On Christmas Day 1943, a young US Treasury Department employee wrote something that would change the lives of more than 100,000 Jews in Europe. Josiah DuBois worked on this document despite the fact that he was risking his job and had little time to spend with his family on the holiday.
US Treasury Department photo by Roman Boed
The document was entitled The Acquiescence of This Government in the Murder of the Jews. It accused the US State Department “of gross procrastination and willful failure to act” and “willful attempts to prevent action from being taken to rescue Jews from Hitler.” DuBois’ report showed that State Department officials not only followed the United States strict immigration laws, but tried to prevent Jews from immigrating to the US altogether.
Visas for potential refugees were delayed because of State’s requirement that refugees produce two letters of reference from American citizens who could either help support the refugees or who could prove the refugees could take care of themselves. In addition, visa applicants were often turned away if they had close relatives in Europe. The theory, or excuse, for not admitting them was that the enemy might persuade immigrants to become Nazi spies.
As DuBois pointed out in his report, the new immigrants would not threaten national security. If President Roosevelt was concerned about potential spies, refugees could be placed in internment camps “and released only after a satisfactory investigation… Even if we took these refugees and treated them as prisoners of war it would be better than letting them die.”
In DuBois’s mind all human beings worth saving. Sadly, from late 1941 to early 1945 only 10% of the small quotas from Axis controlled countries were filled.
Yet DuBois did accomplish something by turning his report into his boss Treasury Secretary Henry Morganthau. By outlining State’s lack of concern for people fleeing from the Holocaust, DuBois showed that immigration issues shouldn’t be handled by the State Department. A new agency was needed to help people in Europe who were trying to escape from Hitller. This new agency would become known as the War Refugee Board.
Official White House Portrait of Eleanor Roosevelt
- She was very shy. Though she did a lot of public speaking as First Lady, Eleanor Roosevelt was a shy child. Even as a teenager, she worried that she would not attract a husband. Despite her worries, Eleanor became the first wife of a U.S. president to hold press conferences, speak at a national party convention, and write her own newspaper column. As she looked back on her life, Eleanor hoped others would see that “in spite of timidity and fear, in spite of a lack of special talents, one can find a way to live widely and fully.”
- First wife of a president to drive a car by herself. As First Lady, Eleanor insisted on driving her own car, and wanted to go for drives without the Secret Service. President Franklin Roosevelt’s concern for her safety caused Eleanor to make some compromises. She sometimes traveled with a private bodyguard, and she also learned how to shoot a small gun. She admitted to the readers of her newspaper column that she was not an expert, but “if the necessity arose, I do know how to use a pistol.”
- Loved to fly in airplanes and wanted flying lessons. Eleanor was the first president’s wife to ride in an airplane, and she told her friend Amelia Earhart that she hoped FDR would let her take flying lessons. FDR said no to the lessons, but that didn’t stop Eleanor from traveling by plane. Most Americans thought flying was dangerous in the 1930s, so Eleanor’s frequent plane rides helped airlines change some people’s minds.
- Helped African Americans serve as pilots in World War II. In 1941, Eleanor traveled to the Tuskegee Institute, which provided education and job skills for African Americans. The Institute had an aviation program so students could learn to fly. Many hoped to be included in the air force in World War II, but the public doubted if blacks could really be good pilots. When Eleanor visited the program, she asked to fly with one of the Tuskegee pilots. He flew her over Alabama for an hour. After the flight, the pilot and Eleanor had their picture taken in the plane. The photo of the smiling First Lady sitting next to a black pilot made people think that African Americans might be competent airmen. With a little help from Eleanor, President Roosevelt decided to use Tuskegee pilots in combat.
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.