Why it Matters that Donald Trump did not Mention Jews on Holocaust Remembrance Day

Fact: Donald Trump failed to mention Jews in his statement on International Holocaust Remembrance Day. Question: does his failure to mention Jews make a difference?

In an opinion piece, The Jewish Journal says that since Mr. Trump asked a descendent of Holocaust survivors to write the statement, it must be acceptable. It is possible that the original draft might have mentioned Jews and Mr. Trump simply decided not include them in the final statement. Yet historically what presidents say, or fail to say, does have consequences.

For example, in the 1940s some of FDR’s staff members urged him to make statements emphasizing the importance of rescuing Jews, but he would either have those words buried in a later paragraph of his speech or chose not to use them at all. FDR’s prevarications ensured that the rescue of Jews would not be a priority.

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Entrance to Auschwitz Concentration Camp Photographer: Jochen Zimmerman

Even when nearly all the Jews had been murdered, FDR preferred to use the term “victims of enemy oppression” rather than refer to Jews specifically when he created the War Refugee Board, an agency that was designed to help victims of the Holocaust from 1944-1945. Most of the victims, though certainly not all, were Jews.

The Jewish Journal suggests that Mr. Trump deserves an apology from his critics. After all, he is not Jewish, so how could he be expected to know that more Jews died in the Holocaust than any other group, or that the Nazis employed “unprecedented resources” to “identify and annihilate the Jews?” Well, I am not Jewish, and yet I know these facts.

I might be more willing to give Mr. Trump the benefit of the doubt if he had shown any love or tolerance for any other group of people than rich white men during his campaign and thus far, his presidency. Yet he fails to denounce the Ku Klux Klan and threatens to create a Muslim registry. These are not hopeful signs. Should Mr. Trump change course, however, I would be happy to acknowledge it.

Sources:

Statement by the President on International Holocaust Remembrance Day January 27, 2017.

https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2017/01/27/statement-president-international-holocaust-remembrance-day

#Never again by Jonathan Greenblatt CEO of the Anti-Defamation League January 29, 2017.

HTTP://blog.ADL.org/Greenblatt/neveragain

Back story behind the Holocaust statement proves Trump’s a mensch. By Rabbi Dov Fischer, Jewish Journal opinion, January 31, 2017.

http://jewishjournal.com/opinion/214118/back-story-behind-Holocaust-statement-proves-trumps-mensch/

 

“We Like Ike”: The Presidency of Dwight Eisenhower

Dwight Eisenhower already had his famous nickname while growing up in Kanas. “Little Ike” also had such a temper that he once beat his fists against a tree until he started bleeding. His mother bandaged up his hands and tried to teach him to control his temper. Ike took the lesson to heart. Throughout his life Ike would reign in his emotions because he wanted people to like him.

He did not, however, share his mother’s pacifist views. The only time Ike remembered making his mother cry was when he left for West Point. After World War II, General Eisenhower returned home as a hero. Ike’s popularity was so great that both political parties wanted him to be their candidate for president. Ike didn’t want to declare his politics right away. By 1952, Eisenhower felt disenchanted with the policies of President Truman and agreed to run as a Republican.

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Official Portrait of Dwight Eisenhower

Unlike other presidential candidates, Eisenhower was not an intellectual. The only books he enjoyed were western novels. Instead of great speeches, Eisenhower preferred to use sayings such as “Everybody ought to be happy every day. Play hard, have fun doing it, and despise wickedness.” A war-weary public found his simple style appealing.

Eisenhower won the election by promising to end the Korean war. He even vowed to go there himself. Though he did end the fighting, he did so by stepping up aerial bombardment of North Korea and threatening to use the atomic bomb. Whether he would have used the bomb is questionable, but Eisenhower’s tough talk led to a peace agreement. From that point on Eisenhower liked to say he was “waging peace” by keeping America out of foreign wars.

