My Weekly Reader.

            Couple of bumper-stickers from days of yore on the subject of free speech: “Who ever knew Truth put to the worse in a free and open encounter?” and “Does a book displease you?  Refute it.”[1]  Still, these are just one opinion on the subject.  Equally representative is the rant against those who publish “foolish, ignorant, malignant, libellous (sic), mad, impious, and subversive ideas.”[2]  The ideas seem self-evident, as do the contemporary applications to Donald Trump’s lies about the 2020 election. 

            These statements arose in response to the invention of the printing press.[3]  “Bad ideas” and “bad speech” had been around for a very long time.  Governments had dealt with them on an “ad hoc” basis.[4]  The printing press allowed the mass publication of books at a comparatively low price.  The audience expanded.  Soon, the Protestant Reformation emphasized mass literacy.[5]  The audience expanded again.  From the 16th Century on, governments struggled against the flood of books that some people did not want other people to read.  To avoid being drowned,[6] they developed the technique of delegation.[7]  Printers, comparatively few in number, were held responsible for the authors, numerous as flies in an outhouse.  This could work so long as all countries followed the same rules.  However, as has often been the case with agreed production limits in OPEC, somebody always cheated.  The Dutch, in particular, often published books that the neighboring French wanted banned.  The market (smugglers, book-sellers with “something in the back room that might interest you”) did the rest.[8]  The printers of today are Facebook, Youtube, and Twitter.  They face a great deal of political pressure to either weed-out or stop weeding-out contested speech. 

            Recently, the Pew Research Center reported that, in 19 advanced economies, a median of 70 percent of respondents see the “spread of false information on-line” as a “major threat.” Younger people are much more likely to regard this as less of a threat than do older people.  In the United States, 75 percent of people 50 and older regard it as a major threat, while 56 percent of those 18-29 see it that way.  Similarly, younger Americans who follow social media express less concern about made-up news as a factor in politics or as a worsening problem.[9]    

            Perhaps young people are dopey or old people are technophobes.  Or maybe young people know a skunk when they smell one.  As Milton and Voltaire seemed to believe of all. 

[1] John Milton and Voltaire respectively. 

[2] Erasmus. 

[3] Jonathan Marks, “How Dare You Say Such Things,” a review of Jacob Mchangama, Free Speech: A History From Socrates to Social Media (2022), WSJ, 10 February 2022.  Marks is a professor of politics at Ursinus College and a tireless defender of liberal education. 

[4] Witness the unfortunate Socrates and Jesus of Nazareth incidents.  Not that more recent governments haven’t pursued the same solution.  Witness Leon Trotsky and Salman Rushdie. 

[5] Even if mass literacy did not become a reality until much later on. 

[6] One censor, exhausted and half-blind, lamented that “What we need is a halt to printing.”  Couldn’t put that genie back into the bottle. 

[7] What I know about this comes from “A Police Inspector Sorts His Files: The Anatomy of the Republic of Letters,” in Robert Darnton, The Great Cat Massacre and Other Episodes in French Cultural History (1984). 

[8] Later, in the Soviet Union, with its tightly controlled borders, people resorted to “samizdat.” 

[9] See: Three-in-four across 19 countries view global climate change as a major threat to their country | Pew Research Center  and 6. Younger Americans and those who prefer social media for news feel less concern about the issue of made-up news | Pew Research Center 

The Asian Century 23.

            Who knows best, government or the markets? 

            Governments have a larger range of concerns than do markets; among them is the need to promote the national welfare.  National “welfare” includes national security as well as material prosperity. 

            For many years, people believed in the great benefits of comparative advantage and global trade.  For example, Americans could devote themselves to producing high-value goods (like computer software) while farming out the low-value goods (like textiles or computer chips) to developing economies.  In a nutshell, the United States became dependent for some key products—both for economic prosperity and national security—on Asian manufacturers.  This didn’t mean only China.  Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan especially became vital suppliers. 

