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Opposition to World War II

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Opposition to World War II was most vocal during the early part of World War II, and stronger still before the war started. Some communist-led organizations with links to Comintern opposed the war during the period of the Hitler-Stalin pact but then backed it after Germany invaded the Soviet Union[citation needed]. However, the most popular communist organization in the US at the time, the Communist Party of the USA, firmly maintained an anti-fascist outlook on intervention throughout WWII, basing their policies on the need for a Popular Front against fascism[1][2].

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  • ✪ Resistance and Opposition During World War II: Germany, France and the United States
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This is a Class of 1962 panel, but I'm the only member of that class. Those of us who were in the Class of 1962 were only five years old or so when the Second World War ended in 1945. And many of us have memories of that time. And all of us, of course, were influenced by the war. As a writer about those years, I became aware of two outstanding professors at Amherst. They're scholars who have written and taught and broken new ground about resistance movements during the Second World War. [INAUDIBLE] Can you move the microphone a little closer? OK, yeah. Thank you, Jay. How is that? [AUDIENCE MURMURS] How is that? All right. The presence of these two professors and our endless fascination with what drives individuals to resist and oppose or not, caused me to suggest this program that we're about to hear. So without any further introductions, I want to just get started. I do want to just tell you about Katherine Epstein. She's the Dean of Faculty. Many of you saw her this morning. The Winkley Professor of History. She's an expert in German. She's going to lead off. All right. Hi there. It's great to see so many of you. Is this working? You hearing me? OK, good. When David [? Rolle ?] first suggested this panel, we had a very lively debate among the panelists about what constitutes resistance. In particular, could opposition in democratic regimes be construed as resistance? This is, of course, very topical. Can individuals working today in federal bureaucracies who oppose Trump be viewed as resistors? Now this whole issue may be a matter of semantics. But I do want to sort of lay this out a little bit, in that I place actually a quite high bar on what constitutes resistance. For me, it's a form of opposition that involves moral, ethical concerns and that involves very significant personal risk. So for me, at least, losing a job, like losing a job in the federal bureaucracy, doesn't really cut it. But others may well feel differently. So for me, those challenging Trump from within the government are, I would say, engaged in spirited and perhaps courageous opposition, but I would not give them the halo term resistors. So what I am going to do now is talk a little bit about how I think about resistance based on my field of specialization, which is 20th century Germany and the Nazi regime. And from that we'll sort of continue this conversation of what is resistance. So what sort of resistance was there in Nazi Germany? Many of you will have heard about the most famous incidents of resistance. The July 20, 1944 assassination attempt against Hitler perhaps comes immediately to mind. This was when Claus von Stauffenberg tried to kill Hitler at his East Prussian headquarters. Due to various miscalculations, not least that Stauffenberg had been maimed in a war injury, this assassination attempt was not successful. Besides von Stauffenberg, the resistance movement actually involved hundreds of individuals, many within the Nazi elite. And they had very detailed plans for taking over the government after Hitler's death. Once it was known, however, that Hitler had survived the assassination attempt, the conspiracy unraveled very quickly. And von Stauffenberg and many, many others, were executed. Stauffenberg that evening already, the evening of July 20th, and many others over the next-- about a year that remained in the Nazi-- or 10 months that remained in the Nazi regime. So that seems to me really clearly resistance. Many of you may also have heard of the White Rose. This was a group of students in Munich, headed up by two siblings Hans and Sophie Scholl. In 1942 and 1943, the group wrote pamphlets and distributed them throughout the university as well as around Munich. The pamphlets urged Germans to engage in ethical opposition to the Nazis. At a certain point, the students were discovered. They were tried in a very fast judicial proceedings, and they were executed relatively quickly. It's interesting that today if you ask Germans who are among the most admired women in German history, Sophie Scholl always rises to the very top of that list. I don't think that any of us would say that those two actions were not resistance. I think that sort of sets a very high bar. But that those two incidents clearly strike me as resistance. There are, though, many different ways that one could define this term. Some historians believe that the term should have a very narrow definition or quite narrow definition. Again, the one that I sort of gave at the outset, something along the lines of moral, ethical opposition that involves organized action intended to bring down a regime and that involves pretty significant consequences for those who are involved. Such resistance, if uncovered, would bring almost certain arrest and very often death sentences. It's interesting in that such resistance tends to bring little reward other than moral reward. In other words, one did the right thing. But one actually may not gain very much else. And again, I think there's no question that Stauffenberg and the Scholls would fall into that category. So what is definitely resistance? To me, assassination attempts against Hitler, if they're actually serious ones. Hiding Jews-- hiding Jews was always a very dangerous prospect for Germans and others. Engaging in sabotage at a munitions factory, that strikes me as pretty clearly resistance. In each case, were it discovered, it would lead to serious consequences-- arrest and sometimes even a death sentence. So as you can tell, there's a pretty high bar here. The action has to be quite heroic. Then the consequences, if discovered, quite dire. Now during the Nazi years, this sort of resistance was actually remarkably rare. It is true that in the first two years of the regime, from 1933 to 1935, communists, socialists, and other leftists put up some very serious resistance to the Nazi regime. They did lots of leafletting, lots of agitating, lots of trying to get people to see what was wrong with the Nazis. But these resistance movements were essentially all wiped out by the spring of 1935. Virtually everyone involved in them had either been arrested, had fled abroad, or was simply too terrified to act. Then there was sort of a period of quiet around the period of the 1936 Olympics, not a lot of resistance in the mid-1930s. In 1938 and 1939, there was an important resistance movement that hoped to thwart Germany's rush towards the war. This took place within pretty high levels of the Nazi elite, particularly among the Foreign Ministry and the intelligence bureaus. Also in 1939, there was a very significant attempt against Hitler's life that had Hitler decided not to cut short a speech, we probably wouldn't have had World War II. In the wake of Germany's stunning victories in 1939 and 1940, there was virtually no resistance once again in Nazi Germany. And resistance really only picked up after it was clear that Germany's war efforts were not going well. But even then, there was surprisingly little resistance. And of course, as many of you know, there was shockingly little