Join The Conversation With Mishpacha's Weekly Newsletter



Führer on Trial

Rafael Medoff

When Adolf Hitler came to power, the American press practically gushed over what they called “indications of moderation,” despite reports of Jews being beaten and jailed — nearly a decade before the Holocaust. But the journalistic whitewashing had one positive result: American Jewish organizations put Hitler on trial in front of the crowds at Madison Square Garden.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Relatively little was known in America aboutHitler when he first came to power in January 1933. Some prominent newspapers rushed to print with unduly optimistic predictions.

An editorial in the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin claimed that “there have been indications of moderation” on Hitler’s part. The editors of the Cleveland Press asserted that the “appointment ofHitler as German chancellor may not be such a threat to world peace as it appears at first blush.”

At the White House, officials of the administration ofFranklinD.Rooseveltencouraged such thinking. They were quoted in the press as saying that they “had faith thatHitlerwould act with moderation compared to the extremist agitation in his recent election campaigning...” They based this belief on past events showing that “radical” groups usually moderated once in power.

The news from Germany in the weeks following Hitler’s ascension to power contradicted those optimistic predictions. Professor Stephen H. Norwood of the University of Oklahoma, author of The Third Reich in the Ivory Tower, (Cambridge University Press) who is completing a book about American and British responses to Nazism during the early years of Hitler’s rule, told Mishpacha: “Several of the Western commentators most informed about German affairs reported in 1933 that Hitler’s policies and the Nazis’ savage anti-Semitic street violence had transformed Germany into a death trap for its 600,000 Jews. They considered it unlikely that German Jewry would survive beyond a generation.”

There were reports of hundreds of Jews beaten in the streets, jailed without charge, tortured, sometimes killed. Government-orchestrated violence and intimidation were used to force Jewish judges, attorneys, journalists, university professors, orchestra conductors, and musicians out of their jobs. Legislation dismissed Jews from all government jobs and banned them from a whole range of professions, from dentistry to the movie industry. The government even sponsored a one-day nationwide boycott of Jewish businesses, with Nazi storm troopers stationed outside Jewish-owned stores to prevent customers from entering.

President Rooseveltrefrained from making any public statements about these attacks. “Had Rooseveltchosen to highlight the plight of the Jews, there is no question the American press also would have followed suit,” LaurelLeff, professor of journalism and Jewish studies at Northeastern University, told Mishpacha. “Presidents set the news agenda to a large extent, particularly on foreign affairs. This tendency was even more pronounced inRoosevelt’s case because he understood journalists so well and manipulated them so effectively.”

ProfessorLeffnotes that atRoosevelt’s press conference on March 24, 1933, a reporter asked whether any organizations had asked him to act in connection with the “reported persecution of the Jews over in Germany by theHitlergovernment.”Rooseveltreplied that “a good many of these have come in,” and they were “all sent to the secretary of state.” SaysProfessorLeff: “There was no follow-up.”

To read the rest of this story, please buy this issue of Mishpacha or sign up for a weekly subscription

Share this page with a friend. Fill in the information below, and we'll email your friend a link to this page on your behalf.

Your name
Your email address
You friend's name
Your friend's email address
Please type the characters you see in the image into the box provided.
CAPTCHA
Message


MM217
 
What’s in a Name?
Shoshana Friedman “What does Writer X have to say this week?”
Atonement — Fake and Real
Yonoson Rosenblum White confessionals and faux rituals
Four Walls Coming Full Circle
Eytan Kobre All the while, there’s been a relationship in the offing...
And Yet We Smile
Yisroel Besser We are the nation that toils to be happy at all costs
Out of This World
Rabbi Henoch Plotnick Dirshu Hashem b’himatzo — we are in Hashem’s company now...
Steven and Jonathan Litton
Rachel Bachrach The co-owners of Litton Sukkah, based in Lawrence, NY
Tali Messing
Moe Mernick Tali Messing, engineering manager at Facebook Tel Aviv
Sick Note
Jacob L. Freedman “Of course, Dr. Freedman. Machul, machul, machul”
Avoiding Health Columns Can Be Good for You
Rabbi Emanuel Feldman Only one reliable guide for good health: our Torah
Endnote: Side Notes
Riki Goldstein Most Jewish music industry entertainers have side profes...
Me, Myself, and Why
Faigy Peritzman Where there’s no heart and no love, there’s no point
Can’t Do It Without You
Sarah Chana Radcliffe When you step up to the plate, you build your home team
Eternal Joy
Mrs. Elana Moskowitz The joy of Succos is the fruit of spiritual victory
The Appraiser: Part III
D. Himy, M.S. CCC-SLP and Zivia Reischer Make sure your child knows his strengths
Hidden Special Needs
Rena Shechter You won’t see his special needs, but don’t deny them
Dear Wealthy Friend
Anonymous There’s no need for guilt. I am truly happy for you