The supposedly peace loving president allowed America to stockpile nuclear weapons, however. He also secretly authorized spying on Russian nuclear missile sites. Meanwhile, he invited Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev to a summit that would have limited nuclear testing. During the summit, an American spy plane was shot down by the Soviets. Eisenhower had to admit that he knew about the spy mission. An angry Khrushchev left the peace summit. No agreement on nuclear testing was reached.

Eisenhower’s administration has been criticized for failing to respond to domestic issues, especially civil rights. During his presidency the Supreme Court decided that public schools should be desegregated. Eisenhower didn’t believe that a law would change the hearts of Southern whites. When nine African American students tried to integrate a white high school in Little Rock Arkansas, a white mob threatened the students’ safety. Despite his disagreement with the Supreme Court, Eisenhower sent in the National Guard to protect the students.

Although Eisenhower believed in saving money, he also believed in many of the FDR’s programs. Eisenhower expanded the number of people eligible for Social Security and left labor laws in place. He also added a project of his own. The Federal Highway Act of 1956 pledged federal funds would be used to build interstate highways. The highways insured that the automobile became the primary means of travel for Americans instead of trains.

 

Heather Voight Talks about her Book Passionate Crusaders: How Members of the U.S. War Refugee Board Saved Jews and Altered American Foreign Policy during World War II on Back Porch Writer Podcast

Heather Voight on Back Porch Writer podcast. I talk about my history book and the process of writing it. http://www.blogtalkradio.com/backporchwriter/2015/09/15/author-heather-voight-joins-kori-on-the-back-porch

Passionate Crusaders Cover LARGE EBOOK

My History Book FREE on Amazon Kindle

To my readers: My book, Passionate Crusaders: How Members of the US war Refugee Board Saved Jews and Altered American Foreign Policy during World War II, will be FREE from Thurs. April 9 through Saturday April 11 here:

http://amzn.to/1GDI2qq on Amazon Kindle. If you don’t have a Kindle but know someone who likes free books, spread the word! Thanks.

My History Book FREE on Amazon Kindle this Sunday

To my readers: My book, Passionate Crusaders: How Members of the US war Refugee Board Saved Jews and Altered American Foreign Policy during World War II, will be FREE Sunday, March 29 here:

http://amzn.to/1GDI2qq on Amazon Kindle. If you don’t have a Kindle but know someone who likes free books, spread the word! Thanks.

Surprising Facts about US Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and Franklin D Roosevelt

Theodore Roosevelt

Theodore Roosevelt, 1918

Theodore Roosevelt, 1918

As a young boy, Theodore Roosevelt often struggled to breathe at night because of his asthma. Although modern doctors would be appalled, Roosevelt’s doctors suggested that the boy smoke cigars to improve his symptoms.

The family thought Roosevelt’s brother, Elliot, later father of Eleanor Roosevelt, was most likely to succeed. Elliot struggled with alcoholism, however. Theodore soon outpaced his brother both physically and mentally. He was a voracious reader and would read almost anywhere about almost any subject. Even as president he snuck a few minutes between appointments to read nature books.

While in office he expanded the authority of the president. Roosevelt believed that the president could do whatever the law didn’t specifically prohibit him from doing.

Roosevelt engaged in a number of presidential firsts. He was the first president to understand and use the press to gain public support for his programs. In fact, Roosevelt enjoyed talking with the press so much that he spoke to a reporter during his morning shave. Roosevelt was also the first president to invite an African American (Booker T. Washington), to dinner at the White House.

Although he enjoyed being president, Roosevelt was disappointed to preside over the country in a time of peace. He believed that he could not be a great president without steering the nation through a great crisis.

Franklin Roosevelt

Froosevelt

FDR’s Official Presidential Portrait

Though he was a Democrat and his distant cousin Theodore a Republican, Franklin always admired Theodore. Theodore gave his cousin Franklin his blessing on more than one occasion. He supported Franklin’s marriage to his niece, Eleanor. He also supported Franklin’s desire to become a politician. After Theodore’s death, animosity grew between the two branches of the Roosevelt family. Theodore’s sons saw themselves as the natural heirs to their father’s success, but none of them came close to Franklin’s political achievements.

