Lyndon Johnson And The Jews- A Story I Never Heard Before

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Donald Isler
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Lyndon Johnson And The Jews- A Story I Never Heard Before

Post by Donald Isler » Fri Nov 14, 2008 5:10 pm

A friend in deed

Sep. 9, 2008
Lenny Ben-David , THE JERUSALEM POST
A few weeks ago, the Associated Press reported that newly released tapes from US president Lyndon Johnson's White House office showed LBJ's "personal and often emotional connection to Israel." The news agency pointed out that during the Johnson presidency (1963-1969), "the United States became Israel's chief diplomatic ally and primary arms supplier."

But the news report does little to reveal the full historical extent of Johnson's actions on behalf of the Jewish people and the State of Israel. Most students of the Arab-Israeli conflict can identify Johnson as the president during the 1967 war. But few know about LBJ's actions to rescue hundreds of endangered Jews during the Holocaust - actions that could have thrown him out of Congress and into jail. Indeed, the title of "Righteous Gentile" is certainly appropriate in the case of the Texan, whose centennial year is being commemorated this year.

Appropriately enough, the annual Jerusalem Conference announced this week that it will honor Johnson in February 2009.

Historians have revealed that Johnson, while serving as a young congressman in 1938 and 1939, arranged for visas to be supplied to Jews in Warsaw, and oversaw the apparently illegal immigration of hundreds of Jews through the port of Galveston, Texas.

A key resource for uncovering LBJ's pro-Jewish activity is the unpublished 1989 doctoral thesis by University of Texas student Louis Gomolak, "Prologue: LBJ's Foreign Affairs Background, 1908-1948." Johnson's activities were confirmed by other historians in interviews with his wife, family members and political associates.

Research into Johnson's personal history indicates that he inherited his concern for the Jewish people from his family. His aunt Jessie Johnson Hatcher, a major influence on LBJ, was a member of the Zionist Organization of America. According to Gomolak, Aunt Jessie had nurtured LBJ's commitment to befriending Jews for 50 years. As a young boy, Lyndon watched his politically active grandfather "Big Sam" and father "Little Sam" seek clemency for Leo Frank, the Jewish victim of a blood libel in Atlanta. Frank was lynched by a mob in 1915, and the Ku Klux Klan in Texas threatened to kill the Johnsons. The Johnsons later told friends that Lyndon's family hid in their cellar while his father and uncles stood guard with shotguns on their porch in case of KKK attacks. Johnson's speechwriter later stated, "Johnson often cited Leo Frank's lynching as the source of his opposition to both anti-Semitism and isolationism."

Already in 1934 - four years before Chamberlain's Munich sellout to Hitler - Johnson was keenly alert to the dangers of Nazism and presented a book of essays, Nazism: An Assault on Civilization, to the 21-year-old woman he was courting, Claudia Taylor - later known as "Lady Bird" Johnson. It was an incredible engagement present.

FIVE DAYS after taking office in 1937, LBJ broke with the "Dixiecrats" and supported an immigration bill that would naturalize illegal aliens, mostly Jews from Lithuania and Poland. In 1938, Johnson was told of a young Austrian Jewish musician who was about to be deported from the United States. With an element of subterfuge, LBJ sent him to the US Consulate in Havana to obtain a residency permit. Erich Leinsdorf, the world famous musician and conductor, credited LBJ for saving his live.

That same year, LBJ warned a Jewish friend, Jim Novy, that European Jews faced annihilation. "Get as many Jewish people as possible out [of Germany and Poland]," were Johnson's instructions. Somehow, Johnson provided him with a pile of signed immigration papers that were used to get 42 Jews out of Warsaw.

But that wasn't enough. According to historian James M. Smallwood, Congressman Johnson used legal and sometimes illegal methods to smuggle "hundreds of Jews into Texas, using Galveston as the entry port. Enough money could buy false passports and fake visas in Cuba, Mexico and other Latin American countries.... Johnson smuggled boatloads and planeloads of Jews into Texas. He hid them in the Texas National Youth Administration... Johnson saved at least four or five hundred Jews, possibly more."

During World War II Johnson joined Novy at a small Austin gathering to sell $65,000 in war bonds. According to Gomolak, Novy and Johnson then raised a very "substantial sum for arms for Jewish underground fighters in Palestine." One source cited by the historian reports that "Novy and Johnson had been secretly shipping heavy crates labeled 'Texas Grapefruit' - but containing arms - to Jewish underground 'freedom fighters' in Palestine."

