WERE WE OUR BROTHERS' KEEPERS? The Public Response of American Jews to the Holocaust, 1938-1944 by Haskel Lookstein

WERE WE OUR BROTHERS' KEEPERS? The Public Response of American Jews to the Holocaust, 1938-1944

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This emerges as a reaction to a series of revisionist views of the Holocaust, views that focus on those who, by their silence or indifference, were morally guilty of complicity. Such charges have been made about, among others, the Pope, the Roosevelt Administration, and, increasingly, even American Jews. To conduct this most delicate and painful of self-examinations, Rabbi Lookstein has produced a careful and ultimately profoundly sad study. He examines six crucial events between the years 1938 and 1944; however, rather than confider individual initiatives, he is after communal reactions. He examines the American Jewish press to determine how much knowledge the Jews had and what their public reactions were to the rise and expansion of Nazism. The bulk of the book is a chapter-by-chapter consideration of such events as Kristallnacht and the denial of entry to the doomed ship St. Louis. Lookstein's conclusions drawn from his analysis of these events are not pleasant. Time and again, he suggests, American Jewry seemed paralyzed, unwilling to confront or even criticize Roosevelt, divided into uncooperative factions, and concerned about possible anti-Semitic reactions in America. The book provides additional confirmation of the argument that American Jews were unable or reluctant to act at a time of their greatest need to do so. What is unique in this book is its perspective of compassion. Instead of blaming American Jews for their failures, Lookstein considers in detail the causes of their silence. Finally, we are left with the feeling that American Jews, too, were victims. The same anti-Semitism that led to death for their European cousins bred their fear, incomprehension and ultimate silence. This book is highly readable and important, indicating a maturity in the American Jewish community, which is now willing, unflinchingly, to look at itself in history's mirror.

Pub Date: Sept. 26th, 1985
Publisher: Hartmore House