The Holocaust Historiography Project

The Pro-Red Orchestra In the USA, 1941

Some diplomatic and economic straws in the wind

In the meantime the scurrying about of diplomats and the on- going massive movements of “defense” gave every indication that policy-making and the initiative were in the hands of people seeking greater involvement, not less. U.S. News described the accelerated scramble for “defense” contracts in the height of the summer, accompanied by the pressure on small business to abandon the consumer field and participate in the hustle. Few were documenting the substantial unemployment occurring in small economic enterprises as a result of the pro-"defense” preferential treatment by the Government relative to raw materials procurement and related matters. During the last six months of 1941, U.S. News spoke as though the U.S.A. were already in the war, and repeatedly told businessmen that Roosevelt was planning on a long one, lasting into 1946 at least

Part of the indication of the go-ahead signal from Washington on aid to Stalin was easily deduced from the sudden publicity to diplomats and their rushing about in the newsmagazine. Especially significant was the attention given to the resurrection of the Soviet ambassador to the U.S., Constantin Oumansky, in disrepute and obscurity after the Pakt of 1939. His picture and the story of his return to social and official favor were prominently displayed in July. U.S. News even revealed that he and Under Secretary of State Welles had secretly “joined forces” as far back as the previous summer “in a dogged attempt to better U.S.-Soviet relations,” and heaped praise on Welles, while describing Oumansky’s frequent visits to the State Department, for having persevered against former Ambassador to Russia William C. Bullitt and kept the Administration from breaking relations with Stalin.

That things had also taken a goodly switch toward the Soviet since the replacement of Bullitt in Moscow grew obvious with a similar glamor treatment accorded the new U.S. Ambassador to the Kremlin, Laurence A. Steinhardt, the wealthy 48-year-old nephew of Samuel Untermeyer, the latter sponsor of numerous efforts to promote world-wide boycotts of and war on Hitler Germany since 1933. The U.S. News portrait pointedly dwelled on matters such as the above, plus his membership in the past on ten boards of directors of corporations, his fluency in five languages and his authorship of “numerous books and articles.” America’s latest opulent presence in Stalin’s court and the Workers' Fatherland was even less a son of toil than his predecessors, but it was exactly in character with what was to follow at home and abroad. The main labors by far in the cementing of Roosevelt America and Stalin Russia were to be tasks and achievements of America’s moneyed and social elite, not of its labor union members and economically marginal Marxist intellectuals.

While the hubbub went on over how Communist Russia was to be viewed and treated in this first month of the Russo-German war, other indications swiftly surfaced supporting the conviction that Roosevelt was enlarging the scope of American economic warfare against Germany and Japan and in behalf of Britain and Stalin. Soviet assets in America had become once more available to them, and a decision had already been made not to invoke the provisions of the Neutrality Act against them, while the Administration was already on record as promoting a favorable consideration of Soviet aid requests.

The reverse side of this warm glow toward Stalinist entreaties and the last-minute succor of Churchill via the Lend-Lease assistance provided the previous March were two dramatic acts of economic warfare against Japan in the U.S.A. and against Germany and Italy in the Americas from Mexico south. The latter took shape in an abrupt announcement in the form of Executive Order #8389 on July 17, a blacklist of 1800 German and Italian firms in 20 countries of the Western Hemisphere, forbidding U.S.A. businesses to deal with them except under the most rigidly regulated circumstances. This was a policy step in preparation for some time, as the extensiveness of the operation was revealed. The blacklisted firms filled 16 full columns of tiny type in the New York Times on July 18, 1941 and the list was also supplied to those involved in the form of a Federal Reserve Bank pamphlet, as well as being published in the Federal Register. Moves of this sort were hardly impulsive or capricious. The other move took place nine days later, and was even less a hasty and flighty gesture: the announcement of the “freeze order” affecting all Japanese assets in the U.S.A., and halting their use. This long-planned directive consisted of 9 pages of neatly printed materials, including regulations, amendments to existing orders and foreign exchange license data, also distributed to the Federal Reserve Banks early on July 26, 1941, an event later characterized as the “Japanese Pearl Harbor,” an economic calamity which hit Japan without the faintest warning. Whether the invasion of Stalinist Europe by Germany a month earlier accelerated these ominous announcements was not demonstrable, but the timing was impressive.

