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Two Anti-Semites in High Positions: John McCloy and James Forrestal

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Two Anti-Semites in High Positions: John McCloy and James Forrestal May 15, 1992

It was not so long ago that anti-Semitism in the U.S. was the norm, not the exception. This influenced some Jews who had attained high positions to hide their Jewishness or to lean backwards trying to prove their alienation from the Jewish people. In 1939, just before World War II, the most widely heard and respected newscaster in the country was Walter Winchell, broadcasting over NBC. Everybody knew he was a Jew. In fact, Winchell was a proud Jew, aware of his obligation to fight Hitler and Nazism whenever he could. His boss, however, Abe Schechter, was a different kind of a Jew: he wanted to silence Winchell, because, as Schechter wrote, "…by his very remarks and the fact that he is one of the Chosen People, he is causing undue hardship and anti-Semitism throughout the Middle West." Much to Winchell's credit, he did not let himself be silenced, and with a following of 20 million listeners he could afford to disregard his boss' admonitions.

This episode in American history is important as background to the struggles which went on during that time in the higher levels of government.

John McCloy - The Man Who Prevented the Destruction of Auschwitz

John McCloy, born to poor parents in 1895 in Philadelphia, succeeded nonetheless to study law and enter prestigious law firms which catapulted him into the most powerful circles in the United States. He ultimately entered the banking business and later in life became the chairman of Chase Manhattan Bank. During World War II he was a senior advisor to Henry Stimson, then Secretary of War. His powers grew steadily, and soon he could make fundamental decisions in the conduct of the war. One situation after another proved that McCloy showed a remarkable bias against Jews, blocking many efforts which could have resulted in saving the lives of many. For example, a small group of Jewish refugees who had found sanctuary on the Yugoslav island of Rab in 1943 were denied ships to evacuate them because of McCloy's fear that this would set a precedent which would lead to more such requests and an influx of additional refugees. While at the very same time he arranged transfer for non-Jewish refugees in the area, the pleas of the Jews were ignored. When reports reached the U.S. in 1942 and 1943 of the horrors of the Final Solution inside Hitler's Europe, McCloy was among those who held out in disbelief and suspicion that the reports were exaggerated.

A recent biography of McCloy, The Chairman, written by Kai Bird, concludes that McCloy's anti-Semitism was a product of the general attitude of his generation of WASPs. His own father-in-law "refused to do business with Jews as a matter of principle." The clubs McCloy belonged to all barred Jews from membership. Just like his boss, Secretary Stimson, McCloy was antagonistic to Zionism. But the most traumatic moment in Jewish history in which McCloy played a decisive role came when Jewish organizations demanded that the death camps, principally Auschwitz, should be bombed. By then all gory details of Hitler's death machine were perfectly well known to McCloy, yet he blocked any attempt to destroy Auschwitz. He used various pretexts, ranging from claiming that the distance was too great for the planes (those same planes bombed targets just 35 miles away from Auschwitz), to needing to consult the Russians (which he never did). Knowing that the British, too, were disinclined to destroy the death camps, he finally claimed that the British had to be consulted. And there the matter died. Photographs of every detail of Auschwitz, even showing the unfortunate Jews lining up before the gas chambers, came back from the air sorties, made by planes loaded with cameras but not with bombs.

After the end of World War II, McCloy became High Commissioner over the American Zone in Western Germany. That is where he again acted in a most reprehensible way. Pressured both by the Church and industrialists, McCloy decided to stop the de-Nazification of many leading Nazis and to allow clemency in the case of many extreme war criminals. McCloy's ties to the industrial cartels and monopolies and his interest in the Krupp empire led to such astounding decisions which, so soon after Hitler's fall, shocked a large portion of the world, certainly the Jewish world. True to form, he later sided with the Egyptian Nasser in trying to finance the Aswan Dam against the wishes of even John Foster Dulles. Nasser was always grateful to McCloy, whom he considered a friend of the Arabs.

At the end of this period, when McCloy's political star began to wane, he returned to private business and banking. The greatest blemish on his career, in our eyes, was his opposition to the destruction of Auschwitz, and his attempts to help Nazis wherever he could. His biography is a useful exercise in studying an anti-Semite. Once we know the life development of such a man, we can spot and detect his threat as an anti-Semite long before the public recognizes it. This is an important lesson for us, now that a furious discussion is going on as to what makes an anti-Semite an anti-Semite.

James Forrestal - The Man Who Fought Zionism

In May 1949 something happened that stands out, fortunately, as the most unusual occurrence in the history of the American government: a man who, till a short time before that fateful day, had been one of the most powerful men in Washington jumped out of the window in the Bethesda Naval Hospital. His name: James Forrestal. His career had been colorful and meteoric. Like McCloy, he was born into a poor family, but partly through his marriage, partly through hard work, he reached the highest echelon in Washington. Under President Truman he became this country's first Secretary of Defense, after the three armed services had been merged into one Department. Being a navy man, he was keenly aware of the importance of a secure supply of oil. It therefore became a veritable obsession with him that unless the Arabs will always be happy with Uncle Sam, they will cut off our oil supply. He concluded that everything possible should be done to thwart the establishment of a Jewish State, even though it was the announced foreign policy of the Truman Administration to support such a state. He came to believe that by pressing the U.S. Government to support the Zionist goal of Jewish statehood, the Jews were "ignoring the totality of American interests." His old-time anti-Semitism often came to light, as for example when he privately told Henry Wallace, Vice President under Franklin Roosevelt: "Jesus could not please the Jews when he was here on earth, I can't do it now." He kept up the incessant line that "Palestine should be lifted out of politics," by which he meant that Truman, in the midst of his election campaign in 1948 against Thomas Dewey, who was favored to win the presidency, should forget the Jewish voters and only follow the advice of the oil lobby and the Arabists in the State Department. Of course, all those Americans who saw in a Jewish State the fulfillment not only of Biblical promises but also a gesture of atonement for Jewish suffering in the War just concluded, were appalled by Forrestal's hostility to Zionists, and in the process, to Jews.

In a Congressional hearing he stated that America's standing with the 350 million Moslems in the world would suffer irreparably if the U.S. supported a Jewish State.

His opponents had very good spokesman for their cause, mainly, the voices of Drew Pearson and Walter Winchell, the highly respected news analysts. They reminded Americans almost daily that the conscience of every Christian American should dictate total support for the Jewish cause. Of course, in retrospect and with the advantage of 44 years of hindsight, we can see now how wrong Forrestal was: the standing of America in the eyes of the Arabs is today higher than ever, even after 44 years of consistent support for Israel.

Forrestal took his anti-Zionist crusade very much to heart. When he saw his cause suffering defeat after defeat in the White House, his health started to decline. A biography just published called Driven Patriot, written by authors who are clearly very much beholden to the Forrestal family, tries to attribute Forrestal's disintegration to the attacks on him by Drew Pearson, the staunch Christian friend of the Jewish cause. We will never know all the facts, but what is clear here is that Forrestal was just another anti-Semite who coupled his anti-Jewish animosity with his anti-Zionist stand. This should remind us again and again that we should never accept the canard that you can be anti-Israel without being anti-Jewish.

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