Transcript of the Summary of the Conference on “Policies and Responses of the American Government toward the Holocaust,” 11–12 November 1993

  • Verne W. Newton
Part of the The Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute Series on Diplomatic and Economic History book series (WOOROO)


Michael Marrus began by observing that his first reaction to being invited was to think the topic dealt with contemporary U.S. reactions to the Holocaust. He did not think that the Roosevelt administration had policies toward the Holocaust as we have understood the term since the 1960s, but rather that it developed policies toward a series of events that were recognized as the Holocaust only afterward.


National Interest Labor Department Private Group Refugee Problem American Jewish Community 
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  1. 1.
    Michael Marrus’s works include The Unwanted: European Refugees in the Twentieth Century (New York: Oxford University Press, 1985); with Robert Paxton, Vichy France and the Jews (New York: Basic Books, 1981); and The Holocaust in History (Hanover, N.H.: University Press of New England/Brandeis University Press, 1987).Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    Richard Breitman and Alan Kraut, American Refugee Policy and European Jewry, 1933–1945 (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1987).Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    Raul Hilberg, Perpetrators, Victims, Bystanders: The Jewish Catastrophe, 1933–1945 (New York: Asher Books, 1992).Google Scholar
  4. 5.
    Lucy Dawidowicz, “Could the United States Have Rescued the European Jews from Hitler?” This World (fall 1985), 15–30.Google Scholar
  5. 7.
    George Mosse, Bascom Professor of History at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, is the author of Crisis of German Ideology (New York: Grosset, 1964); Nazi Culture (New York: Grosset, 1966); Germans and Jews (New York: Grosset, 1971); and Toward the Final Solution (New York: Harper’s, 1979).Google Scholar
  6. 10.
    A worldwide forum called in July 1938 at Roosevelt’s suggestion, the Evian (France) Conference failed almost totally in its major task: finding countries that would accept Jewish refugees. Henry Feingold devotes a chapter to it in The Politics of Rescue: Administration and the Holocaust 1938–1945 (New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1970) 22–44. See also S. Adler-Rudel, “The Evian Conference on the Refugee Question,” Leo Baeck Institute Yearbook 13 (1968), 253–273.Google Scholar
  7. 11.
    Hjalmar Schacht, spokesman for the moderates within the Nazi Party and head of the Reichsbank, met with George Rublee—an American, a classmate of FDR at Groton, and the director of the Intergovernmental Committee on Political Refugees—in London in December 1938 and in Berlin in January 1939 to formulate a workable plan for the emigration of German Jews. The centerpiece of Schacht’s original proposal was the creation of a giant trust fund financed by “international Jewry.” Roosevelt referred to the plan as “ransom” and “barter in human misery,” and it received little support from the democracies. Although Adolf Hitler did endorse Schacht’s plan, negotiations broke down on 20 January 1939 following Schacht’s dismissal from his post in the Reichsbank and as intermediary with the Intergovernmental Committee (IGC). Schacht’s reversal of fortune stemmed from his refusal to inflate the German currency. See Joseph Tenenbaum, “The Crucial Year, 1938,” Yad Vashem Studies 2 (1958), 49–79.Google Scholar
  8. 12.
    Dorothy Thompson, “Refugees: A World Problem,” Foreign Affairs 16 (April 1938), 375–387.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 14.
    Freda Kirchway, “The State Department versus Political Refugees,” Nation 156 (28 December 1940), 648–649.Google Scholar
  10. 15.
    Henry Feingold, “Roosevelt and the Resettlement Question,” in Rescue Attempts during the Holocaust: Proceedings of the Second Yad Vashem International Historical Conference (Jerusalem, 8–11 April 1974), ed. Yisrael Gutman and Efraim Zuroff(New York: KTAV, 1978), 123–181.Google Scholar
  11. 16.
    A transcript of FDR’s conversation with Governor-General Nogues appears in Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS): Conference at Casablanca, 1943 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1968), 606–608.Google Scholar
  12. 19.
    The United States and Great Britain held bilateral meetings in Hamilton, Bermuda, in April 1943 to discuss the rescue and relocation plans. The Bermuda Conference accomplished nothing in this regard, however. Both nations maintained that the defeat of the Axis powers was the key to rescuing European Jewry. See Monty N. Penkower, “The Bermuda Conference and Its Aftermath: An Allied Quest for ‘Refuge’ during the Holocaust,” Prologue 13 (fall 1981), 145–173.Google Scholar
  13. 20.
    David Engel, In The Shadow of Auschwitz: The Polish Government-in-Exile and the Jews, 1939–1942 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1987).Google Scholar
  14. 22.
    Henry Feingold, “Who Shall Bear Guilt for the Holocaust: The Human Dilemma,” American Jewish History 68 (March 1979), 261–282.Google Scholar
  15. 23.
    James H. Kitchens III, “The Bombing of Auschwitz Reexamined,” Journal of Military History 58 (April 1994), 233–266.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 25.
    In July 1942, Gerhart Riegner of the World Jewish Congress received a repon from a German industrialist stating that Adolf Hitler was considering a plan to exterminate from 3.5 to four million Jews beginning that autumn. A condensed 20-page version of the Riegner report entitled “Blueprint for Extermination” is attached to information about the 8 December 1942 meeting between Roosevelt, Rabbi Stephen Wise, and other leaders of the American Jewish community in Official File 76C (Church Matters-Jewish), Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, Hyde Park, N.Y. There is no indication in the files at the FDR Library that President Roosevelt actually read the Riegner report. For a description of the 8 December 1942 meeting and the Riegner report, see also Doris Kearns Goodwin, No Ordinary Time (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1994), 396–397; David S. Wyman, The Abandonment of the Jews: America and the Holocaust, 1941–1945 (New York: Pantheon Books, 1984), 71–73; Breitman and Kraut, American Refugee Policy, 146–166; and the Adolph Held (Jewish Labor Committee) notes of the 8 December 1942 meeting, which are located in the Jewish Labor Committee Archives, New York, N.Y.Google Scholar

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© Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute 1996

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  • Verne W. Newton

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