The orchestration of the forces strongly favoring the salvation of Stalin by mid-summer 1941 inspired a subscriber of Time to remark upon some obvious parallels with the hysteria in favor of England a year earlier, speaking of the imminence of an analogous campaign of “Bundles for Russia” and suggesting “the probability of a song being composed about 'there always being a Russia' and the recitation by Lynn Fontanne of the 'White Cliffs of Omsk,' “ a satirical re-structuring of the title of the lugubriously sentimental popular song of that moment, The White Cliffs of Dover, so beloved of emotional and nostalgic Anglophiles. That Time should print it indicated a lingering bit of a sense of humor, not very noticeable in the ranks of the pro-war set in those days, and utterly lacking in those deeply devoted to the welfare of Russian Communism.(30) It was a time of mobilization of all resources in America to this end, part of it consisting in the production of their own propaganda. The most impressive contribution was the issuance at the end of July of The Soviet Power by Hewlett Johnson, perhaps the most widely read friend of Stalinist Russia whose native tongue was English. It appeared in an edition of a million copies, and priced at five cents,(31) obviously below cost of production, in order to maximize its audience; the Communist propaganda apparat indicated it had been taking lessons from the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Some Religious and Educational Leaders Respond to the Issue of Aid or No Aid to Stalin Though the momentum was definitely with the aid-to-Stalin elements in the early weeks of the Russo-German war, the talkers and the opinion-makers were far from routed or silenced Especially troubled were the religious spokesmen, in both the U.S.A. and England. Oswald Garrison Villard, famed one-time owner of the even more famed liberal weekly The Nation, who had been ousted from that journal a year before when the majority of its editors had plumped for a strong pro-war course, had found a refuge in the pages of the liberal Protestant but anti-involvement weekly Christian Century. Three weeks after Hitler’s armies started across Eastern Poland, Villard predicted that “the warrior clergy” would pronounce a pro-Soviet course as “divine intervention in behalf of Right, “ and now would be “as eager to embrace Stalin as they were but yesterday to anathemize him.” His piece “Our Moral Confusion"(32) was a good statement of the dilemma this new phase of the war had created, but there were differences among denominations and countries. The English Catholic press, for example, was wholeheartedly behind Churchill in his cooperation program with the Communists against Hitler, while trying to qualify this position by declaring that “Russia’s cause is not our cause.” This was the view of the Catholic Times, while the London Tablet came out for the defeat of Hitler and Nazism, “a man and a system much more efficient than Stalin’s Communism."(33)

Their leaders were not nearly as vehement in support of this pro- gram as were the U.S.A. Catholic spokesmen in favor of it, nor as critical of it as were the U.S.A. anti-aid Catholic leaders. The division in America was quite pronounced. Though the Catholic War Veterans were dead-set against any aid to the Soviets, 15 outstanding prelates and laymen in the Fight for Freedom Committee were for it. “We and the Soviet are temporarily on the same side in the effort to resist a common enemy,” was their analysis of the issue. (34)

We have seen that a variety of prominent Catholics, clergy and laymen, were not in the least shy in announcing their support of aid to Red Russia, when interrogated by public-opinion samplers of the news weeklies. There were others: Col. William J. Donovan, Rt. Rev. John A. Ryan of Catholic University, and Michael Williams, editor of the Catholic counterpart to the Christian Century, Commonweal. Even the New Masses took comfort in their testimonials in behalf of helping the Reds against Hitler. (35)

