April 11: ‘St. Louis’ truth

The question as to who gave the order to turn the St. Louis back to Europe is answered in the Roosevelt Library Archive in Hyde Park, New York.

Letters 370 (photo credit: REUTERS/Handout )
Letters 370
(photo credit: REUTERS/Handout )
‘St. Louis’ truth
Sir, – Your article “Holocaust survivors who were aboard ‘St.
Louis’ fight against ‘revisionist history’” (April 9) reports the claim by authors Richard Breitman and Allan Lichtman that the Roosevelt administration did not send the Coast Guard to prevent the refugee ship St.
Louis from approaching America’s shores. Yet a front page article in the June 5, 1939, Washington Post was sub-headlined: “Coast Guard Trails Tragic Liner as it Wanders Aimlessly in Florida Waters.”
Other news coverage reported the same. How do Breitman and Lichtman explain away an inconvenient fact? Moreover, a few years ago the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, with which Breitman is affiliated, issued a book-length report on the voyage of the St. Louis titled “Refuge Denied.” The report states that as the ship approached the Florida coast, its passengers were “close enough to see hotels and automobiles along the beach.... But the view also included a US Coast Guard boat patrolling American waters. And military planes shadowed the ship.”
So whom do we trust – the Holocaust museum and the St.
Louis passengers quoted in your article, who themselves saw the Coast Guard cutter, or the revisionist authors, who seem to have some kind of agenda?
NATHAN MOSKOWITZ Rockville, Maryland
Sir, – The question as to who gave the order to turn the St. Louis back to Europe is answered in the Roosevelt Library Archive in Hyde Park, New York. It was Breckinridge Long, a close political ally of US President Franklin D. Roosevelt who held the portfolio for immigration.
The “secretary of the treasury” mentioned in the article was Henry Morgenthau, Jr. Morgenthau, a Jew, contacted both the coast guard captain and Long, and when he complained to the latter concerning the decision to turn back the ship, Long shot back: “Exactly whose side are you on – the Jews or the United States of America?” It must be remembered that Congress had just passed the Neutrality Act, which did not allow the sale of weapons even to Great Britain, although war with Nazi Germany was already on the horizon. Morgenthau backed off, and down.
LILY POLLIACK Jerusalem More than 6 million
Sir, – Sadly, the figure of six million cited in “Difficult mission” (Letters, April 8) is not the complete number of Jews who perished in the Holocaust.
There were many anti-fascists who fought and lost their lives or ended up in concentration camps without – quite understandably – ever divulging that they were Jewish.
Some 12,000 Spaniards died in Mauthausen alone. These were mainly anti-Franco fighters who either escaped from prison or were expelled into France at the end of the Spanish Civil War and were caught there as the Germans came in.
Frequently, what had spurred them to take up arms on the republican side was their Jewish forbears and the awareness of the Axis threat.
From our work conducted over nearly 40 years, we have genealogical evidence and personal testimonies from families, especially in the Balearic Islands. Many are known to us as “secret Jews,” and their story is repeated in regard to other concentration camps, as well as to many Italian anti-Nazi fighters.
At the moment we are able to work only intermittently at Yad Vashem, which holds interview transcripts and other documents without fully realizing their importance. But as much as we can, and with the aid of a German-speaking volunteer, we are gathering information gained from the interrogations of these concentration camp inmates. (We also hope to have the means to start an Italian section in the near future.) Eventually, we hope to hand over to Yad Vashem a list that would add to its database of Jews who died during the Holocaust – although under such conditions for obtaining evidence, we, too, shall almost certainly never obtain the entire number.
GLORIA MOUND Netanya The writer is executive director of Casa Shalom-Institute for Marrano (Anusim) Studies
Meet the winners
Sir, – With regard to “Hebrew University students launch project aimed at helping former haredim acclimate to secular life in college” (April 4), not only is the politically driven initiative saturated with condescension, it is grossly inaccurate.
A Hebrew University study in 1997 by Prof. Iris Levine found that in all areas of analytical reading and critical thinking, haredi students were much more adept at, and better trained for, problem solving.
In geometry they were immediately superior. This included comparative tests of other mathematical skills in which haredi students, after quickly picking up certain data, outdistanced their secular counterparts.
In various forms this testing and research has been revisited, and haredim continue to do better in any area that requires in-depth reading and logical thinking.
Professors who monitored these studies indicated that secular schooling and testing orient students toward the memorization of data and other techniques, whereas haredi methodology fosters thinking (both inside and outside the box) and problem solving.
Your reporter and his interviewees are invited to come down to Ohr Somayach and meet degree-holding graduates of Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard, Yale and Stanford who, though they might disagree on many things, agree that the academic challenge in studying Talmud is far more than anything else they have experienced.
If, as avowed, the Hebrew University project “was initiated to bring hearts closer and to diminish gaps,” the group’s goal should be to meet our winners, not our losers.
The writer is a rabbi and dean of Yeshivat Ohr SomayachLife partnerships
Sir, – The US Supreme Court is considering the constitutionality of California Proposition 8, and with it possibly the entire question of whether states can legalize same-sex marriages. In Israel as well as Europe, gays are petitioning for equal rights.
Let’s call a spade a spade, the wedding of a man and woman a marriage, and a life-partnership between same-sex partners exactly what it is.
No one wants to deny rights to a gay person. But what are those rights? How is a life partnership consummated? How is it cancelled? What are to be the rights of inheritance and adoption? How should the National Insurance Institute relate to it? How should pension plans and insurance companies? There are dozens of issues.
What we need is a legislature to create a legal code governing life partnerships from A to Z. It is not enough to say a gay couple should be recognized just like a married couple.
Saying it is unnatural for two adults of the same sex to “marry” is an over-simplification.
Marriage contemplates so much more than just two adults living together, just as life partnering involves so much more than two adults of the same sex living together.
It is time for legislatures to recognize the complexity of the issue and codify laws to establish the rights and obligations of life partners, just as laws govern married couples, members of business partnerships, the owners of companies and people with insurance plans.
A life partnership is not a marriage. The Knesset should make this clear by expressly legislating this simple fact and by being the first to codify a body of laws governing the rights and obligations of life partners in all walks of life.