Refugees and Rescue

Refugees and Rescue

The Diaries and Papers of James G. McDonald, 1935–1945
James G McDonald, edited by Richard Breitman, Barbara McDonald Stewart and Severin Hochberg
Distribution: Global
Publication date: 04/14/2009
Format: Hardback 35 plates
ISBN: 978-0-253-35307-8
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New evidence presented in Refugees and Rescue challenges widely held opinions about Franklin D. Roosevelt's views on the rescue of European Jews before and during the Holocaust. The struggles of presidential confidant James G. McDonald, who resigned as League of Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in 1935, and his allies to transfer many of the otherwise doomed are disclosed here for the first time. Although McDonald's efforts as chairman of FDR's advisory committee on refugees from May 1938 until nearly the end of the war were hampered by the pervasive antisemitic attitudes of those years, fears about security, and changing presidential wartime priorities, tens of thousands did find haven. McDonald's 1935–1936 diary entries and the other primary sources presented here offer new insights into these conflicts and into Roosevelt's inconsistent attitudes toward the "Jewish question" in Europe.

Following the lauded Advocate for the Doomed (IUP, 2007), this is the second of a projected three-volume work that will significantly revise views of the Holocaust, its antecedents, and its aftermath.

Author Bio

Richard Breitman is Professor of History at American University and author of Official Secrets: What the Nazis Planned, What the British and Americans Knew. 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, a historian formerly at the Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, teaches at George Washington University. He lives in Washington, D.C.


“These newly discovered documents . . . show an American president more interested, more horrified and ultimately more involved in these issues in the period leading to the war than previously believed.June 7, 2009”
 — David Shribman, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

“This is the fascinating diary of James McDonald, later to become the first United States emissary to the State of Israel. The volume provides keen and thoughtful insight into the political machinations of 1935-1945, when McDonald served the League of Nations and later American President Roosevelt in various positions regarding the plight of refugees.June 2009”
 — Jewish Tribune

“Refugees and Rescue is a remarkable account that sheds new light on the plight of European Jews during the horrific decade from 1935 to 1945.Autumn 2009”
 — The Hudson River Valley Review

“New evidence presented in this book challenges widely held opinions about Franklin D. Roosevelt's views on the rescue of European Jews before and during the Holocaust. May 6, 2010”
 — Menorah Review

“The papers of James Grover McDonald represent a major resource for the research of one of the greatest humanitarian crises of the twentieth century. . . . The editors of the present volume have . . . considerably illuminated, both for the scholarly community and the public, how Americans and their leaders coped with the Third Reich.Spring 2010”
 — Wolfgang G. Schwanitz, Jewish Political Studies Review

“[The book] . . . sheds considerable light on [James McDonald's] tireless efforts to secure refuge for Jews fleeing Nazi persecution . . .Vol. 40, no. 1”
 — Journal of Palestine Studies

“Compelling new evidence challenges widely held opinions about Franklin D. Roosevelt's views on the rescue of European Jews before and during the Holocaust, disclosing the struggles of leaders to transfer many of the otherwise doomed.”

“[Advocate for the Doomed] is a compelling look at one man's efforts to do something about a looming catastrophe. At times the book is inspiring—McDonald's prescience and energy are simply amazing. But because we know what is soon to happen to Europe's Jews, we share his frustration that no one seems to be listening. We feel what it was to be an advocate for the doomed.”
 — The Wall Street Journal

“More than most politicians, McDonald understood the radical nature of Nazi anti-semitism and sought to move not only the international community on behalf of Germany's Jews, but also the U.S. State Department, where he found indifference, if not worse. . . . This is an invaluable document in understanding the period that witnessed the Nazi 'seizure of power.'”
 — Choice

“The book . . . will undoubtedly reignite the charged debate over whether Roosevelt could have done more to rescue millions of Jews, Gypsies, gay people, dissidents and others who died in Nazi death camps.”
 — Patricia Cohen, New York Times

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Table of Contents

1. From Germany to the Soviet Union: August 1935
2. Nuremberg Laws: September 1935
3. Deterioration on All Fronts: October 1935
4. How to Resign? November 1935
5. Dramatic Protest: December 1935
6. Aftermath: 1936<N>1937
7. Refugee Politics and Diplomacy: 1938
8. Toward War and Catastrophe: 1939
9. Refugees as Spies: 1940
10. Close Relatives as Hostages: 1941
11. Refuge in Latin America
12. The War and the Holocaust: 1942<N>1945
Conclusion by Richard Breitman