Beginning in August 1937, less than six months into Roosevelt’s second term, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average at 190, the stock market went into a tailspin because of continuous bad economic reports. The economy was not performing as expected by the central planners and government’s revenue was dropping. By November, the Dow was at 114, a drop of 40%. After eight years of deprivation and struggle by the American people, it was autumn 1929 (a Dow drop of 39.6%) all over again!
“The administration response to this Democrat inspired stock market crash and economic collapse was to promise more spending and a balanced budget – devised by Roosevelt’s team of economic advisors, including Lauchlin Currie [later identified, like Alger Hiss, as a Soviet spy]. Announced at the annual meeting of the Academy of Political Science in New York, the policy was met with guffaws of ridicule and contempt.
In the early 1930s, both Mussolini and Hitler were very much aware of the similarities between their own programs and those of FDR as both dictators celebrated the New Deal as an initiative that was compatible with their own economic philosophy.
In 1934 the Nazi Party’s official newspaper depicted President Roosevelt as a man of “irreproachable, extremely responsible character and immovable will,” and as a “warmhearted leader of the people with a profound understanding of social needs.”
The Nazi Party paper also lauded the New Deal for having eliminated “the uninhibited frenzy of market speculation” by adopting “National Socialist strains of thought,” and it noted that “many passages in [FDR’s] book Looking Forward could have been written by a National Socialist.” “In any case,” said the publication, “one can assume that he [Roosevelt] feels considerable affinity with the National Socialist philosophy.”
After FDR had been in office for a year, Hitler himself sent Roosevelt a private letter congratulating “…his heroic efforts in the interests of the American people. … The President’s successful battle against economic distress is being followed by the entire German people with interest and admiration,” wrote the German fuehrer.
Mussolini, for his part, praised FDR for recognizing that the American economy could not “be left to its own devices.” “Without question, the mood accompanying this sea change [i.e., FDR’s policies] resembles that of Fascism,” Mussolini wrote. In an interview with the German biographer Emil Ludwig, Mussolini made plain his view that “America has a dictator” in FDR.
In an essay written for American audiences, Mussolini observed admiringly that FDR was bringing “spiritual renewal” and destroying the anachronistic notion that democracy and liberalism were “immortal principles.” Added Mussolini:
“America itself is abandoning [these principles]. Roosevelt is moving, acting, giving orders independently of the decisions or wishes of the Senate or Congress. There are no longer intermediaries between him and the nation. There is no longer a parliament but an ‘état majeur’ [a single great state]. There are no longer parties, but a single party. A sole will silences dissenting voices.” [Sound familiar?]
[Amazingly], Mussolini’s admiration for FDR was reciprocated in full measure. In a letter to Breckinridge Long, his ambassador to Italy, Roosevelt made reference to “that admirable Italian gentleman” who “is really interested in what we are doing.” “I am much interested and deeply impressed by what he has accomplished,” said Roosevelt. Soon after having taken his second Oath of Office in January 1937, President Roosevelt, in a conversation with a speechwriter, articulated his belief that the limits on governmental power that were enshrined in the U.S. Constitution were impediments to the transformative social and economic policies he wished to implement:
“When the chief justice read me the oath and came to the words ‘support the Constitution of the United States,’ I felt like saying: ‘Yes, but it’s the Constitution as I understand it, flexible enough to meet any new problem of democracy – not the kind of Constitution your court has raised up as a barrier to progress and democracy.'”
There is some speculation among historians as to whether the apparently comfortable relations between the two fascist dictators and the American President may have colored both Hitler’s decisions in Europe – perhaps anticipating some measure of support, or neutrality from Roosevelt – and Roosevelt’s decisions to remain somewhat muted in his comments about events in Europe prior to the Nazi invasion of Poland in September 1939, and may have actually encouraged Axis aggression.
And then came “The Voyage of the Dammed”. “November 9, 1938 was Kristallnacht in Nazi Germany, the “night of broken glass”. Brown-shirted mobs burned synagogues and ransacked stores and pummeled Jews in the streets. Escape became obsession. There would be no more talk by European Jews of riding things out. Every Jewish life was in danger. People were afraid to leave their homes. The greatest hope of all was to make one’s way to the United States.
America, after all, was not only a nation of freedom and justice, but a land made great by the toil of immigrants. The Statue of Liberty in New York harbor welcomed refugees. Its inscription concludes: “Send these, the homeless, the tempest-tost to me. I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”, and President Franklin Roosevelt had been built up to the world as larger than life, a great humanitarian.
On May 13, 1939, more than 900 Jews fled Germany aboard a luxury cruise liner, the SS St Louis. They hoped to reach Cuba and then travel to the US – but were turned away in Havana. Officially, the 937 Jewish passengers were booked for Havana, Cuba, but
most of them also had fulfilled U.S. entry requirements and held quota numbers. In a year or two or three they might take the short trip across the Florida Straits to America.
