Originally published 07/22/2013
David Austin Walsh is the editor of the History News Network.It's a cliche, but it's true: historical controversies are as much about contemporary politics as they are about history.Laurence Zuckerman, a former reporter for the New York Times and currently an adjunct professor at Columbia's Graduate School of Journalism, just published a feature article in the The Nation that profiles the dispute between Richard Breitman and Allen Lichtman on the one hand and Rafael Medoff on the other about President Franklin D. Roosevelt's response to the Holocaust and his failure to save European Jews.Roosevelt's critics, argues Zuckerman, are motivated less by the historical evidence and more by contemporaries challenges faced by Israel. "The not-so-subtle message" of critics like Medoff, Zuckerman writes, is "like the Jews of Europe in 1939, Israel is under an existential threat and cannot count on anyone for help -- even the United States, even liberals, even Jews in the United States."
Originally published 06/17/2013
Years after World War II ended I often visited Manhattan’s Washington Heights neighborhood, nicknamed the “Fourth Reich” because of its large number of Central European Jews who had escaped the Nazis, the Kissinger family among them. Whether they were eligible to vote or not, they overwhelmingly supported FDR, grateful for having been welcomed into the country. Nearby, a goodly number of them lived on the Upper West Side, all well-served by German-Jewish cultural and social societies and Aufbau, a literate, once-thriving German language Jewish newspaper.
Originally published 05/13/2013
The MS St. Louis in Havana. Credit: Wiki Commons.Critics of Franklin Delano Roosevelt often use the ship the St. Louis as an emblem of FDR’s alleged indifference toward the Holocaust. In Hollywood’s version, now deeply engrained in American popular culture, the 937 German-Jewish passengers of the MS St. Louis undertook the “voyage of the damned.” The president could have saved them and did nothing. As a result, most of them perished.In our new book FDR and the Jews, we noted in passing that American officials did not order the Coast Guard to prevent the St. Louis from landing in the United States. Since our book appeared a few months ago our critics in the press -- and some surviving St. Louis passengers -- have complained about this particular statement.
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