resistance to the Holocaust. So there could be different explanations for why there was so little resistance. One reason, which I think for a long time was sort of the popular reason, was the Nazi regime essentially terrified the population. And therefore, very few were willing to resist because the act was so dire. The consequences were so dire. But there's another reason why there may not have been so much resistance to the Nazis. And this is actually the reason that I tend to favor. And it is that, by and large, Germans were not so unhappy with the Nazi regime. This became the new normal. And it was not-- the sorts of things that the Nazi regime was doing, many of them were extremely popular. All the sort of taking on of conquering lands in Europe-- that was actually very popular in Germany. So I think a major reason for why there was so little resistance of any kind in Nazi Germany was, in fact, that most Germans supported the regime. Nazi Germany was actually under policed, if you look at the numbers of policemen per population, it's relatively few policemen-- and it was all men-- as opposed to the population at large. So this was not a heavily policed country in any way at all. And in fact, the Nazis, what they relied on was people telling the police about things. So this became more a nation of telling the police sort of-- the word's not coming to my mind right now-- but basically-- Informers. Informers, thank you! That's the word I was looking for-- a nation of informers. Thank you. OK. Now there is, though, a whole other and perhaps more capacious way to think about resistance. And that is any conduct that thwarts the regime's aim to infiltrate and control all aspects of society. So I want to think about this latter category. And I'm going to ask you, but you don't need to answer them, or answer them in your head, the questions that I pose to my students. So in Nazi Germany, was grumbling at work resistance? One might think, I don't know, not really. You could say, that's just whining. But it does threaten morale. And in a society totally organized for the war effort, maintaining morale is actually crucial. In Nazi Germany, was driving a private car, when it is forbidden by law, resistance? Well, it uses up, resources, gas, necessary for the war effort. In Nazi Germany, was writing a diary resistance? We are not actually doing anything right there to undermine the regime. But on the other hand, you are documenting crimes for posterity that could ruin the reputation of the Nazis. In Nazi Germany, was listening to foreign broadcasts, an act forbidden by law, resistance? Again, you're not necessarily hurting or undermining the regime per se, but you are questioning the regime's version of truth, and you get yourself into the position to give information to others. Another question in Nazi Germany-- was apathy resistance? Again, you don't really think of apathy as resistance, but it does threaten morale, and it means that you're probably not helping the war effort. In Nazi Germany, was dancing to jazz or swing music resistance? The problem is, the Nazi regime didn't like youth engaging in degenerate pastimes, in their view, and corrupting the youth was actually corrupting the future, right? Because the Nazis put extraordinary hope into the youth of the regime. OK, in Nazi Germany, when women chose-- excuse me-- not to participate in war production, was that resistance? Women were supposed to work. Actually, all women were required to work at a certain point. And so women staying at home meant that less war material was produced, and she was also flaunting the laws, although the Nazis didn't go after middle class women who didn't work. In Nazi Germany, was black market activity resistance? Again, threatens morale and the economy. Individuals were actually arrested for virtually all of these actions. I suppose not writing a diary, unless it was known. But listening to foreign broadcasts, dancing at jazz or swing clubs, black market activity, all of those things were things that people were arrested for in Nazi Germany. And I think that most of us would probably not categorize those actions as resistance. And again, to me, resistance is heroic, it bears severe consequences, and it is aimed at undermining the regime. That having been said, what I've described could in fact have quite significant negative implications for the Nazi regime, especially since this was a regime that demanded loyalty from citizens, and all of these actions undermined individual and collective loyalty to the Nazis. So are these actions resistance or not? I'm going to let you ponder that one as I let my students ponder that one. But what I would say is that, if such actions are considered resistance, Nazi Germany all of a sudden becomes a nation of resistors rather than a nation of collaborators or informers, which is another good term here. And I think a nation of collaborators may actually be the more accurate term. Indeed, I think it's clear that Germans combined discontent of the whining sort with fundamental support of the Nazi regime. By and large, this was a reasonably popular regime with reasonable levels of public support. In turn, that meant that dissenting behavior never really posed a significant challenge to the Nazi dictatorship. Still, the existence of widespread dissenting behavior suggests the limits of Nazi popularity. While some Germans fanatically supported the regime, most Germans merely accepted it. Finally, I asked you to think a bit about the significance of resistance in Nazi Germany. During the Nazi years, the very existence of some resistance movements gave heart to others who were either involved or considering being involved in resistance. That is the more narrow definition of resistance. For some, simply getting a White Rose brochure suggested that they were not alone and that others felt as they did. And that alone could be a very comforting experience. After 1945, past resistance played a totally different role. Past resistance served both to accuse and to excuse Germans. The few who prized ethical commitment posed a moral indictment of the many. If some could find it in themselves to condemn wrong, why didn't more do so? But the harsh punishments that such individuals endured explained and even justified most Germans' refusal to resist Nazism. And so I'm going to return now to my opening comments. I think it's actually valuable to keep a high bar on what we define as resistance. Those who sacrificed so much for ethical, moral imperatives deserve our recognition and our respect. Confounding that sort of behavior with more ordinary actions I think blurs ethical and moral lines. We need our heroes, and we should continue to celebrate them. At the same time, lesser actions also have their value. It is truly important that some listen to foreign radio broadcasts, that some wrote diaries, that some danced to swing, and that some even grumbled. And I hope we will all, actually, all of us in this room-- I think it's a high bar to ask for all of you to engage in resistance, but I would hope that all of us would engage in more of these lower level sorts of actions. But the many should not feel self-satisfied nor should they be celebrated by others. And as for resistance today, I think that happens in many regimes around the world. But I don't think that it's happening in the United States today of the sort that I was talking about. Healthy democracies enjoy opposition, and they do not turn their citizens into resisters. And I think that we are-- my own view is-- we're still in the healthy democracy category. Of course, I hope it stays that way. [APPLAUSE] Our next speaker is going to be Ron Rosbottom, Ronald Rosbottom, author of When Paris Went Dark, a very well-received book that's out in the lobby today, of the City of Light under German occupation. Ron's a former dean of the faculty, and a Winifred Arms Professor in Arts and Humanities. Well, thank you. Dean Epstein, I know I grumble from time to time. [LAUGHTER] But I'm not resisting, OK? There you go. That's good. I have some of my students, former students are here, so you can go to sleep like you used to in my class. Right? [LAUGHTER] Yep. Looks fine to me. A different direction-- in doing research for my previous book, When Paris Went Dark, about the occupation of Paris-- I noticed-- I encountered a phenomenon that was so prevalent and so obvious that I ignored it for a while, just thought it as a truism that didn't need much comment. Put simply, in the time of war, we are brought suddenly to consider youth. And my research then showed that youth, though at first spontaneous and disorganized, were among the earliest to resist the fact of the occupation in France. In fact, it's been estimated that between 1939 and 1945 as much as 70% of those in France who actively resisted the Germans-- and actively in the sense that Catherine said-- and their Vichy collaborators were under the age of 30. 