Interview with Arnold Forster
Interview with Arnold Forster
Interview Date: April 10, 1992

Camera Rolls: 317:68-72
Sound Rolls: 317:36-38
Interview gathered as part of The Great Depression .
Produced by Blackside, Inc.
Housed at the Washington University Film and Media Archive, Henry Hampton Collection.
Editorial Notes:

Preferred citation:
Interview with Arnold Forster , conducted by Blackside, Inc. on April 10, 1992, for The Great Depression . Washington University Libraries, Film and Media Archive, Henry Hampton Collection.

These transcripts contain material that did not appear in the final program. Only text appearing in bold italics was used in the final version of The Great Depression.

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INTERVIEW
[missing figure]ZICMe5K-_9U
[camera roll 317:68] [sound roll 317:36] [slate marker visible on screen]
[missing figure]ZICMe5K-_9U
QUESTION 1
CAMERA CREW MEMBER:

Sound is rolling. OK,  [ gap: ;reason: inaudible ] , OK.

INTERVIEWER:

First off, what I'd really like you to talk about is the climate of anti-Semitism during the 30s. The, you know, that sort of, what did Jews, what, in a way, what was it like to be a Jew in the 30s, given the kind of climate that there was, of antisemitism?

ARNOLD FORSTER:

During the period of the 30s, the Jewish community was primarily a second and third generation Jew. They came just before—

CAMERA CREW MEMBER:

Oh, sorry, should I cut? No, OK, go ahead. Start again, please.

ARNOLD FORSTER:

In the 30s, the American Jew was primarily a second or third generation Jew. He'd come, so to speak, just before the turn of the century and immediately after the turn of the century. He was here thirty, forty, fifty years. He was not yet integrated, he was a separate, foreign community in many respects. It was an insecure group, it had no established infrastructure, they weren't here long enough, except for an aspect of the community which was German, which had come in in 50s and 60s, 1850, 1860s, and they were already integrated. As a matter of fact there was a problem, of the German Jewish community trying to find a proper place of the other Jewish European immigrations to this country, so that you had a disorganized Jewish community, except for its religious aspect. They were in synagogues, they were in temples, and in this respect they had a communal life, but there was no such thing as a defense agency. It was when Hitler was just bubbling up in 1932, '33, '34, and there wasn't enough knowledge about the incipient Nazism in Austria and then in Germany to warn the American Jew, so to speak, that if he was to protect himself, and perhaps try to protect his fellow religionists in Europe, that he ought organize [sic] defense activity, it didn't exist. There was discrimination rampant in the United States against Jews in that period. Jews were not welcome in many fine communities, posh communities, the Bronxvilles of America we used to talk about. In New York City, twenty miles away that was 'Judenrein', by local village law, by deeds that we used to buy and sell property, Jews simply could not purchase and could not belong. The only Jew that you might find in that mild, square, Bronxville community was a storekeeper. Jews did not go to the colleges of their choice, or the professional schools of their choice. If a young man graduating from college wanted to be a physician, for example, he'd have to go to Scotland, or perhaps Germany. Not in the United States, because there were quotas against Jews, and they were severe enough to keep eighty-five to ninety percent of the young Jews who wanted to go into the professions, out. So that you had discrimination in housing, you had it in education, and of course you had it in employment. You could look in vain in those years for a respectable percentage of Jews, or I should say, with blacks too, in insurance companies, except for the sales force. In Harlem they had a couple of black salesmen, in Lower East Side of New York they had a couple of Jewish salesmen, and so on, but don't get into the executive capacity, 'cause you couldn't find them. Same thing was true in banks, same thing was true in the steel companies, and much of the higher levels of the American establishment. Law offices were either Jewish law offices, and they were small, newcomers, or major non-Jewish offices, so that there were barriers that, in the world in which I moved, where we concentrated on this all day long, we used to talk about the five o'clock shadow. What was the five o'clock shadow? We Jews and we blacks met the non-Jewish white community during the day, in our businesses, whether we were schoolteachers, or policemen, or civil service workers, or whatever. When we went home, we went home to our own ghettos. Now, that didn't mean the ghetto was what it is today, a ramschackle, destroyed place that looks like a piece of Germany during the War. It meant that we went back to our own social lives. We went back to our own social lives because the barriers of discrimination impelled it, so that the obvious opportunity of the minorities to make a relationship with a non-Jew was missing. Today, in law offices, there are Christians and Jews and blacks and whites, and that's true in the banks and in all the other establishment agencies. It was a world, then, which is totally different, and which was changed in the years to come after the end of World War II, with the development of the civil rights movement, where Jews and blacks and others who had performed their part in World War II said to the American community, Look, the day of barring us is over, we have contributed, buster, and we belong.

