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Passionate Crusaders: How Members of the U.S. War Refugee Board Saved Jews and Altered American Foreign Policy during World War II

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Passionate Crusaders tells the gripping story of a few righteous Americans who sought to do what many thought impossible in 1944—save Jews who had not yet been murdered in the Holocaust. By January 1944, Treasury Department officials Henry Morgenthau, John Pehle, and Josiah DuBois had already convinced President Franklin Roosevelt to create the War Refugee Board, an agency Passionate Crusaders tells the gripping story of a few righteous Americans who sought to do what many thought impossible in 1944—save Jews who had not yet been murdered in the Holocaust. By January 1944, Treasury Department officials Henry Morgenthau, John Pehle, and Josiah DuBois had already convinced President Franklin Roosevelt to create the War Refugee Board, an agency with the authority to provide rescue and relief for Jews and other groups persecuted by the Nazis. Scholars have criticized the Board for its inability to save more Jews and maintained that the agency should have been created sooner. Heather Voight’s groundbreaking research proves that despite its shortcomings, the War Refugee Board changed history and forever altered American foreign policy. Its creation ended the cycle of indifference that the government and the American public had shown to victims of the Holocaust. In the words of Henry Morgenthau, from 1944-1945 “crusaders, passionately persuaded of the need for speed and action” risked their reputations and sometimes their lives to save Jews. In addition to saving more than 100,000 lives, Board members also made a lasting impact on international law. They pressured the War Crimes Commission to broaden its definition of war crimes by including the murder of civilians by their own countrymen. This new definition of war crimes was applied to genocides committed many decades later in Bosnia and Rwanda, and continues to be used today. “[Passionate Crusaders] shows that the efforts of an honorable and courageous few can create small steps to change history. This detailed, well-told, and inspiring story will be of value to students of the Holocaust, American history, and human rights.” –From the Foreword by Dr. Leon Stein, Professor Emeritus of History and Education Director Emeritus, Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center.


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Passionate Crusaders tells the gripping story of a few righteous Americans who sought to do what many thought impossible in 1944—save Jews who had not yet been murdered in the Holocaust. By January 1944, Treasury Department officials Henry Morgenthau, John Pehle, and Josiah DuBois had already convinced President Franklin Roosevelt to create the War Refugee Board, an agency Passionate Crusaders tells the gripping story of a few righteous Americans who sought to do what many thought impossible in 1944—save Jews who had not yet been murdered in the Holocaust. By January 1944, Treasury Department officials Henry Morgenthau, John Pehle, and Josiah DuBois had already convinced President Franklin Roosevelt to create the War Refugee Board, an agency with the authority to provide rescue and relief for Jews and other groups persecuted by the Nazis. Scholars have criticized the Board for its inability to save more Jews and maintained that the agency should have been created sooner. Heather Voight’s groundbreaking research proves that despite its shortcomings, the War Refugee Board changed history and forever altered American foreign policy. Its creation ended the cycle of indifference that the government and the American public had shown to victims of the Holocaust. In the words of Henry Morgenthau, from 1944-1945 “crusaders, passionately persuaded of the need for speed and action” risked their reputations and sometimes their lives to save Jews. In addition to saving more than 100,000 lives, Board members also made a lasting impact on international law. They pressured the War Crimes Commission to broaden its definition of war crimes by including the murder of civilians by their own countrymen. This new definition of war crimes was applied to genocides committed many decades later in Bosnia and Rwanda, and continues to be used today. “[Passionate Crusaders] shows that the efforts of an honorable and courageous few can create small steps to change history. This detailed, well-told, and inspiring story will be of value to students of the Holocaust, American history, and human rights.” –From the Foreword by Dr. Leon Stein, Professor Emeritus of History and Education Director Emeritus, Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center.

42 review for Passionate Crusaders: How Members of the U.S. War Refugee Board Saved Jews and Altered American Foreign Policy during World War II

  1. 4 out of 5

    Denzel L Struchen

    Interesting Summary The review of the WRB is dry and confusing. It was obviously written on a thesis format which to the casual reader can be confusing. While proving good insight into American philosophy of the time the storyline falls flat and is confusing due to the failure to maintain to a chronological base.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jim Gallen