70%-- that's an estimation, under the age of 30. Why? Well, there too many reasons. There are a lot of reasons. That's why I am writing the book. And I'm only going to tell you one, so you'll buy the book and learn all the others. [LAUGHTER] The one I want to talk about is the after effects of War I. In France after 1918, the casualties of that murderous war had been brought home in photographs, in newsreels, with the public listing of thousands of names of the wounded, the missing, the dead, often with their ages attached. Shattered bodies roam the streets and byways of a mourning nation, and monuments to the dead were raised in every village of France. All of this prevented survivors from ignoring how much promise, innocence, and yes, virility, had disappeared in the space of a few years. These memories created a major cultural shift in the formal and informal education of youth after 1918-- all over Europe, not specifically in France. Beginning in the 1920s, every sociopolitical regime in Europe-- fascist, conservative, communist, socialist, religious-- showed concern about and attention to the indoctrination, control, and motivation of their youth. It was taken for granted that young people would not go, again, sheeplike to slaughter, or at least not without searing justification. For those under draft age, organizations were set up to keep them occupied during the summer months, indoctrination performed in a massive adoption of summer camping all over Europe, physical activity characterized by dozens of scouting organizations, religious service to the needy, to the multitudes of refugees that were beginning to move across Europe, and to the incorporation of immigrant youth into these groups. All such preoccupations led to the establishment of governmental ministries of youth and to the addition of youth organizations every major adult membership group from the Freemasons to the brownshirts of fascism. The insistence on controlling youthful energy, the establishment of hierarchical organizations, the search for leaders among adolescents, and in fact, the very process of indoctrination not only serve the purposes of governments, but gave youngsters the structures that would make coordinated resistance possible. This phenomenon offers an excellent example of what sociologists call the law of unintended consequences, when carefully planned actions have unexpected results. After the brief battle of France in May-June 1940, with the capture and permanent imprisonment of nearly two million young, mostly young soldiers-- and they stayed for the most part in Germany during the war-- at the end of the war, I think there were a million and a half still in German camps. French youth still not in uniform became even more a target for those trying to establish quickly a new regime. Suddenly, there were choices that adolescents had to make and quickly-- to run away, to hide, to join a clandestine group, to fight, to resist only morally, in place, or to support the authorities. All demanded reasoning that many adolescents were still only partially capable of doing. The keystone of my new book outlines reasons why teenagers, some as young as 13 and 14, began-- even before the Battle of France was over-- what would become a vigorous and sustained resistance to both the German occupier and the Vichy state. The Vichy government and the occupiers were at first lenient toward juvenile miscreants. Those who wrote on the walls or who hooted at Germans whenever they saw a group of Germans in a uniform, they would hoot at them. They ignored him for a while, but that soon changed. Within a year, more and more youngsters were arrested for distributing tracts, interfering with smooth police order, minor sabotage, and more serious mischief. And eventually, they became hostages to be shot when more serious resistance actions killed Germans. There was a rule, at first, for every German killed, it would be 10 hostages shot in France. It went up to 50 at one point, then it fell back down to 10. And they did it. In October 1941, that is just a little more over a year of the occupation, a young boy, Guy Moquet, barely 17, was shot with 26 other young communists. This was the first major case of such a youngster being shot. Later others were, some of the youngest 14 and 15. The wages of youthful resistance had definitely become higher. What makes this subject so fascinating to me, and so complicated, is that I focus on five years, '39 to '45. And five years is a long time in the physical and psychological maturation of youngsters. Someone only 12 in 1939 would be 16 by D-Day. So the coincidence of physical maturation and the progress of the war is a complex one for a narrative history on this subject. I'd just like to bring that to your attention about the complexity. When you talk about adolescence, you have to realize they're still growing. And that no one knew when the war was going to end. We know now. But they didn't know. In my current research, which defines adolescence as roughly between 15 and 25, I write a great deal on the memoirs of participants and the contemporary letters of youngsters who were involved in an activity whose ultimate aims many only barely understood in 1940 and '41. Now let me end by telling you the story of just one of these youngsters. Jacques Lusseyran was a member of upper bourgeois class, Catholic, living in Paris, born in 1924. So that means in 1939 he was 15 years old. At the age of eight, he had a terrible accident. He fell on his glasses, and the arm of the glass pierced his left eyeball. And that always gets a groan. When you say anything about piercing an eyeball, I always get a groan. Two days later his right eye sympathetically stopped working as well. So he was totally blind at eight. His parents refused to educate him with the blind. He was educated with the sighted, one of the first kids to use Braille typewriters in French classrooms. He was an intellectual. He loved Germany and everything about Germany. His father had worked in Germany, and he even visited Germany in 1938. Coming back a little worried about Hitler, but still impressed that German learning and education was continuing to perform as well as it had before the war. And so he was very dismayed at the outbreak of the war in '39, and then when the Germans invaded France in 1940. He felt that the Germans had betrayed their traditions. So he immediately began, remember he's 15 years old. He immediately began to listen to Charles de Gaulle and to the free French who were saying do something. The war is not over. We have a battle to fight. We'll fight it here from London, and you do what you can to fight it from France, something that de Gaulle regretted having said later. Because he never really trusted the resistance, the armed resistance in France. But I'm getting off the subject. In May 1941, he decided to invite some of his friends. They said we have to do something. What can we do? We're only