New York (Sep. 24)
A two-year study that promises to be the definitive inquiry into the attitudes and actions of American Jews during the Holocaust has been launched here.
The American Jewish Commission on the Holocaust will” let the chips fall where they may,” Arthur Goldberg, chairman of the Commission, said yesterday at a press conference prior to the first meeting of the group. The former U.S. Supreme Court Justice conceded that the conclusions of the report may be “unpleasant” to some Jewish organizations, but said that whatever “good, solid, research” is uncovered will in the end be published.
The Commission will consist of 26 Jewish leaders, including a diverse group of scholars, heads or former heads of Jewish organizations as well as rabbis from various sections of the religious community. This, according to Goldberg, will ensure that all viewpoints have been consulted.
Essentially, the Commission will explore the following:
When did the American Jewish leadership learn about the Nazi plan to exterminate all European Jews and when did they become alarmed about it?
Which Jewish groups were active on the American scene and what did they do or fail to do?
Why were so many American Jews passive or relatively unconcerned about the plight of European Jews? Regarding this point, the Commission will seek to explore whether it was the lack of information, interest, the inability to fathom the dimensions of the Holocaust or a preoccupation with other concerns.
Did prominent Jews try to influence U.S. policy, and if so, what impact did they have?
Was the Holocaust preordained by a cruel destiny so that nothing could have been done to prevent, stop, alleviate or limit it? Or, if the Jews in this country had shown greater concern and exerted their influence and power on the political body, could the tragedy have been prevented?
In retrospect, with the abundance of documentary material at the Commission’s disposal, what is the truth about the possibility of saving great numbers of Jews? Why were these opportunities not fully explored, or neglected?
DEALING WITH FUTURE SITUATIONS
The research team will work out of the Jack Eisner Institute for Holocaust Studies at the Graduate School of the City University of New York and be led by former UN Ambassador Maxwell Finger.
Finger, currently a professor of Political Science at the Graduate School, said there has not been a study dealing precisely with the American Jewish community perspectives during the Holocaust. He reported that the Commission has already accumulated 8,000 pages of information for the study provided by a source who has been studying the matter for 25 years. He refused to identify the person.
Finger said the studies will also provide future assessments of how the Jewish community should react now to issues such as the alleged high degree of anti-Semitism in Argentina or the new Jewish Agency plans for relocation of Soviet Jewish emigrants. He said the Commission will try to determine whether quiet diplomacy or “more hell raising” is the way to deal with situations such as the Holocaust and the current situation in Argentina.
According to Finger, the Jack Eisner Institute has provided a $70,000 grant for the first year’s funding of the project. During the second year, the project will seek broader support. He said that the funding for the second year will be available even if the “broadened” support is insufficient.