The Jews Should Keep Quiet President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Rabbi Stephen S. Wise, and the Holocaust

About the Book

Publication Date: September 2019

Based on newly discovered documents, The Jews Should Keep Quiet reexamines and reassesses the hows and whys behind the Roosevelt administration’s fateful policies during the Holocaust. Medoff delves into these and other difficult truths: FDR went out of his way to suppress immigration far below the limits set by US law. He strove to maintain friendly relations with Nazi Germany, sending representatives to Nazi rallies and censoring anti-Hitler remarks by a cabinet member. He refused to admit Jewish refugees to the US Virgin Islands when the local government there was ready to open the doors. The Roosevelt administration also dismissed proposals to use empty Liberty ships returning from Europe to carry refugees, and rejected pleas to drop bombs on the railways leading to Auschwitz, even while American planes were bombing targets miles away—actions that would not have conflicted with the larger goal of winning the war, as some have claimed.

Medoff further explores the sensitive question of FDR’s private sentiments toward Jews. Unmasking the strong parallels between Roosevelt’s statements regarding Jews and Asians, he probes the connection between the president’s policy of excluding Jewish refugees and his mass internment of Japanese-Americans.

The Jews Should Keep Quiet also shows how FDR’s personal relationship with Rabbi Stephen S. Wise, American Jewry’s foremost leader in the 1930s and 40s, affected American Jewry’s response—and, consequently, the US response—to the Holocaust. Medoff details how Roosevelt and his administration pressured a Jewish leader enamored of the president to stifle American Jewish criticism of FDR’s refugee policies. Taking into account the challenging political and social climate of the period, he explores the dilemmas faced by the American Jewish community in pressing the president and the administration’s realistic options for rescue action which, if taken, would have saved many lives.

Rafael Medoff

(PhD, Jewish History, Yeshiva University, 1991) is founding director of The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies, which focuses on America’s response to the Holocaust, and coeditor of the Institute’s Online Encyclopedia of America’s Response to the Holocaust. He has authored eighteen books about American Jewish history, the Holocaust, and related topics, among them We Spoke Out: Comic Books and the Holocaust, coauthored with Neal Adams and Craig Yoe] (San Diego and New York: IDW Books, 2018), Too Little, and Almost Too Late: The War Refugee Board and America’s Response to the Holocaust (Washington, DC: Wyman Institute, 2017), and FDR and the Holocaust: A Breach of Faith (Washington, DC: Wyman Institute, 2013). He has also published essays on related subjects in the leading scholarly journals in the field, including American Jewish History, American Jewish Archives, and Holocaust and Genocide Studies, and served as associate editor of American Jewish History. He has taught at Ohio State University, Purchase College (SUNY), and Touro College.



Introduction: The Jews Should Keep Quiet

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