FDR and the Jews.

Author:Rockower, Paul
Position:Book review

FDR and the Jews by Richard Breitman and Allan J. Lichtman, Belknap Press, 2013, ISBN-13: 978-0674050266, 464 pp. $9.88 (Kindle), $15.96(Amazon hardcover).

"Fluctuations of historic judgment are the lot of great men, and Roosevelt will not escape it ... But if history has its claim, so has the present. For it has been wisely said that if the judgment of the time must be corrected by that of posterity, it is no less true that the judgment of posterity must be corrected by that of the time."

-Felix Frankfurter

Franklin Delano Roosevelt's actions during World War II towards the slaughter of the Jews of Europe always posed an enigma. I speak as a lifelong Democrat and an American Jew--my family's centenary in America was marked two years ago. I can still hear my grandmother speak so fondly of Roosevelt and how much they loved him, and yet so sadly at how he betrayed the Jewish people by not doing more to stop the Holocaust; I think such critiques are commonplace among many of that era. The charge that not a single Allied bombing was diverted to attack Auschwitz, or the train tracks leading to it, stood as a black mark on FDR's otherwise extraordinary record.

In the prologue of FDR and the Jews, Professors Richard Breitman and Allan Lichtman also highlight the critics' charge: "Conservative backers of modern-day Israel hold FDR out as an exemplar of indifference to Jewish peril and the horror of genocide."

Breitman and Lichtman tack back to offer a rebuttal that encapsulates the argument of supporters of FDR, who argue that Roosevelt did "everything feasible to rescue European Jews and saved millions of potential victims by orchestrating the defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II."

In FDR and the Jews, the authors holistically examine Franklin Roosevelt through a contextual contemporary lens to explore Roosevelt's relations with the Jewish people as a whole, and over multiple points in time and to give a broader understanding to his actions during WWII. The authors reveal a Roosevelt that, as governor of New York, spoke out forcefully against discrimination against Jews immigrating to America, as well as in support of a Jewish home in Palestine. Moreover, FDR was the first presidential candidate to condemn prejudice against the Jews.

FDR and the Jews offers nuance and shades of real academic perspective to a subject more often colored by passionate discourse. To the most dramatic accusations leveled at FDR, his refusal to offer asylum to Jewish...

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