    The challenge for a World War II author is to catch the light from a facet that has not been dulled by a deluge of writers’ ink. Author Heather Voight has achieved that in “Passionate Crusaders”. The thrust of this book to examine the record of the United States Government with respect to relief for the Jews who were being murdered by the NaziI regime. President Roosevelt is faulted for not taking the lead on this issue until he was forced to respond to political pressure. Through 1943 the Admini The challenge for a World War II author is to catch the light from a facet that has not been dulled by a deluge of writers’ ink. Author Heather Voight has achieved that in “Passionate Crusaders”. The thrust of this book to examine the record of the United States Government with respect to relief for the Jews who were being murdered by the NaziI regime. President Roosevelt is faulted for not taking the lead on this issue until he was forced to respond to political pressure. Through 1943 the Administration, especially the State Department, devoted their attention to matters which received a higher priority than European Jewry. Credit for the creation of the War Refugee Board in January 1944 is given to Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau and two other Treasury officials, Randolph Paul and John Pehle as well as shifting public opinion. The Board had some, but not but not extensive, funds and authority, although not uncontested, to act on behalf of War Refugees. The Board’s efforts advanced on several fronts, such as attempts to get American visas for endangered Jews, barter with the Nazis for the release of prisoners and the use of propaganda and threats to intimidate captors into treating their prisoners more humanely. The claim that more lives could have been saved had action been taken prior to 1944 is made without recognition that the shifting tide of battle gave Allied threats much more credibility in 1944 and 1945 than they had earlier in the war. Chapters are devoted to the actions of WRB agents in Turkey, Sweden, Switzerland and Raoul Wallenberg’s heroic self-sacrifice in Hungary. This work is well researched and written. It has a very narrow focus, that of promoting anything directed toward the rescue of Jews while dismissing or ignoring any reasons for placing a higher priority on any other war aims. President Roosevelt is recognized as a brilliant politician “but this strength proved to be a liability for Jews”. (p. 41) His actions put into practice his maxim that "A good leader can't get too far ahead of his followers." If a less brilliant but more sympathetic politician had not guided America from isolationism to war would that have been more beneficial to the Jews? The author faults the fact that the executive order that created the WRB “failed to specifically mention Jews; instead, it referred to aiding ‘victims of enemy oppression.’” (p. 55) Were other victims unworthy of aid? Would it not be characteristic of a brilliant politician to employ broad language so as to attract the greatest possible political support for the Board? Was it all that unreasonable to restrict the immigration of refugees due to the fear that Nazi agents would be infiltrated along with them? Isn’t this the same argument raging over the admission of Syrian refugees today? The title of Chapter Eleven, “Excuses, Excuses: The War Department’ Justifications for Not Bombing the Camps” illustrates my point. Elsewhere I have read that there was a debate within the Allied Command over whether the concentration camps should have been bombed. Reasons for inaction, some of which are mentioned in Chapter 11, include the idea that the best the Allies could do for the Jews was to win the war and that any diversion of resources from that goal was a detriment. Is a single minded devotion to victory, fear of harming prisoners either through direct action or by inciting retaliation, and doubts of the effectiveness of bombing necessarily “Excuses, Excuses”? “Passionate Crusaders” performs a valuable service in collecting information concerning the War Refugee Board. I believe that it should be read more as a lawyer’s brief in which he argues his client’s case than an evenhanded evaluation of the evidence. I did receive a free copy of this book to read and review.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Aly

    I, myself, do not follow the government issues very much. I found this book to be a captivating account of the events that created the Board and also the effectiveness of the Board in trying to save Jewish lives. The author allows the reader to come to their own conclusions and gives a detailed and well-researched account of the WRB. We do not learn from our mistakes. You are interested in WWII or in history in general you should check out this book. I am not big into history and this book caugh I, myself, do not follow the government issues very much. I found this book to be a captivating account of the events that created the Board and also the effectiveness of the Board in trying to save Jewish lives. The author allows the reader to come to their own conclusions and gives a detailed and well-researched account of the WRB. We do not learn from our mistakes. You are interested in WWII or in history in general you should check out this book. I am not big into history and this book caught my attention and kept me wanting to read more. * I received this book from the author in exchange for an honest review*

  4. 4 out of 5

    Cecilia Dunbar Hernandez

  5. 5 out of 5

    chris

  6. 4 out of 5

    Albert Randolph

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    Flavia Marzullo

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    Meredith

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    Alan H. Lazar

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    Dianne

  11. 5 out of 5

    Gail Compton

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    Nissa

  13. 4 out of 5

    Linda Davis, Davis Clock & Watch Repair

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    David Den Boer

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    Tami

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    Rachel Hall

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    Frederick Rotzien

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    Debbie Kennedy

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    Linda Meltzer

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    Gordon Bingham

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    Brenda Hoffman

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  41. 5 out of 5

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  42. 4 out of 5

    Jeanette

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