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Thursday, April 19, 2007

"THE ACCOMPLICES" - THEN & NOW by Helen Freedman

Obviously, I can't be more than one place at a time, which makes me especially grateful to friends who keep me informed. I'm proud to present:

Helen Freedman, April 17, 2007


By: Helen Freedman

Bernard Weinraub’s play, The Accomplices, now playing at the Acorn Theater on 42nd St. in NYC, is a timely telling of the desperate efforts of Hillel Kook, aka Peter Bergson, to save the Jews of Europe from extermination at the hands of the Nazis. His efforts in America to get President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his administration to stop the slaughter of Jews were met by stalling and silence, and the obstructionism of “debased Jewish leadership”.

In the play, Roosevelt is quoted as saying, “This is a Protestant country. And the Catholics and the Jews are here under sufferance.” Annoyance and discomfort are portrayed as the “Jewish question” becomes more and more insistent. FDR and his administration’s “acquiescence in the murder of the Jews” is one of the damning messages of the play. The other one is the silence and fear of American Jews and their cowardly and/or self-hating leaders. It resonates today because Israel and the world now face another threat, this time from Iran and militant Islam. Will silence, fear, delay, corruption, greed and self-interest once again have us looking at our world at some future time, wondering how it happened yet again?

As former Executive Director of Americans for a Safe Israel/AFSI, it is this resonance that speaks so loudly to me. My organization, formed over 30 years ago by Herbert Zweibon, who still serves as Chairman, and Rael and Erich Isaac, (Rael edits The Outpost, AFSI’s distinguished monthly magazine) has worked tirelessly to tell the truth about what is really going on in Israel. We have fought for a whole Israel, without give-aways, divisions, appeasements, pretend cease-fires and the whole panoply of diplomatic jargon whose bottom line means the end of Israel. We have been labeled “right-wing, extremist fanatics.”

When we fought bitterly against the expulsion from Gush Katif/Gaza and the Shomron communities, we were castigated by the mainstream American Jewish community leaders who kept telling us that it was not up to us to second-guess the PM of Israel. Now that the foul deed was done, any honest person will admit that it was a ghastly mistake which cannot be reversed, and has led to the empowerment of Hamas, Hezbollah, Iran and Syria, threatening the lives of Israelis every day, as well as the lives of our American and allied soldiers in Iraq.

So the story of the Bergson group is close to my heart. I never understood how the Oslo Accords of Sept. 1993 could have taken place until I read Ben Hecht’s Perfidy, the story of Jews selling out other Jews and allowing them to go to their deaths. It was stirring to hear the Ben Hecht character come to the rescue of Bergson, and help organize the WE SHALL NEVER DIE pageant at Madison Square Garden in March, 1943. Rabbi Steven Wise,who had easy access to the White House, and believed in working quietly, without ‘drawing attention to ourselves’ wanted to deport Bergson and threatened to stop the protest pageants. He didn’t succeed in preventing actors such as Paul Muni, Moss Hart, Kurt Weill, John Garfield, Edward G. Robinson, Stella Adler and Claude Rains from appearing with 400 other actors who read the testimony of Jews prior to their extermination by the Nazis. Despite the fact that 40,000 people attended the pageant, along with 200 rabbis, there was no change in the government’s policy.

Breckinridge Long, Undersecretary of State, with FDR’s knowledge, continued to postpone, and postpone and postpone the granting of desperately needed visas. The New York Times continued to relegate the stories of millions of dead Jews to the back pages of the paper, if they wrote about them at all. Sam Rosenman, FDR’s self-hating Jewish adviser and speech writer continued to encourage FDR’s avoidance of the emergency situation. When 400 rabbis marched to the White House to speak to Roosevelt about organizing a War Refugee Board, Rosenman discredited them, calling them “Orthodox rabbis…Men with long beards and black coats. Zealots. Many of them from Brooklyn…” and he prevented Roosevelt from meeting with them.

Larry Steinhardt, the German Jewish American ambassador in Moscow, wrote disparagingly about the “East-European immigrant criminal Jews.” His letter was used by Long to “shut up the refugee cabal on the Hill.” Even Albert Einstein wrote a flattering letter to FDR.

Bergson makes the discovery that he has been wasting his time trying to get Jews to help their endangered fellow Jews. He sees that Catholics, Protestants and Mormons are offering him more help. Fiorello LaGuardia, Herbert Hoover, Paul Robeson and Langston Hughes offer their support, while Jews like Bernard Baruch, and Felix Frankfurter remain silent. This sounds like today, when Evangelical Christians rush to Israel’s defense. Pastor John Hagee, a keynote speaker at the AIPAC Conference in Washington, DC on March 11, 2007, brought the crowd to its feet when he delivered a resounding speech in support of Jewish biblical entitlement to the land of Israel. And Pastor Jim Vineyard was one of the strongest opponents of the Gush Katif expulsion plan, taking his message to Israel and Washington.

But then there is a Henry Morgenthau, Secretary of the Treasury under Roosevelt, and his good friend since childhood. Morgenthau had been brought up to be more American than Jewish, but at the urging of some young Christian lawyers, John Pehle and Josiah DuBois, who worked with him in the Treasury Department, he comes to FDR with the damning report entitled, Report to the Secretary on the Acquiescence of this Government in the Murder of the Jews.” The report details the fact that “certain officials in the State Department…concealed facts, issued false statements, used the government’s machinery to prevent the rescue of Jews, attempted to stop obtaining information about the murder of the Jews…”Morgenthau tells FDR that, “A simple phone call from you would have removed the State Department’s red tape. Saved thousands.” That phone call never came.