ON JUNE 4, 1945, Johnson visited Dachau. According to Smallwood, Lady Bird later recalled that when her husband returned home, "he was still shaken, stunned, terrorized and bursting with an overpowering revulsion and incredulous horror at what he had seen."

A decade later while serving in the Senate, Johnson blocked the Eisenhower administration's attempts to apply sanctions against Israel following the 1956 Sinai Campaign. "The indefatigable Johnson had never ceased pressure on the administration," wrote I.L. "Si" Kenen, the head of AIPAC at the time.

As Senate majority leader, Johnson consistently blocked the anti-Israel initiatives of his fellow Democrat, William Fulbright, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Among Johnson's closest advisers during this period were several strong pro-Israel advocates, including Benjamin Cohen (who 30 years earlier was the liaison between Supreme Court justice Louis Brandeis and Chaim Weizmann) and Abe Fortas, the legendary Washington "insider."

Johnson's concern for the Jewish people continued through his presidency. Soon after taking office in the aftermath of John F. Kennedy's assassination in 1963, Johnson told an Israeli diplomat, "You have lost a very great friend, but you have found a better one."

Just one month after succeeding Kennedy, LBJ attended the December 1963 dedication of the Agudas Achim Synagogue in Austin. Novy opened the ceremony by saying to Johnson, "We can't thank him enough for all those Jews he got out of Germany during the days of Hitler."

Lady Bird would later describe the day, according to Gomolak: "Person after person plucked at my sleeve and said, 'I wouldn't be here today if it wasn't for him. He helped me get out.'" Lady Bird elaborated, "Jews had been woven into the warp and woof of all [Lyndon's] years."

THE PRELUDE to the 1967 war was a terrifying period for Israel, with the US State Department led by the historically unfriendly Dean Rusk urging an evenhanded policy despite Arab threats and acts of aggression. Johnson held no such illusions. After the war he placed the blame firmly on Egypt: "If a single act of folly was more responsible for this explosion than any other, it was the arbitrary and dangerous announced decision [by Egypt] that the Strait of Tiran would be closed [to Israeli ships and Israeli-bound cargo]."

Kennedy was the first president to approve the sale of defensive US weapons to Israel, specifically Hawk anti-aircraft missiles. But Johnson approved tanks and fighter jets, all vital after the 1967 war when France imposed a freeze on sales to Israel. Yehuda Avner recently described on these pages prime minister Levi Eshkol's successful appeal for these weapons on a visit to the LBJ ranch.

Israel won the 1967 war, and Johnson worked to make sure it also won the peace. "I sure as hell want to be careful and not run out on little Israel," Johnson said in a March 1968 conversation with his ambassador to the United Nations, Arthur Goldberg, according to White House tapes recently released.

Soon after the 1967 war, Soviet premier Aleksei Kosygin asked Johnson at the Glassboro Summit why the US supported Israel when there were 80 million Arabs and only three million Israelis. "Because it is right," responded the straight-shooting Texan.

The crafting of UN Resolution 242 in November 1967 was done under Johnson's scrutiny. The call for "secure and recognized boundaries" was critical. The American and British drafters of the resolution opposed Israel returning all the territories captured in the war. In September 1968, Johnson explained, "We are not the ones to say where other nations should draw lines between them that will assure each the greatest security. It is clear, however, that a return to the situation of 4 June 1967 will not bring peace. There must be secure and there must be recognized borders. Some such lines must be agreed to by the neighbors involved."

Goldberg later noted, "Resolution 242 in no way refers to Jerusalem, and this omission was deliberate." This historic diplomacy was conducted under Johnson's stewardship, as Goldberg related in oral history to the Johnson Library. "I must say for Johnson," Goldberg stated. "He gave me great personal support."

Robert David Johnson, a professor of history at Brooklyn College, recently wrote in The New York Sun, "Johnson's policies stemmed more from personal concerns - his friendship with leading Zionists, his belief that America had a moral obligation to bolster Israeli security and his conception of Israel as a frontier land much like his home state of Texas. His personal concerns led him to intervene when he felt that the State or Defense departments had insufficiently appreciated Israel's diplomatic or military needs."

President Johnson firmly pointed American policy in a pro-Israel direction. In a historical context, the American emergency airlift to Israel in 1973, the constant diplomatic support, the economic and military assistance and the strategic bonds between the two countries can all be credited to the seeds planted by LBJ.

