FDR died on April 12, 1945. I was 11 years old and heard the news on the radio in the bird store, where I was buying seed for my little canary.
I ran home to tell Grandma. She broke into tears. "What will happen to the Jews?" she said.
They were dead, the Six Million, but the war in Europe wasn't over and we didn't know. When the truth came out a few months later, the story was that "nobody knew."
It took about 20 years before we began to know that Roosevelt knew everything from day one about Hitler's extermination of the Jews of Europe -- and did nothing to stop it.
Now the documentation is at hand: not only did FDR know, he was a co-conspirator in the murder of the Jews. I believe it's the duty of both Jews and gentiles to bring Roosevelt's role in the Holocaust to the fore, to the knowledge of the world.
The Jews of America, during those horrific years of the extermination, turned their faces away from truth and delivered their votes and their love to FDR.
The Jewish establishment, led by Rabbi Stephen S. Wise, was in thrall to Roosevelt, who continually warned them that if they made a fuss over the murders of their people, they would encourage anti-Semitism in America.
They thus picked up FDR's mantra -- the only way to save the Jews was to win the war.
We won the war, and the Jews were dead. But this lie remains the line of the Roosevelt apologists, led by Arthur Schlesinger, FDR's chief historian. Schlesinger and his acolytes dismiss the idea that Roosevelt could have saved Jews; they say that nothing could have been done.
The first answer is this: If you never tried, how do you know? Of course, it's worse than that. Not only did FDR refuse to try, he blocked every effort to rescue Europe's Jewry.
Roosevelt, in 1939, turned back the St. Louis from our shores, sending the Jews aboard the ship back to almost certain death in Germany. This cold-blooded rejection, on the eve of World War II, set the pattern for FDR's policy that eventually locked the Six Million into Hitler's ovens.
Once the Germans saw that America didn't give a damn, they understood that the Jews were the world's garbage.
Roosevelt knew in 1941 of the Final Solution. He kept this to himself. When Rabbi Wise was informed by the Jewish underground, Roosevelt told him to keep quiet.
In November 1942, the State Department "unleashed" Wise, allowing him to say that 2 million Jews had been killed in Europe. This story appeared in a few paragraphs in The New York Times on page 10, surrounded by ads for Thanksgiving turkeys.
Imagine if FDR had delivered this news in a press conference or in one of his famous fireside chats? The world press would have made it page one. Hitler would have known we were serious.
But the message then -- and throughout the war -- was that the Jews of Europe were expendable. Save them and where will they go? Better to let them die than let them come to America or, God forbid, Palestine, where Arab oil meant more than those unwanted Jews.
Ben Hecht, the great Hollywood screenwriter, refused to buy this decision. He led a group called the Emergency Committee to Save the Jews of Europe. He ran ads in the newspapers; he called Roosevelt "the humanitarian who snubbed a massacre."
In 1944, Hecht and his committee got FDR to create the War Refugee Board. It saved 250,000 Jews. Roosevelt was running for a fourth term then. If he had done this earlier, millions of Jews could have lived.
On the anniversary of FDR's death, I think of those dead Jews and of my bubbe, who cried the day I told her that he was gone.