NEW YORK (Mar. 21)
A report to the American Jewish Commission on the Holocaust, to be released at the beginning of April, concludes that American Jewish organizations were faulty in their efforts to save the victims of the Holocaust because they were not united.
The author of the report, Prof. Seymour Finger of the Graduate School of the City University of New York and the Commission’s director of research, said today in a telephone interview with the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that “the American Jewish organizations had relatively little power (during the Holocaust in Europe) but they did try to save the Jews. They tried, but they were hampered by a lack of unity. There was not a sustained unified effort on the part of the Jewish organizations to save the Jews of Europe.”
SAY NEW YORK TIMES STORY WAS INCORRECT
Finger, and Rabbi Moshe Sherer, president of Agudah Israel of America and a member of the Holocaust Commission, also told the JTA that a story in today’s New York Times on the report was “incorrect,” mainly because it failed to point out that the report is not the Commission’s report but a report submitted to it by Finger.
According to Finger, the main points of the report are that “Hitler was the arch criminal who was responsible for the Holocaust and that the Allied governments had the power to do something to rescue the Jews of Europe but were unwilling to divert resources from the war in order to rescue Jews.”
Finger said that the Jewish organizations “had more faith in the willingness of President Roosevelt and Churchill to give priority to saving the Jews than was justified by the events.”
He said that, in addition, the Jewish organizations in America at that time were “too patriotic” and were not willing “to break the law” in order to save the Jews. “An exception to that was the Orthodox Jewish organizations, who gave top priority to saving the Jews,” Finger pointed out.
Finger said that members of the Commission have seen the report but were not asked “to approve it or disapprove it.”
Sherer said that the report “is purely the view of the professional staff of the Commission and not of the Commission members themselves.”
REPORT PRAISES ORTHODOX JEWISH ORGANIZATIONS
Sherer noted that in the report Finger praises the Orthodox Jewish organizations for “having saved significant numbers of Jews.”
But Sherer added that he does not agree with the overall conclusions of the report because Finger “engages in a seasaw effort to be painstakingly candid and at the same time protective about the secular American Jewish leadership whose poor performance during the Holocaust years is J’accuse against the most prominent Jewish leaders of that time.”
The Commission, an unofficial group of 35 prominent American Jews, was established in September, 1981, to study what the organized Jewish community did or failed to do to save European Jewry during the years 1939-1945. It was disbanded in August, 1982, in a flurry of controversy over an interim report on the role of the Jewish community. One Commission member, Samuel Merlin, resigned.
Jack Eisner, a New York businessman who had survived the Holocaust and who was the Commission’s principal financial supporter, withdrew his support, charging that “the vestiges of the old establishment” were seeking to whitewash their role.
Merlin, the director of the Institute for Mediterranean Affairs in New York, which studies events in the Middle East and World War II, including the Holocaust, along with a team of assistants, wrote an opening draft report that was critical of the established Jewish community in the U.S., for failing to act forcefully and exert sufficient pressure on the Roosevelt Administration to increase immigration quotas for European Jews.
Merlin came under fire from members of the established Jewish community who were also members of the Commission and who sought to have their respective organizations’ names and predecessors, in some cases, deleted from the critical report.
When the Commission was disbanded, Arthur Goldberg, the Commission’s chairman, a former Supreme Court Justice and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, said he would help reconstitute the Commission by guaranteeing its financing. Finger said that his published report next month will include an introduction by Goldberg. The New York Times today quoted Goldberg as saying: “As much as it hurts me to have to say it, we did not do enough. Nobody did enough.”