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

The U.S. Should Recognize Israeli Sovereignty over the Golan Heights

July 19 2018

Since the 1970s, American governments have sporadically pressured Jerusalem to negotiate the return of the Golan to Syria in exchange for peace. Had Israel given up this territory, Iranian forces would now be preparing to establish themselves on its strategically advantageous high ground. Michael Doran, testifying before the House of Representatives, argues that for this and other reasons, Congress should recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan. (Video is available at the link below.)

Between 1949 and 1967, [the period during which Syria held the Golan], thousands of clashes erupted [there]. By contrast, ever since Israel took control of the Golan Heights in June 1967, they have served as a natural buffer between the two belligerents. The last 70 years serve as a laboratory of real life, and the results [of the experiment conducted therein] are incontrovertible: when in the hands of Syria, the Golan Heights promoted conflict. When in the hands of Israel, they have promoted stability. . . .

From the outbreak of the [Syrian] civil war, Iran and Russia have worked aggressively to shape the conflict so as to serve their interests. The influence of Iran is particularly worrisome because, in the division of labor between Moscow and Tehran, Russia provides the air power while Iran provides much of the ground forces. . . . Thanks to Iran’s newfound ground presence [in Syria], it is well on the way to completing a so-called “land bridge” stretching from Tehran to Beirut. There can be no doubt that a major aim of the land bridge is to increase the military pressure on Israel (and Jordan, too). . . .

Would Americans ever consciously choose to place Iranian soldiers on the Golan Heights, so that they could peer down their riflescopes at Jewish civilians below? Is there any American interest that would be served by allowing Iran to have direct access to the Sea of Galilee, Israel’s primary water reservoir? Would it ever be wise to place Iranian troops [where they could] serve as a wedge between Jordan and Israel? The answer to all of these questions, obviously, is no. And the clearest way to send that message to the world is to pass a law recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights.

As for the claim that the Jewish state’s seizure of the Golan in 1967 violates international law, Doran notes that Washington undermined this claim with its attempts in the 1990s to broker a deal between Jerusalem and Damascus:

The ready American (and Israeli) acceptance of the June 4, 1967 cease-fire line [as the basis for such a deal] is nothing short of startling. That line . . . leaves Syria in possession of territory along the shores of the Sea of Galilee and elsewhere that it acquired by force in 1948. In other words, to win over its enemy, [Syria], the Clinton administration dispensed with the principle of the impermissibility of the acquisition of territory by force—the very principle that the United States has remained ever-vigilant in applying to its ally, Israel.

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More about: Congress, Golan Heights, Iran, Israel & Zionism, Syrian civil war, U.S. Foreign policy