INTERVIEWER:

OK, now I want to go back to the thing about, about the quotas. Were these quotas implicit, were they explicit, I mean, how did—

ARNOLD FORSTER:

Easy. The quotas were explicit. If you wanted to buy a house in the country, in the suburb, you would not be surprised to see "Churches Nearby," which was exotic language to say, Jews are not wanted, because if it's "churches nearby," there are no synagogues nearby. In employment they asked you, and the questionnaires they did the universities, to say your mother's and father's names and where they were born. Because the secret was out if you were born in Savannah, or you were born in Austria, or your family was, the likelihood you were talking to a Jew or reading the questionnaire of a Jew or a black. Or if they came from the far West Coast, and their parents had strange names, you were examining the papers of a Japanese gentleman or lady, so that there was every device—the ads made it clear, employment ads, housing ads. In the educational system, they didn't have to ask you. Their questionnaire asked for a photograph, besides your antecedents, and it called for an interview, where it was easy to find out what you were. We did studies in those years, in the 30s, and we found that there were universities, great ones and wondrous ones, and I don't want to name them because it's fifty, sixty years later, and I don't want to injure them, but there were universities who had static percentage of Jews that went from six percent to a big six and a quarter percent, year after year, it never changed. And so with blacks, there was zero up to two percent, never different, you see. You could tell whether it was New York City, where there was a large number of Jews, or a Cleveland, where there were far lesser, that in New York there should be a higher percentage of Jews going into schools than in any of the other smaller communities, and there should be a relationship. But there was no relationship, it was zilch, it was zero, or a very minor number, and it remained static. They had their ways of keeping us out, the minorities. It was simple to put in a deed, "You may not sell this property to anyone other than a caucasian of the Christian faith." That wiped us all, we minorities, out. In the civil rights revolution that went on in the 60s and into the 70s, that way of life went by the boards.

[missing figure]ZICMe5K-_9U
QUESTION 2
INTERVIEWER:

When you talked, can you talk about, sort of, day to day, in addition to the things we've talked about, is there, were there any other sort of day to day kinds of discriminations that Jews faced?

ARNOLD FORSTER:

Sure.

INTERVIEWER:

In terms of where they could go, or where they could...?

ARNOLD FORSTER:

Sure. If a Jew offended a non-Jew, and he was a roughneck, he would be called a "Jew-bastard," or a "kike," or a "mockie," just as they called the black man who offended them a "nigger," or some other such word. It was endemic, you would even hear nice people use language like that because it never struck them that they were reflecting a kind of language that came out of a bigoted, discriminatory relationship. You could tell it that way. It was easy enough to tell when you couldn't get a job because you were a Jew. It was simple enough to find out when a graduate of law school or college wanted to join the FBI, a great government agency, where you couldn't find a Jew, and you couldn't find a black, and it was not because the young Jewish college graduates or blacks who were qualified didn't want to go into the FBI. But I use the FBI because it was a symbol of the kind of discrimination we faced in the American white establishment.

INTERVIEWER:

I'd like to actually, when we talk, because we have a lot of other—cut for a second, OK Charlie? We have a lot of people—

[cut][slate][change to camera roll 317:69] [sound roll 317:36]
CAMERA CREW MEMBER:

Take two. OK.