The writer served as deputy chief of mission of the Israeli Embassy in Washington. Today, an international consultant, he blogs at www.lennybendavid.com.

Copyright 1995- 2008 The Jerusalem Post - http://www.jpost.com/
Donald Isler

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Re: Lyndon Johnson And The Jews- A Story I Never Heard Before

Post by Mark Harwood » Fri Nov 14, 2008 5:29 pm

Well well. LBJ did good.
The reasons for his actions seem to deserve closer scrutiny.
"I did it for the music."
Ken Colyer

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Re: Lyndon Johnson And The Jews- A Story I Never Heard Before

Post by Ralph » Fri Nov 14, 2008 10:01 pm

I don't find this surprising at all. LBJ's commitment to equality and cocnern for the persecuted was genuine and deep. Were it not for Vietnam rerouting his domestic program, I think he would have emerged as one of the greaterst of our presidents.
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Re: Lyndon Johnson And The Jews- A Story I Never Heard Before

Post by Bro » Sat Nov 15, 2008 12:56 pm

Yeah, if only he hadn't been responsible for one of the modern horrors of history... :mrgreen:

His best friend was Abe Fortas, a Jew, and I think the first to be appointed to the Supreme Court. LBJ was also responsible for getting a visa for Erich Leinsdorf back in the Thirties, when Johnson was still a Congressman. Saving Leinsdorf, who was jewish from having to return to his native Germany.. So you have him to thank if you don't like Leinsdorf's conducting.


Bro

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Re: Lyndon Johnson And The Jews- A Story I Never Heard Before

Post by Donald Isler » Sat Nov 15, 2008 1:08 pm

1) Leinsdorf wasn't from Germany.

2) What are your great contributions to society that you would be worth saving if such a thing happened again?
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Re: Lyndon Johnson And The Jews- A Story I Never Heard Before

Post by Bro » Sat Nov 15, 2008 1:12 pm

I don't understand the rancor in your post. I was trying to add to what you had said. You are reading something into it that was not intended.


So, Leinsdorf was from Austria. Got it...


Bro

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Re: Lyndon Johnson And The Jews- A Story I Never Heard Before

Post by Donald Isler » Sat Nov 15, 2008 1:15 pm

You made a joke about an innocent (whatever you think of his conducting!) person who could have been sent back to a situation where he would very likely be murdered. I just don't think that's very nice.
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Re: Lyndon Johnson And The Jews- A Story I Never Heard Before

Post by Bro » Sat Nov 15, 2008 1:19 pm

Don,

No offense or joke was intended. As far as my opinion of Leinsdorf, read the CMG Chatterbox under " Worst Conductors" in which I defend him as being a very good conductor, which indeed he was.

bye

TopoGigio

Re: Lyndon Johnson And The Jews- A Story I Never Heard Before

Post by TopoGigio » Sat Nov 15, 2008 2:21 pm

MarkHarwood wrote:Well well. LBJ did good.
The reasons for his actions seem to deserve closer scrutiny.
Why ?! :shock: For casting shadows in the specific issue,you are asked to
tell us...at some lenght...something :?

Even for an U$ President... :P

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Re: Lyndon Johnson And The Jews- A Story I Never Heard Before

Post by Agnes Selby » Sat Nov 15, 2008 2:31 pm

TopoGigio wrote:
MarkHarwood wrote:Well well. LBJ did good.
The reasons for his actions seem to deserve closer scrutiny.
Why ?! :shock: For casting shadows in the specific issue,you are asked to
tell us...at some lenght...something :?

Even for an U$ President... :P
---------

Indeed, this raises a point. Why does a good deed "deserve closer scrutiny"?

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Re: Lyndon Johnson And The Jews- A Story I Never Heard Before

Post by Reed » Sat Nov 15, 2008 4:09 pm

A very interesting article. Didn't know any of this, and I doubt many did, including old codgers like me who lived through the period. Even more remarkable, for a child of the south, was his concern for blacks having equal rights. He said his actions would lose the south for democrats for a generation, and he was right, but he did it anyway, 'cause it was the right thing to do.

As far as motives, who cares? Good is good. If we were to see into sombody's heart and find they were just polishing their resumes for the future, the lives would still be saved. Besides, in this case his early actions were under the table, so he was hardly grandstanding. Lives were saved because of him, and that's all that matters.

