Thousands of community leaders, political figures, and Jewish citizens gathered at New York City’s Madison Square Garden last night to speak out against the Nazis’ campaign to terrorize and slaughter the Jews of Europe.
An official message from President Roosevelt that was read to the audience focused on America’s intention to preserve democracy and end the atrocities being committed by Hitler and the Axis powers.
“The American people not only sympathize with all victims of Nazi crimes but will hold the perpetrators of these crimes to strict accountability in a day of reckoning which will surely come,” he said. “I express the confident hope that the Atlantic Charter and the just world order to be made possible by the triumph of the United Nations will bring the Jews and oppressed people in all lands the four freedoms which Christian and Jewish teachings have largely inspired.”
The president initially articulated these “Four Freedoms” in his State of the Union address on Jan. 6, 1941. It was an appeal towards maintaining the fundamental freedoms that everyone in the world should be able to enjoy, he said. They are freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want and freedom from fear.
The entire audience stood for the reading of the president’s brief message. Throughout the night, the attendees cheered every time Roosevelt’s name was mentioned.
Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s message was also read last night and it held similar sentiments to the president’s: “On Oct. 25 last, both President Roosevelt and I expressed the horror felt by all civilized peoples at Nazi butcheries and terrorism and our resolve to place retribution for these crimes among major purposes of this war,” he said.
These messages differ widely from America’s stance prior to entering the war. For example, in 1939, the Hamburg-America Line’s motor ship, the “St. Louis,” which held over 900 Jewish refugees from Germany, was denied entry into the U.S. and several other countries in the Western Hemisphere.
Mayor Fiorello H. La Guardia of New York City, who attended the rally at Madison Square Garden, stated that simply protesting and hoping for victory against the Axis will not stop “that swine Hitler.”
“As far as I am concerned, I am through protesting. I protested when it wasn’t so popular to do it,” La Guardia said in his address. “We are in a long and difficult war. We are not going to win this war by making speeches, slogans, epigrams, or headlines. This war is going to be won with the lives and the blood of the free men fighting the Nazis.”
Gov. Herbert Lehman of New York also took the position of waging war without hesitation, citing that the fight for freedom and democracy should not be handled with “half-way measures.”
“There must be no appeasement or compromise in this fight for freedom,” he stated. “Either we destroy the Nazi, the Fascist, and the Japanese war lords, or they destroy us. Either their way of life disappears or ours disappears. There can be no compromise between freedom and slavery.”
As each day passes, there is evidence throughout Nazi-occupied Europe that Jewish persecution persists. Adolf Hitler and the Nazis have boldly proclaimed their intention for several years to decimate the Jewish population in Europe.
In the past two weeks alone, anti-Jewish ordinances have been enacted in occupied France and German colonies. Jews are banned from principal streets and most public places in France’s main cities. They are restricted to the use of the rear car on subway trains. Their property is allowed to be taken by authorities and thousands are being deported to Eastern Europe.
Despite being one of the main targets of war crimes and ethnic hatred, Jews have been in the forefront of resistance to Nazi aggression through military enrollment and civil defense, according to Churchill. He disclosed that more than 10,000 Palestine Jews are serving with the British Middle East forces and 20,000 more are enrolled in police groups in the area.
“Great numbers [of Jews] are employed in that front line constituted by pursuits and industries essential for the prosecution of war industries and in various services for civil defense,” he said. Churchill also stated that Jewish communities around the world have made their contributions to the Allied cause.
In addition to the rallying cries of leaders and attendees, there was a solemn commemoration and chant for the thousands of Jewish men, women, and children who have already been slaughtered since the Third Reich took power in Germany.
The message of the American Jewish Committee read: “We join in mourning for the destruction of the innocent and helpless victims of Nazi terror, and at the same time highly resolve that we shall not permit the world to forget these crimes so that the perpetrators may be brought to answer for them before the bar of civilization.”
“NEW PARIS CURBS ON JEWS: Laws Bar Them From Some Principal Streets.” The New York Times, July 11, 1942, p. 3.
“JEWS IN FRANCE: Barred from Public Places.” The Guardian and The Observer, July 15, 1942, p. 5.
“VICHY ORDERS CURBS ON JEWS IN COLONIES: French Decree Provides for Taking Over.” The New York Times, July 16, 1942, p. 8.
“TO DEPORT 20,000 JEWS.” The Weekly Irish Times, July 17, 1942, p. 1.
“NAZIS ARREST JEWS IN PARIS ROUND-UP: Possibly 20,000 ‘Aliens’ to Be Sent to East, Berlin Says.” The New York Times, July 18, 1942, p. 6.
“New Curb on Paris Jews.” The New York Times, July 19, 1942, p. 20.
“FIGHT MASS SLAUGHTER: Jewish Groups to Hold Rally in the Garden Tomorrow.” The New York Times, July 20, 1942, p. 4.
“NAZI ATROCITIES: Mr. Churchill’s Message.” The Guardian and The Observer, July 22, 1942, p. 5.
“NAZI PUNISHMENT SEEN BY ROOSEVELT: Says Hitler Will Be Held To ‘Strict Accountability’ – Churchill Greets Rally.” The New York Times, July 22, 1942, p. 1.
“Reckoning Day Coming, Nazis Told by President.” The Washington Post, July 22, 1942, p. 1.
“MR. CHURCHILL AND THE JEWS: MESSAGE TO U.S. MEETING.” The Irish Times and The Weekly Irish Times. July 22, 1942, p.1.