David Nasaw's latest book is The Patriarch: The Remarkable Life and Turbulent Times of Joseph P. Kennedy.
From the transcript of the author's Q & A with Dave Davies on Fresh Air:
DAVIES: Now, of course, the other thing that was happening in the late '30s here in addition to Hitler's aggression and territorial demands was the increasingly well-known persecution of Jews in Germany and other areas occupied by the Reich. And Joe Kennedy [U.S. ambassador to Great Britain] doesn't come out too well on this, as history has written, either. I mean what were his views about the role and influence of Jews in the United States in these events and their persecution in Europe?Listen to the inteview.
NASAW: Well, there are two parts to this story and they contradict one another. In part one or the first aspect of Kennedy's relationship to the Holocaust and to the Jews of Europe in the United States is that he wants to get the Jews out of Germany. After Hitler moves into Austria and then soon after at Kristallnacht, it becomes abundantly clear not that the Jews are going to end up killed in concentration camps, nobody knows that, but they're being reduced to the most inhumane and brutal of conditions. And Kennedy believes that he's got to get the Jews out because as long as the Jews are being persecuted no Western power is going to feel that they can negotiate with Hitler. Right? So once you remove the Jews, then it'll be easier to reach a modus vivendi with Hitler.
DAVIES: So it was as much a pragmatic as a humanitarian approach?
NASAW: Exactly. But you can't discount the humanitarian. Kennedy knows what's going on over there and no one except the most vicious and brutal anti-Semites - and he's not one of those - wants to see human beings, who happened to be Jewish , suffer the way the Jews of Germany and Austria and then Czechoslovakia and Poland were suffering. So again, Kennedy is a realist. That's part one of this story. Part two is very different and very disturbing.
Kennedy believes that there is a Jewish conspiracy to go to war with Hitler. He believes that the Jews - to get revenge against Hitler and in the mistaken belief that they can defeat him and save their European Jewry - he believes the Jews are doing everything they possibly can to push the United States into war, into a war it should not, he believes, fight. And he indulges in every kind of anti-Semitic scapegoating and conspiracy myth. He writes and he tells his friends that the Jews control the media and the media is making it impossible to make a deal with Hitler because they're demonizing Hitler. He knows well that the Jews don't control the American media. William Randolph Hearst and Colonel McCormick are his friends, the two most important newspaper men in the country. And he believes and he says over and over again that the Jews have...[read on]
See Nasaw's five best books about the Kennedys.
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