|Back to Index|
Men Behind Roosevelt and Churchill
To avoid misunderstanding, let me say that I am a strong supporter of NATO, within which the Anglo-American understanding plays a key role, and within that understanding there has been a group of remarkably talented Jews, to whom we are deeply indebted. However, German resentment of totally one-sided accounts of Germany under Nazism by historians such as Damiel J. Goldhagen, author of Hitler's Willing Executioners, has led to an angry revisionism there. What are the facts?
Of heroes and hero-worship. "Let us now praise famous men." Yes, but critically. There is a tendency to divide leaders into heroes and villains. The heroes: George Washington, Abraham Lincoln. The villains, Hitler, Stalin. But life is much more shaded than that. Some papers about Lincoln were not released until recently for fear of damaging his public image.
Then there is the important fact that famous leaders are really front men. Knowledge and power really reside in advisers, often called éminences grises. This is the subject of a recent book edited by John H. Elliott [a WAIS Fellow] and L. W. B. Brockliss, The World of the Favorite (Yale) . It deals with men like Cardinal Richelieu in France, the Earls of Essex and Leicester in England, and the Duke of Lerma in Spain. Historians have established their place in history, but in the modern world the picture is not yet clear.
Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill have now become statues like Lincoln. However, like Lincoln, they were not always cast in bronze. I remember the time when Churchill was viewed as a madman who had been a disastrous First Lord of he Admiralty in World War I and Roosevelt was damned as a traitor to his class.
What éminances grises linked these two men? The head of a university Jewish program recently gave a talk in which he boasted that no one was closer to Roosevelt than San Rosenman, a figure never well-known and now generally forgotten. The basic facts of his life are:
Samuel Irving Rosenman, 1896-1973. Lawyer, born in San Antonio.NY state Legislature, 1922-26, counsel to Governor. Roosevelt, 1929-32, justice New York Supreme Court, 1932-1943 when he resigned to become special counsel to President Roosevelt. He wrote an autobiography, Working with Roosevelt (1952), and he edited the Roosevelt papers (see below).
There is a fascinating essay on him in American National Biography (Oxford University Press, 1999), Vol. 18, pp. 891-2. The son of Russian Jewish immigrants, he performed brilliantly at Columbia University, where he earned his law degree. Helped by Tammany Hall, he was elected to the New York State Assembly and became a close adviser of Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt and even lived on the executive mansion. He was the principal architect of Roosevelt's "Brain Trust." Roosevelt named him "Sammy the Rose" and made him his principal speechwriter in the 1936 presidential campaign. He edited the thirteen-volume Public Papers and Addresses of Franklin D. Roosevelt (1938-1950). He was assigned the job of preparing the war crimes tribunal and was sent to London, where he met Churchill. During all this time he was a liaison between Roosevelt and Churchill. See also David Kennedy, "Samuel I. Rosenman," in Dictionary of American Biography, Supplement Nine (New York: Charles Scribners’ Sons, 1994), 679-681.
Another link between the two great men was Bernard Baruch (1870-1965), who made a fortune on Wall Street while he was still a young man. He was a delegate to the Paris Peace Conference after World War I, and served as an adviser to every president from Woodrow Wilson to John F. Kennedy. He wrote two books about his career: Baruch: My Own Story (1957) and Baruch: The Public Years (1960). Baruch had close links with the Jewish bankers whom the Nazis accused of plotting against them.
His tie with Churchill is a puzzle. Churchill was temperamentally a gambler and he lost a lot of money on the stock exchange. Bernard Baruch assured him that he would make good any of his losses. Whether that was simply because of the Churchill-Roosevelt friendship or whether Baruch thought he would be useful to the Jewish cause is not clear. We do not know if Churchill made any commitment to Baruch. Churchill's hostility to Nazism seems not to have been the result of this, but rather prior to this.
The third link was Isaiah Berlin (1909-1999), a remarkable Jew from Latvia who migrated with his parents in 1920. He studied at Oxford University and served in the British Embassy in Washington during World War II. His dispatches from there impressed Churchill, and after the war he returned to Oxford, where he became Chichele Professor of Social and Political Theory (1957-67) and president of the new Wolfson College (1966-75). Knighted in 1957, he became very much a public figure.. He maintained his Jewish outlook, and refused to be buried in Westminster Abbey, choosing instead the chief Synagogue in London. His books include Karl Marx, His Life and Environment, The Hedgehog and the Fox: An Essay on Tolstoy's View of History, Historical Inevitability, Four Essays on Liberty and Against the Current.
He was the focal point of a group of Jewish intellectuals at Oxford. Among them was Frederick Alexander Lindemann (1886-1957), a Jew from Alsace (which was still part of Germany). After studying physics in Berlin with Walter Nernst, he was appointed Professor at Oxford in 1919 and became the leading British scientist as adviser to Winston Churchill. As a Jew, he hated Nazi Germany, and like Churchill issued strong warnings on the German threat. The word "cosmopolitan" means Jewish in Russia, since there is a worldwide network of Jews from whom Lindemann obtained vital information that the pre-Churchill governments did not have. Everyone wondered where Churchill got his unusual wealth of information.
When Churchill became Prime Minister, Lindemann held cabinet rank and developed scientific defenses such as radar. He was made Lord Cherwell, taking the name of the river which flows into the Isis at Oxford. He was a student (i.e. Fellow) of Christ Church, to which I was attached. He was not very popular on account of his bellicose nature. He even threatened to sue the college. I did not know what it was all about. For information about him, see Lord Birkenhead, The Prof in Two Worlds (1961) and C.P. Snow Science and Government (1961).
Nazi propaganda charged that Roosevelt was Jewish, as the name suggests. It seems certain that he had some Jewish ancestors, since there was a Jewish colony in New Amsterdam. and the city of that name in Holland was an important Jewish center. The whole issue described here is likely to come to the fore in Germany, where among historians there is a revisionism which spreads the blame for World War II. Do not be surprised if a polemic arises among historians. There was in Britain the famous Cliveden set, which maintained that Britain should stay out of the war and let the Nazis and Soviets fight it out. From this to the Nazi view that the Jews started the war there is but a step. Our position should be that, having got into the war on account of the naiveté of Chamberlain, we should be grateful that we had on our side such a remarkable group of men of extraordinary talent.
Bibliographical Note: There is an immense literature on Churchill. Especially relevant may be Herbert Feis, Churchill, Roosevelt, Stalin (rev.1966), Joseph Lash, Roosevelt and Churchill (1976). Much of what we know about Churchill comes from the distinguished Jewish historian Martin Gilbert, who was his assistant and edited his works. There is a mystery here. He seems to have gone underground. He was a Fellow of both Merton and St. Antony's, but no longer. Inquiries to both colleges went unanswered. He has been a great promoter of Israel, and he may have received threats.
Ronald Hilton - 2/22/00