US Envoy James McDonald meets with prime minister David Ben-Gurion in 1949.
(photo credit: COURTESY MCDONALD FAMILY)
As we unfortunately know, the Western world was slow to react when Hitler came to power in January 1933.
But there were a few exceptions to the general apathy toward the dangers of the rise of the Nazi Party. One of the beacons that shone out as the dark clouds of the Holocaust gathered was James McDonald, whose heroic exploits are the subject of a documentary made by Israeli-born Chicagoan filmmaker Shuli Eshel, A Voice among the Silent: The Legacy of James G. McDonald. The film will be screened today at 6:30 p.m., at The American Center in Jerusalem. Entry is free.
In the early 1930s, McDonald served as chairman of the Foreign Policy Association, which sought to promote world peace and helped to initiate the League of Nations, the forerunner of the United Nations. In this capacity, German-speaking McDonald visited Germany two months after Adolf Hitler became chancellor and was horrified by the Nazi leader’s threats to rid Germany of its Jewish population.
After returning to the States, McDonald reported his troubling findings to President Roosevelt and also to the future Pope Pius XII, but his warning generally fell on deaf ears. However, after becoming League of Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, McDonald worked tirelessly to find a safe haven for Europe’s Jews and succeeded in saving the lives of over 100,000 people.
After the creation of the state of Israel, President Truman appointed McDonald the first US ambassador here. McDonald’s role was pivotal in aiding the new state and shaping close American-Israeli relations.
The screening will be followed by a discussion with Eshel, and Professor Emeritus of Hebrew University’s Department of American Studies, Shlomo Slonim.