Thursday, May 19, 2022

My colleague recently marketed a project in Ramot, situated between Henry Morgenthau Street and Harry Truman Street. Thanks to President Truman’s support, the United States voted in favor of the 1947 UN Partition Plan. In addition, Truman was the first world leader to recognize the State of Israel when they declared their independence in 1948. But who was Henry Morgenthau, and why did he merit to have a Jerusalem street named after him?

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was a dynamic and charismatic politician whom most American Jews adored. This admiration was primarily due to Roosevelt’s New Deal—a series of programs and financial reforms enacted to create jobs and revitalize the U.S. economy following the Great Depression—which helped improve the lives of many Jewish immigrants. However, recently uncovered material reveals Roosevelt’s unwillingness during World War II to denounce Nazi oppression, which led to US inaction on behalf of Jewish refugees who were subsequently murdered in the Holocaust.

Henry Morgenthau, Jr. was the only Jew in Roosevelt’s cabinet, and served as the Secretary of the Treasury. In January 1944, Morgenthau alerted Roosevelt of evidence unearthed by the Treasury that State Department officials delayed sending financial aid for European Jews, suppressed information of the Nazi regime’s mass murder of Jews—which by that time totaled over 4,000,000 deaths—and obstructed rescue opportunities to rescue European Jews. Using tact and strength, Morgenthau successfully persuaded Roosevelt to right this wrong and sign an executive order establishing the War Refugee Board.

The WRB consisted of Morgenthau and two other cabinet members, but Morgenthau ran the show. Funded primarily from Jewish organizations, the WRB was led by two of Morgenthau’s Treasury members, and had a relatively small but dedicated staff that carried out operations in Europe and the Middle East. Understanding the urgency of their mission, the staff employed all means at its disposal—including bribery and producing forged documents—to protect refugees from the Nazis. The WRB provided funds and logistical assistance to underground groups and to individuals like Raoul Wallenberg, a humanitarian hero who saved tens of thousands of Hungarian Jews. In total, the WRB helped save approximately 200,000 Jews and 20,000 non-Jews from January 1944 until the end of the war in May 1945.

One month after Nazi Germany surrendered, Morgenthau began to hear complaints about Holocaust survivors being mistreated in camps controlled by the Allied military. Morgenthau and the WRB staff persuaded President Truman that attorney Earl Harrison should visit Germany and Austria to survey the situation. After touring thirty camps, Harrison’s report strongly criticized the military’s treatment of the displaced persons. He did not mince words when he wrote: “As matters now stand, we appear to be treating the Jews as the Nazis treated them except that we do not exterminate them.” Harrison’s report resulted in a dramatic change toward Jewish displaced persons, who were soon moved to their own camps and granted far better treatment.

After leaving the Treasury Department, Henry Morgenthau, Jr. became an ardent supporter of the fledgling State of Israel and served as chairman of the United Jewish Appeal and as the first chairman of Israel Bonds.

Now we understand why a Jerusalem street—in addition to the Israeli village Moshav Tal Shachar, which means Morning Dew, after the German Morgen Tau—was named in honor of Henry Morgenthau, Jr., as he took a courageous stand during one of the darkest periods of world history to support the Jewish people.

[I wrote this article based on numerous articles, but my primary source was an eye-opening book by Rafael Medoff called, “The Jews Should Keep Quiet.”]

Gedaliah Borvick, founder of My Israel Home, will be in NY/NJ the week of May 15 running home-buying programs. For more info, or to schedule a private meeting, please contact him at [email protected] or via WhatsApp at +972-54-623-0099.

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