On December 20, Morgenthau marched over to State, taking Pehle and Paul alongside for ballast. They’d spent the morning rehearsing a script for the showdown. Morgenthau’s goal was not solely to ship a stern warning, however to get all of the cables. Solely the originals, all agreed, may persuade FDR of the State Division’s deception. Morgenthau’s aides had coaxed him right into a scheme to play Hull: to ask for a duplicate of cable 354, casually, with out revealing its significance.
In Hull’s workplace, Paul felt the burden of the event. Morgenthau, he would say, “was taking his political life in his palms.” Hull was “generally known as a killer,” and he may very well be counted on to hunt revenge. But the secretary of state additionally knew, Paul added, that “Morgenthau had a private maintain on the President.”
Earlier than Morgenthau may current his letter on the British refusal, Hull spoke.
“I’ve already despatched a cable to Ambassador Winant,” he stated, handing Morgenthau the reply on a pink-copy sheet. Morgenthau was bowled over. He had by no means seen stronger official language. Hull learn aloud his reply to Winant, letting the phrases sink in. The division expressed “astonishment” on the British place. London’s stance, he assured Morgenthau, was not consistent with the coverage of the State Division, however at instances, he conceded, such issues didn’t get his consideration. After they did, he discovered it essential to take them in hand, skirting the folks down the road who raised objections. At Hull’s aspect sat Breckinridge Lengthy, the State official who had triggered the Treasury such consternation, doing all he may to sluggish the granting of a license to rescue the refugees.
Lengthy interrupted: “I don’t know should you’re going to love it … however I drafted personally a license Saturday and issued it and cabled it to Switzerland.” He had issued the license to Riegner himself, Lengthy stated, however had not had time to seek the advice of Treasury. Lengthy had clearly prepped for the assembly. He ran by way of an inventory of State’s efforts: They’d tried to rescue Jews, he stated, in hopes of sending them to the US, Sweden, Madagascar and Palestine — however the Germans had succeeded in “thwarting most of those rescue makes an attempt.”
As if by means of reply, Morgenthau handed Hull the Treasury report, which charged his division with a deliberate hindering of Treasury’s efforts to save lots of any remaining Jews. Hull learn it shortly, with out remark. Solely when the secretary of state despatched his aides to retrieve the cables did Morgenthau make his transfer.
“By the best way,” he stated, “I’ve a cable in my hand from Harrison, No. 2460, by which it mentions a cable, No. 354. Whilst you’re getting all the opposite cables, would you thoughts getting that one for me?”
“Make a remark of that,” Hull advised Lengthy. “And simply give it to him.”
As the boys rose to go away, Lengthy approached Morgenthau. “I need to discuss to you privately,” he stated, ushering him into one other room.
Morgenthau and Lengthy had identified one another because the Woodrow Wilson years, having crossed paths when Morgenthau’s father was Wilson’s ambassador to Turkey. At 61, “Breck” Lengthy was on his second tour at State. Within the Thirties, as FDR’s envoy to Rome, Lengthy had expressed admiration for Mussolini’s rule: “probably the most fascinating experiment in authorities,” he wrote a buddy, “to come back above the horizon because the formulation of our Structure.” Lengthy had additionally explored Nazi ideology: “Have simply completed Hitler’s Mein Kampf,” he wrote in his diary in early 1938. “It’s eloquent in opposition to Jewry and to Jews as exponents of Communism & chaos.” He added, “My estimate of Hitler as a person rises with the studying of his ebook.” In 1940, FDR had introduced him again to State the place, as assistant secretary, all issues referring to the European Jews crossed his desk.
For years, Lengthy had deemed Morgenthau not more than an annoyance, a placeholder who owed his survival to the mercy of the Roosevelts. Now, Lengthy realized, he confronted a distinct man.
Morgenthau had him cornered. Lengthy’s current mendacity earlier than Congress was the discuss of Washington newsmen. In secret testimony on the Hill — “a 4-hour inquisition,” Lengthy known as it in his diary — he stated there was no want for any company to save lots of the Jews: “We have now taken into this nation because the starting of the Hitler regime and the persecution of the Jews, till right this moment, roughly 580,000 refugees.” Many in his viewers believed Lengthy, even those that ought to have identified higher. In accordance with the immigration service, of the 476,930 aliens who had entered the US within the decade since 1933, solely 165,756 had self-reported as “Hebrews” — or Jews. Of those, about 138,000 had escaped persecution. (Whereas it could stay unattainable to provide a exact determine, the very best estimate for the variety of Jewish refugees who may have been admitted to the US within the years 1933 to 1941, because the persecution mounted, is derived from the variety of unused German visas underneath the federal quota scheme: a complete of some 165,000.)
Morgenthau braced himself, refusing to let the chance go.
“I simply need to inform you,” Lengthy began in, as soon as the 2 have been alone, “sadly the folks decrease down in your division and decrease down within the State Division are making numerous bother.” Lengthy raised the difficulty of antisemitism, alluding to underlings who had “been spreading these items” and “elevating technical difficulties.”
Morgenthau seized the opening.
“Nicely, Breck, so long as you increase the query, we may be a bit of frank. The impression is throughout that you simply, notably, are antisemitic!”
“I do know that’s so,” stated Lengthy. “I hope that you’ll use your good places of work to right that impression, as a result of I’m not.”
“I’m very, very glad to understand it,” stated Morgenthau, including, “Since we’re being so frank, you would possibly as properly know that the impression” at Treasury was that State shared the British place on refusing any rescue plan.
Lengthy protested: He hoped they may work collectively. After all, Morgenthau stated. “In spite of everything, Breck,” he replied, “the US of America was created as a refuge for individuals who have been persecuted the world over, beginning with Plymouth.” Morgenthau tried exhausting to not condescend. As an alternative, he repeated his father’s vow to President Wilson and to the Younger Turks in Constantinople: “As Secretary of the Treasury for 100 and thirty-five million folks,” Morgenthau stated, “I’m carrying this [rescue effort] out as Secretary of the Treasury, and never as a Jew.”
“Nicely,” Lengthy stated, “my idea of America as a spot of refuge for persecuted folks is simply the identical.”
Morgenthau stated he was “delighted to listen to it.”