[missing figure]ZICMe5K-_9U
QUESTION 3
INTERVIEWER:

Now, you mentioned, Jews had trouble getting into the banking trades, yet there was all this discussion about, there was this perception of, of, there was a lot of anti-Semites about the international Jewish banking conspiracy. I mean, how does that, how do they, how does one, how does that compute? How can they say that, because really, very few Jews in banking, how can they make this claim?

ARNOLD FORSTER:

One of the myths about Jews being both bankers internationally, and Communists, internationally, is strange, because the Jews were barred from banking. It didn't require the existence of perhaps one bank for the anti-Semites to decide that the Jews controlled banking. They were caught both ways, they were either Communists or international bankers. It was part of the myth disseminated by the Nazi propaganda, that the Jews, under a [sic] Protocols of the Elders of Zion, which was an international conspiracy created as long ago as the nineteenth century, in their effort to take over the world, would control banking and would control government. You controlled banking by taking over banks, government by establishing a society of Socialism or Communism, and these bigoted morons didn't know the difference, incidentally, between a Socialist and a Communist. But truth had no relationship to anti-Semitism. Anti-Semitism is a disease of the non-Jewish mind. It doesn't relate to reality, so one wonders why the Jews, who had no banking establishment of any meaning in the United States, were blamed for controlling the banks. It was because the sick, diseased mind of the anti-Semites decided that, if they're not working and there's a Depression, the guys to blame are the bankers. If you're an anti-Semites, you make the bankers Jewish. You could pick up, for example, an issue of Fr. Coughlin's . Fr. Coughlin was a Catholic priest, who was a renegade. The Church was embarassed by him, but you could read in his publication the numbers of Jews in government or in banks. Except that if you checked the names, they sounded Jewish, but were not Jewish. So they created myth that way.

[missing figure]ZICMe5K-_9U
QUESTION 4
INTERVIEWER:

You mentioned the Depression. How did the Depression, because that's our period, how did the Depression especially sort of fan the flames, or fuel anti, anti-Semitism, anti-Semitic—

ARNOLD FORSTER:

In the 30s, there were two causes for the rise of anti-Semitism. The growth of Nazism in Germany, with the movement of propaganda into this country. The Depression, which gave the average American the need to find out who was the fault for his not working, for his having to sell apples on the street.
** You had a Klan, you had a Black Legion movement, was a kind of Klu Klux Klan. You had fellows in this country who had German connections, and were listening to what was coming out of Germany, out of Ehrfurt, which was the central focus of the disseminated anti-Semitism, and so it became a natural process to begin to blame the Jews for the Depression, for the no jobs, for the problems that Hitler was creating in Europe. It was a movement that insinuated itself into the higher economic establishment, and so you had organizations that looked to Wall Street for its financing or to big business, Joe Camp's Constitutional Education League, Merwin K. Hart's Economic Council, National Economic Council, very fine, high-sounding names. They weren't—they were propagandists, who were frightening Wall Street that the Jews would take over Wall Street or Washington, and they'd better give them big bucks, while the Klu Klux Klan was frightening the fellow on the lower level, and telling him that Jews were creating Communism and Socialism, and taking their jobs away. So you saw the growth of, as I recall it, we counted in the 30s some several hundred anti-Semitic organizations. There was one book that came out that frightened the lives out of us, to this day we never troubled to document it—a man named Stone did a rather respectable study, and he said there were approximately eight hundred bigoted organizations in the United States which were targeting primarily on Jews, secondarily on the other minorities. It didn't, it didn't get that high in my judgment, but to say that there were perhaps two hundred anti-Jewish, anti-Semitic organizations in the United States, is more likely accurate. There were seventy-five periodicals in the United States in those years which were blatantly anti-Semitic, whether it was a Klan publication, or some other kind of nationalist house organ[?].

