Advocate for the Doomed

Advocate for the Doomed

The Diaries and Papers of James G. McDonald, 1932-1935
James McDonald, Richard Breitman, Barbara Stewart and Severin Hochberg
Distribution: World
Publication date: 04/25/2007
Format: Hardback 29 b&w photos
ISBN: 978-0-253-34862-3
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The private diary of James G. McDonald (1886–1964) offers a unique and hitherto unknown source on the early history of the Nazi regime and the Roosevelt administration’s reactions to Nazi persecution of German Jews. Considered for the post of U.S. ambassador to Germany at the start of FDR’s presidency, McDonald traveled to Germany in 1932 and met with Hitler soon after the Nazis came to power. Fearing Nazi intentions to remove or destroy Jews in Germany, in 1933 he became League of Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and sought aid from the international community to resettle outside the Reich Jews and others persecuted there. In late 1935 he resigned in protest at the lack of support for his work.

This is the eagerly awaited first of a projected three-volume work that will significantly revise the ways that scholars and the world view the antecedents of the Holocaust, the Shoah itself, and its aftermath.

Author Bio

Richard Breitman is Professor of History at American University. His books include The Architect of Genocide: Himmler and the Final Solution and (with Alan Kraut) American Refugee Policy and European Jewry, 1933–1945(IUP, 1988). He is editor of the journal Holocaust and Genocide Studies. He lives in Bethesda, Maryland.

Barbara McDonald Stewart has taught at George Mason University and is author of United States Government Policy on Refugees from Nazism, 1933–1940. She lives in Vienna, Virginia.

Severin Hochberg is a historian at the Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. He lives in Washington, D.C.


“McDonald's diaries shed important new light on efforts to assist Jews fleeing Germany in the years 1933—1935 from the perspective of an individual deeply involved in those efforts—and one who did not revise whatever he wrote at the time. . . . The volume, with its extensive new information, will appeal to a substantial audience, not only in the academic world but among a wider readership likely to extend well beyond U.S. borders.”
 — Gerhard L. Weinberg, William Rand Kenan Jr., Professor of History Emeritus, University of North Carolina

“It was not only for the sake of Jews but for the larger cause of freedom, justice, and equal treatment for all human beings everywhere, whatever their race, religion or nationality, that I—a blond ‘Aryan,’ offspring of Scotch Canadian and Midwest American stock, a teacher and student by profession and inclination—became a champion for Jewish aspirations and equal human rights.”
 — James G. McDonald, 1951

“Very few individuals interact with such a stunning array of historical figures—Hitler, Mussolini, FDR, Cardinal Pacelli (the future Pius XII), and Chaim Weizmann. McDonald was ‘present at the creation’ of so many of the formative events that shape our world. Yet McDonald’s diaries are much more than historic; they are filled with candor and eloquence as well as insight and emotion. —Sara J. Bloomfield, Director, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum  Publication of James McDonald’s diaries is a much—anticipated event. The diaries enhance our understanding of the life and work of one of the last century’s most dedicated and interesting public servants. They show what one man—altruistic, high—minded, and intent on doing what is right—can achieve.”
 — Daniel C. Kurtzer, former U.S. Ambassador to Israel and Egypt

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Table of Contents

Introduction: Young Man from Indiana by Barbara McDonald Stewart
1. Foreshadowing: Summer-Fall 1932
2. The Nazi Revolution: Winter 1932-Spring 1933
3. American Reactions: Late April-May 1933
4. Alerting Others: June-August 1933
5. Lobbying for League Action: September 1933
6. High Commissioner: October 1933
7. A Bridge from Lausanne to Berlin: November 1933
8. Proposal for a Corporation: December 1933
9. Washington's Views: January 1934
10. Testing Germany/Family Crisis: February 1934
11. Raising Funds: March 1934
12. The "Jewish Question" in Europe: April 1934
13. Emigration Options?: May 1934
14. Turn for the Worse: June 1934
15. Visit to the Saar: July 1934
16. The League Keeps its Distance: August 1934
17. The Climate in Geneva: September 1934
18. Criticism is Easy: October 1934
19. Grand Tour: November 1934
20. Home Leave: December 1934
21. The Catholic Connection: January 1935
22. A Diplomatic Maneuver: February 1935
23. Brazil: March 1935
24. South American Survey: April 1935
25. Regret and Relief: May 1935
26. Downsizing: June 1935
27. Liquidation Plans: July 1935
Conclusion by Richard Breitman