An Enquiry into the Character of the Man Who Denied Visas to the Jews
By Neil Rolde
During the Holocaust, while the Nazis were exterminating thousands of Jews daily, the U.S. State Department official in charge of matters concerning all European refugees was Breckinridge Long. He was known as an extreme nativist, who was suspicious of Eastern Europeans. He feared more immigrants would spoil existing cultural values and bring with them communist ideals.
“He’s an example of the banality of evil,” said Rolde. “I wanted to highlight his own accounts of his life written in all his diaries, and the times in which he lived, to give people a comprehensive look into his character,” said Neil Rolde author of the first full-length biography of Long titled: Breckinridge Long: An American Eichmann??? An Enquiry into the Character of the Man Who Denied Visas to the Jews.
The exposé answers the central question: why didn’t the United States of America help save the lives of more Holocaust refugees during WWII? Many historians point fingers at Long, as he committed atrocities by finding avenues to continually limit refugee quota numbers but he didn’t do it alone.
Rolde describes an atmosphere in America generated by a portion of society that supported Long’s nativist views. Important people like Henry Ford and Charles Lindbergh were openly sympathetic to the Nazi cause and let the press know their allegiances before America joined the war. The Klu Klux Klan was in full force I the south. In Washington, D.C., there was even a plot to over-through Roosevelt with an attempted coup.
Frances Perkins, Secretary of Labor from 1933-1945, pushed to reform immigration quota policies made more restrictive during the Great Depression and Long approved of attempts to push Perkins out of the cabinet.
“She remained one of the voices in the FDR administration that encouraged Jewish immigration and continued to do all that she could to help. This book reveals the behind-the-scenes machinations of a political operative who may well be responsible, albeit indirectly, for the death of many Jews in Nazi Germany,” wrote Tomlin Perkins Coggeshall, the grandson of Perkins.
Long’s department cut refugee immigration again and again reducing admissions to about a quarter of the quotas. As a result to Long’s policies 90 percent of the quota places available to immigrants from countries under German and Italian control were never filled. In addition, Long obstructed rescue efforts in the House of Representatives.
“When President Roosevelt learned about what Long had been doing he had his power over visas and refugees taken away from him,” said Rolde. “Long was very ambitious and thought he was headed for the big time to become Secretary of State. That didn’t happen.”
In January 1944 Roosevelt established the War Refugee Board, which relieved the State Department of responsibility for rescue efforts. The Board may have been responsible for saving as many as 200,000 lives.
Rolde is more than fair to Long in his analyses.
“Neil Rolde has fleshed out a multidimensional portrait of this gifted, influential and flawed public figure, traced his extraordinary career, and explored a range of theories as to Long’s motivations. In so doing, Rolde has provided a wealth of information not only about Long but also about this critical and troubled chapter in modern American political and diplomatic history,” wrote David M. Gordis, PhD, President Emeritus, Hebrew College about the book.
About the Author:
In addition to his many publications, Neil Rolde is a long-time public servant, philanthropist, Renaissance man, and gentleman. The renowned Maine historian grew up in Brookline, Massachusetts. He earned a BA at Yale and a Master’s in Journalism at Columbia University. He worked as a film scriptwriter before moving to Maine with his wife of fifty-three years, Carlotta Florsheim, to raise their family. In York they brought up four children and now enjoy family visits with their eight grandchildren.
The author has won book awards from the Maine Historical Society, the Maine Humanities Council, and the Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance. Most of Neil Rolde’s books involve the history of his beloved Maine and its people. With a wealth of historical knowledge about politics, the author has recently turned his skill and wit to blogging current political incidents in a historical context.
Rolde’s public service includes six years as assistant to Maine s Governor Kenneth M. Curtis and sixteen years as representative in the Maine State Legislature. He was the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate in 1990. The author has served on many state boards and commissions, including the Maine Health Care Reform Commission, the Maine Historic Preservation Commission, the Maine Humanities Council, and the Maine Arts Commission.
For more about Rolde’s books please go here.
Breckinridge Long: American Eichmann??? by Neil Rolde
Quality Paperback, ISBN-13: 978-1882190133
Published by Polar Bear & Company
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