[missing figure]ZICMe5K-_9U
QUESTION 5
INTERVIEWER:

What kinds of, what kinds of things would, like, Fr. Coughlin, what kinds of things would they say, like, specifically? What sorts of accusations—

ARNOLD FORSTER:

Well, it began- excuse me.

INTERVIEWER:

It's all right.

ARNOLD FORSTER:

How did the professional anti-Semites operate, and what did they say? First of all, they were networked. If there were two hundred anti-Jewish organizations operating in the United States, they didn't operate each of them in a vacuum, they found each other. Their literature was distributed, one infected the other, one caused a connection to the other, so that if one anti-Semitic organization made up such a myth as this, that Arnold Forster, of the Anti-Defamation League, arranged to mark up a synagogue in order to prove that there was anti-Semitism—and I'm not making up a case, I'm reciting a fact—within a year, fifty percent of the anti-Jewish publications recited, as a fact, that I did that. And I never caught up with it. To this day, sixty years later, you will find anti-Jewish professional publications which are using their own research files, charging that the original leadership of the Anti-Defamation League precipitated this kind of anti-Semitism in order to raise funds, so that, most of the anti-Semitism grew out of the need of the professionals to raise money. Gerald L. K. Smith, who traveled the south, and probably had five thousand members, had an annual income of a half million dollars, and brother, in the middle of a depression, an income of a half million dollars was a lot of bucks! He got them with his tent meetings, screaming at the top of his voice, about how the hordes of Jews were coming out of the Soviet Union and taking over the United States. We were simply Communists and nothing more, we were part of an international conspiracy. If they found a name Baruch, or Frankfurter, or a Sam Roseman, somewhere in government, whether it was in Washington or a state capitol, that was the proof that the Jews had moved in and taken over. You had a fellow named Goldberg who came along in the, much later, in the 50s and 60s and 70s who went to the United States Supreme Court. You should have seen the anti-Jewish publications in those years, there was the perfect evidence that the Jews controlled—

[missing figure]ZICMe5K-_9U
QUESTION 6
INTERVIEWER:

Why don't you tell me now, let's go, now get to, the Jewish community's reaction to this anti-Semitism. There, there seems at the time to have been a certain ambivalence—

ARNOLD FORSTER:

Are my answers too long?

INTERVIEWER:

Well, when you go—don't worry about it. Tell you what, I'll cut you off.

ARNOLD FORSTER:

Don't worry about signaling me, I'll cut right off.

INTERVIEWER:

How did the Jewish communities and the organizations react to anti-Semitism, did they, did they fight against it, did they—we talked before, in our last session, about the ambivalence of the Jewish community. Can you talk about that?

ARNOLD FORSTER:

In light of the growing anti-Semitism in the 30s, it's interesting to know how the Jewish community responded. First of all, it was unprepared. Second of all, it was, as I indicated, largely immigrant, and it was a new phenomenon. They knew it in Europe. They didn't believe it when it happened in the United States. They had no way of life that would protect them from anti-Semitism. When it began to rise in the 30s, it frightened them. They looked around, and saw no means of self-protection. They became paralyzed with fear, some of them. The organizations that paid attention to it decided that they'd better not shake the boat, there were problems coming from Europe now, Jews were a headache to Mr. Hitler. They didn't want to become headaches to their American, to their new American brothers, so you'd find many Jews who'd say Shh, don't let's talk about it, there is nothing you can do except precipitate it into the newspapers, and if you precipitate it into the newspapers you're going to be spreading it, so let's be quiet, let's hide, let's pretend it didn't happen. Now that, of course, was not the total Jewish community, by no means, but it did mean that there was a large segment of the American Jewish community which thought that safety and security was in a time of silence. You mustn't forget, in those years, when this began to rise high, the press of the United States had attitudes about whether it would serve to spread anti-Semitism to report about it. There's always been a theory among the sociologists that if you report in the newspaper that there were tombstones turned down in a Jewish cemetery, the day after that happens you'd find it happening in five other places. So there were newspapers that were concerned about spreading this kind of thing, and they wouldn't pay too much attention to it.