For them, this change in fates seemed almost surreal. They left behind the persecution of Germany aboard a luxurious ocean liner, their comforts elegantly tended to and the chaos of the world kept away by a moat as wide as the sea. The ship’s captain was Gustav Schroeder, an honorable man who insisted that the passengers – many just freed from concentration camps – be treated to all the customary amenities.
When they arrived at the harbor entrance to Havana, Cuban officials turned them away. In fact, the Cubans had already decided to revoke all but a handful of the visas – probably out of fear of being inundated with more refugees fleeing Europe. On June 2, 1939 – 20 days after departing Germany and six days after arriving in Havana – the languishing St. Louis headed back out. For the next seven days, Captain Schroder tried in vain to persuade the Cuban authorities to allow them in.
The captain then steered the St Louis towards the Florida coast. On board, rejoicing had become lament. For 12 hours the ship circled in an ever-widening arc off the Cuban coast, hoping to be recalled. Then, finally, Schroeder gave the order to proceed slowly northward toward Florida.
In the brightness of early morning they saw the shores of Miami Beach. The ship moved close enough for the city to reveal itself – the bend of the palm trees and the creamy colors of the art-deco oceanfront hotels. The front page of the June 5, 1939, New York Times contained an article headlined: “Refugee Ship Idles off Florida Coast.” By coincidence, a headline in an adjoining column said: “Roosevelt Appeals to World to Join Moral Rearming” – an appeal by the President for “moral fiber” among people of the world.
Historian David Wyman, an esteemed Holocaust scholar, finds the inadvertent pairing of stories ironic, an irony that apparently escaped the editors at the Times. What about America’s moral fiber, he asks? “If the world had opened its doors, hundreds of thousands of Jews would have been saved,” he said. “In 1939, we did not know there would be genocide; but we surely knew lives were in danger . . . Only when expulsion failed did the Nazis turn toward extermination.”
In the end, US authorities also refused Schroder the right to dock, despite direct appeals to President Franklin Roosevelt. Some think he too was worried about the potential flood of migrants. On June 6, with no help forthcoming, the St. Louis ended its futile inching along the U.S. coast. In a final clutch at rescue, the passengers sent a joint telegram to Roosevelt. There was no reply. No one listened; the world turned its back.
By early June, Captain Schroder had no option but to turn the giant liner back towards Europe. By then, people were openly crying as they wandered the ship – one passenger even slit his wrists and threw himself overboard out of sheer desperation. In the end, the ship’s passengers did not have to go back to Nazi Germany. Instead, Belgium, France, Holland and the UK agreed to take the refugees. The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) posted a cash guarantee of $500,000 – or $8 million in today’s money – as part of an agreement to cover any associated costs.
On June 17, the liner docked at the Belgian port of Antwerp, more than a month after it had set sail from Hamburg, its passengers in a dour, almost funereal gloom – the JDC was able to arrange for the Jews to be split among England, Belgium, Holland and France. Those who went to live in France then had to flee the Nazis for a second time, leaving just six weeks before Hitler invaded.
Those sent to England survived. But after World War II broke out, Germany occupied the other three nations. Jews there, in monstrous numbers, were sent to the death chambers. Two-hundred-and-fifty-four passengers from the St Louis were not so fortunate and were killed as the Nazis swept across Western Europe.”
Their blood, the blood of Jewish people – the same Jews who had built Western Civilization alongside Christians – just released, penniless, from Nazi prisons – seeking only refuge far from a colossus bent on destroying them as a people – is on the hands of those in power in Washington, DC in June 1939 – especially, Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
Just think how grateful they would have been; how hard they would have worked in the war effort to prove their worth to America. Imagine what a contribution they would have made to the post-war world – especially in their homeland of Europe.
Finally, in one last contemptuous and authoritarian gesture before becoming engulfed in the reality of actual war, the Roosevelt administration approved the World War II internment in “War Relocation Camps” of over 115,000 people of Japanese heritage who lived on the Pacific coast of the United States. The government ordered the internment in early 1942, shortly after Imperial Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor. Sixty-two percent of the internees were second and third generation American citizens. President Roosevelt authorized the internment with Executive Order 9066, issued February 19, 1942, which allowed local military commanders to designate “military areas” as “exclusion zones,” from which “any or all persons may be excluded.” This power was used to declare that all people of Japanese ancestry were excluded from the entire Pacific coast, including all of California and much of Oregon, Washington and Arizona, except for those in internment camps.
This unprecedented and flagrant violation of the Constitutional right to due process with no evidence of disloyalty was the apex of the coercive mindset, latent bigotry and general disregard for the rights of the People that permeated the Roosevelt Administration and was eerily reminiscent of Stalin’s gulags.
Want to see one? Visit Manzanar (just down the road from Independence, CA!!!??? – you just can’t make this stuff up – jtg) in the Sierra Nevada Mountains in Eastern California. You won’t believe it either!