kids. They were all in the same lycee. We're only kids, what can we do? So he said, come over to the house, and let's talk about what we can do. And invite anyone you know, but be very careful. Invite anyone you know who might be interested. Well, 50 or 60 boys showed up at his apartment. His parents, by the way, were very lenient. Other parents would have killed him and locked him up and sent him home to the grandmother, because many parents were petrified about what their adolescents were going to be doing during this occupation. And soon he began to organize a group called the Volontaires de la Liberte, and it was a group of boys, it went as high as four to 500 that he ran through Paris for two years, roughly two years, distributing tracts. Not doing any violence, but distributing tracts, helping allied fliers to be rescued, hiding people that were in danger of being arrested, that sort of thing. And he became the leader. All the boys trusted him. Totally blind-- because of his blindness, he had an extraordinary memory. He knew up to 1,000 phone numbers and never had to write them down. He knew the names of everybody, never had to write anything down. And one of his greatest talents was interviewing people. And no one could join their group without having spent a half hour with the blind guy. That's what they called him, the blind guy. Go see the blind guy. And the blind guy would, and he discusses this extensively in his memoir, would interview people. And because of his blindness, and because of his intuition, because of this use of his other senses, he could evaluate, and it worked, the seriousness, the depths of young people's willingness to participate in a dangerous activity. Because by then, the Germans were arresting young people who were doing this kind of stuff. And in fact, it was just a few months after he started that Guy Moquet was executed. So for two years they ran an extraordinarily efficient campaign of publishing a two page newspaper, which they passed out, the boys would spread out all over the city. And they'd pass out as many as 40,000 copies of that paper, everywhere. They went to churches. They ran through metros giving them. They put them on cafe terraces. They ran into apartment buildings and stuffed them under doors. It was very, very effective. So effective that a larger group of resistors led by older people, that is people in their 30s, or late 20s, they were always talking about the older people that they were working under, coincided with him. And just when he was about to take-- he became more and more of a leader-- he was betrayed. He made one mistake in all of these interviews, and he was betrayed by a French boy who turned in the-- she just held up the time sign, so that immediately intimidated me-- [LAUGHTER] --who turned him in. He spent two years in jail. And they sent him to Buchenwald. What probably saved him at Buchenwald was his knowledge of German and his blindness. They didn't know what to do with him. So they put him in with those who were deathly ill. He survived that, came home, became a college French professor in the United States and was killed in 1972, I think, in an automobile accident. One friend said, was he driving? [LAUGHTER] There are many stories like this one, perhaps not as dramatic, but they reveal a passionate, youthful connection to political liberty and to human solidarity by some of the most courageous adolescents of the 20th century. Thank you. [APPLAUSE] Boy, listening to these two is why we went to Amherst. I remember we had, in our day, we had Bucky Salmon and Henry Steele Commager. I'm Henry Steele Commager. [LAUGHTER] Let me know if you can hear me or not hear me, OK? So I'm going to talk about opposition during World War II in the United States. And that's difference-- I'm not sure I have the same definitions as Catherine. But to me, opposition is like a continuum. It can range from mild disagreement to intense hostility. And I'm going to talk about three influential Americans that I contend that opposed the rescue of the Jews during the Holocaust. And I believe, or I will contend, that they engaged in one form or another of opposition. The first individual, the Harry Hopkins-- and I wrote a book about him-- a spectral figure in the administration of President Franklin Roosevelt. He was a man who came to dinner and never left. For 3 and 1/2 years, he lived, he worked, he even was married upstairs, second floor of the White House in the Lincoln suite. He wasn't married in the Lincoln suite. But he was married on the second floor. And it was just a few doors down from the president's own bedroom. He was the closest friend, adviser, and confidant that Franklin Roosevelt had. In the summer of 1943, Hopkins' knowledge of the Holocaust became well-documented. And that's when he received a letter from a close friend about a Polish underground guy named Jan Karski. Jan Karski disguised himself as a guard, got inside a Nazi death camp called Belzec, escaped. He was brought back to Washington. And he had a meeting with Roosevelt. Hopkins may have set up that meeting. He wasn't there. And they begged Roosevelt to do something about the Holocaust. They had eyewitness testimony and Jewish leaders were in the office at the same time. Roosevelt was noncommittal. He said tell your nation we shall win the war, and that was his response. Hopkins knew all about this. It was talked about throughout Washington. What did he do? He was silent. He had an intimate relationship with Roosevelt. He could have pushed for relaxation of the immigration policies. By that time, they were really trying to get the State Department to change them. But Hopkins was not involved. He could have encouraged rescue efforts. He could have sought to publicize the plight of the Jews. There's no evidence that Hopkins did or said anything after July 1943. So I would submit, and I have a much lower bar at least as far as opposition is concerned, that a person with his background, and I'll get to that background in a minute, and his knowledge of what was going on through his many friends who did know, and his influence with Roosevelt, amounted to a form of passive opposition. A personal note on Jan Karski. I did my research on the Hopkins book at Georgetown University, just down the street from where I live. And I used to go in the campus, and there was a bronze sculpture of a man sitting on a park bench that I used to pass by every day. One time I looked down at the plaque, and it was John Karski. After the war, he came to Georgetown, got a PhD, and taught history there until his death. For the past three years, I've been working on a new treatment of George Marshall. Aside from the president during the war, Marshall was the most powerful and influential US leader during the entire war. His honorary degree from Harvard reads-- "A soldier and statesman whose ability and character brook only one comparison in the history of the nation," an obvious reference to George Washington. Yet Marshall opposed the use of the military to rescue European Jews. And this part of his long story has not been told. Now Marshall was Chief of Staff at the US Army. His single-minded concern throughout the Army was winning the war-- his overriding priority, winning the war as quickly as possible. He opposed any and all attempts to engage the Army and its Air Force-- at that time, the Air Force was part of the Army-- and any operation to rescue Jews. He regarded these operations as just as diversionary. So more than a year after the world, everyone knew about the Holocaust, in January 1944, Roosevelt reluctantly created the War Refugee Board. And its executive order specified that the War Department, along with Treasury and State, had a legal duty to cooperate in rescuing the Jews with all possible speed. Now Assistant Secretary John Jay McCloy, who was Assistant Secretary of the War Department, he was really a civilian boss of Marshall's. More about