But by far the most earnest of these was Bishop Joseph P. Hurley of St. Augustine, Florida, whose emotional radio address in early July was heavily excerpted by delighted Time. He ridiculed the notion that Hitler was fighting an anti-Communist crusade in Eastern Europe, described the Germans as “Enemy No. 1 of America and the world,” favored Roosevelt deciding all by himself when it was proper to take the U.S.A. into the war against them, and did not find Soviet Communism the faintest present or future threat, and never mentioned whatever an issue which bothered many other people, the situation that would prevail in the world if Stalin won. From the context of Bishop Hurley’s declamation, it was improper, irrelevant and immaterial to dwell on this latter speculation. (36)

The opposite of Bishop Hurley was Rev. James M. Gillis, editor of the influential Catholic World, founded by the Paulist order at the end of the American Civil War. There was no more implacable anti-war figure in America than Fr. Gillis, though like most of those of this persuasion he execrated both sides of the Russo- German conflict. He was confident that he represented the majority in the U.S.A. “It is not a majority but a minority that wants war or would welcome war as either necessary or just,” he asserted in the mid-summer 1941 struggle of opinions. Furthermore, as he identified his adversary, “It is a highly articulate insolent aggressive minority."(37) Where Fr. Gillis found the pro-war enthusiasts weakest was in their avoidance of facing up to the consequences of supporting a Red victory in Europe, or their casual confidence in the ease with which they thought they could dispel the Soviets from the scene once Germany had been smashed:(38) …make no mistake, there will be a showdown. None of your Willkies and Knoxes and Stimsons and Conants seem to have visualized it, but it will come. The showdown is always a “divvy” with allies in war as with partners in crime… No one is going to say to him [Stalin], when the time for the divvy comes, “Good work, Joe old boy; and now be off with you, back to Moscow.”

In many ways the conflict among Catholic opinion makers as to the merits of involvement in the war and support of Stalin was brought to a sharper point by posing Fr. Gillis against the Catholic convert (1913) professor Theodore Maynard, an ex-Protestant and English emigrant who had come to the U.S.A. in 1909. His residual English patriotism was transparent in his tussles with Fr. Gillis over the merits of becoming England’s war partner. Maynard was far less concerned over the spread of Communism than he was over the German threat to Mother England, his sustained message in the Catholic press, and in essays in the secular journals as well.

Maynard was quite aware of the formidability of Fr. Gillis as an adversary in this battle of ideas. “Father Gillis is by all odds the ablest Catholic editor of our time,” Maynard conceded in the early fall of 1941. While admitting substantial respect for Fr. Gillis and commending him for his condemnation of all brands of totalitarianism, Maynard clung tenaciously to a position very close to Bishop Hurley, giving a solid measure of psychic support to the Soviet Union in its war with Germany, on the same grounds that Germany was the “greatest enemy” of religion at the moment, though he did not make clear that he was referring to official policy or popular behavior, in which latter Maynard would surely have been backing an untenable proposition.(39) Fr. Gillis ridiculed this view, insisting on total abstention from the question.

Though Maynard was irked by Fr. Gillis' having made the Catholic World the most “belligerently isolationist” of all the Catholic papers in the country, he was probably as unhappy over his continuing policy of not yielding a particle on the matter of Russian support. Implacably anti-Soviet, Fr. Gillis did not relinquish this position regardless of the various maneuvering that continued. Probably the most invulnerable morally of all the main figures in the U.S.A. opposed to the war between 1939 and 1941, he continued his adamant stand against involvement in a war which might be construed as a beneficiary or contributor to the welfare of either side. In one monthly editorial after another he continued castigating Stalinism, denouncing all efforts to make the opportunistic circumstances which threw Communist Russia and the Anglo-Americans together at war with Hitler and Mussolini the grounds for rigging a political alliance. This continued to be his policy all through the war, a courageous position which even veteran anti-Reds soft-pedaled for some time after the Pearl Harbor attack, then went underground, or turned about and began to write kindly pro-Red propaganda. All during World War Two, the Catholic World boiled with editorial suspicions and disparagement of Communist policy, abroad and at home.

