[Marxism] Joseph Kennedy and the Jews

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Tue Dec 28 11:39:52 MST 2004

Seymour Hersh, "Dark Side of Camelot":

There is no evidence that Ambassador [Joseph] Kennedy understood in the 
days before the war that stopping Hitler was a moral imperative. 
"In­dividual Jews are all right, Harvey," Kennedy told Harvey Klemmer, one 
of his few trusted aides in the American Embassy, "but as a race they 
stink. They spoil everything they touch. Look what they did to the movies." 
Klemmer, in an interview many years later made avail­able for this book, 
recalled that Kennedy and his "entourage" gener­ally referred to Jews as 
"kikes or sheenies."

Kennedy and his family would later emphatically deny allegations of 
anti-Semitism stemming from his years as ambassador, but the German 
diplomatic documents show that Kennedy consistently minimized the Jewish 
issue in his four-month attempt in the sum­mer and fall of 1938 to obtain 
an audience with Hitler. On June 13, as the Nazi regime was systematically 
segregating Jews from German society, Kennedy advised Herbert von Dirksen, 
the German ambas­sador in London, as Dirksen reported to Berlin, that "it 
was not so much the fact that we wanted to get rid of the Jews that was so 
harmful to us, but rather the loud clamor with which we accompanied this 
purpose. He himself understood our Jewish policy completely." On October 
13, 1938, a few weeks before Kristallnacht, with its Brown Shirt terror 
attacks on synagogues and Jewish businesses, Kennedy met again with 
Ambassador Dirksen, who subsequently informed his superiors that "today, 
too, as during former conversations, Kennedy mentioned that very strong 
anti-Semitic feelings existed in the United States and that a large portion 
of the population had an un­derstanding of the German attitude toward the 

Kennedy knew little about the culture and history of Europe be­fore his 
appointment as ambassador and made no effort to educate himself once in 
London. He made constant misjudgments. In the summer of 1938, for example, 
he blithely assured the president in a letter, described in the published 
diaries of Harold Ickes, FDR's secretary of the interior, that "he does not 
regard the European situation as so critical." Diplomats serving on the 
American Desk in the British Foreign Office quickly came to fear ­ and hate 
­ Kennedy. They compiled a secret dossier on him, known as the "Kennediana" 
file, which would not be declassified until after the war. In those pages 
Sir Robert Vansittart, undersecretary of the Foreign Office, scrawled, as 
war was spreading throughout Europe in early 1940: "Mr. Kennedy is a very 
foul specimen of a double-crosser and defeatist. He thinks of nothing but 
his own pocket. I hope that this war will at least see the elimination of 
his type."

Kennedy remained insensitive, at best, about the Jewish issue through the 
later war years, when the existence of concentration camps was widely 
known. In a May 1944 interview with an old friend, Joe Dinneen of the 
Boston Globe, Kennedy acknowl­edged, when questioned about his alleged 
anti-Semitism: "It is true that I have a low opinion of some Jews in public 
office and in private life. That does not mean that I hate all Jews; that I 
believe they should be wiped off the face of the earth. . . . Other races 
have their own problems to solve. They're glad to give the Jews a lift and 
help them along the way toward tolerance, but they're not going to drop 
everything and solve the problems of the Jews for them. Jews who take an 
unfair advantage of the fact that theirs is a persecuted race do not help 
much. . .. Publicizing unjust attacks upon the Jews may help to cure the 
injustice, but continually publicizing the whole prob­lem only serves to 
keep it alive in the public mind." Kennedy's discussion of anti-Semitism 
was withheld from publication at the time by the editors of the Globe, but 
in 1959 Dinneen sought to include a portion of it in a generally flattering 
precampaign family biography. Advance galleys of the Dinneen book, entitled 
The Kennedy Family, had been given to Jack Kennedy, who understood how 
inflammatory his fa­ther's comments would be and had no difficulty in 
successfully urging Dinneen to delete the offending paragraphs. The 
incident is described in Richard Whalen's biography of Joe Kennedy.

Louis Proyect
Marxism list: www.marxmail.org 

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