Studio portrait of James G. McDonald.
Photograph | Photograph Number: 58569
- Photo Designation
PERSONALITIES: NON-JEWS -- Names (M)
- Photo Credit
- United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of James McDonald
Studio portrait of James G. McDonald.
- James Grover McDonald (1886-1964), American professor and diplomat. Born in Coldwater, Ohio, McDonald became a professor of history and political science at the University of Indiana. In 1919 he was appointed chairman of the Foreign Policy Association in New York and served in that capacity until 1933. After several visits to Nazi Germany, McDonald became convinced that the new German regime was going to take radical steps to solve the "Jewish question," and became increasingly disturbed by the indifference of the U.S. State Department to this state of affairs. In 1933, with the help of important German Jewish leaders, including James Rosenberg, Felix Warburg, Mildred Wertheimer, and Arthur and Herbert Henry Lehman, McDonald was appointed head of the newly created Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees from Germany within the League of Nations. However, from the very beginning of his tenure he faced serious obstacles, stemming from his lack of legitimacy as an American commissioner to an organization (the League of Nations) to which his country did not belong. He enjoyed the support neither of the U.S. State Department nor of key League members such as France and Britain. In addition, Germany, which had recently withdrawn from the League, argued that McDonald had no right to interfere in Germany's internal affairs. In 1935, when enactment of the Nuremberg Laws exacerbated the Jewish refugee problem, McDonald decided to resign in a dramatic fashion in an attempt to focus attention on the plight of the refugees. In his resignation speech, which was delivered on December 3, 1935 and published in the New York Times, McDonald accused the German government of pursuing a policy of racial extermination and condemned the members of the League for their inaction. In 1936 McDonald took a position on the editorial staff of The New York Times, and in 1938 he assumed the presidency of the Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences. In July 1938 McDonald was a participant at the international refugee conference in Evian-les-Bains, France, convened by Roosevelt in the wake of the German annexation of Austria. At the same time Roosevelt established the Presidents Advisory Committee on Political Refugees (PAC) and appointed McDonald to be its chairman. The PAC was a quasi-governmental agency tasked to serve as a liaison between the government and numerous private agencies involved with refugees. However, McDonald was given no budget with which to operate. He was also plagued by the opposition of the U.S. State Department, which rejected nearly every suggestion posed by the new agency to alleviate the plight of the refugees. In the fall of 1940 McDonald clashed most directly with the State Department when it refused PAC 's request for permission to grant special visas to prominent European political and cultural leaders. Discouraged, McDonald turned down a vague offer to head the American delegation to the Bermuda refugee conference in April 1943. McDonald's sympathy with the cause of Zionism and his longstanding opposition to British efforts to prevent large-scale immigration to Palestine won him a place on the postwar Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry on Palestine, appointed by President Truman. After the establishment of the State of Israel in May 1948, McDonald was appointed U.S. Special Representative to the Jewish State, and in March 1949, the first American ambassador to Israel. He remained in that position until 1951.
[Source: Gutman, Israel. "Encyclopedia of the Holocaust," MacMillan, 1990. 3:954-55.]
- Photo Source
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
Copyright: United States Holocaust Memorial MuseumProvenance: James McDonaldSource Record ID: Collections: 2004.220
Record last modified: 2004-05-07 00:00:00
This page: https://collections.ushmm.org/search/catalog/pa1151942