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US Government Rescue Efforts

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"Time Races Death: What Are We Waiting For?"

On December 17, 1943, the Emergency Committee to Save the Jewish People of Europe1 placed this full-page advertisement in the New York Times. It urged passage of a congressional bill nicknamed the "Rescue Resolution." The bill was bipartisan and had been introduced six weeks earlier by congressmen who supported the Emergency Committee. It called on President Franklin Roosevelt to help "formulate and effectuate a plan of immediate action designed to save the surviving Jewish people of Europe from extinction at the hands of Nazi Germany." 

The Emergency Committee's effort was led by Peter Bergson, a Lithuanian-born Jewish activist raised in Palestine. Leaders of most American Jewish organizations were united in their dislike of Bergson and the Emergency Committee because of his aggressive lobbying tactics, even if these organizations also supported his aim to spark a serious rescue effort for Europe's Jews. Bergson's committee lobbied non-Jewish Americans, trying to raise their awareness of the Nazi campaign of mass murder and to frame the rescue of victims as a human rights issue. Throughout 1943, Bergson and his colleagues built public support for a broader US response to Nazi atrocities. The Emergency Committee staged pageants and rallies, organized an Orthodox rabbis' march on Washington, and placed full-page newspaper ads like this one.

When "Time Races Death: What Are We Waiting For?" appeared, the Emergency Committee's resolution was still awaiting a vote in Congress. Bergson testified multiple times in Congressional hearings, advocating for the creation of the commission. Assistant Secretary of State Breckinridge Long—who opposed any intervention of behalf of Europe's Jews—testified as well.2 On the left side of the ad, the Emergency Committee accuses Long of lying to Congress about the work the State Department had done to assist Jews. The text draws the reader's attention to Long's claim that the US had already accepted 580,000 refugees from German-dominated Europe. It points out that the US had only admitted a far lower number.

After drawing readers' attention to a list of prominent figures (most of them affiliated with the Emergency Committee) and newspapers that supported the "Rescue Resolution," the ad asked Americans to join in support of rescue: "Let Congress know that the American people join us in the fight to save the surviving Jews of Europe—a cause which represents not only human lives but is also a last case of humanity and civilization."

The Emergency Committee to Save the Jewish People of Europe was formed after the "Emergency Conference to Save the Jewish People of Europe" in July 1943. The conference was attended by writers and intellectuals—most of them non-Jewish—but was organized by Peter Bergson and his colleagues, who then assumed leadership of the Emergency Committee.

For more on Breckinridge Long's position on American rescue efforts and the plight of European Jews, see the related Experiencing History item, Summary of Bermuda Conference Recommendations.

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Archival Information for This Item

Source (Credit)
The New York Times
Date Created
December 17, 1943
Author / Creator
Peter Bergson
The Emergency Committee to Save the Jewish People of Europe
The New York Times
New York, USA
Document Type Newspaper Article
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