him later-- he was Amherst Class of 1916, John Jay McCloy. He sent a note to Marshall's office. This was right after the War Refugee Board was set up. And the note said, I'm very chary of getting Army involved in this while the war is going on. Marshall did not push back. He did not acquiesce. He could have said the Army would help consistent with the prosecution of the war, which he was able to do under that executive order. Instead, an internal memorandum was issued within the War Department, which said the most effective way to help the Jews was to ensure the speedy defeat of the Axis, certainly a priority. Policy was used by Marshall's army of eight million, for the rest of the war, to avoid rescue efforts. Even if a bomber squadron or a combat unit was available to conduct a rescue operation, or even if the army had excess funds to use for ransom, which was one way of getting the Jews out of various countries in Eastern Europe, or paying for transportation, they wouldn't do it. Or even if they had excess food or facilities to help with the Jews. So the question is, did anti-Semitism play a role? Henry Morgenthau who was the Treasury Secretary for Roosevelt, a Jew. He thought it did. His target, though, was not Marshall, but it was this barrel-chested John Jay McCloy, a son of Amherst, a former chair of the board of trustees here. At a cabinet meeting in the spring of 1944, Morgenthau labeled McCloy an oppressor of the Jews. He said that at a cabinet meeting. McCloy wasn't there. He found out about it later. And the reason he did that was because McCloy refused to allow an unused Army base up in upstate New York, in Oswego, to house Jewish refugees from Italy. But he heard about this comment. He was deeply offended. He eventually gave up on resisting the use of the camp, and the camp became the one and only haven during the war for Jewish refugees from Europe. McCloy continued to believe, as did Marshall after this incident-- and Henry Stimson, who was head of the War Department-- that the Army should not be used to rescue Jews. Unfortunately for McCloy, he became the public face of opposition, because that was part of his job. They assigned him the task of dealing with the War Refugee Board. So in June of 1944, the head of the War Refugee Board, a guy named John Paley, asked McCloy to consider bombing the rail lines leading into Auschwitz. McCloy said such an operation, his words, would be of doubtful efficacy, could be accomplished only by diversion of considerable air support needed for decisive operations. None of that was true. Bombers based in Italy had been flying over Auschwitz for weeks. And this was the first of many refusals that McCloy, pursuant to his job, declined to permit the bombing of rail lines, and then later, even the bombing of the camps themselves because the Jews were doomed anyway. It would have saved thousands of lives if they had been able to do that. So after the war, when the full horror of the Holocaust became apparent, McCloy was, of course, the subject of criticism. Because even if the rail lines could be quickly repaired, or even if they had been able to bomb the death camps, it was argued that at least some lives would have been saved. In 1983 he was 88 years old, McCloy. And he gave an interview to "The Washington Post." And at that point he either revealed the whole truth or he spread the blame. What he said then was that Harry Hopkins told him back in '44 that the boss, that is Roosevelt, would not approve the bombing of rail lines or the camps around Auschwitz. And then he gave an interview three years later when he was 92 to another person who recorded it. And he said that he actually discussed the matter with the president. And the president took it out of his hands. The president said no. We don't know, you know, whether his memory was accurate at that point, or whether it was Roosevelt who actually made the decision. It could have been. It's clear from my research that all three of these individuals-- Marshall, McCloy, Hopkins-- one way or the other, from the mild disagreement to the more forceful, opposed efforts to rescue the Jews. So again what was the role of anti-Semitism? And we all know anti-Semitism in America reached its peak in the late 1930s and continued throughout the war. And there's no doubt that it was a factor in Washington, Washington writ large, refusal to help out with the plight of the Jews. Plus, mass media was playing it down. So Hopkins, Marshall, McCloy-- all Gentiles-- they grew up in America. They worked in Washington. They could not help but be affected. But the question I wanted to look to in my research was whether any of them had-- whether there's a record of hostility. And I found that Hopkins was the least likely, because he'd married a Jew. He was friends with Jews. He had been a social worker. And then the record with regard to Marshall-- I found two pejorative references in 50 years of his correspondence. None of them suggested hostility. And so again, you're sort of left wondering. And McCloy's biographer basically said he was not an anti-Semite. And then a couple of sentences later, essentially backed off of that. So we're left wondering. In the last analysis, you can't judge, as a writer, what their inner prejudices and thoughts might have been concerning hostility or the extent of anti-Semitism that they had. All you can look at are their actions. Let me just-- a light word at the end that has nothing to do with opposition. But it has to do with McCloy and Marshall. In May of 1947, Marshall, who was then Secretary of State, was considering where to give his Marshall Plan speech, the most famous speech in foreign policy since the Monroe Doctrine. Believe it or not, it was scheduled to be at Amherst. [LAUGHTER] This is documented now, June 15, 1947. It would have put Amherst on the map, like you know, nobody's business. So some things happened though. In Europe, there was a Hungarian-- the Soviets were taking over Hungary. And also Marshall's speech, the planned speech was being leaked to "The New York Times." Reston got hold of it. So he moved it up. He had committed to go to Amherst. He moved it up to June 5th. It was given at Harvard on June 5. And next week, there'll be the 70th anniversary of that speech. You all always go to the safety school, don't you? And I told this story to a guy at Yale the other day, and he said, well, you know, you're just trying to build up Amherst. But it's true. But then, I found out from the archives here, Marshall wanted to keep his commitment at Amherst. He had told-- then it was President Cole-- that he was going to come to accept an honorary degree. So McCloy and Marshall went to Amherst June 15, 1947. It was a Sunday. And this is where it gets kind of weird, but it's true. They got up to Amherst and the commencement was at five o'clock. So they went over to the Dean's house. And the Dean at the time was Scott Porter, and some of us remember him. And the Dean's wife, and Marshall is very specific about this, they decided to have refreshments before the commencement. And Marshall said, I had three scotches. And I was laughing at all the great discussion we were having. Now for him to admit that he had three scotches-- first of all. he didn't drink scotch-- but it's just incredible. Because he was very abstemious and very rigid. But he had three scotches. So they went off to the commencement, and they were sitting in the front row with Cole and McCloy. And McCloy had assured Marshall before he came up there that he wouldn't have to talk. So I was very-- but someone handed him the program. I have that program. Handed him the program, and he was listed as the first speaker. [LAUGHTER] So with three scotches, with a snootful of scotch, he faced 400. At this time, it was veterans who were graduating. So it was 400 veterans. And he gave a speech, and he actually spoke to them from the heart. I have a copy of the transcript of the speech. He