The Congressman who literally died fighting anti-Semitism


Congressman Morris Michael Edelstein fought anti-Semitism to the very end.

On June 4, 1941, Edelstein, a Polish-born Democrat from New York, denounced the anti-Semitic rhetoric of Mississippi’s Representative, John Elliott Rankin.

Rankin, whom Time Magazine referred to as the “No. 1 Jew-baiter of the House,” launched an anti-Semitic invective during the 77th United States Congress:

‘Mr. Speaker–Wall Street and a little group of our international Jewish brethren are still attempting to harass the President of the United States into plunging us into the European war, and at the same time Communistic elements throughout the country are fomenting strikes, harassing industry and blowing down the defense program.’

Rep. Edelstein opened his rebuttal as follows:

“Mr. Speaker — Hitler started out by speaking about ‘Jewish brethren.’ It is becoming the play and work of those people who want to demagog to speak about their ‘Jewish brethren’ and ‘international bankers,'” Edelstein told the House floor.

Moments later, Edelstein — who had reportedly had a history of cardiac illness– suffered a fatal heart attack.

When Edelstein finished speaking, he was cheered. He left the House Chamber, collapsed in a chair in the Speaker’s lobby and died.

The House adjourned early for the day with a motion allowing a committee of four representatives to attend the funeral, but not before five spontaneous eulogies were tendered.

“Very few incidents such as we have just seen have occurred,” said Rep. Samuel Dickstein (D- N.Y.), one of the four appointed to the committee.

“He was a living dynamo a few minutes ago. He is nothing now.”

Read the full Congressional record outlining the events surrounding Edelstein’s death below:

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