This week at In The Past Lane, the history podcast, I speak with historian Rebecca Erbelding about her book, Rescue Board: The Untold Story of America’s Efforts to Save the Jews of Europe. It’s a fascinating book about a forgotten World War II story about the War Refugee Board, a US agency created in 1944 to help save European Jews from the Nazi genocide. Historians and other scholars have long argued that the US could have done more to disrupt the Nazi efforts to exterminate the Jews of Europe. Erbelding acknowledges the validity of this claim, but says that it’s not the same as saying the US did nothing. She chronicles the work of the War Refugee Board and how it managed, often through creative and off the books ways, to save tens of thousands of Jews in the last 20 months of World War II.
In the course of our discussion, Rebecca Erbelding explains:
Why US government officials initially resisted demands that it do something to save European Jews from the Nazi genocide.
How the War Refugee Board was created by the US government in 1944 to save Jews from the Holocaust.
Why President Franklin D. Roosevelt authorized the creation of the War Refugee Board to save as many European Jews as possible during World War II.
How the US government used threats of post-war prosecution via propaganda to dissuade Europeans from carrying out atrocities against Jews.
How the War Refugee Board used deception to get food and medicine into Nazi concentration camps during World War II.
How the Nazis, aware that Americans wanted to save Jews from the concentration camps, offered to release some in exchange for money, food, and war equipment.
How the Goodyear Tire Company secretly helped the W.R.B. save thousands of lives during World War II.
Rebecca Erbelding, Rescue Board: The Untold Story of America’s Efforts to Save the Jews of Europe
Deborah E. Lipstadt, Beyond Belief: The American Press And The Coming Of The Holocaust, 1933- 1945
Haskel Lookstein, Were We Our Brothers’ Keepers?: The Public Response of American Jews to the Holocaust, 1938-1944
Barry Trachtenberg, The United States and the Nazi Holocaust: Race, Refuge, and Remembrance
More info about Rebecca Erbelding
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Related ITPL podcast episodes:
084 James Q. Wilson on his book, Hitler’s American Model: The US and the Making of Nazi Race Law
Music for This Episode
Jay Graham, ITPL Intro (JayGMusic.com)
Kevin McCleod, “Impact Moderato” (Free Music Archive)
Andy Cohen, “Trophy Endorphins” (Free Music Archive)
Andy Cohen, “Bathed in Finest Dust” (Free Music Archive)
Jon Luc Hefferman, “Winter Trek” (Free Music Archive)
The Bell, “I Am History” (Free Music Archive)
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