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New book explores Rabbi Stephen Wise’s response to the Holocaust


WASHINGTON, D.C.—The dilemmas confronting American Jewish leaders during the Holocaust are examined in a newly-released book, The Anguish of a Jewish Leader: Stephen S. Wise and the Holocaust.

Written by Dr. Rafael Medoff, founding director of The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies and the author of 15 other books, the new publication represents the first major scholarly study of Rabbi Wise in more than 30 years, and the first book-length study of his response to the Holocaust.

Some of the book’s highlights:
• President Roosevelt repeatedly promised Wise that he would help rescue Jewish refugees and create a Jewish state, but never did so. In one instance, the president assured Wise (in 1944) that he would issue a strong statement supporting Zionism, but then FDR watered down Wise’s draft in order to avoid an explicit commitment to Jewish statehood.

• In postwar interviews, many of Wise’s closest friends and colleagues argued that Wise’s personal and political devotion to FDR undermined his willingness to challenge Roosevelt’s lethargic response to the Holocaust.

• Wise responded harshly to Jewish dissidents — from both the left and the right — who tried to challenge the Roosevelt administration’s refugee policy. Wise acted to suppress their rallies, urged members of Congress to boycott them, pressured newspapers to refuse their advertisements, and in some instances even encouraged government officials to ‘draft or deport’ activist leaders.

• Wise, like many American Jewish leaders, found it difficult to break out of a business-as-usual mindset. Even at the most critical moments of the Holocaust, Wise diverted much of his attention to numerous lesser issues and activities.

Published by the David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies in Washington, D.C., the purpose of the new book is being distributed only as a free downloadable PDF from and as a 99-cent Kindle book from

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