Is a war on Jews a war on democracy?
One startling revelation of Michael Beschloss's engrossing new book, "The Conquerors: Roosevelt, Truman, and the Destruction of Hitler's Germany" (Simon & Schuster), is the apparent extent to which FDR was able to prosecute World War II against the Nazi killing machine without giving much thought to the actual killing machine. While subsequent generations consider the Third Reich synonymous with its nearly successful attempt to eradicate a people, Roosevelt displayed, as Beschloss puts it, "a tendency to shunt Hitler's war against the Jews to a separate compartment of his mind."
Even after the U.S. government had become aware of the Nazi extermination infrastructure, administration efforts to inform Americans about German atrocities didn't mention death camps. Roosevelt himself remained silent on the subject. In private, he engaged in what Beschloss describes as "silly rants about Prussians, military uniforms and marching and did not mention genocide at all -- even though he had privately learned more about the Holocaust than most Americans of the time."
It must be said that Beschloss also makes it cloudlessly clear that the singular greatness of FDR's leadership in beating Germany and mapping out a lasting peace outshines such flaws. Still, they may continue to perplex the modern reader. Despite the historian's best efforts to track FDR's possible motivations, it remains downright bizarre that Hitler's war against the Jews didn't figure into the American president's vision of Nazi Germany's wider war against the democracies-in-arms. Why?
Maybe the full explanation lies beyond the scope of a historian. Maybe only a Tolstoy or Twain can reach beyond what is documented to reel in, flay and bone the inner FDR to anyone's satisfaction.
Leaving aside what is non-footnotable, it's hard to let go of Beschloss' conclusion that the 32nd president was inclined to compartmentalize the war on the Jews, a tendency that at least helps explain Roosevelt's inertia over aiding Jewish refugees or bombing the tracks to Auschwitz. These are lapses of considerable moral dimension. But there are also political implications to FDR's partly blinkered vision, some of which have surprisingly contemporary applications.
Such notions came to me while reading Harvard literature professor Ruth R. Wisse's assessment of the recent, particularly European, resurgence of anti-Semitism. Writing in the October 2002 issue of Commentary magazine, Wisse sets out to compare the poisonous font of anti-Semitism today, the Arab-Muslim world, with the Nazi source of yore, and ends up offering a novel explanation for the potency of that hate: "Modern anti-Semitism," she writes, "achieved its power as a political instrument through its opposition to liberal democracy itself -- as personified by the Jews."
There's an intriguing notion. If state-sanctioned anti-Semitism indicates a society's animus not only toward Jews, but also toward liberal democracy (not to mention tolerance and the Rights of Man), then the fallacy of decoupling the plight of Europe's Jews from the threat to the democracies becomes pretty clear: Attacks on the one may prefigure attacks on the other.
FDR, of course, was hardly alone in failing to make the link. Indeed, as Wisse writes, The New York Times in the 1930s played a shocking role in minimizing the dangers of Nazi Germany, a role for which the newspaper has since apologized. The whitewash came out of publisher Arthur Hays Sulzberger's opposition to Jewish nationalism, or Zionism, which he believed would benefit from frequent disclosures of Nazi atrocities against the Jews. Had the publishers encouraged the Times to cover Nazi Germany without bias, Wisse argues, they would have better covered its rearmament and its systematic perversion of the law and civil liberties. "And they would have registered the way that Nazi anti-Semitism cloaked darker anti-democratic purposes behind enmity directed against Jews alone," she writes. "The reluctance to expose dangers to the Jews suppressed recognition of much that threatened, and still threatens, the West."
And what still threatens the West? Not too surprisingly, the answer is that which still threatens the Jews, who, by now, have miraculously defended a Jewish state against Arab-Muslim aggression for more than a half century. Wisse explains it this way: "As the Jews were the practice range for anti-democratic and anti-liberal forces in pre-Hitler Europe, so in the second half of the 20th century the state of Israel took the brunt of the Arab/Muslim war against Western democracy."
To be sure, the anti-Semitism is the same. So, too, is the animus of its proponents toward Western-style democracy. What's different is that since Sept. 11, Israel is no longer fighting alone.
Or is it? In a terrible twist, Israel's sister democracies persist in viewing her struggle for survival against the anti-democratic, terrorist forces of Islamism as something practically extra-terrestrial and completely separate from their own. This sounds an awful lot like shunting the war on the Jews to a separate compartment. The question remains: Why?
Diana West is a columnist for The Washington Times.
It wasnâ€™t a great secret that Hitlerâ€™s pre war Germany was a time when Jews were stripped of their dignity and rendered powerless to (stripped of all weapons) fight back that what was to come. The route to the holocaust was an evil well-coordinated effort by the Nazis.
Powerful nations stood by and did nothing to help the plight of the Jews in Germany. Towards the end of the 1930â€™s only a few nations accepted the flight of Jews. There was nowhere to run and nowhere to hide!
Some things change and some things donâ€™t and even today we see mighty nations standing idly by while the world again is revisited by the New Nazis. Anti Semitism is increasing throughout the world spurred on by Islamic fundamentalism and their well-oiled propaganda.
The web (internet) has become a dam spilling over with anti Semitism a conduit to spread misinformation. The Internet is an electronic tool to whitewash Islam and the evil that comes to us in the form of the New Nazis.
Again like then it appears that far too many states have taken the opinion that itâ€™s a problem created by the world Jewry. In this latest uprising in the ME far too many foreign dignitaries are siding with the Arabs. Excuses are made for the attacks and murder of Israelis in the ME by terrorists.
Evidence that the PA are/were directly involved in funding terrorism is ignored. Boycotts or threats of boycotts have become a reality for the people of Israel and their economy is suffering partly because of these acts.
Has anything really changed?
I see no hardcore evidence that we cant have a replay of the Nazis; the New Nazis are among us striking out unexpected at their own leisure.