A similar confrontation of opposites was observable in the non- Catholic center, probably best illustrated by the positions of England’s Archbishop of Canterbury, Cosmo Gordon Lang, and the redoubtable John Haynes Holmes, the latter already on published record as an uncompromising anti-involvement figure. Time, as in the case of Bishop Hurley, gave generous space to Dr. Lang’s reproaching of the Church of England for its misgivings about the Churchill alliance with Stalin. Though reputed as an anti-Communist, Dr. Lang at the end of July 1941 sounded like an incandescent fellow traveler. In his view, Soviet Russia was “contending for the principles of national freedom and independence for which the British Commonwealth and the United States of America are standing,” recommending that Britons “must therefore wish every success to the valiant Russian armies and people in their struggle and be ready to give them every possible help.” Managing to sound like a composite of Stalin and Churchill, Dr. Lang like the other civilian warriors was troubled not in the least by contemplation of a Communist victory and its import for Central and Eastern Europe.(40)

The basic position of the editors of the Christian Century was advanced in a long editorial in the first issue after the outbreak of the war in the East: “A Nazi victory must be prevented if that is possible. But equally there must be no smashing victory for the Communists.” They conceded that the Russians would get help from the U.S.A., “but not too much help.” “For an overwhelming triumph, with Stalin at the head of the Russian avalanche, would hold almost as great a threat as an overwhelming victory for Hitler and his Nazis."(41) A week later they expressed great confidence in the 'impossibility” of anyone here arousing “American enthusiasm for the idea of participating as an ally of Russia,” especially after Finland had gone to war with the Reds; they were sure nine out of ten Americans would delight “to see the Finns march triumphantly into Leningrad."(42)

Rev. Holmes, whose spirited essays were featured by the Christian Century on many occasions, did not share the editorial hope that some kind of moderation and long-range statecraft would govern the aid-to-Stalin impulse which the interventionists wanted to prevail, consequences unconsidered. In the last issue in July 1941, he predicted that at the end of the European war, Stalin would annex all of Finland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, and part of Poland which had been part of Cazarist Russia in 1914, East

Prussia, Mongolia, openly, and Manchuria by proxy, and would “insist, under one form or another, on dominating the Balkans, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Rumania, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia and the Dardanelles.” Rev. Holmes maintained that was all guaranteed by Britain in signing the “co-belligerency pact in Moscow,” which at the same time “signed a blank check to be filled in later by Russia.” “After an immeasurably exhausting effort to destroy Nazi totalitarianism, the world will have succeeded only in putting in its place a more powerful, more widely extended, and therefore more formidable Communist totalitarianism,” he concluded.(43) Holmes, favoring a “peace without victory,” like Gillis, came astonishingly close to the actual situation which came into existence between 1945 and 1948.

The most remarkable trial balloon concerning propaganda favoring aid to Russia was launched by the Christian Century on August 13, 1941. In an extended article titled “Join Russia in the War!” (pp. 1002-1004), Professor Henry Nelson Wieman of the University of Chicago Divinity School, and a prolific writer on the subject of the philosophy of theology, argued that Russia was going to win the war anyway, and would “dominate Europe and Asia.” Thereafter it would cause unlimited trouble for the democracies for having abstained, and would thus lead to an even larger war. His plan involved eliminating this possibility by joining the current war in Russia’s favor. Furthermore, there would be substantial resulting domestic compensations; “Mighty coercions toward community will begin to work if we enter this war with Russia and do everything in our power to help her win.” This would not only mitigate postwar tension possibilities, but lead to peace. Prof. Wieman suggested casually that there need be no fear of “military conquest” on the part of anyone at the hands of the Soviets, since they were not “imperialistic.” Though he conceded that they would try “to make all the world go Communist” by other means, it would be possible to deprive them of the chance by massive reforms, providing employment and material well-being.

