Remembering the Man Who Exposed Official American Indifference to the Holocaust

March 20 2018

The historian David S. Wyman, who died last Wednesday at the age of eighty-nine, claimed that he never knew what brought him—a Gentile from New Hampshire—to focus his doctoral research on Franklin Roosevelt’s policies regarding Jewish refugees from Germany. But the resulting work, Paper Walls: America and the Refugee Crisis, 1938-1941 (1968), would open up a raft of unanswered questions. His 1978 Commentary essay “Why Auschwitz Was Never Bombed” and then his 1984 The Abandonment of the Jews shaped all future discussion about this chapter in American history. Pierre Sauvage writes:

Much has been made of the fact that Wyman was the grandson of two clergymen, but he insisted that he was not raised in an “unusually” religious home. In seventh grade he got kicked out of Sunday school for throwing spitballs; according to his parents’ ground-rules, that meant that he had to attend church on Sundays. But as with all righteously inclined people I have come to know something about, Wyman had important role models as he grew up. His mother . . . had helped break the color bar at their Methodist church. His father would relentlessly say, “Put yourself in the other guy’s shoes.” . . .

His father had found a job as a milkman, whose route brought him through a Jewish community; Wyman remembered that his father had only positive things to say about the people along the milk route. . . .

Wyman placed much of the blame for American inaction [in the 1930s and 40s] on the Roosevelt administration. . . . On one occasion, . . . Wyman turned to a file cabinet, and quickly located what he considered a blisteringly relevant letter, written by a woman in Oakalla, Texas, in January 1944 to her senator: “I have never liked the Jews. I have never pretended to like them. . . . But at no time has my thinking been so low that I have wished them any harm. I have never wished them exterminated. . . . If we can do anything to help the European Jews escape the wrath of Hitler then we should do it because they have a right to live. It is not God’s will that they be slaughtered.”

Surely, Wyman went on to say, with some emotion, this is proof of the reservoir of relative goodwill that Roosevelt could have drawn upon had he been inspired to do so: if a person from that background could understand what was at stake, surely a significant part of the American public could have been won over to understanding it. Pressed further, Wyman responded with the earnestness that made his voice so distinctive and so compelling. “I still believe that the American people wouldn’t have failed on this if they had been given information and leadership. Maybe I have to believe it for my own inner peace.”

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More about: Franklin Delano Roosevelt, History & Ideas, Holocaust

A University of Michigan Professor Exposes the Full Implications of Academic Boycotts of Israel

Sept. 26 2018

A few weeks ago, Professor John Cheney-Lippold of the University of Michigan told an undergraduate student he would write a letter of recommendation for her to participate in a study-abroad program. But upon examining her application more carefully and realizing that she wished to spend a semester in Israel, he sent her a polite email declining to follow through. His explanation: “many university departments have pledged an academic boycott against Israel in support of Palestinians living in Palestine,” and “for reasons of these politics” he would no longer write the letter. Jonathan Marks comments:

We are routinely told . . . that boycott actions against Israel are “limited to institutions and their official representatives.” But Cheney-Lippold reminds us that the boycott, even if read in this narrow way, obligates professors to refuse to assist their own students when those students seek to participate in study-abroad programs in Israel. Dan Avnon, an Israeli academic, learned years ago that the same goes for Israel faculty members seeking to participate in exchange programs sponsored by Israeli universities. They, too, must be turned away regardless of their position on the Israel-Palestinian conflict. . . .

Cheney-Lippold, like other boycott defenders, points to the supposed 2005 “call of Palestinian civil society” to justify his singling out of Israel. “I support,” he says in comments to the [Michigan] student newspaper, “communities who organize themselves and ask for international support to achieve equal rights [and] freedom and to prevent violations of international law.”

Set aside the absurdity of this reasoning (“Why am I not boycotting China on behalf of Tibet? Because China has been much more effective in stifling civil society!”). Focus instead on what Cheney-Lippold could have found out by using Google. The first endorser of the call of “civil society” is the Council of National and Islamic Forces in Palestine, which includes Hamas, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and other groups that trade not only in violent “resistance” but in violence that directly targets noncombatants.

That’s remained par for the course for the boycott movement. In October 2015, in the midst of the series of stabbings deemed “the knife intifada,” the U.S. Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel shared a call for an international day of solidarity with the “new generation of Palestinians” who were then “rising up against Israel’s brutal, decades-old system of occupation.” To be sure, they did not directly endorse attacks on civilians, but they did issue their statement of solidarity with “Palestinian popular resistance” one day after four attacks that left three Israelis—all civilians—dead.

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More about: Academia, Academic Boycotts, BDS, Israel & Zionism, Knife intifada