Historian: Roosevelt aided European Jews

May 1, 2009 at 12:49 PM

WASHINGTON, May 1 (UPI) -- U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt secretly tried to help European Jews find safe places to live during the 1930s, a historian says.

Richard Breitman said newly discovered documents indicate that while Roosevelt has been historically tabbed as indifferent to the plight of European Jews, the president actually was working behind the scenes to aid the persecuted community, USA Today said Friday.

The information regarding the 32nd president was revealed in the new book "Refugees and Rescue: The Diaries and Papers of James G. McDonald."

The information in the book, which was co-edited by Breitman and released Friday, is based on documents from New York's Center for Jewish History.

Breitman writes in the book that Roosevelt helped German immigrants, mainly Jews, surpass immigration quotas during the 1930s, while coordinating an international conference to help aid European Jews.

Wyman Institute Director Rafael Medoff told USA Today he disputes the contention that Roosevelt took "concrete steps" to aid European Jews.

"Instead, sadly, the president who claimed to be a humanitarian and champion of the little man refrained from taking such lifesaving steps," said Medoff, whose center monitors U.S. responses to the Holocaust.

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