A month later the editors responded in a two-page editorial, pounding Prof. Wieman’s avoidance of the religious issue entirely, condemned his plan unconditionally, and observed that in view of “the record of tyranny which the rulers of Russia have inscribed in the blood of their people during the past twenty-two years,” the difference in degree of tyranny between Germany and Russia definitely lay “in favor of Germany, not Russia."(44)

Churchill’s flat admission before the House of Commons on July 15 that the British-Russian agreement to give mutual aid and to make no separate peace was, “of course, an alliance, and the Russian people are now our allies,” was given wide publicity here,(45) but this did not in any way discommode the war-bound among the well-placed and the prestigious. James B. Conant, President of Harvard, in a turgid speech before a convention of the National Education Association, crammed with urgent pedagogical warriors, managed to outdo Bishop Hurley in urging aid to Stalin and in eagerly calling for entry into the war: “To the minds of some of us, the peril is so great that the United States has no alternative but to enter the war against Nazi power,” exclaimed the head of America’s most prestigious institution of higher learning. Conant, making the usual disavowal of supporting either Germans or Russians, concluded with the interventionist convention that only the Germans were a threat.(46) As was expected, Time printed most of his private war declaration, just a fragment of the hurricane of similar material assaulting the ears and eyes of the general public.

After a month of the Russo-German war, the U.S. public was beginning to show evidence of responding to the mainly one-way news interpretation and pro-war conditioning which occupied most mass media. A Gallup poll claimed 72% desired a Red victory and only 4% one by the Germans. Those in favor of a war declaration were alleged to have risen from 21% to 24%. Newsweek, however, analyzing the mail on the issue received by 30 U.S. senators, found it “evenly divided between isolationists, interventionists and middle of the roaders,” and that the volume was only l/5th of that which had poured in during the debates over the Lend Lease bill earlier in the year. The magazine further declared that the mail of Senators Burton K. Wheeler, Walsh, Nye, Brooks, La Follette, Taft and Tobey was running 10-1 against involvement in the war, while that of Senators Pepper, Lee and Barkley was roughly 50-50 on the question.

The full spectrum of opinions on the subject had hardly been seen, however. On July 31, 1941, British Aircraft Production Minister Lt. Col. John Theodore Cuthbert Moore-Brabazon delivered a speech in Manchester in which he expressed the hope that Russia and Germany would “exterminate” each other, leaving Britain master of the Continent. New political fireworks displays resulted. London’s Marxist Daily Herald, appalled, announced that Churchill, “astonished and angry,” had given him a savage dressing-down, “a sizzling and blistering affair, in which the colonel was left in no doubt as to the gravity of his offense."(47) Churchill, however, was in a jam, and ended up having to defend Moore-Brabazon in September before Parliament, and was forced into a bitter exchange with fervent Stalinist Willie Gallacher, the only Communist M.P. in the House of Commons.(48) Sentiments close to those of Moore-Brabazon were expressed at about the same time by a member of the United States Congress, who was contemptuously referred to later by insulted Time as “little fox- faced Senator Harry S. Truman"(49) [D.-Mo.).

The expressions of support for Stalin continued from a wide spread of opinion makers into the first weeks of August, the issue of aid taking a dramatic lurch in Soviet favor later in the month after the celebrated Roosevelt Churchill meeting off the coast of Newfoundland and the issuance of the “Atlantic Charter,” which followed the equally important mission of Roosevelt’s ubiquitous assistant, Harry Hopkins. The Stalinist-line League of American Writers, vociferously for war against Hitler until the August 1939 Pakt, and then scrupulously neutral during the period of Stalin’s absence from the fray, was quick to get re-involved with the German attack, and issued a hectic public statement espousing Stalin’s cause, characteristically published by New Masses on August 5, 1941 (p.23), while calling attention to having sent a copy of their manifesto to Erskine Caldwell, a vice-president of the LAW, who was in Moscow at that moment.(50)