CAMERA CREW MEMBER:

OK,  [ gap: ;reason: inaudible ] .

INTERVIEWER:

Can you cut for a second? How we doing on film?

[cut][slate][change to camera roll 317:70] [sound roll 317:37]
CAMERA CREW MEMBER:

OK. Somehow, we—

[missing figure]ZICMe5K-_9U
QUESTION 7
INTERVIEWER:

Oh, that's me. I did that, sorry. OK, why don't you tell me that story, the story of your first incident, sort of, in the street, with...

ARNOLD FORSTER:

Yeah, it's difficult to make it short, but I'm going to try to telescope it. If I do it too telescoped, I'll do it over for you. I was in a unique position to begin to worry about anti-Semitism coming from Europe, before most of the fellows my age. I was at St. John's University, in the college of—take it over again, just take two on that, will you?

INTERVIEWER:

Go ahead, we'll just keep rolling.

ARNOLD FORSTER:

I was in a special position to become worried about anti-Semitism in the 30s. I was at school, St. John's College, and I had a Lutheran professor who had come out of Germany. I recognize now, he was unable to live there, because he was recognizing what was happening with the neo, the new Nazi movement then. And he dwelt on it constantly in school, and alerted several of us to the problem. We took it home, our folks didn't know what we were talking about, but we began to worry about what was happening there, and hearing him tell us of some aspects of it in the United States. It had nothing to do with the course that he was teaching, but he'd left Germany in horror, and he couldn't talk about anything but that. And so we listened, and we learned, and we talked about it. Thus, when standing on a street corner, a group of us from school, on a Sunday morning, we're just loafing, there came up the street a mob of about twenty-five men. I call them a mob because they were not orderly, they were chanting, they were roughnecking, they were having fun, and they were chanting, "Up with the Germans, down with the Jews, up with the Germans, and down with the Jews." We were five or six young students. We just didn't want to tolerate it, and so we decided to step out into the sidewalk and impede their progress, which of course, as you know, resulted in a fight. Well, you would think that twenty-five or thirty of them would have mauled us around. It didn't happen. They were foolish enough to push us up against the wall so we had no one beside us, behind us, and we did well for ourselves until the cops were there, and the cops listened to the whole thing. They thought nothing of it, it was juvenility[sic]. They chased all of us away. But I walked away with a torn shirt, a friend of mine walked away with a couple of black eyes, and we knew that what I had been hearing about, and we, my classmtes, had been talking about, was very real. And that took me, precipitated me, into finding others who felt as I did, which ultimately took me to the Anti-Defamation League, which was an office of perhaps three people in New York City, today an office of perhaps three hundred and fifty.

INTERVIEWER:

Can you tell me about the street corner, what you did as you went, as they, as they, without going into all of the stuff—

ARNOLD FORSTER:

I know what you want.

INTERVIEWER:

—involved, but just—

ARNOLD FORSTER:

I know what you want. As a result of the attack on myself, I found a number of lawyers and some policemen and others, who would be interested, to be helpful in opposing this. We created a small organization, at that time we were able to count perhaps thirty-five anti-Semitic street corner meetings a week
** in metropolitan New York. We organized ourselves to attend the worst of them, and understand what the law was, and what our rights were, and precipitate arrests when we heard the speakers causing violence, inciting riots, causing physical activity, and bringing them into the magistrate's court, what we called the "night court" in those years, and as, by then, a young lawyer, I was the prosecutor, because in the field courts of the magistrate's courts there were no assistant district attorneys. The complainant's friend, if he was a lawyer, handled the case. So I found myself in court, four or five times a week at night, prosecuting the anti-Semites who were staining the city with their anti-Jewish speeches, telling the audience that Jews were taught by their Bible to kill little Christian girls, to use their blood for ritual Passover purposes. That was the kind of garbage that they were pouring out at meetings all over New York City,
** and that was the kind of thing that kept me in the courts, and involved me even deeper in the fight against anti-Semitism.