In order to suppress this report, (It was not until 1968 that the report was released), FDR agrees to create the War Relief Board, but it was already 1944, “the President gave the Board a bare-bones budget, the State Dept. and War Dept. undercut it and the British obstructed it.” The work of the Board did save 200,000 Jews and 20,000 non-Jews, but Bergson felt that he had failed, having been unable to stop the extermination of six million Jews.

At the conclusion of the play, Bergson declares that the Germans won because of the fear and silence of the Jews who ‘should have run amok outside the White House.” He asks the question, “What did we learn?”

And that question reverberates in the hearts of those who are now trying desperately to change mainstream Jewry so that it understands the critical dangers facing Israel today. The time to run amok outside the White House is NOW! Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, with the approval of President Bush, is pushing Israel into agreements with the Hamas/PA leaders that will mean the end of Israel. Nancy Pelosi makes unauthorized trips to terrorist leaders. Iran announces its intentions to exterminate Israel, and is building missiles that will reach America. This time, we must Not be silent or afraid.

The Accomplices is playing at the Acorn Theater, 410 W. 42nd Street, between 9th & 10th Aves., Monday-Saturday @8PM.
Tickets: Ticket Central, www.ticketcentral.com or 212-279-4200, or at Theatre Row Box Office (12-8PM daily). Tickets are $51.25, or may be purchased through TDF, if available.


Anonymous said...

How did Morgenthau learn about the Holocaust? He says he learned about it from Rabbi Stephen Wise – and that is what spurred him to action.

How did Bergson learn about the Holocaust? From Rabbi Stephen Wise’s organization, the World Jewish Congress.

How was Breckinridge Long’s misleading testimony in front of Congress in Nov. 1943 exposed, reviving the faltering efforts to get FDR to establish a rescue agency that became the War Refugee Board? By the very same World Jewish Congress.

You write about “Jews selling out other Jews and allowing them to go to their deaths.” Have you read the history?

In fact, it was an application by the WJC to Treasury to send aid to Jews in Europe that alerted Pehle and DuBois to the “perfidy” of the State Department.

The WJC and a half a dozen other American Jewish organizations tried desperately to save the Jews of Europe and were active long before Bergson began his efforts. These organizations actually succeeded in saving hundreds of thousands of Jewish lives. Bergson saved exactly zero.

Or perhaps he saved 200,000 if you give him and his colleagues credit for creating the WRB. Most historians agree that Bergson only played a partial role. Others say he had no role whatsoever. Let’s assume he had a role in the creation of the WRB.

How did the WRB do its rescuing? It relied on the World Jewish Congress and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee and other Jewish organizations who you so ignorantly accuse of selling out their brethren. The Joint covered 85 percent of the WRB’s budget. 85 percent! Bergson’s group paid zero. And where did the Joint get its money? From American Jews.

Go ahead, slander them.

John Pehle, the WRB’s executive director, credited Jewish organizations with doing most of the work of the WRB. He said that the WRB’s role was to support their rescue efforts. American Jewish rescue efforts. Most of the WRB’s actions were suggested by American Jewish organizations. They were things the Jewish organizations had been trying unsuccessfully to do for years.

Who funded Wallenberg in Hungary? American Jews.

Please read the Final Summary Report of the War Refugee Board. It also praises Laurence Steinhardt for his help in Turkey where he was Ambassador. Steinhardt made some unfortunately comments in the 1930s. But he helped save thousands of Jews in the 1940s. More than Schindler. Yet you cry over Schindler and you condemn your fellow Jews.

Who, may I ask, is self hating? Why do you feel compelled to ignore the mounds of historical evidence to libel your fellow Jews?

How much money did American Jews donate to rescue during the war? Do you even know? It was probably $75 million. This on the tail end of the Great Depression.

“The Accomplices” is full of errors. It changes dates to make it seem that Bergson was active in rescue earlier than he in fact was. It falsely puts him in the Oval Office with Morgenthau when Morgenthau presents FDR with the famous memo about the State Department cover up. It makes it seem like he gave Morgenthau the idea to push FDR when in fact it was Wise. It shows FDR reading this memo when he famously did not. It shows an FDR obsessed with keeping Jews out of America but doesn’t seem to acknowledge that FDR was also managing a global conflict that might have taken up some of his spare time Most of all, “The Accomplices” makes it seem that no one was doing anything to help Europe’s Jews until Bergson rolled into town. It’s laughable.

You want a safe Israel? Have some credibility.

The Nazis killed the Jews of Europe. They could not be stopped even when it was clear that they had lost the war, even when Roosevelt and the allies were doing all the things Jewish leaders like Bergson wanted them to do earlier in the war. (Look at Hungary, March – Dec. 1944) Could more Jews have been saved? Sure. But you don’t criticize Schindler for the Jews he didn’t save. Yet for some reason you ignore the hundreds of thousands of Jews that American Jewish organizations had a direct role in saving.

The question is: Why?

benning said...

The problem I see is the suspicion that American Christians are seen in by American Jews. Many of those Christians most vocal in their support of Israel tend to be on the right wing of the political spectrum. From voting trends most American Jews seem to tend to be on the left wing of the political spectrum. Thus the Jews harbor suspicions based not on the sincerity of the Christians support of Israel but on their political views, independent of Israel.

Is self-loathing a part of this? It is a phenomenom we've seen. And what a sad one it is. The negative impact for Jews is incalculable. They will remain a minority in every nation on earth save in Israel. And there they must remain strong, self-confident, independent.

That's how this right wing Christian American sees it. :)

Batya said...

I sent your comments to the author. You can email her if you want; the email is in the text.