            In some Asian countries, conditions could allow corporations to ignore or subordinate investor concerns about short-term factors like return on investment, quarterly earnings reports, or stock prices.  They may have had a different attitude toward capital than the prevailing view in the United States.  They saw it as abundant, rather than scarce.  Moreover, they were in the control of families, or part of a web of allied companies, or had the backing of their governments.  In the United States on the other hand, capital markets held the whip hand.[1] 

            Chinese assertion in the western Pacific has belatedly cast into doubt the virtues of comparative advantage and global trade.  The supply-chain mess attending the Covid pandemic showed what could happen if anything disrupted trade in vital commodities.  Now the United States has launched a major effort to rebuild its position in the manufacture of semi-conductors.[2] 

            In economic theory (and practice), markets allocate resources best.  Investors (whether the idle rich or public employee pension funds) will be happy with high returns and unhappy with lower returns, whatever the cause.  Capital markets (like Wall Street) allocate capital to the places where it will earn the highest return. 

            Companies can be asset-heavy (like steel-makers) or they can be asset-light (like owners of some form of intellectual property—social media platforms, movie studios, software designers).[3]  In recent decades, the returns on investment in asset-light companies has been tremendous.  So that is where a lot of investment has flowed. 

            In recent decades, economies of scale required the construction of enormous semi-conductor computer-chip factories (fabrication plants or “fabs”).  Only such plants could produce a return on investment that would satisfy investors.  They cost a lot of money, in the area of $10 billion each.  Hard-pressed to obtain capital and unable to scale-up, lesser American producers started off-shoring production to China and Taiwan.[4] 

            At least two questions arise.  First, can government subsidies counter the force of the market?  Second, America has lost ground in many areas of “advanced manufacturing,” not only in semi-conductors.  What about those other industries? 

[1] Greg Ip, “In U.S. Chip-Making Push, Wall Street Shrugs,” WSJ, 15 September 2022. 

[2] The Chips and Science Act, July 2022, allocates better than $50 billion in subsidies to the chip fabricators. 

[3] Examples of the latter include computer chip-designers, chip-design software producers, and chip-making machinery makers.  That last one is a mouthful.    

[4] One manufacturer claims that his company is at a 30-50 percent cost disadvantage against Asian competitors. 

You got a Freund in Jesus.

After 1789, the nation-state tried to organize people according to a shared language, a shared history, and—often—a shared religion.  The Austro-Hungarian Empire amounted to a Heinz 57 mixture of different religions, languages, and ethnicities.  It was doomed.  In 1918, the empire came apart like a leper in a hot tub. 

Kurt Freund (1914–1996) was born into a German-speaking Jewish family in Chrudim.  Chrudim is a wide spot in the road in Bohemia.  In 1918 it became a part of the new country of Czechoslovakia.  Kurt Freund got out as soon as he could.  He studied medicine at Charles University in Prague.  Possibly inspired by Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld in neighboring Germany, he also became a sexologist.  (“Nothing propinks like propinquity.”)  In September 1938, Czechoslovakia’s French and British allies betrayed it at the Munich conference.  In March 1939, Nazi Germany took over the Czech parts of Czechoslovakia.  The Germans launched a savage repression of Czech identity and resistance.  (See: “Anthropoid.”)  In January 1942, Freund married Anna Hlounová, a non-Jewish Czech pianist and music teacher.   The couple had a daughter, whom they called Helen.  In 1943, they divorced to protect Anna and their daughter from anti-Jewish laws imposed by the Germans.  Somehow, Kurt, Anna, and Helen all survived the war and the Holocaust.  Kurt’s parents and brother did not.  In 1944, the Red Army arrived in Prague to “liberate” Czechoslovakia from the Germans.  The Russian “liberators” didn’t leave until 1990.[1]  They imposed a Stalinist dictatorship.  A reign of terror followed against the opponents of “democratic centralism.”  Nothing in the recent history of the Czechs suggested that truth-telling was a good life strategy.  It just got you imprisoned or killed. 

While Communists were OK with stealing private property and murdering their enemies, they were really puritanical about sex.  Gay people—called “warm people” in Czech slang[2]–were not “allowed” to serve in the military.  Lots of Czech men didn’t want to serve in the army, so they claimed to be homosexual.  The Czech Army set Kurt to work finding out if a machine could tell if a draftee was gay or straight.  So Kurt now developed a professional interest in “truth detecting” in a country now dedicated to lying and fantasizing. 

Put not quite as crudely as possible, male sexual arousal leads to an inflow of blood to the sex organ.  The organ becomes enlarged and rigid.  So, Kurt reasoned, if you can measure volumetric change during the presentation of various stimuli, you have a measure of what arouses someone.  Basically, put a vacuum tube on a guy, show him a variety of dirty movies, and see what pops up, so to speak.  In scientific terms, this is called “Penile plethysmography” or “phallometry.”[3]   Broadly, his theory seems to have held up.  He also did a lot of work on “conversion therapy” for gay people and concluded that sexual orientation is in-born, so don’t hold your breath waiting for the counseling sessions to change someone back to “normal.”[4] 

In 1968, the Czechs rebelled against their Russkie-puppet rulers.  It failed, just like in East Germany in 1948, and Hungary in 1956.  A boat-load of Czechs bolted for the West.  Kurt ended up teaching in Toronto.   Canadian shrinks turned out to be a lot more retrograde than Czech shrinks.  Kurt’s ideas about tolerance for homosexuality aroused (HA!) resistance. 

In 1994 Kurt Freund’s doctor told him he had terminal cancer.  In 1996, he died of a mix of muscle relaxants, sleeping pills, and wine.  Probably sitting on his porch watching the sun set. 

[1] Meanwhile, in 1945 Kurt and Anna re-married and had a second child, Peter. 

[2] See: 

[3] I don’t expect that American colleges will develop a major in Phallometry. 

[4] Of course it didn’t work: he was treating straight men who were dodging the draft.  See: Upton Sinclair. 

“Florence of Arabia.” OK, I stole that.

Gertrude Bell (1868-1926) came from a family of British commoners that had clawed its way to the top during the Industrial Revolution.  She fit the pattern.  She wasn’t interested in the steel business and women weren’t supposed to go into business anyway.  She went to Oxford in 1885 and came away with a First Class degree in History in two years (instead of the normal three years).  She got bored lolling about the family estate and the London “season” where she was supposed to be looking for a husband.  In 1892 she went out to Persia to visit her uncle, who was the British ambassador.  She fell in love with the Middle East, learning Arabic, Persian, and Turkish in addition to the French and German she already possessed.  She traveled much, visiting archaeological excavations.  When she wasn’t doing this, she was climbing mountains in the Alps.  Along the way, she fell in love with a British Army officer, Charles Doughty-Wylie.  He was married and neither of them cared to break up the marriage, so that didn’t work out. 

In 1915, after the outbreak of the First World War, a bunch of the Middle East experts in Cairo suggested that Gertrude Bell be added to their group.  Doughty-Wylie got killed at Gallipoli in April 1915, so she threw herself into her work.  Soon she went to Mesopotamia (now Iraq) to advise the British army that had invaded that corner of the Ottoman Empire. 

She found a difficult situation.  Arabs led by Emir Hussein of the Hashemite family were willing to revolt against the Ottomans.  However, they wanted the creation of an Arab kingdom in what is now Syria, Jordan, and Iraq as their prize.  The British and French governments were even then carving up the region into colonial lands for themselves after the war.  How to square the circle?  To make matters worse, the Turks did not just lie down and die.  They fought off a British attack at Gallipoli in 1915 and then destroyed a British army in Mesopotamia. 

Bell became an enormously powerful figure in Iraq, both among the British and among the Arabs.  Highly intelligent and deeply knowledgeable (and therefore opinionated), she also possessed good political and diplomatic skills.  Hussein’s son Faisal tried to collect on the war-time promises by taking Syria.  The French refused, ejecting Faisal from Syria and making the country their own.  She (and others, like T.E. Lawrence) persuaded the government to put the sons of Hussein in as rulers of Iraq and Jordan. 

From 1921 to 1926 Bell labored to make Iraq a success.  There may not have been a good, let alone permanent, solution to this problem.  “Iraq” had never existed as a country.  It had been three administrative districts of the Ottoman Empire.  It jammed together a Sunni minority, which had been the traditional rulers under the Ottomans; a Shi’a majority, which had been denied power and treated with suspicion by the Sunni Ottomans; and a Kurdish ethnic minority that wanted to unite all the Kurds of Turkey, Iraq, Iran, and Syria in a single country.  She recognized that Shi’as, Sunnis, and Kurds could easily be at each other’s throats.  They had to be reconciled, their conflicts contained, until a sense of national unity could be created over time.  She believed that too tight a grip by a foreign power would ruin everything.  She advised the new royal government on many issues.  The government did not always take her advice.  A chain-smoker and incredibly hard worker, Gertrude Bell wore herself out.  The post-war death of her younger brother and other family problem may have depressed her.  She died of an overdose (perhaps accidental) of sleeping pills.  She is buried in Baghdad. 

The descendants of Abdullah rule Jordan to this day.  The descendants of Faisal ruled Iraq until overthrown in a revolution in 1958 that eventually put Saddam Hussein in power.  The American invasion in 2003 caused the country to explode into Sunni, Shi’ite, and Kurdish factions.  Was Bell right or was Iraq always doomed? 

“Follow the Science.”

The “theory” of Evolution propounded by Charles Darwin, along with a bunch of other “modern” innovations, put the back up on religious conservatives.  The Catholic Church just said it was BS and went on with what it was doing without thinking about it anymore.  American Protestants, however, got all bent out of shape and mounted a counter-attack.  Presbyterian theologians at the Princeton Theological Seminary worked out a basic statement of “Fundamental” beliefs of Christians at the end of the 19th Century.  Basically, the “Fundamentals” are that the Bible is the Word of God; Jesus was born to a virgin mother; the miracles performed by Jesus really happened; the death of Jesus was an atonement for our sins[1]; and the resurrection of Christ really happened.  These aren’t just some parables that are open to interpretation by slimy wheezers in tweed jackets. 

Science continued its advance, regardless of what religious stick-in-the-muds thought.  Moreover, it began the process of extending knowledge of scientific discovery from the intellectual elite to the common man.  One means to this end came in the writing of textbooks for high-school science classes.  In 1914, George William Hunter published A Civic Biology: Presented in Problems.  The text book proved widely popular and was adopted as a high-school biology textbook.  It contained a chapter stating the theory of Evolution in an approving way. 

Less noticed, because not controversial among anyone at that time, were other chapters of Civic Biology.  One chapter explained that Mankind was divided into races and that the races were arranged in a hierarchy with the Negro at the bottom and the Caucasian at the top.  Another chapter explained that both positive and negative behavioral characteristics could be inherited, just like pigmentation and eye color.  “The science of being well born is called eugenics.”  The stock of humans might be improved in the same way as the stock of domesticated animals (horses, cattle, dogs), through conscious breeding.  Moreover, there were people who should be prevented from reproducing because they passed on negative characteristics: imbecility, disease, and crime.  These people were parasites.  “If such people were lower animals, we would probably kill them off to prevent them from spreading.  Humanity will not allow this, but we do have the remedy of separating the sexes in asylums or other places and in various ways preventing intermarriage and the possibilities of perpetuating such a low and degenerate race.

Remedies of this sort have been tried successfully in Europe and are now meeting with some success in this country.” 

Meanwhile, the “fundamentalist” ideas spread from the Presbyterians to the Baptists and other denominations during the first couple of decades of the 20th Century.  In 1925, the Tennessee legislature passed a law banning the teaching of anything that challenged the Bible’s story of Creation.  Well, Civic Biology certainly did that.   Most teachers just skipped that chapter so as to stay out of trouble.  However, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) got a local Tennessee teacher to pretend that he had taught the chapter.  In 1925, he was charged, tried, and convicted.  “Fundamentalism” triumphed in the court room.  It got trounced in the court of public opinion.  In big cities.  Among liberal intellectuals.  Who wrote books read by later generations.  While the teacher had not actually taught the chapter on Evolution, he had taught the other chapters—including the one on eugenics.  His name was John Scopes. 

[1] This is why the suffering of Jesus is portrayed in such gruesome detail by the fundamentalist Catholic Mel Gibson in his movie “The Passion of Christ.”  He wasn’t trying to make a “giallo” flick for the people who like blood and gore.  He was trying to emphasize the nature of the sacrifice offered by Jesus for our salvation. 

The United States and the Holocaust V.

Were there alternative policies that might have prevented or greatly reduced the death-toll of the Holocaust?   Sure. 

First, get the early Christian Fathers to lay-off anti-Semitism.  No anti-Semitism, nothing to infect Hitler’s mind a couple thousand years in the future (except anti-Communism and vegetarianism), so no Holocaust.[1] 

Second, occupy Germany for forty years after the First World War, same as after 1945. 

Third, open borders for the United States after 1924.  No Jews in Europe for Hitler to want dead, no Holocaust.[2]  On the one hand, the law relied upon a belief that citizens in a democracy had a right to control who entered their country.  This is parochial, rather than cosmopolitan. 

On the other hand, the 1924 law targeted immigration from Southern and Eastern Europe in particular.  No anti-Semitism (see above), no restrictions on Jews from these areas.  No anti-Catholicism, no restrictions on immigrants from Poland, Hungary, Italy, and Rumania.  Just get the Catholic Church to lay-off the “Syllabus of Errors,”[3] kidnapping Jewish children to force their conversion,[4] and maintaining separate schools.  Get the immigrants to stop undermining labor unions with workers eager for jobs and providing the votes for big-city “machines.”    

Fourth, tell the Arabs to lump it between the wars.  There were only 750,000 Palestinian Arabs.  Move in 7-8 million European settlers during the twenty years before the Second World War.[5]  Stamp out any Arab rebellion.[6]  The new settlers probably would be willing to help. 

While you’re at it, give the Italians Ethiopia and the Japanese China.  That way the British aren’t looking at fighting three simultaneous wars for which they do not have the resources.  In turn, the British wouldn’t have been so hot for appeasement.  They could have devoted themselves to winding up the French instead of encouraging weakness. 

Fifth, Britain, France, and the United States could have joined together to fight the Germans at the time of Munich in 1938.  If other people hadn’t been obsessing about how terrible had been the previous war, it might have been possible to stop the Germans before they got going.  The Czechs (certainly) and the Poles (probably) would have joined that fight.  The Americans should have abandoned their traditional policy of no foreign entanglements.  It might not even have come to a fight.  German elites might well have decided to toss Hitler overboard to avoid such a war.  Make him an offer he couldn’t refuse. 

Sixth, in 1939, Britain and France could have given the Russians what they wanted—control of Eastern Europe—to join an alliance against Germany.  Tell the Lithuanians, Latvians, and Estonians that the Russians are taking over.  Tell the Poles that they’re going to have to let the Red Army into their country to get at the Germans.  Tell them, as well, that the Russian price for “saving” them is the eastern third of Poland and Polish Communist in the government.[7] 

Other than that, you’re left with the situation as it really existed. 

[1] That doesn’t mean that there would have been no Second World War.  All those non-refugee German scientists would have been working on a German atomic bomb to run with the V-2. 

[2] Still, Hitler came to power because of the political crisis arising from the Depression, not from anti-Semitism. 

[3] See: Syllabus of Errors – Wikipedia  The “Selected Propositions” rejected by the Church explains a lot. 

[4] David I. Kertzer, The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara (1998). 

[5] There are about 7 million Jewish Israelis today.    

[6] See: Great Syrian Revolt – Wikipedia and 1936–1939 Arab revolt in Palestine – Wikipedia 

[7] “Katyn” Katyn (2007) – massacre scene part 2/2 (English subtitles) – YouTube 

The United States and the Holocaust IV.

The most striking case for rescue comes from Hungary.  Holocaust-era Hungarian governments, under the dictator Miklos Horthy, oscillated between sincere and reluctant collaboration with the Germans, depending on the balance of forces in the larger war and the room for maneuver under German pressure.   Between 1938 and 1941, Hungary passed laws modeled on the German Nuremberg laws; supported Germany’s pre-war grabs for territory; and, in June 1941, joined the war against Russia. 

All the same, from March 1942 to March 1944, the government stalled anti-Semitic measures as much as it judged possible.  When, in September 1942, the Germans begin pressing Hungarians on deportations, they discovered that a screen of extremists covered a government determined not to deport the Jews. 

            By March 1944, the SS had become fed up with the Hungarians and tantalized by the huge pool of Jews who have remained safe all through the war in the heart of Nazi Europe.  The Germans forced Horthy to replace his prime minister, and German officials came to Budapest to direct the annihilation of the Hungarian Jews.  Under German direction the Hungarians completed the exclusion of Jews from the economy, Jews were required to wear the star, travel restrictions were imposed, and telephones were confiscated. 

Between April and July 1944, the Jews were “concentrated.”  Deportations began in April, but most took place between May and July 1944.  By 9 July 1944 437,000 Jews had been deported to Auschwitz where ninety percent of them were killed upon arrival.  On 6 July 1944, Horthy ordered deportations stopped; on 25 August 1944, Horthy got rid of the pro-German cabinet.  In mid-October 1944, the Germans overthrew the Hungarian government and installed a puppet regime.  Over the next month, the Germans deported another 65,000 Jews.  Then the Hungarian fascists ran wild for a couple of months, leaving 10,000 to 20,000 more Jews dead.  The Red Army captured Budapest on 13 February 1945. 

What could have been done to prevent this last great slaughter?  First, the Hungarian Jews could have been allowed to emigrate to Britain, Palestine, and the United States before the war ever began.  This didn’t happen because the United States had sharply restricted immigration from Southern and Eastern Europe in 1924; and Jewish immigration to Palestine had brought a violent Arab opposition in the 1930s. 

Second, the Hungarian Jews could have been moved to a place of greater safety before the Germans got control of Hungary in March 1944.  Essentially, that meant through Rumania to the Black Sea to … where?  Palestine?  Would Hungarian Jews willingly have placed themselves within reach of the Rumanians[1] or the Germans? 

Third, the deportations could have been prevented in some fashion by military action.  Essentially, this comes down to bombing the railroad lines to Auschwitz.  This might have slowed up the process.  At the same time, the Germans had a lot of experience repairing bombed railroad lines and bridges.  At the end of the war, they also used “death marches.” 

Fourth, the gas chambers at Auschwitz could have been destroyed before all or most or some of the Hungarian Jews arrived.  The British and American air forces didn’t want to divert assets from purely military operations.  The national leaderships didn’t want to force them.[2] 

[1] See: Struma disaster – Wikipedia  Not reaching for excuses here; just trying to imagine real discussions. 

[2] See: Auschwitz bombing debate – Wikipedia  Nor did Jewish organizations. 

The United States and the Holocaust III.

            The war made any effort to rescue Jews more complicated.  The war quickly became a struggle for national survival in many countries.  This became true most of all for Britain and then for the Soviet Union.  American entry into the war at the end of 1941 held out the prospect of eventual Allied victory.  It did not bring about actual victory immediately.  National interest came before any other interest in the allocation of resources and the planning of operations. 

Sometime during the Winter of 1940-1941, Adolf Hitler made two decisions.  First, he would attack the Soviet Union in Summer 1941.  Second, he would have all the Jews of Continental Europe killed as quickly as possible beginning in Summer 1941.  The armed forces got busy preparing the attack on the Soviet Union.  The SS got busy preparing the annihilation of the Jews.  Both decisions were highly-guarded state secrets. 

The British and the American leaders learned of the attempt to annihilate—rather than persecute—the Jews in the second half of 1942.[1]  They had some difficulty comprehending what they were told.  Felix Frankfurter said later of one messenger from the abyss that “I did not say that he was lying, I said that I could not believe him. There is a difference.”

Then there was the problem posed by the speed of the killing.  “In mid-March 1942, some 75 to 80 percent of all victims of the Holocaust were still alive, while 20 to 25 percent had perished.  A mere eleven months later, in mid-February 1943, the percentages were exactly the reverse.  At the core of the Holocaust was a short intensive wave of mass murder.”[2]  Thus, 50 to 60 percent of the killing took place in less than a year.  Before Stalingrad, before El Alamein, before “Torch,” and before Americans began bombing Germany. 

At a rough estimate, by the end of 1941, the Germans had under their direct control 5.7 million Jews.  There was nothing that could be done for these people by outsiders.  The Germans were determined to catch and kill as many as possible. 

In late 1942, how many Jews were outside the direct control of the Nazis?  Something on the order of 1.3 million.  There were 48,000 in Italy, 48,500 in Bulgaria, 445,000 in Hungary, and 756,000 in Rumania.[3] 

The Italian government resisted deportations until the Germans invaded Italy.  When the Germans occupied northern Italy in 1943, there were 43,000 Jews in their area.  An estimated 35,000 survived (81%).[4]  Most Italians refused to cooperate with the Germans. 

There were 48,500 Jews inside Bulgaria’s borders of 1939.  An additional 11,000 were added in territory seized from Greece in 1941.  The Bulgarians turned over the Greek Jews to the Germans.  Virtually none survived.  The Bulgarian refused to turn over Bulgarian Jews. 

There were 756,000 Jews inside the Rumanian borders of 1930.  An estimated 490,000 (65%) survived.  There were an additional 185,000 Jews in Bessarabia and Bukovina, taken from the Soviet Union.  An estimated 55,000 (30%) of these survived.  The Rumanian government obstructed deportations from its core territory. 

There were 825,000 Jews inside the Hungarian borders of 1941.  An estimated 261,000 survived (31%).  The Germans had to overthrow the Hungarian government to get at these Jews. 

[1] Walter Laqueur and Richard Breitman, Breaking the Silence (1986). 

[2] Christopher Browning, Ordinary Men: Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland (1992), p. xv.

[3] The numbers get a little murky because of wartime changes in boundaries.  Hungary, Rumania, and Bulgaria all added territory with Jewish populations. 

[4] For all figures see: Jewish Losses during the Holocaust: By Country | Holocaust Encyclopedia ( 

The United States and the Holocaust II.

            Trying to assess what might have been done to prevent the Holocaust and why it was not done requires facing hard facts. 

            From January 1933 to August 1939, Nazi Germany engaged in an appalling persecution of the Jews under their control.  The Jews lost their German citizenship and civil rights; they were excluded from the economy and society, and robbed of their possessions; and every effort was made to foster hostility toward Jews.  The aim was to drive German Jews to emigrate.  In 1938, Germany added Austria to the Reich.  All this was widely reported in foreign countries. 

Nevertheless, there were two great barriers to the flight of the Jews.  On the one hand, there was a real reluctance on the part of many Jews to be driven out of their country by a bunch of louts who seemed unlikely to remain long in power.  On the other hand, most countries were unwilling to take in many “ordinary” German refugees.[1]  First, Poland, Hungary, and Rumania were ferociously anti-Semitic societies.  They didn’t want more Jews (or anyone else) added to their population; no Jew would think that pre-1939 Nazi Germany was a worse place than these countries.  Then there was the Soviet Union.  It not only oppressed and persecuted its inhabitants, but also was in the process of murdering hundreds of thousands of them.[2] 