After a series of political appointments, FDR was diagnosed with polio. In 2003, scientists called that diagnosis into question. They suggested that FDR might not have had polio, but Guillain-Barre syndrome, an aggressive form of neuropathy. Regardless of the medical cause, FDR’s paralysis made him terrified that he might become trapped in a fire. His home at Springwood near Hyde Park, NY has an elevator that FDR could operate by pulling ropes in case the electricity failed.

Like his cousin Theodore, FDR had a good relationship with the press as president. As a result, he was rarely photographed in his wheelchair. While trying to get the nation out of the Great Depression, he created a variety of government programs that became well-known. There was almost nothing FDR would not try in order to stimulate the economy. For example, he tried to move the Thanksgiving holiday backwards so that consumers would have more shopping days before Christmas.

President Franklin Roosevelt and Few Civil Rights for African Americans

Despite the efforts of his wife Eleanor and African American leaders, President Franklin Roosevelt’s administration made little progress on civil rights.

New Deal programs discriminated against blacks. For example, under the Works Progress Administration, blacks received less pay than whites for the same work. This was especially true in the South. The discrimination was somewhat eased by the intervention of Eleanor Roosevelt, who personally viewed the struggles of blacks during visits to WPA projects. She wrote, “It is all wrong to discriminate between white and black men!”

FDR agreed to sign an executive order barring discrimination in the WPA. One million black families benefited from WPA wages. However, discrimination in other parts of the New Deal persisted. The Federal Housing Authority refused to help blacks trying to buy houses in white neighborhoods. The National Recovery Administration persisted in paying black workers less than whites. Even the Social Security Act excluded the menial jobs that most blacks held.

Applicants waiting for jobs in front of Federal Emergency Relief Administration office

Applicants waiting for jobs in front of Federal Emergency Relief Administration office, 1935

For black leaders, however, the most frustrating issue was FDR’s stance on the anti-lynching bill introduced in Congress in early 1934. Although twenty-six African Americans were killed by mobs the year before, FDR took no stance whatsoever on the bill. The Amsterdam News commented on FDR’s lack of support for the bill using the headline “Here’s Mr. Roosevelt’s Message on Lynching.” The article contained one sentence, “In his annual message to Congress last Friday President Roosevelt had the following to say about lynching:” That sentence was followed by a large blank space.

FDR tried to explain to African American leaders why he could not back the bill. He told NAACP Executive Secretary Walter White, “I did not choose the tools with which I must work.” In order get votes for New Deal programs, FDR felt he couldn’t antagonize Southern Democrats by supporting a bill they found offensive. He told critics “you have to wait, even for the best of things, until the right time comes.” Apparently FDR never thought there was a right time to support an anti-lynching bill. Although members of Congress proposed other anti-lynching bills during his long presidency, he never backed them.

In contrast to her husband, Eleanor publicly backed the anti-lynching campaign. When Walter White asked her to attend a NAACP art exhibit called “A Commentary on Lynching,” Eleanor lent her support. Interestingly, FDR did not attempt to stop his wife’s actions. Perhaps FDR agreed with her privately, but Eleanor’s actions also encouraged to blacks to switch their allegiance from the Republican party of Abraham Lincoln to FDR and the Democrats. Ever the politician, FDR was likely happy to have his wife express her feelings to get the African American vote while he placated Southern voters by saying nothing.

Sources:

The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project at George Washington University

The Roosevelts: An Intimate History by Geoffrey Ward and Ken Burns

No Ordinary Time by Doris Kearns Goodwin

Eleanor Roosevelt: Champion for Youth

During the Depression, young people had little hope of finding work or attending college. In 1934 Eleanor Rooseveltshowed concern for 3 million unemployed youth. She said, “I have moments of real terror when I think we may be losing this generation. We have got to bring these young people into the active life of the community and make them feel that they are necessary.”

