How American Passivity in the Face of the Holocaust Left Its Mark on Robert Morgenthau

July 29 2019

Robert Morgenthau, who died on July 21 ten days shy of his 100th birthday, had a long career as a U.S. attorney and as Manhattan district attorney. A decorated World War II veteran, he was the son and grandson of two of the most prominent Jews in American public life: Henry Morgenthau, Sr., a real-estate baron who had served as ambassador to the Ottoman empire, and Henry Jr., who was Franklin Roosevelt’s secretary of the treasury. Robert Morgenthau had little to do, publicly, with Jewish affairs, yet they affected him deeply. Steven I. Weiss writes:

[T]he horrors of Hitler’s Germany weighed on [Robert Morgenthau] as an example of what could go wrong when decision-makers in a country become corrupt opportunists. . . . Some of the lessons of what could go wrong in fighting injustice came from his own, insider’s view of the American government’s response to the Holocaust. When Morgenthau volunteered for military service in World War II, he already knew of his father’s fights within the Roosevelt administration to try to do more about the ongoing genocide of Jews in Europe. Henry Jr. was . . . nearly [removed] from his cabinet position for trying to arm France in 1939, [and] had to lobby hard [merely] to establish a Jewish refugee camp in upstate New York.

In the late 1980s, [Robert] accepted a commission from then-Mayor Ed Koch to lead an effort to build a Holocaust memorial in New York City. After others failed to raise the necessary money, Morgenthau stepped in to call millionaires personally and solicit large donations from the very sorts of financiers he’d made his name investigating, and managed to bring the project back on track.

In connection with this project, Morgenthau was also influential in arranging for John Cardinal O’Connor to deliver a speech apologizing for the Catholic Church’s role in the Holocaust, the first such statement from a high-ranking church official.

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Read more at Pacific Standard

More about: Catholic Church, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Holocaust, Jewish-Catholic relations, New York City

 

Iran, America, and the Future of Democracy in the Middle East

Nov. 23 2022

Sixty-two days after the death of Mahsa Amini at the hands of the Islamic Republic’s police, the regime has failed to quash the protest movement. But it is impossible to know if the tide will turn, and what the outcome of the government’s collapse might be. Reuel Marc Gerecht considers the very real possibility that a democratic Iran will emerge, and considers the aftershocks that might follow. (Free registration required.)

American political and intellectual elites remain uneasy with democracy promotion everywhere primarily because it has failed so far in the Middle East, the epicenter of our attention the last twenty years. (Iraq’s democracy isn’t dead, but it didn’t meet American expectations.) Might our dictatorial exception for Middle Eastern Muslims change if Iran were to set in motion insurrections elsewhere in the Islamic world, in much the same way that America’s response to 9/11 probably helped to produce the rebellions against dictatorship that started in Tunisia in 2010? The failure of the so-called Arab Spring to establish one functioning democracy, the retreat of secular democracy in Turkey, and the implosion of large parts of the Arab world have left many wondering whether Middle Eastern Muslims can sustain representative government.

In 1979 the Islamic revolution shook the Middle East, putting religious militancy into overdrive and tempting Saddam Hussein to unleash his bloodiest war. The collapse of Iran’s theocracy might be similarly seismic. Washington’s dictatorial preference could fade as the contradictions between Arab tyranny and Persian democracy grow.

Washington isn’t yet invested in democracy in Iran. Yet, as Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has often noted, American hostility toward the Islamic Republic has been damaging. If the theocracy falls, Iranians will surely give America credit—vastly more credit that they will give to the European political class, who have been trying to make nice, and make money, with the clerical regime since the early 1990s—for this lasting enmity. We may well get more credit than we deserve. Both Democrats and Republicans who have dismissed the possibilities of democratic revolutions among the Muslim peoples of the Middle East will still, surely, claim it eagerly.

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Read more at Dispatch

More about: Arab democracy, Democracy, Iran, Middle East, U.S. Foreign policy