didn't say anything about the Marshall Plan. He just talked to them as their wartime leader. And he said I need you now in this time of new challenges, because at this point the Cold War was getting hot. So true story-- Marshall recalled years later that it was one of the best talks he ever gave-- [LAUGHTER] --with those three scotches aboard. Thanks very much. Now questions? [APPLAUSE] Does anybody have any questions? Who's going to call on them? Yeah, go ahead. Well, first, on behalf of everybody here, I want to for letting us know how Harvard got on the map. [LAUGHTER] That's Harvard got on the map. OK, yeah. [? In ?] Epstein's definition of resistance, requires both that there be dire consequences for the action, that means that both the resistor and the oppressor are involved. And Professor Rosbottom has made it clear that there could be, was evolution of the reactions that could be expected from the oppressor. And what I'm curious about is whether that evolution is sometimes the result of top down dictate and sometimes the result of bottom up emulation and evolutions. And that brings me to Montana. I saw that coming. [LAUGHTER] I'm wondering if what is interpreted as bottom up emulation with physical consequences potentially for [INAUDIBLE] whether that kind of evolution in your historical view has created resistance where it wasn't before? Are you asking me? [LAUGHTER] I'm not. I think that's a good question. It's an interesting question. I'm going to-- don't you love it when people say it's interesting. It means-- I say that to my students when I mean, really, I don't understand it, or you obviously haven't done the reading. But that's an interesting question. It's a good question. This idea of emulation is something I hadn't really thought of. And so I'm going to think about that. There was emulation. I'm talking about the youngsters. You have to realize, too, that the country I'm talking about is totally different from the country Catherine's talking about. Because France had visible presence of occupiers who didn't belong there. And so that immediately raised anger, frustration, that kind of stuff. But the idea of younger people trying to emulate-- yes. Many of them emulated what their fathers and uncles and grandfathers had not done. They were really-- many of them were ticked off that France had surrendered in six weeks. That an armistice had been signed that split France right into two. They were really, really ticked off. That's a polite way of putting it. And they would talk to each other about that. And I think older, more visible aspects of resistance-- there is an element of emulation. That's true. If you have that kind of core, you're going to just have more resistors. Germany didn't have that kind of visible core. But don't forget-- it wasn't occupied. Would you agree with that? Yes. Thank you very, very much. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Thank you very much. There you go. [LAUGHTER] The beginning of the knowledge of the Holocaust in the first few months of 1942, some Polish [INAUDIBLE], some Swiss Red Cross people reported it, because obviously not much publicization [INAUDIBLE] governments, not much by the press. The chief spreaders of knowledge of the beginning of it, long before the end of the war, were pamphleteers. And let me mention just two, the first one-- Great Britain. Victor Gollancz, of East European Jewish origin. Say that again? Victor Gollancz, G-O-L-L-A-N-C-Z, Laborite, wrote a pamphlet published March 1942, giving pretty much what was known then of the Holocaust. The first one in Britain. [? Soon ?] much interest, some pressure [INAUDIBLE] First one in America some months later, June 1942. The Voice Of Thy Brother's Blood was written by a daughter of German Jewish immigrants into America. Mercedes Irene Moritz. That was my mother. This gentleman's had his hand up. Where? [INAUDIBLE] German resistance, the way you put it, I think, is exactly right. Because all the other [INAUDIBLE] you describe are irrelevant in what was essentially a corrupt state. I am a specialist in Russia-- well, originally the Soviet Union and its death now, and Russia. That is exactly the kind of thing that went on. That low level, cheating, et cetera. The problem is you could get arrested and shot for that. That's a different story. One of the things that struck me, and this goes back to Paris, was there were a lot of nightclubs in Paris playing jazz. It's a very famous story. And this is where even Nazis didn't pay attention to everything, where Django Reinhardt tried to flee. They said it was getting too dangerous. For those who don't know, Django Reinhardt was a gypsy guitarist, jazz guitarist. And Reinhardt tried to flee. He gets to, I think, the border with Switzerland. And there's a Nazi officer who stops him. But instead of arresting him, he gets his autograph, because he think's he's great. That's not-- I wouldn't even call that resistance. In other words, what Hitler wanted and others around him wanted something else. The other issue is that there was a lot of fighting, infighting and resistance within different portions of the German high command, the various elements of the Gestapo, et cetera. So and in Paris, that I found absolutely fascinating-- and I actually agree with you that they were different, they were fighting a foreign force. And the fact that these kids did it. But also, if you look at the Soviet Union did the same thing with kids in terms of trying to mold them in the post-revolution period, because they understood what was going on. And one other comment on Hopkins and Marshall and McCloy. Two things. One, we actually bombed the [INAUDIBLE], which was creating synthetic oil right next to Auschwitz. We actually bombed it. Auschwitz was five, ten miles away. We could have bombed Auschwitz. When was that? It was, I think in '43, '44. Primo Levi talked about that in his memoir. It was literally bombed, and they did nothing to Auschwitz. So it was completely [INAUDIBLE] on it. And I've long believed that one of the people involved in the States who was pushing for not having any help to any Jews was a guy with the wonderful name of Breckenridge Long. State Department. To think of the [INAUDIBLE] conference. It was all BS. Nothing happened. And one of the other things about McCloy, which we cannot forget, is when he was high commissioner in Germany, right after the war, he freed a lot of Nazis, really disgusting characters who ran slave labor camps, basically, slave camps, to produce German goods, because they [INAUDIBLE]. And out of that came a wonderful book by a guy named Ferencz called Less Than Slaves. He was one of the prosecutors at Nuremberg and was incensed about what was happening to people after the war trial received compensation, as opposed to the [INAUDIBLE] Nazis now living big lives all over Germany. Just one comment on-- there were three lawyers in the Treasury Department who really were the heroes that got Morganthau to press for the war refugee board, because Breckenridge Long stood against this thing. He was the main guy until 1943. But three lawyers basically outed him. They showed that what he was doing was erecting false reasons why they could not open up the borders for refugees. And so they outed him in front of Morganthau. And Breckenridge Long got pushed to the side. And that's when they finally got the war refugee board. But even that. The war refugee board they say saved maybe 200,000 Jewish lives. Given the scale of it, it was good, great thing, but it was not all that significant. We need to stop. [INAUDIBLE] Where was Eleanor? Eleanor Roosevelt? I don't know where Eleanor was. No, she was where Hopkins was. They were both-- actually, Hopkins kind of fell out of favor with her. But she was she was making a lot of noise about things going on in the United States, lynchings and so forth. But we need to close. We do, unfortunately, yes. Thank you, everyone, for coming.



