American Jewry and the Holocaust  

Why were nearly the entire American Jewish community silent before 1942 when Auschwitz came to represent the Holocaust? Were we too involved in the comfort and security of our island of tranquility, insulated in that we referred to as our “exceptional” homeland to be involved in the lives (murder) of the Jews of Europe? Were we really comfortable then; are we today?


If American Jews despised European  Jewish underdogs, what  could  you expect from Gentile politicians?”

Not certain the logic of your comparison except as another example of your obsessive need to universalize antisemitism as just one more “Man’s inhumanity to Man. With all your intelligence and your described experience of the Holocaust you seem unwilling to recognize that your obsession with Justice is itself a trap, that your logical reductionism trivializes antisemitism; trivializes also the Holocaust its recurrence upon which we both agree and warn. By reducing the Holocaust to just one of several massive slaughters of innocents, a defensive denial common both to Christians and Jews reducing guilt for the past, and responsibility for the future you detract from that which we both share: awareness that the threat is real and on-going. And it is precisely this which has always inspired our differences.

As your statement above I also criticize the feebleness of American Jewry confronting events in Europe. Neither have things changed since the Holocaust as represented by the response of our community and its self-appointed “leaders” to what was obvious almost from the start of the Pollard Affair. Antisemitism is antisemitism, even when it explicitly involves the highest reaches of the US Government and its bureaucracy. But, and perhaps because as an “American Jew” I am more sensitive and/or more comfortable as critic I clearly see below Jewish denial that behind our bravado lies the same deep-rooted Diaspora fear, product of centuries of persecution at the core of this “most secure and confident Jewish community” believing our self-assurance that we are blessed and secure in, to borrow from Voltaire, “ the best of all possible worlds.”

Hard to fully believe today that as the Holocaust was unfolding first in Germany, then engulfed all Europe, that Jew-hatred was a clear and present danger also to American Jewry. Antisemitism was all around us, from New York City to the hinterland, as widespread and virulent here as across the Atlantic. This is clear both from headlines and testimony, described also in polling of Christian Americans beginning in the mid-1930’s. I also demonstrate in the pages my JPost blog, Antisemitism and Jewish Denial, that until Hitler forced the United States to enter the war by following his ally Japan and also declaring war, that the Fuehrer’s popularity among US elites and general public was very high.

Put another way and more directly: American Jewry was justified in our fear that the US would follow Europe in the unfolding Holocaust.

Obviously I do not offer this as apology for Jewish temerity but rather to point out otherwise missed facts surrounding our shameful behavior. This is something you may not, as a European, be aware. But again, our differences are not about the next and final Final Solution, but if and how it should be assimilated and responded. I fundamentally reject your, to my mind unwarranted faith in an ahistorical miracle: that somehow Humanism will overcome sociopathology.

That somehow an unlikely Alliance of the Threatened will save us from the fate awaiting Diaspora Jewry.

About the Author
David made aliya in 1960 and has been active in Jewish issues since. He was a regional director for JNF in New York, created JUDAC, Jews United to Defend the Auschwitz Cemetery during that controversy; at the request of Jonathan Pollard created and led Justice for the Pollards in 1989.