LBJ, a 'Righteous Gentile?'

September 9, 2008 20:46
2 minute read.

Yad Vashem has strict criteria for the entry of candidates into its pantheon of "Righteous Gentiles,"and Johnson apparently doesn't meet that standard. "The Righteous, as defined by the [Knesset's] Yad Vashem Law, are non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust," Irena Steinfeldt, director of Yad Vashem's Righteous Among the Nations Department, explained to this writer. "In some cases," Steinfeldt continued, "it is claimed that Johnson helped Jewish refugees from Europe get into the US after they had already left Europe. This of course would have been significant for those refugees, but is not something that falls within the framework of our program.." Indeed, there is no evidence that Johnson risked his life to save Jews, and most of his efforts appeared to have been directed at getting Jews into the US once they had managed to leave Europe. Historian Louis Gomolak suggested that Johnson broke the law to gets Jews into the US. In Prologue: LBJ's Foreign Affairs Background, 1908-1948, he states, "...[D]espite an all-out effort to stop Jewish immigration by Roosevelt's new anti-Semitic assistant secretary of state, Breckinridge Long, Congressman Lyndon B. Johnson secretly began smuggling European Jews into Texas, say dozens of members of the Austin Jewish Community. False passports and one-way visas were obtainable - for a price - first in Cuba, and when that source dried up then in Mexico." Historian Robert Dallek (Lone Star Rising, Lyndon Johnson and His Times 1908-1960) repeated the claim that LBJ broke the law. "Early in 1940", Dallek wrote, "...Lyndon and the others helped Jews get false passports and one-way visas in Latin America and then brought them to National Youth Administration training camps in Texas. Because it was illegal to house and train noncitizens at the camps, Operation Texas, as the rescue effort was called, was kept a strict secret for over 20 years." Incidentally, the Texas NYA vocational camps, part of Roosevelt's New Deal program, were run by LBJ between 1935-1937, before he ran for Congress. Historian James Smallwood admitted to me, "It is correct that Johnson did not risk his life, but he committed illegal acts to save the Jews. It can be proved that LBJ saved some 42 from the Nazis. Indirect evidence says he probably saved about 400. From my research, I agree with the larger number. However, there are problems, since much of what went on was illegal and Johnson knew better than to leave a paper trail." Most politicians cover up their illegal deeds lest they get caught and receive public condemnation. Ironically, LBJ's discretion may actually prevent the public commendation and history's approbation that he deserves.

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