The self-superiority of this authoritarian mindset so blinded these progressive bureaucrats that they were incapable of unbiased or non-bigoted judgement and the Japanese-American imprisonment is the crown-jewel of their irrational view of sovereignty. To wit:
Ben Kuroki overcame the American military’s discriminatory policies to become the only Japanese American to fly over Japan during World War II. The son of Japanese immigrants who was raised on a Hershey, Nebraska, farm, Kuroki and his brother, Fred, volunteered for service after the Dec. 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor. They were initially rejected by recruiters who questioned the loyalty of the children of Japanese immigrants. Undeterred, the brothers drove 150 miles to another recruiter, who allowed them to sign up.
At the time, the Army Air Forces banned soldiers of Japanese ancestry from flying, but Kuroki earned his way onto a bomber crew and flew 58 bomber missions over Europe, North Africa and Japan during the war. He took part in what was the most dangerous air-raid mission ever flown, the August 1943 raid over Nazi oil fields in Ploesti, Romania, that killed 310 fliers in his group. He was captured after another mission when his plane ran out of fuel over Morocco, but he managed to escape with crewmates to England.
Because of his Japanese ancestry, he was initially rejected when he asked to serve on a B-29 bomber that was to be used in the Pacific. But after repeated requests and a review of his stellar service record, Secretary of War Harry Stimson granted an exception. Crew
members nicknamed him “Most Honorable Son,” and the War Department presented him with the Distinguished Flying Cross.
He was saluted by Time magazine in 1944 under the headline “HEROES: Ben Kuroki, American.” He was hailed a hero and a patriot at the same time that tens of thousands of Japanese-Americans were confined at internment camps amid fears of a Japanese invasion of the West Coast.
After the war, Kuroki enrolled at the University of Nebraska, where he obtained a journalism degree. He published a weekly newspaper in Nebraska for a short time before moving to Michigan and finally to California, where he retired as the news editor of Ventura Star-Free Press in 1984.
In 2005, he received the U.S. Army Distinguished Service Medal, one of the nation’s highest military honors. “I had to fight like hell for the right to fight for my own country,” Kuroki said at the award ceremony in Lincoln, Nebraska. “And I now feel vindication.” Now, there’s a hero.
To respond to the Japanese propaganda, and under pressure from Japanese American and civil liberties organizations, President Roosevelt authorized the enlistment of Japanese-American men into the U.S. Armed Forces.
Japanese Americans were now permitted to form a special segregated infantry outfit – the unit would come to be called the 442nd Infantry Regimental Combat Team. In Hawaii, where Japanese Americans had never been locked up, recruitment exceeded all expectations. When the Army called for 1,500 volunteers, 10,000 turned up at recruiting offices.
In June 1944, The men who signed on with the 442nd would find themselves in Italy, fighting alongside the 100th Infantry Battalion, the battle-tested unit made up mostly of Japanese Americans from Hawaii. The 100th had been formed in 1942, before the ban had been placed on the enlistment of Japanese Americans, and they had seen action in North Africa and Italy.
For months, the men of the 100th had distinguished themselves in repeated assaults on the German lines as the Allies fought northward in Italy. The 100th had lost over 950 men, so many that they came to be called the “Purple Heart Battalion.”
In September, the 442nd was moved from the ongoing battle in Italy and rushed to France. Once considered a “problem” by the army, the 442nd was now seen as a problem solver. But the battles they would endure in the Vosges Mountains in France would be their greatest challenge – if only because the orders of an incompetent General would send them into impossible situations where they would endure terrible losses.
On October 29, 1944, the 442nd was called upon to rescue the so-called “Lost Battalion” – 275 men from the 141st Regiment who had been surrounded by Germans due to the reckless orders of their General. The 442nd lost 400 men rescuing the 230 men of the Lost Battalion who had survived their ordeal, and further secured their reputation for extraordinary bravery and valor.
At war’s end, the “Purple Heart Battalion” had suffered 9,486 casualties. Over 600 made the ultimate sacrifice.
The impudence of these bureaucrats in each of these cases, and many more not discussed, is stunning. Where the Founders knew first-hand the cost of liberties lost and had risked everything to restore them with a sacred social contract – the Constitution – these pretenders, indifferent to the cost to be paid by the People and insulated from personal risk, would have the People sacrifice untold liberties for the socialist contract of the “New Deal”! Could a more coercive government be envisioned – short of totalitarianism?
In the end, most of the New Deal initiatives failed the Constitutional test, even the famous “Court packing” attempt. Just as they had inspired the failures of Roosevelt’s “New Deal” and perhaps because they had ultimately failed to consolidate “dictatorial” powers in Washington, the “heroes” of the new Deal would provide the inspiration in the latter half of the 20th Century for the coercion or corruption of many of the same venerable institutions and for the 21st Century protagonists, now known as “liberals”, who have moved beyond coercion and confiscation of rights to the effective dismantling of the Constitution itself.
For the very best chronicle of Roosevelt’s New Deal, I wholeheartedly recommend Amity Shlaes seminal, masterful and eminently readable history of the Great Depression; The Forgotten Man, published in 2007 by HarperCollins.
Continued in my next post.