Henry Stimson, the American Secretary of War in the Administration of President Roosevelt, tried to prevent Jewish refugees from Europe from reaching Palestine or the United States and opposed the creation of the State of Israel, according to a new study published here by the Institute of Jewish Affairs, the research arm of the World Jewish Congress.
Writing in the Institute’s journal, Pattems of Prejudice, American Jewish historian Harvey Strum said that Stimson repeatedly urged Roosevelt not to let Jewish war refugees into the U.S., opposed efforts to persuade the British to lift their restrictions on immigration to Palestine, and viewed a Jewish State as a threat to Anglo-American interests in the Middle East.
Under Stimson’s leadership, too, the U.S. War Department repeatedly refused during World War II to disrupt the mass extermination of the Jews by bombing the deportation railways leading to Auschwitz or the gas chambers and crematoria at Auschwitz.
Strum, who teaches history at Onondaga State College in Syracuse, New York, and has published other articles on American anti-Semitism, bases his findings on a study of Stimson’s diaries and other papers housed in Yale University.
This article reveals the attitudes which, in 1944, prompted Stimson to play a decisive part in dissuading Congress from voting for a Jewish Palestine, even though he had been a long time friend of Zionist leader, Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter.
WAR SECRETARY WAS NOT A RABID ANTI-SEMITE
Strum admits that Stimson “was not a rabid anti-Semite,” that he did not belong to any of the anti-Semitic groups active in the U.S. and that he was “appalled” by the Nazi persecutions.
Nevertheless, he finds that for over 20 years Stimson had privately opposed Jewish immigration to the U.S., a prospect which he found “just as appalling” as the Nazi persecution.
With the succession of Harry Truman to the Presidency in April, 1945, Stimson also advised Truman about “the problem of our Jewish people here,” warning that the “danger was not yet over” of American Jews meddling in the issue of how to deal with post-Hitler Germany.
Stimson was against punishing Nazis for the murder of German Jewry, and was anxious lest a protracted de-Nazification program should drive the Germans into the Soviet camp in the developing cold war.
Strum claims that “throughout the debate over the post-war treatment of Germany, Stimson perceived the American Jewish community as a powerful and nefarious special interest group threatening American national interests in its pursuit of vengeance.”
While “blatant anti-Semitism” offended Stimson’s conservative sensibilities, his hostility towards Jews reflected the conservative WASP (White Anglo-Saxon Protestant) dislike for Jews common both among the U.S. elite and the general population between 1920 and 1950, Strum concludes.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.