Peggy Shapiro has dedicated her life to exposing and combating antisemitism. The daughter of Holocaust survivors, Shapiro was born in a Displaced Persons (DP) camp located in Landsberg, Germany, the same town in which Adolph Hitler wrote Mein Kampf.
Today, the married grandmother of four serves as Midwest Director for the Israel advocacy group StandWithUs. As a retired college professor, she is keenly aware of the antisemitism epidemic on college campuses and its eerie similarity to conditions at universities in 1930s Europe.
Shapiro is also all too familiar with the Roosevelt administration’s failings during the Holocaust – a blight that the US has sought to rectify, but one that she sees repeating itself in the current occupant of the White House.
Last week, Shapiro took to the pages of the blog American Thinker to remind America: “Two Pleas, Two Dates, Two Refusals.”
“The date was October 6, 1943, and more than four hundred rabbis came to plead for US government to save Jews from Hitler. They hoped to alert the American public about the Nazi massacres,” Shapiro wrote. “Yet the rabbis marched through Washington D.C. to the gates of the White House, where they had expected a small delegation would be granted a meeting with President Roosevelt. The president was unavailable even though his schedule that day was open. His calendar listed nothing between a 1:00 lunch with the Secretary of State and a 4:00 ceremony.”
While American Jewry has this notion that Roosevelt was a friend to the Jewish people, the truth is that he had been silent about the extermination of Jews in Europe. FDR wouldn’t even implement diplomatic or economic sanctions against the German regime. Even after evidence was presented to Under Secretary of State Wells in late 1942, the Roosevelt administration remained resolute in its head-in-the-sand policy.
Shapiro asks, “Why did the president sneak out the back door of the White House rather than hear the rabbis’ urgent request?” The answer, she points out, is that “the rabbis’ pleas conflicted with his policy towards European Jewry.”
Between the day Roosevelt refused to meet with the rabbis, until the end of World War II, 182 members of Shapiro’s family were murdered by the Nazis.
As Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is scheduled to arrive in Washington D.C. to address the Congress of the United States, once again we have a US president refusing to meet a Jewish leader who comes to warn of impending doom.
The similarities are undeniable and frightening.
Just like the rabbis who were shunned by FDR because they did not march in step with the policies of his administration, Netanyahu is also the leader of people under the threat of genocide, who has substantial disagreements with the president of the United States.
Just as the rabbis faced public criticism as well as condemnation from Jewish Americans who didn’t want to ruffle feathers over seventy years ago, Netanyahu has been ostracized by the mainstream press and many liberal Jews in the United States who refuse to believe that history can repeat itself and whose loyalties lie with the Party of Roosevelt, not the safety of the Jewish people and ultimately the United States.
The rhetoric stemming from the administration and some Democrats that Netanyahu accepted Speaker Boehner’s (R-Ohio) invitation to address Congress before the White House was notified has turned out to be utter nonsense. Even the reliably anti-Israel New York Times was forced to admit, through a correction, that Netanyahu “accepted after the administration had been informed.”
The public feud between Netanyahu and Obama is a smokescreen – a failed attempt to drum up disgust against the prime minister by an administration who fears Netanyahu telling the American people the truth about the dangers a nuclear Iran poses to Israel, the region and the world.
FDR knew the truth a year before the rabbis came calling. But sounding the alarm bells – bombing railroad tracks – warning the world and putting Hitler on notice, wasn’t part of the foreign policy game plan.
Holocaust survivors, their children and every Jew in the world whose family members perished at the hands of the Nazis can only wonder what might have been if FDR had taken the time to chat with those rabbis.
Today they are witnessing history repeat itself. On the steps of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
Peggy Shapiro is Midwest Director, StandWithUs