In his review of the book “FDR and the Jews” [Outlook, May 26], James McAuley claimed that the 1940s activists known as the Bergson Group “made public appeals meant to strongarm the [U.S.] government into action” to rescue Jews from the Holocaust.
My great-grandfather, the late Rep. Andrew Lawrence Somers (D-N.Y.), was a prominent supporter of the Bergson Group. Throughout his long tenure in the House — 12 consecutive terms from 1925 to 1949 — he strove diligently to advocate for the Jewish people imperiled by Hitler and, later, to advocate for the recognition of the nascent state of Israel. He was not a zealot; rather, he stood by his moral obligations even when it meant going against the Democratic Party line.
Neither he nor the Bergsonites strong-armed anybody. They did exactly what a citizen should do when the government fails to do the right thing: They spoke out, wrote articles, sponsored newspaper ads, organized petitions and marched in protest. That’s not strong-arming; that’s democracy in action.
Philip Lawrence Somers Deely, New York
First of all, that is an admirable push-back. I am not aware of McAuley's tendencies regarding Jews but the semantic nastiness is quite palpable, even if an unconscious expression. And it surely doesn't reflect on his grasp of civic activism.
Of course, if the Bergson Boys had not been encumbered by the Jewish establishment's hostility, even their stridency would not have been necessary.
If you haven't read Rafael Medoff's new book on FDR, no, not this one, do so.