Too bad he couldn't see beyond the domino theory of the age, and realize his policies were killing Vietnamese peasants who weren't threats to us--not to mention thousands and thousands of his own countrymen. Many of them the disadvantaged black youths he was otherwise concerned about.

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Re: Lyndon Johnson And The Jews- A Story I Never Heard Before

Post by Mark Harwood » Sat Nov 15, 2008 5:57 pm

Agnes Selby wrote:
TopoGigio wrote:
MarkHarwood wrote:Well well. LBJ did good.
The reasons for his actions seem to deserve closer scrutiny.
Why ?! :shock: For casting shadows in the specific issue,you are asked to
tell us...at some lenght...something :?

Even for an U$ President... :P
---------

Indeed, this raises a point. Why does a good deed "deserve closer scrutiny"?
Don't all deeds that have great consequences?
"I did it for the music."
Ken Colyer

Mango

Re: Lyndon Johnson And The Jews- A Story I Never Heard Before

Post by Mango » Sun Nov 16, 2008 2:44 am

Mark Harwood wrote:
Agnes Selby wrote:
TopoGigio wrote:
MarkHarwood wrote:Well well. LBJ did good.
The reasons for his actions seem to deserve closer scrutiny.
Why ?! :shock: For casting shadows in the specific issue,you are asked to
tell us...at some lenght...something :?

Even for an U$ President... :P
---------

Indeed, this raises a point. Why does a good deed "deserve closer scrutiny"?
Don't all deeds that have great consequences?
Oh dear, Mr Harwood, you appear to be the latest victim of the witch hunts regularly carried out here by anyone who dares post anything remotely questioning of certain topics. Surely you have been here, among this nest of vipers, long enough to know better? Their tactic is to post a seemingly inoffensive newspaper article on some aspect of their favourite topic, and then to wait for an innocent to come along and take the bait by asking some pertinent questions. So bonkers are certain members of this gang that they believe unquestioningly in all the gossipy news (and note the same newspaper sources they invariably quote) which they can find that suits their predilections on certain subjects. Other more disinterested people, however, might want to question and probe a little further behind such potentially biased reporting, or to suggest quite innocently that there might be more to the story that hasn't quite surfaced yet. Whichever, such comments normally trigger "curtains" for the victim as one, followed by another of the beady-eyed predators leap out of the undergrowth and gobble up the prey almost without notice. Once this happens, you normally can't rely on assistance from others as they've been around this jungle long enough to know that you don't mess with this bunch, and hope to get away with it.

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Re: Lyndon Johnson And The Jews- A Story I Never Heard Before

Post by pizza » Sun Nov 16, 2008 3:11 am

Mango, poor baby -- how you suffer! If you're as disinterested as you pretend to be about matters Jewish, then why not stay the hell out of these threads instead of incessantly stalking them? But of course then you won't be able to claim phony "victimhood". Your only "contribution" to any thread addressing a Jewish subject is to repeatedly attack those who correctly identify you for what you are, and claiming with retaliatory wide-eyed innocence that we're all members of a so-called "cabal" bent on suppressing inquisitive discourse. This thread is a perfect example. Have you anything of interest to say about LBJ? Did you even know who he was? Probably not. You get your kicks from slobbering about those who are genuinely interested, for reasons obvious to anyone who reads your pathetic drivel. Bet you didn't know LBJ was an American president, not an abbreviation for "Let's Bash Jews".

Mango

Re: Lyndon Johnson And The Jews- A Story I Never Heard Before

Post by Mango » Sun Nov 16, 2008 5:15 am

pizza wrote:Mango, poor baby -- how you suffer! If you're as disinterested as you pretend to be in matters Jewish, then why don't you stay the hell out of these threads? But of course then you won't be able to claim "victimhood". Your only "contribution" to any thread addressing a Jewish subject is to repeatedly attack those who correctly identify you for what you are, while claiming with phony wide-eyed innocence that we're all members of a so-called "cabal". This thread is a perfect example. Have you anything of interest to say about LBJ? Did you even know who he was? Probably not. You get your kicks from slobbering about those who do. Bet you didn't know LBJ was an American president, not an abbreviation for "Let's Bash Jews".
Full of nonsense, as ever. I most often do stay out of Jewish threads, but it's a bit difficult when there are are so many of them, and especially when they tend to portray a negative view of other cultures or organisations, as some of yours have done in the past. I'm sure you will remember your last encounter with me over some of your OTT claims about alleged ant-Israel bias by the BBC, which thread was eventually dumped completely by the Moderator of this place because you clearly were beaten into an embarrassing defeat as I exposed your paranoid, ill-researched, tabloid-level, anti-British prejudice. In the present case, I'm merely highlighting yet another manifestation of the cabal-like behaviour of certain members here in picking up on a perfectly innocent comment made about the almost-too-to-be-true new revelations about LBJ in, guess what, the Jerusalem Post.

