Historians debate: Could more Jews have been saved?

Historians in the News

Seventy years after the Holocaust, the issue of America's response to it, and whether more Jews could have been saved, still arouses passions.

At a July 17 academic conference at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem featuring the institution's leading historians alongside scholars from the U.S.-based David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies, they locked horns over the question.

The historian David S. Wyman, in his book that appeared 28 years ago – “The Abandonment of the Jews” – exposed a pattern of apathy and obstruction at the highest of levels of the U.S. Government and among the Jewish organizational establishment led by Rabbi Steven S. Wise. 

In his book, Wyman detailed the actions of an activist named Hillel Kook – who, using the pseudonym Peter Bergson – led a series of political action committees precisely 70 years ago that came to be known collectively as the Bergson Group. 

That group was said to be ahead of its time, as it took-out full-page ads in leading American newspapers; planned public rallies; staged theatrical plays with the participation of some of Hollywood's leading stars; planned a dramatic march of 400 Rabbis to the steps of the Capital and to the White House in 1943; and successfully lobbied Congress to introduce a resolution calling for the creation of a federal government agency to rescue refugees....

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