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Henry Feingold (audio only)

Film | Accession Number: 1996.166 | RG Number: RG-60.5060 | Film ID: 3565, 3566, 3567, 3568, 3569, 3570, 3571, 3572, 3573

Henry Feingold, a distinguished scholar on the subject of America and the Holocaust, addresses American Jewry, refugee visas, Jewish leaders in the U.S., and the War Refugee Board in this interview.

FILM ID 3565 -- Feingold, New York; Audio Reel 347 [Take NY (II) 146]
Feingold discusses what he calls the "illusion of a civilized spirit" by referencing Szmul Zygielbojm, who committed suicide in protest and in an attempt to turn the attention of the Allies toward the genocide of Jews in Europe. Historically, Jews had more societal and political advantages than other minority groups, such as pre-World War I German Americans, though the Great Depression lead to a new wave of antisemitism in the United States, Feingold states that new studies into the German-American Bund indicate antisemitism was not as powerful as previously thought. The New Deal was intended to help Americans in need after the Great Depression, but prevented Jewish refugees from seeking safety in the United States.

FILM ID 3566 -- Feingold, New York; Audio Reel 348 [Take NY (II) 147]
Feingold poses the question of how American Jewry, with their rich infrastructure and political ties, were unable to move the Roosevelt administration to aid European Jews. A segment of Jewish society believed strongly in the power of democracy, suggesting this complacency prevented Jews from taking more action. He then discusses the opposite: that Jews did not actually have the power to mobilize support, as the "spirit of civilization" did not exist around them to help.

FILM ID 3567 -- Feingold, New York; Audio Reel 349 [Take NY (II) 148]
Feingold describes the Evian conference and the visa extensions given to Jews in America. They were issued on the pretense of action, but their real purpose was to conceal the inaction of the Roosevelt administration; a policy which Feingold terms the "politics of gestures."

FILM ID 3568 -- Feingold, New York; Audio Reel 350 [Take NY (II) 149;150]
The Allies believed the problem of Jewish refugees could be taken care of through philanthropic means, and believed so much in the concept of money coming to the rescue that actual aid by the Roosevelt administration never materialized. Money also became a central focus with the ransom of individual Jewish families out of Nazi Europe. These ransoms aided the military efforts of Nazi Germany. Feingold discusses the assumption that "international Jewry" would come to the rescue. The Roosevelt administration hid the problems facing the Jews of Europe behind new terminology: "political refugees."

FILM ID 3569 -- Feingold, New York; Audio Reel 351 [Take NY (II) 151;152]
Feingold discusses the American Jewish Conference of 1943. Participants in the conference dismissed the idea of helping the Jews of Europe and instead focused their interests on the creation of a national homeland in Palestine. A revisionist group under Peter Bergson gave priority to the rescue of Jews. Feingold debates the efficacy of the ideals of this group and whether they were too radical too soon. Depression, antisemitism, and restrictive immigration legislation in the United States prevented Jews from being rescued during the Holocaust. The prevailing war aim was that Jews could only be rescued through Allied victory.

FILM ID 3570 -- Feingold, New York; Audio Reel 352 [Take NY (II) 153]
Lanzmann asks Feingold whether history would have been different had the Evian conference gone differently. Feingold is not certain, but tells Lanzmann that the silence from the Pope and inaction from Roosevelt and the International Red Cross encouraged the Nazi belief that they could get away with the extermination of the Jews. They discuss the White Paper British policy made in May 1943 which restricted the sale of land and immigration to Palestine.

FILM ID 3571 -- Feingold, New York; Audio Reel 353 [Take NY (II) 154;155;156]
Lanzmann and Feingold discuss the Bermuda conference, including several plans to rescue the Jews which were debated but ultimately not acted upon. The conference, coincidentally and dramatically according to Feingold, occurred on the same day as the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. Feingold labels the conference an extension of the "politics of gestures," that began at the Evian conference in 1938. In between picture recordings, Lanzmann can be heard telling Feingold to look at him, not the interpreter, during filming. The interview continues. Another facet of how the conference failed to address the annihilation of European Jewry was to focus instead on helping the Jews who had already been rescued but living in precarious places throughout Europe. Breckinridge Long did not want to make the war primarily about saving the Jews. Instead, it was made to look like a refugee problem, void of any racial or religious ties.

FILM ID 3572 -- Feingold, New York; Audio Reel 354 [Take NY (II) 157;158]
In November 1943, Long is discovered to have exaggerated the number of Jewish refugees in the United States and thus a powerful force behind preventing the entrance of Jews into the United States. As a result of Long's downfall, Henry Morgenthau Jr. was tasked with the creation of the War Refugee Board. If Hitler had released one million unwanted Jews from the camps and ghettos, Feingold states the United States and Britain would have been in trouble, as neither country wanted to admit that many Jewish refugees into their countries. They discuss the controversy over why Auschwitz was not bombed.

FILM ID 3573 -- Feingold, New York; Audio Reel 355 [Take NY (II) 160]
Lanzmann and Feingold continue to discuss the controversy over why Auschwitz was not bombed and the potential efficacy of bombing German cities in retaliation, rather than the camps.

Event Date
1979 February (probably)
New York, NY, United States
Created by Claude Lanzmann during the filming of "Shoah," used by permission of USHMM and Yad Vashem
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Record last modified: 2018-11-27 11:05:25
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