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Re: Lyndon Johnson And The Jews- A Story I Never Heard Before

Post by pizza » Sun Nov 16, 2008 5:54 am

Mango wrote:
pizza wrote:Mango, poor baby -- how you suffer! If you're as disinterested as you pretend to be in matters Jewish, then why don't you stay the hell out of these threads? But of course then you won't be able to claim "victimhood". Your only "contribution" to any thread addressing a Jewish subject is to repeatedly attack those who correctly identify you for what you are, while claiming with phony wide-eyed innocence that we're all members of a so-called "cabal". This thread is a perfect example. Have you anything of interest to say about LBJ? Did you even know who he was? Probably not. You get your kicks from slobbering about those who do. Bet you didn't know LBJ was an American president, not an abbreviation for "Let's Bash Jews".
Full of nonsense, as ever. I most often do stay out of Jewish threads, but it's a bit difficult when there are are so many of them, and especially when they tend to portray a negative view of other cultures or organisations, as some of yours have done in the past. I'm sure you will remember your last encounter with me over some of your OTT claims about alleged ant-Israel bias by the BBC, which thread was eventually dumped completely by the Moderator of this place because you clearly were beaten into an embarrassing defeat as I exposed your paranoid, ill-researched, tabloid-level, anti-British prejudice. In the present case, I'm merely highlighting yet another manifestation of the cabal-like behaviour of certain members here in picking up on a perfectly innocent comment made about the almost-too-to-be-true new revelations about LBJ in, guess what, the Jerusalem Post.
These articles concerning the BBC and other Brit media outlets, previously posted here during the 2006 Lebanon war can hardly be called "paranoid, ill-researched, tabloid-level, anti-British prejudice".

http://www.classicalmusicguide.com/view ... ce#p127085

You have either forgotten or deliberately overlooked the fact that the BBC finally acknowledged some measure of its anti-Israel reporting bias after a self-examination prompted by carefully documented external criticism, much of which I and others had reported. I'll be most happy to continue to suffer any future such "defeats" that your pathetic efforts might produce.

But more to the point, it would be useful for you to take the cue from the BBC and perform a similar self-examination of your own prejudices. A fair reading of all the contributions to this thread, as well as those to many others, save your own, clearly shows that the only paranoia exhibited is your attempt to distort and force fair comment into meanings never intended, while trying to enlist some newbies into an anti-Jewish cabal, which for obvious reasons you can't seem to organize despite your incessant efforts.

The bottom line is that many contributors to these boards, who represent a wide spectrum of political and religious views know what you are up to and won't let it go unanswered.

Mango

Re: Lyndon Johnson And The Jews- A Story I Never Heard Before

Post by Mango » Sun Nov 16, 2008 6:28 am

pizza wrote: The bottom line is that many contributors to these boards, who represent a wide spectrum of political and religious views know what you are up to and won't let it go unanswered.
Oh yeah? If you and other members of your cabal want to proliferate Jewish propaganda about other religions, cultures, and media organisations you must occasionally expect some resistance. In any case, I very much doubt that there is a "wide spectrum of political and religious opinion" on this Board. Most of the people who have attempted to speak out against the evident dominance of your kind of propaganda have either been banned, warned off, or cleared off completely of their own accord. You will soon have the place to yourselves at this rate.

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Re: Lyndon Johnson And The Jews- A Story I Never Heard Before

Post by pizza » Sun Nov 16, 2008 7:05 am

Mango wrote:
pizza wrote: The bottom line is that many contributors to these boards, who represent a wide spectrum of political and religious views know what you are up to and won't let it go unanswered.
Oh yeah? If you and other members of your cabal want to proliferate Jewish propaganda about other religions, cultures, and media organisations you must occasionally expect some resistance. In any case, I very much doubt that there is a "wide spectrum of political and religious opinion" on this Board. Most of the people who have attempted to speak out against the evident dominance of your kind of propaganda have either been banned, warned off, or cleared off completely of their own accord. You will soon have the place to yourselves at this rate.
Yeah. Get used to it. You were caught recruiting again, but this time you were called on it. Nobody wants to read your anti-Jewish crap here regardless of the form in which you put it. As I'm sure you know, there is no shortage of it elsewhere on the web; plenty of anti-Semitic sites exist that are run by the dregs of the world to which anyone who wants to read slime can go.

