The Jews Should Keep Quiet

An Interview with Rafael Medoff


by Jerry Gordon and Rod Reuven Dovid Bryant (October 2019)

Orthodox rabbis protesting in Washington DC, 1943. (Credit: The Gedolim Gallery)



book is The Jews Should Keep Quiet: Franklin D. Roosevelt, Rabbi Stephen S. Wise and the Holocaust. Medoff’s book unveils new archival evidence on President Roosevelt’s abandonment of European Jews prior to and during the Holocaust and the relationship between FDR and Rabbi Stephen S. Wise, especially the failure of the latter to confront the President on this issue. Wise was a leader of the American Jewish Congress and World Jewish Congress, a Reform Rabbi and an activist Zionist in his youth. As Rabbi Wise grew closer to power, he refrained from criticism of Roosevelt during World War II and was complicit in silencing Jewish criticism of President’s failure to aid in the rescue of European Jews during the Holocaust.


One graphic example was the March 1943 protest march of 400 Orthodox Rabbis at the White House organized by the five Palestinian Revisionist Jews of the Bergson Group with a petition calling for rescue of Europe’s Jews. President FDR’s private assimilated Jewish advisers suggested ignoring, the protest while the President left via a back entrance avoiding meeting with the Rabbis. The Rabbis were outraged which led to others to express criticism. But not Rabbi Wise.


The question of why Roosevelt dismissed Jews, can be found in FDR’s vision of America as white, Protestant and dismissive of immigrants. That view are evident in columns of FDR published in a Georgia newspaper in the early 1920’s opposing Japanese American immigration, intermarriage and inability to assimilate in the US. That view culminated in FDR’s Executive Order 9066 during WWII interning 120,000 American Japanese citizens. The new book finds parallelism in FDR views of Jews. FDR’s statement following the horrific Nazi Pogrom on November 9, 1938 simply called it “unbelievable”, without identifying the perpetrators and victims, Nazis and German Jews. Between 1933 and 1938, FDR maintained cordial relations with Germany not issuing one public statement critical of Hitler’s Nazi Regime. The book exposes the calumnies of the FDR Administration opposing and undermining the anti-Nazi boycott mounted by Jewish and other groups permitting evasion of labelling of German products to avoid country of origin.


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Following, the Kristallnacht pogrom, both the US Virgin Islands Assembly and the Dominican Republic offered safe havens for German Jewish Refugees. The Dominican Republic offered over 100,000 visas. FDR Administration blocked both the Virgin Islands and Dominican Republic offers because they were too close to the US which might provide access to enter America. The FDR White House followed that with lobbying against a Congressional bill in 1939 to let in 20,000 German Jewish youths below the age of 15. An act, which if passed, that would have saved both Ann and Margo Frank, who were eligible. The only gesture of FDR was to allow 5,000 German Jews with temporary travel visas in the US to remain here. By contrast, the British Government of Munich appeaser, Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, allowed in 10,000 German Jewish children in the famed Kindertransports and 15,000 young Jewish women as nannies. This contrasts with the 1939 British White Paper denying European Jewish immigration to Palestine. FDR’s opposition to wartime European Jewish rescue came in the face of a major shift in US public opinion from the 1930’s to the 1940’s during WWII. With growing allied victories at Stalingrad, North Africa, Sicily and the surrender of Italy in 1943, public opinion in the US overwhelmingly favored unlimited numbers of Jews to temporarily reside in the US. In April 1944, the FDR White House commissioned a Gallup poll that found that 70 percent approved this policy. The reality was that FDR admitted less than 982 European and Jewish refugees in 1944 housed at an abandoned US Army Camp in Oswego, New York. As late as early 1944, 800,000 Hungarian Jews could have been rescued, before the country was occupied by the Nazis. The new book authored by Medoff suggests that this and other opportunities were squandered by FDR. When the question of why Auschwitz- Birkenau wasn’t bombed by the allies, Medoff points to excuses of critics who said that it would have resulted in casualties of killing center inmates and German resilience in repairing bombed rails. However, he noted that requests to bomb bridges betrayed that facts that Allied air forces had already bombed bridges, as they were difficult to repair, denying transit of troops and equipment. Bombing the bridges along the deportation route to Auschwitz might have saved tens of thousands of Jewish lives.


