The Jews Should Keep Quiet: Franklin D. Roosevelt, Rabbi Stephen S. Wise, and the Holocaust

Jewish Publication Society. Sept. 2019. 408p. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780827614703. $29.95. HIST
Historian Medoff (Too Little, and Almost Too Late) examines the impacts of the relationship between President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Rabbi Stephen S. Wise. As one of the most prominent U.S. Jewish leaders of the time, Wise heavily influenced the Jewish response to Roosevelt’s actions—or, rather, lack of action—in aiding European Jews suffering and dying in the Holocaust. Ignoring many opportunities to evacuate refugees, Roosevelt instead repeatedly exploited Wise’s admiration of him (and the New Deal) by making false promises. Roosevelt also pressed Wise to encourage American Jews to keep quiet about their discontent over the administration’s indifference toward both the Holocaust and the Zionist cause. Medoff considers key questions “not from the convenient perspective afforded by hindsight, but in the context of what was actually happening then.” While taking this perspective, he pulls no punches in analyzing the options both Wise and Roosevelt had throughout the 1930s and 1940s that might have saved many lives and finds the choices made by both leaders deeply damaging.
VERDICT Readers with an interest in World War II, 20th-century political history, Jewish history, and the Holocaust should find this an incisive and insightful exploration of the leading figures of this period.
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