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Re: Lyndon Johnson And The Jews- A Story I Never Heard Before

Post by Mark Harwood » Sun Nov 16, 2008 5:11 pm

Thanks Mango. I'm out of this one.
"I did it for the music."
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Re: Lyndon Johnson And The Jews- A Story I Never Heard Before

Post by living_stradivarius » Sun Nov 16, 2008 5:49 pm

TopoGigio wrote:
MarkHarwood wrote:Well well. LBJ did good.
The reasons for his actions seem to deserve closer scrutiny.
Why ?! :shock: For casting shadows in the specific issue,you are asked to
tell us...at some lenght...something :?

Even for an U$ President... :P
Especially New Deal 1.5 :D
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Re: Lyndon Johnson And The Jews- A Story I Never Heard Before

Post by pizza » Mon Nov 17, 2008 1:51 am

As most people familiar with recent Jewish history know, LBJ was not unique in his quest to help Jews in serious trouble. There were others who also did good deeds on their behalf, such as Chiune and Yukiko Sugihara. Mrs. Sugihara died last month, aged 94, and there have been several tributes paid both to her and to her heroic husband in the media, including, of all places, the Jerusalem Post -- imagine that!

There are some who believe it's naive to suggest that people can do good deeds purely out of the kindness of their hearts, so it may be useful to scrutinize their motives.

http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jso ... ihara.html

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Re: Lyndon Johnson And The Jews- A Story I Never Heard Before

Post by Agnes Selby » Mon Nov 17, 2008 6:05 am

There are some who believe it's naive to suggest that people can do good deeds purely out of the kindness of their hearts, so it may be useful to scrutinize their motives.

http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jso ... ihara.html[/quote]

Many Jewish people who survived World War II in what was once Czechoslovakia,
survived because of the goodness of peoples hearts. There was no motive
it was the humane thing to do and often at risk to themselves. There are
many untold stories and as many people who are now dead whose generous deeds
were never celebrated. I am quite sure that the same can be said about
many people in all the countries occupied by the Nazi regime. Goodness cannot be measured by motives.

----------------

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Re: Lyndon Johnson And The Jews- A Story I Never Heard Before

Post by Ralph » Mon Nov 17, 2008 10:36 am

Bro wrote:Yeah, if only he hadn't been responsible for one of the modern horrors of history... :mrgreen:

His best friend was Abe Fortas, a Jew, and I think the first to be appointed to the Supreme Court. LBJ was also responsible for getting a visa for Erich Leinsdorf back in the Thirties, when Johnson was still a Congressman. Saving Leinsdorf, who was jewish from having to return to his native Germany.. So you have him to thank if you don't like Leinsdorf's conducting.


Bro
****

Cardozo was the first Jewish member of the Supreme Court followed by Brandeis. Justice Frankfurter was also Jewish.
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Re: Lyndon Johnson And The Jews- A Story I Never Heard Before

Post by Ted » Mon Nov 17, 2008 1:29 pm

Ralph writes:
Justice Frankfurter was also Jewish.
In fact he was a Hebrew National****

SaulChanukah

Re: Lyndon Johnson And The Jews- A Story I Never Heard Before

Post by SaulChanukah » Thu Nov 20, 2008 8:49 pm

Donald Isler wrote:A friend in deed

Sep. 9, 2008
Lenny Ben-David , THE JERUSALEM POST
A few weeks ago, the Associated Press reported that newly released tapes from US president Lyndon Johnson's White House office showed LBJ's "personal and often emotional connection to Israel." The news agency pointed out that during the Johnson presidency (1963-1969), "the United States became Israel's chief diplomatic ally and primary arms supplier."

But the news report does little to reveal the full historical extent of Johnson's actions on behalf of the Jewish people and the State of Israel. Most students of the Arab-Israeli conflict can identify Johnson as the president during the 1967 war. But few know about LBJ's actions to rescue hundreds of endangered Jews during the Holocaust - actions that could have thrown him out of Congress and into jail. Indeed, the title of "Righteous Gentile" is certainly appropriate in the case of the Texan, whose centennial year is being commemorated this year.

