JF Ptak Science Books Post 2564
For all of the greatness of the man, Franklin Roosevelt for whatever reason came up decidedly short on the issue of accepting German Jewish immigrants seeking to escape Nazi Germany (in the 1930's) and then later, during the war, having a terrible record in the response to the concentration camps (1940-1942) and (somewhat later) on the identification of the extermination centers.(1943-1945). It is certainly a large stain on this legacy, a despondency that is confused, confusing, and highly open to debate.
This came to mind when I reviewed an older post on this blog on books/propaganda issued by the government printing office--in particular, the "Books are Weapons" series, which is a collection of strong images used in connection with Roosevelt's statement about books/weapons:
What struck me today for the first time is FDR's use of "concentration camp", which is surprising to me--at least the "me" at my level of understanding FDR and the Holocaust--because when this poster was issued by the Government Printing Office in 1942 Roosevelt had spent very little public time on the issue. And in the course of the next 24 months or so, Roosevelt had more evidence of the gigantic crimes being perpetrated by Germany but still had very little publicly to say on the matter. 1942 though seems to be early for this sort of statement--and to find it in a mass-produced vehicle like this poster was a jolt.
The text on the monolithic book that stand free and tall and immobile in spite of the Nazis in the foreground and their small pyre of burning books:
- "Books cannot be killed by fire. People die, but books never die. No man and no force can put thought in a concentration camp forever. No man and no force can take from the world the books that embody man’s eternal fight against tyranny. In this war, we know, books are weapons." --Franklin D. Roosevelt. 1942 (the date referenced from the Library of Congress page on this poster http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/96502725/ Another post on this blog shows two other variations on this poster: http://longstreet.typepad.com/thesciencebookstore/2014/09/books-are-weapons-in-the-war-of-ideas.html)
This is a very long story, but for right now it seems a relatively certainty that the situation of the Jews in Germany and the rest of Europe was fairly well known and established within the Roosevelt White House, and even so too to some extent in the popular press. By 1943 there was probably no doubt whatsoever with what was going on--in an example of Roosevelt's association with the contemporary knowledge of the Holocaust the FDR Presidential Library offers the following O.S.S. document on the destruction of the German Jews: