Conventional wisdom holds that the United States did too little, too late, to stop the Holocaust. It did not bomb Auschwitz or the railroads leading to it,
for example. Fearing public opposition, the Roosevelt administration admitted few Jewish refugees. And the State Department deliberately suppressed
information about the murder of Jews. This sober, well-documented book by an archivist at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum acknowledges these basic facts but advances a more nuanced view. It describes how in early 1944, American Jewish leaders finally managed to convince President Franklin Roosevelt to create the War Refugee Board, which was tasked with coordinating U.S. efforts to rescue Jews and other persecuted minorities. In its 19-month existence, the board engaged in ransom negotiations, organized the rescue of the Swedish businessman Raoul Wallenberg and others in Budapest, evacuated Jews to peaceful parts of Europe and to Palestine, established a refugee camp in upstate New York, and helped deliver 300,000 food parcels to prisoners in Europe. Almost all writing on the Holocaust triggers controversy, as this book already has. Yet Erbelding’s book shows that governments do sometimes act for humanitarian purposes, even in the midst of war.