Appropriately enough, the annual Jerusalem Conference announced this week that it will honor Johnson in February 2009.

Historians have revealed that Johnson, while serving as a young congressman in 1938 and 1939, arranged for visas to be supplied to Jews in Warsaw, and oversaw the apparently illegal immigration of hundreds of Jews through the port of Galveston, Texas.

A key resource for uncovering LBJ's pro-Jewish activity is the unpublished 1989 doctoral thesis by University of Texas student Louis Gomolak, "Prologue: LBJ's Foreign Affairs Background, 1908-1948." Johnson's activities were confirmed by other historians in interviews with his wife, family members and political associates.

Research into Johnson's personal history indicates that he inherited his concern for the Jewish people from his family. His aunt Jessie Johnson Hatcher, a major influence on LBJ, was a member of the Zionist Organization of America. According to Gomolak, Aunt Jessie had nurtured LBJ's commitment to befriending Jews for 50 years. As a young boy, Lyndon watched his politically active grandfather "Big Sam" and father "Little Sam" seek clemency for Leo Frank, the Jewish victim of a blood libel in Atlanta. Frank was lynched by a mob in 1915, and the Ku Klux Klan in Texas threatened to kill the Johnsons. The Johnsons later told friends that Lyndon's family hid in their cellar while his father and uncles stood guard with shotguns on their porch in case of KKK attacks. Johnson's speechwriter later stated, "Johnson often cited Leo Frank's lynching as the source of his opposition to both anti-Semitism and isolationism."

Already in 1934 - four years before Chamberlain's Munich sellout to Hitler - Johnson was keenly alert to the dangers of Nazism and presented a book of essays, Nazism: An Assault on Civilization, to the 21-year-old woman he was courting, Claudia Taylor - later known as "Lady Bird" Johnson. It was an incredible engagement present.

FIVE DAYS after taking office in 1937, LBJ broke with the "Dixiecrats" and supported an immigration bill that would naturalize illegal aliens, mostly Jews from Lithuania and Poland. In 1938, Johnson was told of a young Austrian Jewish musician who was about to be deported from the United States. With an element of subterfuge, LBJ sent him to the US Consulate in Havana to obtain a residency permit. Erich Leinsdorf, the world famous musician and conductor, credited LBJ for saving his live.

That same year, LBJ warned a Jewish friend, Jim Novy, that European Jews faced annihilation. "Get as many Jewish people as possible out [of Germany and Poland]," were Johnson's instructions. Somehow, Johnson provided him with a pile of signed immigration papers that were used to get 42 Jews out of Warsaw.

But that wasn't enough. According to historian James M. Smallwood, Congressman Johnson used legal and sometimes illegal methods to smuggle "hundreds of Jews into Texas, using Galveston as the entry port. Enough money could buy false passports and fake visas in Cuba, Mexico and other Latin American countries.... Johnson smuggled boatloads and planeloads of Jews into Texas. He hid them in the Texas National Youth Administration... Johnson saved at least four or five hundred Jews, possibly more."

During World War II Johnson joined Novy at a small Austin gathering to sell $65,000 in war bonds. According to Gomolak, Novy and Johnson then raised a very "substantial sum for arms for Jewish underground fighters in Palestine." One source cited by the historian reports that "Novy and Johnson had been secretly shipping heavy crates labeled 'Texas Grapefruit' - but containing arms - to Jewish underground 'freedom fighters' in Palestine."

ON JUNE 4, 1945, Johnson visited Dachau. According to Smallwood, Lady Bird later recalled that when her husband returned home, "he was still shaken, stunned, terrorized and bursting with an overpowering revulsion and incredulous horror at what he had seen."

A decade later while serving in the Senate, Johnson blocked the Eisenhower administration's attempts to apply sanctions against Israel following the 1956 Sinai Campaign. "The indefatigable Johnson had never ceased pressure on the administration," wrote I.L. "Si" Kenen, the head of AIPAC at the time.

As Senate majority leader, Johnson consistently blocked the anti-Israel initiatives of his fellow Democrat, William Fulbright, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Among Johnson's closest advisers during this period were several strong pro-Israel advocates, including Benjamin Cohen (who 30 years earlier was the liaison between Supreme Court justice Louis Brandeis and Chaim Weizmann) and Abe Fortas, the legendary Washington "insider."

Johnson's concern for the Jewish people continued through his presidency. Soon after taking office in the aftermath of John F. Kennedy's assassination in 1963, Johnson told an Israeli diplomat, "You have lost a very great friend, but you have found a better one."