book: FDR and the Abandonment of the Jews. The Jews Should Keep Quiet: Franklin D. Roosevelt, Rabbi Stephen S. Wise and the Holocaust, was published by The Jewish Publication Society and the University of Nebraska Press, both available on Amazon. For more on the David S. Wyman Institute, see:

Rod: It is the 11th of September 2019. Today, we are remembering the victims of 9/11 who died in the terrorist attack in New York City, at the Pentagon and in Pennsylvania, 18 years ago. My co-host Jerry Gordon and I want to wish the best of memories of your parents and relatives who died in the attack and family members who have survived.  You are amazing people to be able to go through this and to maintain your direction in life.  We have a great guest coming on that we have had several times before, Dr. Rafael Medoff. We need to share his amazing book that he has talked about on Israel News Talk Radio- Beyond the Matrix. Our guest is well known is well known to our listeners.


Jerry: Dr. Medoff’s new book, which was released on September 1, 2019, is entitled, The Jews Should Keep Quiet.  It’s all about FDR, Rabbi Stephen S. Wise who was the premier American Jewish leader in the 1930s and 1940s and the Holocaust.


Jerry: It was an example of how cowardly many Jewish leaders were except for the courageous minority. It was also a credit to those Palestinian Revisionist Zionist Jews who defied them, known as the Bergson group. It was through the Bergson Group and supporters who created pageants, testimony before Congress, and stunts like the protests of the 400 Orthodox Rabbis who rallied trying to draw attention to the fate of Europe’s Jews during the Holocaust and who were not even admitted to the White House. All while Roosevelt snuck out the rear door of the White House to specifically avoid them.


Rod: What we are going to review today is review the historic record that has continued to repeat itself in the halls of Congress and the White House. We want to remind you that it is important that we continue to fight anti-Semitism and to continue to be vocal about its rise in America. We know what the result was of keeping quiet during the Second World War.  


Rod: The title of your new book is The Jews Should Keep Quiet. Rafael, where did this come from and what is the genesis of this title?


Jerry: Dr. Medoff you revealed several anti-Semitic statements that President Franklin Roosevelt made in private. Yet today, we know that even though Richard Nixon was anti-Semitic in private he was generally pro-Israel. Even though Harry Truman was anti-Semitic in private, he was the first world leader to recognize the newborn state of Israel. Why did it matter if FDR was anti-Semitic or not?


Jerry: Many people lavish praise on FDR for his response to the Kristallnacht pogrom in Germany in November of 1938. Your book has a different take on that question. What was it?


Rod: Recently there was a controversy when several radical left Democrat congresswomen introduced a bill supporting the boycott of Israel. Now in their bill they recalled that many Americans boycotted goods from Nazi Germany in the 1930s. However, you are rebutting this whole idea. Could you give us more of what we are talking about?  Did Franklin Roosevelt oppose the anti-Nazi boycott?


Rod: What I find interesting is that this discussion is just as apropos today as it was in any other time in history. There has always been this anti-Semitism and we forget how it creeps back into our society.


Jerry: Dr. Medoff, you describe in your book how the leaders of the U.S. Virgin Islands and the Dominican Republic both offer to take in Jewish refugees, but the Roosevelt administration opposed them doing that. Why?


Rod: President Roosevelt refused to support a bill in 1939 to admit twenty thousand German Jewish children into the United States but just a year later he rushed to open the American doors to several thousand British children fleeing the blitz. Was this a double standard? Is this just another proof positive of his anti-Semitic attitude?


Rafael: It may sound harsh to say that the British children were allowed in because they were Christian, or overwhelmingly blonde-haired and blue-eyed. The sad reality was that these two examples stand in stark contrast to one another. In 1939 a bill was introduced in Congress that would have permitted the admission of 20,000 German Jewish refugee children. Incidentally, Anne Frank and her sister Margot could have been among those who would have qualified to come in since they were German citizens and they were fifteen years or younger. That was what the bill would have allowed. The president refused to support that bill and it was buried in the subcommittee and the proposal to bring over these Jewish children never materialized. A short time later when London was being bombed by the Germans several thousand British children were brought to the United States. The President rushed to Congress to push through the necessary legislation to enable those children to come and thank God that he did. However, it is a tragedy, of course, that he would not make, even take the most minimal step, to assist Jewish refugee children.


Jerry: Dr. Medoff in contrast to what the Roosevelt administration did at that time what did the British do?



