Alfred Lilienthal

How the Zionists Sabotaged the Rescue of Jewish DPs

(from Lilienthal, What Price Israel? (1953), Chapter 2)


There were other lands, besides Palestine, to which the Displaced Persons could have gone. President Roosevelt was deeply concerned with the plight of the European refugees and thought that all the free nations of the world ought to accept a certain number of immigrants, irrespective of race, creed, color or political belief. The President hoped that the rescue of 500,000 Displaced Persons could be achieved by such a generous grant of a worldwide political asylum.

In line with this humanitarian idea, Morris Ernst, New York attorney and close friend of the President, went to London in the middle of the war to see if the British would take in 100,000 or 200,000 uprooted people. The President had reasons to assume that Canada, Australia, and the South American countries would gladly open their doors. And if such good examples were set by other nations, Mr. Roosevelt felt that the American Congress could be ?educated to go back to our traditional position of asylum?. The key was in London. Would Morris Ernst succeed there?

Mr. Ernst came home to report, and this is what took place in the White House (as related by Mr. Ernst to a Cincinnati audience in 1950):

Ernst: We are at home plate. That little island [and it was during the second Blitz that he visited England] on a properly representative program of a World Immigration Budget, will match the United States up to 150,000.

Roosevelt: 150,000 to England ? 150,000 to match that in the United States ? pick up 200,000 or 300,000 elsewhere, and we can start with half a million of these oppressed people.

A week later, or so, Mr. Ernst and his wife again visited the President.

Roosevelt (turning to Mrs. Ernst): Margaret, can?t you get me a Jewish Pope? I cannot stand it any more. I have got to be careful that when Stevie Wise leaves the White House he doesn?t see Joe Proskauer on the way in. (Then, to Mr. Ernst): Nothing doing on the program. We can?t put it over because the dominant vocal Jewish leadership of America won?t stand for it.

Ernst: It?s impossible?! Why?

Roosevelt: They are right from their point of view. The Zionist movement knows that Palestine is, and will be for some time, a remittance society. They know that they can raise vast sums for Palestine by saying to donors, ?There is no other place this poor Jew can go.? But if there is a world political asylum for all people irrespective of race, creed or color, they cannot raise their money. Then the people who do not want to give the money will have an excuse to say ?What do you mean, there is no place they can go but Palestine? They are the preferred wards of the world.?

Morris Ernst, shocked, first refused to believe his leader and friend. He began to lobby among his influential Jewish friends for this world program of rescue, without mentioning the President?s or the British reaction. As he himself has put it: I was thrown out of parlors of friends of mine who very frankly said ?Morris, this is treason. You are undermining the Zionist movement?.

He ran into the same reaction amongst all Jewish groups and their leaders. Everywhere he found ?a deep, genuine, often fanatically emotional vested interest in putting over the Palestinian movement? in men ?who are little concerned about human blood if it is not their own.?

This response of Zionism ended the remarkable Roosevelt effort to rescue Europe?s Displaced Persons.

On December 22, 1945, President Truman directed the Secretaries of State and War, and certain other federal authorities, to speed in every possible way the granting of visas and ?facilitate full immigration to the United States under existing quota laws.? Congress, which had often shown its vulnerability to Jewish pressure groups, did not implement the President?s request regarding the application of unused quotas to uprooted Europeans. Finally, Congressman William G. Stratton in the so-called "Do-Nothing" 80th Republican Congress introduced a bill in 1947, to admit Displaced Persons ?in a number equivalent to a part of the total quota numbers unused during the war years.?

Under the Stratton Bill, up to 400,000 Displaced Persons of all faiths would have been permitted admission into the United States. The Committee hearings on this legislation (HR 2910) lasted eleven days and covered 693 pages of testimony. But there were exactly 11 pages of testimony given by Jewish organizations. They seemed, in fact, profoundly uninterested. But in 1944, when the House Foreign Af?fairs Committee was considering the Wright-Compton resolution that called for the establishment of a Jewish Commonwealth, there had been scarcely a Zionist organization that had not testified, sent telegraphed messages, or had some Congressman testify in their behalf. In support of the Wright-Compton resolution, 500 pages of testimony were produced in four days, the vast bulk by Zionists and their allies.

