The Propagander ™ FAQ

Was America Complicit in the Holocaust?

To meaningfully address this issue, one must first acknowledge the regrettable reality that anti-Semitism was not then, and is not now, unlawful to propagate in the United States. Henry Ford was protected by the First Amendment right of Free Speech, and no US prosecutor would have dared to interfere with his ability to publish the most spurious racialist tracts. Ford, legally, was completely within the law. It is also relevant to observe that only a law restricting the propagation of racialist views could have made Ford guilty of any crime, but such a law would be unconstitutional. Unrestricted Free Speech is so entrenched in American tradition and law that it is impossible to eradicate it without rewriting the US Constitution. As a consequence, only partial and unsatisfactory solutions to mitigate actual violations of Civil Rights after the fact are possible under US law.

It is apparent that Free Speech in America will not be restricted in any way. Americans, as a group, despise the European model of sensible curbs on the propagation of dangerous views, and would consider any attempt to do so as the setting up of Orwellian Thought Police to enforce the tyranny of Political Correctness. Such popular Libertarian opinion ensures that no law against anti-Semitism is possible here (to be perfectly clear, I would personally support such a law).

To the American mind, to go beyond Constitutional guarantees of Free Speech in pursuit of a more perfect Justice would be to engage in the same sort of righteous expedience for which Nazi Germany was guilty. In short, it will not happen, as much as those of us who would like to see it would wish. It is an unfortunate reality that the citizens of the American Republic lack the intellectual foundation to handle the subtleties necessary to distinguish reasonable restrictions from tyrannical edicts. And the danger is always present, one must acknowledge, of the ability to restrict Free Speech becoming the means to establish violations of individual rights, to the detriment of Society as a whole.

It is a difficult--if not intractable--problem, and those who postulate that either view of the issue is self-evident and not a subject for debate (such as politicians and other pandering, low-level bottom-feeders) are either so unintelligent as to be oblivious to reality, or such expert rhetorical obfuscators that one must be in awe of their prowess.

Having said that, the most often heard accusation concerning American complicity in the Holocaust is that a large group of American industrialists and financiers--Ford, Harriman, Bush, etc.--made massive investments in German industry. In this manner, they supported Hitler's anti-Semitic regime, and are thus complicit in the Holocaust that followed.

It is far from clear that this is a reasonable supposition. For one thing, it is a stretch to imagine that any of the fellows who did business with Nazi Germany before the war could have been prescient enough to anticipate the Holocaust, After all, they were mere businessmen; not the brightest among us in any era. It is too much to expect that investors should be liable for the crimes committed by those entities in which they have invested, contingent upon them having no knowledge that such crimes are contemplated. Were one made to restrict ones investments only to countries and companies lacking any potential to do wrong, no investments would ever be made anywhere. It is an unrealistic proposition.

The fact that many industrial and commercial firms did business with the anti-Semitic regime in Germany is indicative of three realities: 1) Many people, businessmen or otherwise, were not conscious of the dangers of anti-Semitism, and 2) many that were were unwilling to abandon the opportunity for profit to make a moral stand. Many of them rationalized the decision to do business with the Nazis by telling themselves that if they didn't take advantage of the business opportunities available, their competitors would. And 3) there were more than a few, such as Henry Ford, who considered the anti-Semitism of the Nazis a plus and had no qualms whatsoever about contributing to the success of such a regime. However, this third reality was not the primary motivation for business investment in Germany; the profit motive was.

This is why Foreign Policy is not delegated to private businessmen, but to political leaders chosen for this very endeavor. Foreign policy is the purview of politicians alone. If the US State Department approves of trade relations with a foreign country, those businessmen who are active in such trade are not technically to blame for subsequent excesses by the approved regimes. They are engaging in lawful commerce approved by the nations by which they are incorporated, and one cannot expect a businessman to do more than his job, which is the pursuit of profit exclusively.

In other words, if there was established to be a direct cause-and-effect relationship between pre-war commerce with Nazi Germany and the Holocaust (and such a case has not, and cannot, be made), the guilty party would not be the businessmen, but the administration in power and its Cabinet Officers.

In this regard, one cannot in any way fault the Roosevelt Administration for pre-war commerce with Germany. Few government on earth were more anti-Nazi than FDR's, and the restrictions his State Department imposed on trade with Germany at the presidents direction--restricting sales of helium and other strategic materials throughout the 1930's--led the way in such matters. Had FDR had his way--and with all those obstructionist pro-German Republicans in Congress limiting his authority at every opportunity, he certainly did not--no trade between the US and Nazi Germany would ever have been approved.

Of course, FDR's opposition to Hitler had nothing to do with anti-Semitism--FDR was hardly pro-Jewish in any meaningful way--but was purely policy built upon his own conceptions of Power Politics. Regardless, the fact is that until Churchill took power, FDR was the strongest anti-Nazi force in the world, and Hitler himself recognized this reality.

Unfortunately businessmen are often internationalists and, as a group, notoriously non-patriotic. They were in no way inclined to follow FDR's lead and deny themselves lucrative profits in German trade. In fact, a portion of the money they made in such pursuits found their way to FDR's Republican opponents, strengthening their hands and adding further difficulty to the issue in a geometric progression.

Yes, FDR's refusal to take in Jewish refugees from Nazism was shameful, but this in itself does not alter the fact that the Roosevelt Administration was virulently anti-Nazi, and as such is in no way directly culpable for the Holocaust. While FDR could have done much more to relieve the suffering of the Jews both before and during the Holocaust--and not doing so was one of his biggest moral failures--the cold political fact is that the conflict between the Nazis and the Jews was a political plus for FDR's anti-Hitler efforts. The plight of the Jewish refugees was utilized in the propaganda war against the Nazis, and can be considered to be a cynical component of FDR's overall strategy. This is nothing to be proud of, but there it is. Roosevelt's policies were a mixed bag of cold-blooded political calculation designed to realize the admirable ends to which said cynical means were directed.

Conclusion: While the sometimes-cruel and cynical policies of FDR were not in any direct way pro-Jewish, the broad goals of his policies were very much so. In the event, it was FDR's far-reaching anti-Hitler program that led the way in defeating Hitler, and as such was a net positive for Jews as a whole. The Revisionist Conspiracy Theory that FDR was somehow helping the Nazis by allowing American firms to deal with Hitler's Germany in the 1930's is in no way factual, and is in fact based on nothing more than the narrow selection of misleading facts extrapolated into an unworkable theory that appeals only to the conspiracy theorists. It is an attractive explanation because it is simple and confirms the prejudices of the hopelessly cynical. It is the pat answer of choice for low-information observers, not a rational way to view the complicated situation in question.
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