Rafael: Earlier historians have often pointed to the fact that public opinion polls in the 1930s consistently showed that most Americans were strongly opposed to immigration. There is no doubt about that. What most previous studies of this period ignore is that there was a very important shift in American public opinion in the middle of World War II. This shift began when the Germans were stopped by the Soviets at Stalingrad in 1943 and when Italy surrendered later that year. When it was becoming clear that the allies were going to win the war many more Americans were for the first time willing to consider allowing in a significant number of Jewish refugees, not on a permanent basis. The idea was to allow them in temporarily during the war in order that they could escape from the Nazis. A very important poll was taken in April 1944 commissioned privately by the White House because there was growing pressure from the public and some members of Congress to allow Jews in temporarily. This poll that was commissioned by the White House was a Gallup poll. It found seventy percent of Americans were in favor of admitting an unlimited number of Jewish refugees for the duration of the war. Only twenty-three percent were against that proposal, seven percent had no opinion. Thus, there was a very strong public support for the idea of bringing in Jewish refugees temporarily. Despite that overwhelming support for temporary admissions, despite this remarkable and important shift in public opinion, President Roosevelt was still unwilling to bend his policy. He ultimately would agree to allowing in only one temporary group of refugees, nine hundred eighty-two Jews, who came in the summer of 1944 and were housed for the remainder of the war in an abandoned Army camp in upstate New York in the Town of Oswego.  The argument was that his hands were tied because of public opinion.  You could make that argument in the 1930s, but you surely could not make it in 1944, and yet the President still refused to budge.


Rod: Was it too late by 1944 to have effectively done much if he would have changed his mind?


Rod: That is a shocking finding especially since he has such heroic image in American eyes in politics. Just to hear this information is motivation to read your new book.


Jerry: American Jewish leaders, like revered Rabbi Stephen S. Wise who was a member, leading figure in the American Jewish Congress and World Jewish Congress stand in sharp contrast to Palestinian Jew, revisionist Zionists of the Bergson Group, who came to the United States to tell the world that Jews were being killed in mass numbers. In March of 1943, four hundred Orthodox Rabbis protested at the White House. Dr. Medoff what was the reaction by the White House, and why were the Bergson Group so effective in getting this message across?


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Jerry: In your chapter about the Roosevelt administration’s refusal to bomb Auschwitz you talked not only about the idea of bombing the gas chambers or the railways leading to the camp, you also repeatedly referred to the idea of bombing certain bridges. Could you explain that?


Jerry: We have heard a lot about a new exhibit at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C.  The exhibit is called “Americans in the Holocaust”.  How does the exhibit address the points you are raising?


Jerry: Dr. Medoff, where can our listeners find your book and more on the work of the David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies?


Rafael: The Jews Should Keep Quiet is available at Amazon. For more information about the work of the David Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies just go to the website at:


Rafael: Professor David S. Wyman, who passed away last year, was the author of The Abandonment of the Jews, a book which remains the gold standard in the history of Americas response to the Holocaust. It is the definitive study. The David Wyman Institute was established by myself and other colleagues of Professor Wyman’s in order to carry on his research and to study the American response, the response of the government, the American news media, the American Jewish community, the American churches and to learn lessons from that period that can be applied to our own time.

Rod: Thank you very much. This has been an engrossing and informative conversation. Today being September the 11th, those who have lost family members in the terrorist attack, our thoughts and prayers are with you, the children and relatives of many of those victims. We wish you the best for your future the nation of Israel and America in their quest for independence and freedom in this world. You have been listening to Beyond the Matrix here on Israel News Talk Radio until next week, shalom.


Listen to the Israel News Talk Radio—Beyond the Matrix interview with Dr. Rafael Medoff.


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Jerome B Gordon is a Senior Vice President of the New English Review, author of The West Speaks, NER Press 2012, and co-author of Genocide in Sudan: Caliphate Threatens Africa and the World, JAD Publishing, 2017. Mr. Gordon is a former US Army intelligence officer who served during the Viet Nam era. He is producer and co-host of Israel News Talk Radio – Beyond the Matrix. He was the co-host and co-producer of weekly The Lisa Benson Show for National Security that aired out of KKNT960 in Phoenix Arizona from 2013 to 2016 and co-host and co-producer of the Middle East Round Table periodic series on 1330amWEBY, Northwest Florida Talk Radio, Pensacola, Florida from 2007 to 2017.


Rod Reuven Dovid Bryant is creator and host of Israel News Talk Radio-Beyond the Matrix.

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