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American Jews’ Indifference to Holocaust

An op-ed in the New York Times reveals that as World War II approached, American Jews were often indifferent to the fate of European Jews threatened by Hitler’s final solution. Jews often blame gentile Americans and Brits for being indifferent to the fate of Jews in Hitler’s concentration camps, but new letters found from Anne Frank’s father, Otto Frank, pleading for help from American Jews before World War II, show that they were also indifferent.

The op-ed by Daniel Mendelsohn says that Otto Frank’s letters were much like his uncle’s. He says that a large number of Jewish Americans “found themselves the often helpless objects of poignant entreaties by old friends and relatives trapped in Europe as the cataclysm approached.”

Mendelsohn says that after his grandfather died, he found “a cache of desperate letters from an older brother in Poland, written throughout 1939, begging for money, affidavits for visas, anything to save him and his family…. That my grandfather never mentioned this correspondence to us was an indication of the shattering guilt he must have felt at not having been able to help his family. It is a feeling shared by many Jews in America after the war, who are likely to have kept such feelings similarly hidden from their children and grandchildren.”

Of course, Mendelsohn expresses his hatred of gentile Americans toward the end of his op-ed, noting: “the appalling failure by the United States to do more for would-be immigrants. (Among other things, Frank’s letters are a concrete reminder of the crushing diplomatic obstacles facing would-be immigrants, a fatal Catch-22 that even American diplomats at the time were shamed by.)” The implication is that Jews, who are always looking for a bargain, would have saved their relatives if the US government had set the price for visa processing at something less than $5,000.

The US government has done almost exactly the same thing regarding Iraqi refugees, until recently making it extremely difficult for Iraqis, even Iraqis who have risked their life to help Americans, to come to America (a total of about 400 up to now, according to the Washington Post). The Iraqi deaths come on neighborhood streets, rather than in Auschwitz and other death camps, but the deaths are just as permanent. Where are the Jewish voices lamenting this immigration policy? They criticize Roosevelt for not invading France earlier, which would have caused the deaths of more Christian soldiers, and they are happy to have Christian soldiers dying in Iraq to protect Israel from Iraq and Iran. You didn’t, and don’t, see a high percentage of Jewish soldiers fighting for Jewish interests in World War II or in Iraq. They only fight in Israel. It would be interesting to compare the number of American Jews fighting in uniform in Iraq and the number of American citizens in uniform in the Israeli military. This information is hard to come by; I think it’s because it would show Jewish loyalty to America and to their own relatives in a harsh light, as the Otto Frank letters do.

An earlier NYT news article on the Otto Frank letters says that he wrote to his college friend Nathan Straus, Jr., who was the director of the federal Housing Authority, a friend of Eleanor Roosevelt, and the son of a co-owner of Macy’s. He had the money and connections to help Otto Frank if he had wanted to.

The latest example in the news of an American fighting for Israel is Michael Oren, the author of Power, Faith, and Fantasy: America in the Middle East 1776 to the Present. Born in America, with four degrees from American universities, he was a paratrooper in the Israeli army. I don’t see anything in his Wikipedia bio about serving in the US army.

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