That left countries to the West of Germany as a possible refuge.  This meant France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Britain and its Commonwealth, and the United States.  All were struggling with the economic catastrophe of the Depression.  This meant that they were fighting against high unemployment without immense success.  Taking in tens of thousands of refugees, let alone hundreds of thousands, would make the unemployment problems worse over the short-term.  It would have financial costs that would have to be born by a country’s taxpayers for the benefit of non-citizens.  Then, anti-Semitism existed as a real force in all of these countries, no matter how much politicians denied it or the press decried it.  It wasn’t Nazi anti-Semitism.  It was more “would you let your sister marry one?” and “there are too many in the universities” anti-Semitism.  No less real and powerful for that.  These factors made the refugee question politically explosive.  The easiest course was to say “It is unfortunate and disgusting that the Jews under Nazi rule are being persecuted; it is to be hoped that “normal” Germans will reassert themselves; but in the meantime, there are limits to how many refugees we can take.”  

A second phase began with the outbreak of the Second World War in September 1939.  From this point onward, the Nazis tried to prevent Jews from leaving the lands that they controlled.  Furthermore, the number of Jews under Nazi control expanded massively and rapidly.  From August 1939 to August 1940, the number rose from about 800,000 to 3.2 million.  By late Fall 1941, there probably were an additional 2.2 million.  There were an additional 1.3 million under the control of German-allied states (Bulgaria, Rumania, Hungary, Italy).  What Germany meant to do with its captives wasn’t known at first. 

Along the way, the Germans defeated Poland, Denmark, Norway, the Low Countries, France, Yugoslavia, and Greece, and rocked the Soviet Union to its foundations.  German victories brought into the war both Italy (1940) and Japan (1941).  That is, German aggression overthrew the established system of powers and created an unprecedented global crisis.[3] 

[1] It was easier for the “prominenten”: scientists, writers and artists, political leaders. 

[2] Just because the editors of the New York Times believed the erroneous reports from their Moscow correspondent doesn’t mean that people in Europe believed them. 

[3] See, most recently, Richard Overy, Blood and Ruins: The Great Imperial War, 1931-1945 (2021). 

The United States and the Holocaust I.

            When did Jews fall under Nazi Germany’s control? 


Germany:                    525,000  237,000 by 1939, so better than half had emigrated. 


Austria:                       250,000   

            1939.  The seizure of Czechoslovakia came as a surprise, but not the attack on Poland. 

Czechoslovakia:          357,000  March.

Poland:                     3,000,000  September.  Roughly two-thirds; the others fell to the Soviets. 

            1940.  All of these came as an astonishing surprise in a few months of war. 

Denmark:                        5,700   April.  Most later escaped to Sweden.

Norway:                          1,400   April.  Most later escaped to Sweden. 

France:                        250,000   June in Occupied Zone; November 1942 in the rest of France.

Netherlands:                156,000   June. 

Belgium:                       60,000   June.   

            1941.  All of these came as an astonishing surprise. 

Greece:                          73,000   April.

Yugoslavia:                   68,000   April

Bulgaria:                       48,500   Blocked the Germans from taking most Bulgarian Jews. 

Albania:                             200   April

European Russia:      2,525,000[1] June-December

Estonia:                           4,560   June-December.  Part of the Soviet Union from September 1939.

Latvia:                           95,600   June-December.  Part of the Soviet Union from September 1939.

Lithuania:                    155,000   June-December.  Part of the Soviet Union from September 1939.

Romania:                      756,000  Murderously antisemitic in some places; not so much elsewhere.


Italy:                              48,000   September.[2] 


Hungary:                     445,000  


Spain:                              4,000  Portugal:                      1,200  Sweden:                       6,700  

Switzerland:                18,000    Britain and the Palestine Mandate:                          475,000 

[1] On the one hand, possibly 1 million Polish Jews were added to the Soviet population in Fall 1939.  On the other hand, many Jews fled or were evacuated eastward when Germany attacked. 

[2] Italy tried to jump ship on Germany; the Germans fell on the northern two-thirds of the country like an avalanche.