British Union of Fascists' advertisement in Action (1938), opposing Britain's entry into the Second World War.
British Union of Fascists' advertisement in Action (1938), opposing Britain's entry into the Second World War.

In Britain, Oswald Mosley and his British Union of Fascists were opposed to war, believing that another world war against Germany was not in Britain's national interest and that Britons should "fight for Britain alone".[3] Mosley devoted all of the party's efforts to the "Peace Campaign", calling for a referendum on the continuation of the war and advocating a negotiated peace treaty with Germany. The campaign ended after Mosley and many other senior BUF members were interned under Defence Regulation 18B in May 1940. [4]

Numerous US anti-Semites and anti-communists during the 1930s, notably within the Mothers' movement led by Elizabeth Dilling, also opposed World War II on the basis that it would be preferable for Nazism rather than Communism to dominate Europe.[5] These women also wished to keep their own sons out of the combat US involvement in the war would necessitate, and believed the war would destroy Christianity and further spread atheistic Communism across Europe.

Henry Ford also opposed US participation in the war until the attack on Pearl Harbor and refused to manufacture airplanes and other war equipment for the British,[6] whilst Father Charles Coughlin argued that “it would be better to let the Nazis conquer Britain and the Soviet Union”[7] than to enter the war merely for the sake of Europe’s 600,000 Jews.


