JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post
Today this document put the "living" into history--or at least it did for me. Given how much reading I've done in this area and the amount of exposure I've had to the literature, I knew a fair amount around the edges of this publication. I remember Myron Taylor--a major domo FDR fixit favorite, a wealthy industrial, who was sent on missions for Roosevelt through the mid-1930's and throughout the war. The "refugee problem" referred to in the title was not the internal U.S. dustbowler issue but the gigantic European refugee catastrophe that was very well established by the date of the publication of this paper for Taylor's address on November 25, 1938. I guess that "problem" was not incorrectly used in the title though by 1938 what was happening to stateless and endangered populations in Europe was far more than that, given what was happening in Germany in 1938, all of which was bad for the Jewish population there--and then in Austria, and then Czechoslovakia.
[Scroll down to the end for the rest of the report.]
I hadn't realized how close in time this was to the failed international conference at Evian, where Taylor was the U.S. representative. Evian was the 32-nation conference in which critical interest was expressed in the refugee disaster, but after a week spent on the topic, and in spite of a wide expression of sympathy for the situation of the Jews, there was hardly any actual movement to do anything about the crisis of saving those people--only two countries (Equador and Costa Rica, I think) agreed to expand their immigration quotas. This outcome of course was perfectly well designed for the Nazis, who made a large journalistic play of the affair, citing that national representatives got together and expressed some concern for the Jews but didn't care enough about them to actually do anything.
None of this came out in the Taylor address (reproduced in full, below). In discussing the refugees he says "The victims of these developments are of many faiths,--Catholic, Jewish and Protestant" and mentions the "urgency" to find homes for hundreds of thousands of people.
He goes on to say that chances for helping the afflicted in Germany within Germany were "dimming"--and what he was talking about was the bettering treatment of these groups of people by the Nazis so that a more orderly multi-year emigration plan could be worked out.
Given that in March of 1938 the Nazis annexed Austrian and made another 200,000 Jews stateless by enacting the Nuremberg Laws of 1935, and that the Nazis seized the Sudetenland in August 1938 making another 120,000 Jews stateless, and that just weeks before this address the massive Kristallnacht Pogrom was initiated throughout Germany--that, yes, there was reason to believe that figuring out a four-year evacuation plan was "dimming". For whatever reason, Taylor mentions none of this in this speech.
On the immigration issue in general Taylor tells his audience not be afraid of a "flooding" of immigrants ("with aliens of any race or creed"), as he thinks that it is possible to work with the refugees within the existing highly restrictive quota State Department framework. Given the numbers of people in question and the relatively paltry numbers allowed by the quotas, I do not have any idea as to how Taylor at this point could hope to achieve any of his goals except by somehow cajoling Hitler into giving a suitable number of years allowance to the problem so that the rest of the world could work stuff out.
And even though Taylor was freshly returned from Evian and the issue of the Jewish plight in Germany and its conquered lands, there is only one mention of Jews in this address.
The response of the U.S. to the refugee problem and then to the Holocaust is Very Highly Problematic, or at least so until 1944, when the mass extermination of the Jews and other people was a know quantity for at least a full year, and the U.S. began to act with real urgency.
How Taylor spoke with such a vanilla nothingness at such a pivotal time is unknown to me.
My copy of this paper was in the White House library for a little while--it was sent from there to the Library of Congress after keeping it for four months or so--presumably the WH had another copy, or had absorbed it, or felt it not-useful, or something else. No one will ever know.