An even more pretentious declamation came from Michael Straight, editor of the once firmly anti-involvement liberal New Republic but almost overnight a convert to belligerency. He hailed the entry of Stalin into the war as the turning point and suggested Hitler was “perhaps well on the way of retreat.” He further hailed the creation of the International Free World Association in Washington, organized by refugee anti-Nazi politicians, solidly to the left, from half a dozen countries, and saw as its principal function that of preparing war aims, and the “promise of a just and lasting peace,” still embarrassingly absent from the statements of the “Allies.” Impatient over American unwillingness to do big things and indignant over the U.S.A.’s failure so far to “accept the leadership that should be ours in the fight for a free world,”

Straight was grimly satisfied that the part America had earned in the next peace conference was “scrubbing the floors."(51)

And still another prestigious figure used the New Masses to broadcast his enlistment. Harvard’s philosophic light, Ralph Barton Perry, no longer the subdued murmur of the U.S. News poll six weeks earlier, was calling loudly in behalf of Soviet Russia as the most recent state whose “freedom” was “threatened” by Hitler’s armies. Russia was already “our moral ally,” trumpeted Prof. Perry, and he ended up calling for a world pooling of military power to defeat Germany’s attempt at “world domination."(52)

The Christian Century, still anxious to read the pulse of European Protestantism correctly on the newest phase of the European war, managed to solicit conflicting advice again in August 1941, this time from neutral Switzerland. A lengthy letter from cor- respondent Denzil G.M. Patrick declared that the chief reaction there was one of “relief” that the threat of the “bolshevization of Europe” was much abated, and that the Swiss looked upon the mutual weakening of both “tyrannies,” their government not intending to aid either. He also remarked upon the numbness of some Swiss following the ferocity of the anti-religious efforts of the Soviets in the Baltic states under the commissar Yaroslavsky and the machinery of the Stalinist League of the Militant Godless.(53)

But the following month it published from the same country their reaction to the famous Protestant theologian Karl Barth’s A Letter to Great Britain From Switzerland. This caused much consternation, Barth placing the stamp of theological approval upon the civilian “resistance” to the German armed forces and in substance making it a holy war. The editorial remarked that they did not see that Barth was urging the Swiss to become a belligerent, however.(54) Shortly thereafter the journal published a lengthy think-piece on Barth by W.S. Kilpatrick, president of Cedarville (Ohio) College, who had just returned from a year’s study under Barth. Said Kilpatrick, “Barth is politically a socialist today, although fearing its potential materialism and distrusting its optimistic view of man.” Kilpatrick pointed out that the Nazis, who had cut short Barth’s tenure in a German university, had simply “requested him to absent himself, and had even given him several months' pay in advance,” while suppressing his Marxist writings.(55) No one could recall the Soviet Union handling a political adversary as gently and generously as this, even if a foreign subject in residence there.

The editors followed this with a three-page editorial devoted to Barth, avoiding challenging his politics, but concentrating on de- nouncing his calling World War II a “holy” war, willed by God.(55) They were willing, however, to recognize the war being called “righteous,” which really was not that distant a stance from Barth, another of the legion of World War I socialists and pacifists who turned around and reached astounding heights of martial ferocity in … 1939-1945.

In the meantime the religious scene continued reverberating with strong statements for and against helping out Stalin. Late in August testimonials in behalf of this cause were published here which came from both the Archbishops of York and Canterbury, the English prelates skipping over the Red regime with mild disapproval, while emphasizing the religiosity of the Russian peopled (nothing was said that 99% of the Germans were identified with the Roman Catholic or Lutheran faiths). Here, Dorothy Day, editor of the Catholic Worker, denounced movement toward entry into the war, while speaking at Williamstown, Mass., at a meeting of the Institute of Human Relations sponsored by the National Con- ference of Christians and Jews. But Justice Frank Murphy of the U.S. Supreme Court, speaking before the supreme council of the Catholic Knights of Columbus in Atlantic City, N.J., declared that the Soviet Union should have the support of all the world’s democracies in its war with Hitler.

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