Just one month after succeeding Kennedy, LBJ attended the December 1963 dedication of the Agudas Achim Synagogue in Austin. Novy opened the ceremony by saying to Johnson, "We can't thank him enough for all those Jews he got out of Germany during the days of Hitler."

Lady Bird would later describe the day, according to Gomolak: "Person after person plucked at my sleeve and said, 'I wouldn't be here today if it wasn't for him. He helped me get out.'" Lady Bird elaborated, "Jews had been woven into the warp and woof of all [Lyndon's] years."

THE PRELUDE to the 1967 war was a terrifying period for Israel, with the US State Department led by the historically unfriendly Dean Rusk urging an evenhanded policy despite Arab threats and acts of aggression. Johnson held no such illusions. After the war he placed the blame firmly on Egypt: "If a single act of folly was more responsible for this explosion than any other, it was the arbitrary and dangerous announced decision [by Egypt] that the Strait of Tiran would be closed [to Israeli ships and Israeli-bound cargo]."

Kennedy was the first president to approve the sale of defensive US weapons to Israel, specifically Hawk anti-aircraft missiles. But Johnson approved tanks and fighter jets, all vital after the 1967 war when France imposed a freeze on sales to Israel. Yehuda Avner recently described on these pages prime minister Levi Eshkol's successful appeal for these weapons on a visit to the LBJ ranch.

Israel won the 1967 war, and Johnson worked to make sure it also won the peace. "I sure as hell want to be careful and not run out on little Israel," Johnson said in a March 1968 conversation with his ambassador to the United Nations, Arthur Goldberg, according to White House tapes recently released.

Soon after the 1967 war, Soviet premier Aleksei Kosygin asked Johnson at the Glassboro Summit why the US supported Israel when there were 80 million Arabs and only three million Israelis. "Because it is right," responded the straight-shooting Texan.

The crafting of UN Resolution 242 in November 1967 was done under Johnson's scrutiny. The call for "secure and recognized boundaries" was critical. The American and British drafters of the resolution opposed Israel returning all the territories captured in the war. In September 1968, Johnson explained, "We are not the ones to say where other nations should draw lines between them that will assure each the greatest security. It is clear, however, that a return to the situation of 4 June 1967 will not bring peace. There must be secure and there must be recognized borders. Some such lines must be agreed to by the neighbors involved."

Goldberg later noted, "Resolution 242 in no way refers to Jerusalem, and this omission was deliberate." This historic diplomacy was conducted under Johnson's stewardship, as Goldberg related in oral history to the Johnson Library. "I must say for Johnson," Goldberg stated. "He gave me great personal support."

Robert David Johnson, a professor of history at Brooklyn College, recently wrote in The New York Sun, "Johnson's policies stemmed more from personal concerns - his friendship with leading Zionists, his belief that America had a moral obligation to bolster Israeli security and his conception of Israel as a frontier land much like his home state of Texas. His personal concerns led him to intervene when he felt that the State or Defense departments had insufficiently appreciated Israel's diplomatic or military needs."

President Johnson firmly pointed American policy in a pro-Israel direction. In a historical context, the American emergency airlift to Israel in 1973, the constant diplomatic support, the economic and military assistance and the strategic bonds between the two countries can all be credited to the seeds planted by LBJ.

The writer served as deputy chief of mission of the Israeli Embassy in Washington. Today, an international consultant, he blogs at http://www.lennybendavid.com.

Copyright 1995- 2008 The Jerusalem Post - http://www.jpost.com/
Thank you Donald for providing us with this information about this great American man and President.

Best Wishes,

pizza
Posts: 5094
Joined: Fri Mar 25, 2005 4:03 am

Re: Lyndon Johnson And The Jews- A Story I Never Heard Before

Post by pizza » Fri Nov 21, 2008 6:08 am

Here is an interesting, relevant story about Hans von Dohnányi, son of composer Ernő Dohnányi and father of conductor Christoph von Dohnányi:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hans_von_Dohnanyi

Agnes Selby
Author of Constanze Mozart's biography
Posts: 5568
Joined: Tue Dec 20, 2005 3:27 am
Location: Australia

Re: Lyndon Johnson And The Jews- A Story I Never Heard Before

Post by Agnes Selby » Fri Nov 21, 2008 1:18 pm

Thank you, Pizza for this interesting posting.
Regards,
Agnes.

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