INTERVIEWER:

Did you ever come to blows at any of these meetings? Did you ever go to any of those that, I know you told me the first one, but did you ever go to any of these things, and did any violence actually break out?

ARNOLD FORSTER:

At many of these meetings there was actual violence by bystanders. We did not participate in it, that was not our purpose. There would be Jewish war veterans who would attend the meetings, because the same fellas showed up at the same street corners to spew the same poison week in and week out. The Jewish war veterans came, and the Jewish war veterans came looking for a fight, and frequently got it. That sometimes served my purpose, our purpose, which was to say, we had the so-called essentials of a case. There was the language that precipitated violence, and there was the actual violence, which helped us establish disorderly conduct and incitement to riot. But our little group never indulged in that kind of tactic.

[missing figure]ZICMe5K-_9U
QUESTION 8
INTERVIEWER:

What...you, tell me about when you went to the Bund meeting.

ARNOLD FORSTER:

In February of 1939—

INTERVIEWER:

[sneezes] Sorry.

ARNOLD FORSTER:

OK. In February, 1939, the German American Bund was girding its loins. It was finding German-Americans all over the country, and others, who believed in Nazi Germany, and wanted to be helpful to it. As they built themselves larger and larger, Fritz Kuhn, the head of the German American Bund, convened a rally at Madison Square Garden. I wanted to go to that rally, I wanted to know what was going on. I was not a newspaper reporter and I did not have a police, press credential, but I got a small-time magazine to give me a press card, and with that press card I got in, without any trouble, to the Madison Square Garden. There were, I guess, twenty-thousand people there, there were over a thousand brownshirts, uniformed Nazis, there were swastika flags all over the place, and there were drums. I moved down to the press section with my unofficial, official press badge. The speakers that started the rally drew great applause for Hitler, for Mussolini, for Fr. Coughlin. Roosevelt won him terrible, won himself terrible boos there. At one point, some young man down near the front couldn't stand the main speaker's cussing out the Jews, Fritz Kuhn. He jumped up from his seat and he went for the stage. At that point some of the brownshirts came marching down to take him out, at that point the police came in. They decided to see who the press people were, and they found yours truly, and I was not a genuine press person, and before I knew it I was in the outside looking at the building.

INTERVIEWER:

Great, great. Can you cut for a second? [laughs] That's a great story.

[cut][slate]
CAMERA CREW MEMBER:

Speeding. Take four.

[missing figure]ZICMe5K-_9U
QUESTION 9
INTERVIEWER:

OK. So, when it became apparent early on, or maybe it didn't become apparent early on, but when, at least, Germany was becoming a dangerous place for Jews, how did, how did the Jews, and the non-Jews too, but the Jews first, let's say, how did they react to, to what was going on  [ gap: ;reason: inaudible ] ?

ARNOLD FORSTER:

When the information began to come to America, via radio reports or newspaper reports, that Nazism was bubbling in Germany, first of all it wasn't good coverage, it wasn't solid coverage, it was not major coverage, unless there was a particular incident. The Jewish community slowly awakened to the problem that was developing in Europe, and looked around to see what it had within its own community that could be helpful. You had a rabbinate, you had a Rabbi Wise who was a very leading rabbi, and involved with the World Jewish Congress, so that he was receiving in the mail from a man named "Riegner," haven't used that name in sixty years, regular reports about what was happening in Austria and in Germany. Rabbi Wise became the font, the central source of information for what was the organized Jewish community about what was happening in Europe, and he was alerting agencies. You had the American Jewish Congress, you had the American Jewish Committee, you had the B'nai Brith, the Jewish Labor Committee, but they were not the agencies that they are today. They were social in purpose, they were cultural and ethical in purpose, they were interested in helping the then-Jewish community become integrated. Their concern was not anti-Semitism until the information that began to come from the Riegners in Europe, of the World Jewish Congress, made them come to their meetings, and instead of talking about social service, talk about anti-Semitism. The first general response, if I may make a generalization, was, Let's not get noisy about it, let's not upset apple carts, let's see exactly what this is about. There was a process of trying to get information out of Germany, and the information that came in was regarded as implausible, unbelievable, so that you had a semi-organized Jewish community which simply didn't believe what they were hearing. That put them to sleep, so to speak, in some respect, and you only had a small infrastructure, rooted, I say—

[camera cuts, audio continues]
ARNOLD FORSTER:

—to religion and Jewish activities. Over a period of years, from 1934 to 19—

INTERVIEWER:

Did we run out?