Eleanor Roosevelt's school portrait

Eleanor Roosevelt’s school portrait

Eleanor’s wish came true through a new government agency—The National Youth Administration. By 1935 President Franklin Roosevelt had received several proposals for youth aid programs. He gave these proposals to a private group, which included the future chairman of the NYA and Eleanor. The group advocated scholarship aid for high school and college students as well as a work program for youth who had graduated or dropped out. FDR established the NYA by Executive Order on June 26, 1935.

There was no greater supporter of the program during its eight year existence than Eleanor Roosevelt. She pressed the head of the NYA to do more during the NYA’s first year and received monthly reports on the status of youth projects.

Eleanor wrote extensively about the NYA in her newspaper column, “My Day.” She kept the country informed of the NYA’s progress by describing her visits to NYA project sites. On a trip to L.A., for example, Eleanor noted that the wood-working and sewing projects were set up like a real factory so that the boys and girls who worked there would be better prepared when they found full-time employment. Her visits to youth projects spanned the country. History Professor Margaret Rung points out that though Eleanor could be a controversial figure, her columns developed generally positive publicity for the NYA. Without her support, the program could have been marginalized.

Her columns reveal that Eleanor was not only interested in observing NYA projects, but she also attended NYA committee meetings. Eleanor invited both administrators and students to her Hyde Park, New York, home to discuss issues within the program. Through her invitations she gave everyone involved in the NYA a chance to be heard by someone who had direct access to the president.

Although Eleanor wanted the NYA to become a permanent organization, she realized its limitations. She wrote, “here, before our eyes, we see the proof that we have learned how to give these youngsters training…Yet, we have only developed this program for a limited number. The  NYA should cover every boy and girl coming out of school who is not able to obtain work in private industry, or who is not called to service under the selective draft.”

The NYA did not become a permanent program and could not cover all youth, but its accomplishments were aided by Eleanor’s enthusiasm. During the NYA’s eight year existence, 2,134,000 youth had the opportunity to continue their education. Students in the school program did clerical work, remodeled buildings, worked in libraries, and became lab assistants to earn money for school supplies and clothes. Students in the out-of-school program were often involved in construction work, but had other options such as clerical and agricultural training.

By 1942 work programs focused on producing materials needed in World War II. Students learned industrial sewing and how to repair planes and radios. In her column Eleanor shared a letter that five girls who worked on radios wrote to the director of the Kansas NYA after finding jobs: “On average we are making $50 a month and for the five of us it doesn’t cost very much for rent or groceries…The spirit of cooperation and working together [from their NYA experience] is largely responsible for the way we are getting along so well up here.”

Eleanor grieved when the NYA ended. She felt that young people would need job training after the war. By supporting the agency during its existence, however, she enabled millions of youth to earn wages during the nation’s worst economy.

Fala: Franklin Roosevelt’s Presidential Pup

President Franklin Roosevelt owned a variety of dogs throughout his life, but when he was elected president he needed one that wouldn’t misbehave. In 1940, FDR’s cousin gave him a Scottish Terrier for Christmas. FDR named the dog Fala and he became instantly popular with everyone in the White House. A few weeks after Fala arrived, he got sick to his stomach. The White House staff had become so fond of him that everyone gave the little dog too much food. After that, FDR ordered that only he would feed Fala and the dog got better. In order to receive his food, Fala first had to do tricks like shaking hands and begging, but he didn’t seem to mind as long as his master was there.

Fala was the president’s nearly constant companion. He met with important world leaders and was present when FDR signed the Atlantic Charter, which outlined the aims England and the U.S. had for World War II. He attended press conferences and was trained to shake hands so he could welcome important people to the White House. In the evening he helped FDR entertain guests, or sometimes he napped. The dog even slept in the president’s bedroom at night.

Fala’s popularity was not limited to FDR and the White House staff, however. Photographers loved taking pictures of the Scottie. Fan mail regularly arrived for him from people all over the country. He received more letters and certainly more compliments than most presidents. A book about Fala was written for his adoring fans. In it, Fala expressed his disappointment that the Secret Service would not allow him to attend his master’s third inauguration. Though both were sad when FDR passed away, Fala quickly became First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt’s companion.