The Jew Who Gave Roosevelt a Bad Rap


Close your eyes and picture the one person who did the most to save Jews from the Holocaust. Did you picture Oskar SchindlerIrena SendlerRaoul Wallenberg? How about…Franklin Delano Roosevelt?

If a Zionist activist named Peter Bergson had his way, you might have. So say some historians, anyway.

Born Hillel Kook in Lithuania in 1915 to a prominent Zionist family, Bergson spent much of his youth in Palestine, where he joined the military arm of the Revisionist Zionist movement. But he really made his mark in the U.S., where he zealously campaigned FDR to do more to save European Jewry. His methods included full-page newspaper ads, organizing a pageant, and marching on Washington.

Bergson’s bombastic tactics are often credited for exposing the failures of FDR, a president who consistently won more than 80% of the Jewish vote and surrounded himself with Jewish advisors. Today he’s more widely known as the president who should have bombed Auschwitz.

But as is often the case with historical figures, new scholarship has emerged that questions his legacy and the rightness of his deeds.

Watch the debate here:

Recommended from JTA