Pacifist opposition to World War II was limited. During the conflict, a few organisations such as the Peace Pledge Union continued their opposition to all wars. The Bruderhof, a pacifist Christian community, opted to re-locate from England to the jungles of Paraguay, rather than participate in the war effort.[8][9]

Mohandas K. Gandhi's pacifist movement opposed the war[10] even to the point of advocating that the British surrender, and that Jews offer only non-violent resistance to the Nazis.[11] However, Gandhi still backed the use of Indian troops and territory in a pragmatic exchange for guaranteed Indian independence after the war.

The Catholic Worker Movement was also opposed to the war.


Socialists were divided in the 1930s. There was a strong element of pacifism in the socialist movement, for example in Britain's Independent Labour Party. The commitment to pacifism, however, was balanced by militant anti-fascism. During its Popular Front period, the Comintern allied with other anti-fascist parties, including right-wing parties. This policy was terminated by the Comintern when the Soviet Union signed a non-aggression pact with Hitler in August 1939.

The Communist front organizations opposed the war during the period of the Nazi-Soviet pact. Most dutifully followed orders from Moscow. In 1940, Britain's Daily Worker referred to the Allied war effort as "the Anglo-French imperialist war machine."[12] At the same time, Joseph Stalin ordered a series of military attacks on Poland, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Romania. He used communist parties and front groups to oppose the war and military preparations to prepare for the war in other countries so the Allies (Britain and France) were less able to resist aggression and to keep the US out of the war.

In the US, organizations like the American Peace Mobilization and veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade protested in opposition to the war, conscription, and the Lend-Lease Act. They said of Lend-Lease, "Roosevelt needs its dictatorial powers to further his aim of carving out of a warring world, the American Empire so long desired by the Wall Street money lords."[13]

Communist parties around the world reversed course when Germany invaded the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941, and then advocated that material support be extended to the Soviets.

A small number of socialists (but very few Comintern members, who obeyed Moscow) continued to oppose the war. Leon Trotsky had drawn up the Proletarian Military Policy, calling for opposition to the war and support for industrial action during it. Left communists took a similar position, as did many anarchists.[citation needed]


A few nationalist movements in colonial countries would take no part in the conflict, which they saw as one of the colonialists' making. This was perhaps strongest in India, where some nationalists went beyond opposition to the war to form the Indian National Army and fight alongside Japanese forces. Opposition was also seen among the Ceylonese garrison on the Cocos Islands which mutinied, in part due to the influence of the Trotskyist Lanka Sama Samaja Party.

In the United States, over 125 African-Americans were imprisoned for resisting the draft or sedition, including Elijah Muhammad. Many of them were associated with the Pacific Movement of the Eastern World or the Nation of Islam and viewed the Japanese as the champions of the non-white people of the world.[14]


Isolationism was strongest in the United States, where oceans separated it on both sides from the war fronts. Having seen their Wilsonian idealism for forgiveness for the Central Powers in World War I[citation needed] rejected, some Americans hoped to sit out this "Old World" war. The German-American Bund even marched down the avenues of New York City demanding isolationism. The isolationists, led by the America First Committee, were a large, vocal, and powerful challenge to President Roosevelt's efforts to enter the war. Charles Lindbergh was perhaps the most famous isolationist. Isolationism was strongest in the Midwest with its strong German-American population.

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^ Gottlieb, Julie V. and Linehan, Thomas P. (editors); The Culture of Fascism: Visions of the Far Right in Britain (p. 67). I.B. Tauris, 2004, ISBN 978-1-86064-799-4
  4. ^ Thurlow, Richard C.; Fascism in Britain: From Oswald Mosley’s Blackshirts to the National Front (pp. 136-7). I.B. Tauris, 1998, ISBN 978-1-86064-337-8.
  5. ^ Jeansonne , Glen; Women of the Far Right: The Mothers’ Movement and World War II, pp. 10-28 ISBN 9780226395890
  6. ^ Jeansonne; Women of the Far Right, p. 32
  7. ^ Sheldon, Marcus; Father Coughlin: The Tumultuous Life of the Priest of the Little Flower, pp. 169, 186-96, 202 ISBN 0316545961
  8. ^ "A Life of the Land, Cut Short". The American Conservative. Retrieved 2018-02-27.
  9. ^ "Bruderhof - Fellowship for Intentional Community". Fellowship for Intentional Community. Retrieved 2018-02-27.
  10. ^ Mahatma Gandhi, Wikiquote
  11. ^ Grenier, Richard, "The Gandhi Nobody Knows", Commentary, March 1983 Archived March 23, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
  12. ^ "Reds, Labor and the War". TIME. May 13, 1940.
  13. ^ Volunteer for Liberty Archived 2006-12-06 at the Wayback Machine, newsletter of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, February 1941, Volume III, No. 2
  14. ^

External links

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