Yet on the Stratton Bill , which would have opened America?s doors to 400,000 Displaced Persons, the powerful Zionist Washington lobby (otherwise most articulate) was virtually silent. Only one witness appeared for all the major Jewish organizations ? Senator Herbert Lehman, then the ex-Governor of New York. In addition to Lehman?s statement, there was a resolution from the Jewish Community Councils of Washington-Heights and Inwood, and the testimony of the National Commander of the Jewish War Veterans . Not a single word was volunteered in behalf of Displaced Persons by any of the Zionist organizations, which were at that moment recruiting members and soliciting funds ?to alleviate human suffering?.

To a meeting at the Shoreham Hotel in Washington, Congressman Stratton expressed his surprise at the lack of support from certain organizations, which normally ought to have been most active in liberalizing the immigration law. Obviously, the Illinois Representative (now Governor) had never heard the President of the Zionist Organization of America exhort his membership:

?I am happy that our movement has finally veered around to the point where we are all, or nearly all, talking about a Jewish State . That was always classical Zionism. ... But I ask ? are we again, in moments of desperation, going to confuse Zionism with refugeeism, which is likely to defeat Zionism? Zionism is not a refugee movement. It is not a product of the Second World War, nor of the first. Were there no displaced Jews in Europe, and were there free opportunities for Jewish immigration in other parts of the world at this time, Zionism would still be an imperative necessity.?

The generous admission of Jewish Displaced Persons to the United States, and other countries, would have eradicated the necessity for a ?Jewish State?. Yet the human flotsam in former concentration camps impressed the Zionist only in two respects ? as manpower and as justification for Jewish Statehood.

This is what a Yiddish paper had to say on the distressing subject: ?By pressing for an exodus of Jews from Europe; by insisting that Jewish DPs do not wish to go to any country outside of Israel; by not participating in the negotiations on behalf of the DPs; and by refraining from a campaign of their own ? by all this they [the Zionists] certainly did not help to open the gates of America for Jews. In fact, they sacrificed the interests of living people ? their brothers and sisters who went through a world of pain ? to the politics of their own movement.?

And this is what the Jewish Forward, largest Yiddish newspaper in the world, had to say on December 11, 1943: ?The Jewish Conference is alive only when there is something in the air which has to do with a Commonwealth in Palestine, and it is asleep when it concerns rescue work for the Jews in the Diaspora.?

Dr. Louis Finkelstein of the Jewish Theological Seminary in Manhattan, one of the country?s most renowned theologians, stated in an interview in 1951, it had always been his feeling that ?if United States Jews had put as much effort into getting DPs admitted to this country as they put into Zionism, a home could have been found in the New World for all the displaced Jews of Europe.?

Speaking at the Eightieth Anniversary of the Miztah Congregation at Chattanooga, Tennessee, New York Times publisher Sulzberger pleaded that ?plans to move Jews to Palestine should be but part of larger plans to empty these camps of all refugees, Jew and otherwise.? He called for a reversal of Zionist policy that put statehood first, refugees last: ?Admitting that the Jews of Europe have suffered beyond expression, why in God?s name should the fate of all these unhappy people be subordinated to the single cry of Statehood? I cannot rid myself of the feeling that the unfortunate Jews of Europe?s DP camps are helpless hostages for whom statehood has been made the only ransom.?

All these voices of reason and honest compassion were lost in the nationalist emotionalism of the day. Zionism?s real objective was hidden behind the incessant denunciations of the British and anyone else who opposed Zionist aspirations in Palestine. The non-Zionist American of Jewish faith was engulfed by frenzied sentiment. A letter to the Editor of the Washington Post, pointing out that ?it ill behooved Zionist sympathizers to shed crocodile tears over the displaced persons?, resulted in a violent fistfight on Pennsylvania Avenue.

The following stereotyped reminder invariably hushed dissenting whispers against the partition of Palestine: ?How can you be so cruel as to prevent those poor refugees from finding a home??