt’s initiative. It would be five years, and another 348 presidential press conferences, before anything about European Jewish refugees would be mentioned again. (No wonder Rabbi Stephen S. Wise privately complained about FDR’s “indifference and unconcern.”)
For the same reason, the State Department publicly apologized to Hitler when protesters tore the swastika flag from a German ship in the New York Harbor in 1935, and again when New York City Mayor Fiorello La Guardia proposed, in 1937, that the upcoming World’s Fair include a “Chamber of Horrors” exhibit to expose Hitler’s savagery.
When the Germans and French complained to the Roosevelt administration about Varian Fry’s “illegal” rescue activities in Vichy France, the administration responded by canceling Fry’s passport, forcing him to return to the United States in 1941. Secretary of State Cordell Hull’s telegram to the U.S. Consulate in Marseille explained: “This government does not, repeat not, countenance any activities by American citizens desiring to evade the laws of the governments with which this countries maintain friendly relations.” Again: “Friendly relations.” With the governments of Nazi Germany and German-occupied Vichy France. In 1941.