CAMERA CREW MEMBER:

Yeah.

[audio cuts][slate][change to camera roll 317:71][sound roll 317:37]
CAMERA CREW MEMBER:

Got it. Take five.

[missing figure]ZICMe5K-_9U
QUESTION 10
INTERVIEWER:

So, with the rise, obviously, the rise of Nazism, with, there were a lot more people trying to get out of Germany, trying to get out of Europe, trying to come to this country. What was this country's response to that, what was...?

ARNOLD FORSTER:

As the Jews of Germany began to want to flee, the first place they selected was the United States. It was heaven, it was a place where streets were paved with gold, but what they didn't know was that, in the Congress of the United States there was a fellow called Pat McCarran, a Senator, who didn't want foreigners in this country.

INTERVIEWER:

Can we cut for a second?  [ gap: ;reason: inaudible ] , I'm sorry. Was McCarran, when was McCarran, wasn't he later—

ARNOLD FORSTER:

In the 30s.

[cut][slate]
CAMERA CREW MEMBER:

Go ahead.

INTERVIEWER:

You know, the question is, is that as the needs for German, for, for Jews to get out of Europe, and to get out of, became greater, what was the response of this country, of this government, in terms of the barriers that were put up for refugees?

ARNOLD FORSTER:

In the 30s, there was establishment discrimination, which meant that the institutions of discrimination, so to speak, controlled the order of life, so that when Jews began to want to get out of Europe, they found they were confronting barriers against immigration to the United States, in the face of a Congress filled with anti-Semites, such as Ranken, Nye, Wheeler, Bilbo, and a dozen others. They immediately began to try to create additional quotas against the infiltration, legal infiltration, of Jews from Europe. It set me off, wait a minute, wait a minute—

INTERVIEWER:

Want to start over?

ARNOLD FORSTER:

In the Congress, as a result, you had the beginning of an opposition to allowing Jews come into this country [sic], and this caused all kinds of problems within the American Jewish community, a large part of which was interested in bringing its own relatives over from Germany, who had begun to worry that that was not a place for them to be. The more they tried to come in, the more the endemic anti-Semitism rose up to try to keep them out. As a result of which, you had all kinds of efforts that were clashing, and costing the Jew the opportunity to come to the land of the free. They just couldn't get here in the numbers they felt they needed to come, to get away from what was happening. The Congress was unhe—not helpful. Roosevelt, I don't remember that he did much more than extend some visas for Jews who were here on temporary visas. The organized Jewish community in the middle 30s, worrying about this problem, appealed to the Congress and to the White House to give emergency visas to those Jews who wanted to get out because of what was bubbling there, and Roosevelt did not grant it. So that, Jews couldn't get in by temporary visa, Jews couldn't get in by immigration visas, and Jews were kept out. The worst situation was the story of the St. Louis, a ship that, I think, was a Dutch-Holland flag, took approximately a thousand Jewish refugees from the coastline of Europe, to bring them to the United States, particularly to Puerto Rico and to Cuba. They came to our coastline, they sailed down to those two nations, and they could not get in. They sailed back up along the United States while efforts were made to persuade the American government to let them dock somewhere, and get off this boat, and escape the problem of Europe. They traveled for weeks, and weeks, and weeks, up and down the Atlantic Ocean along the American coast. There were a thousand passengers, at least two hundred and fifty Jews, and they ultimately went back to Europe, and ultimately, most of them, into the gas chambers, because this country wouldn't let them in.

INTERVIEWER:

Well, why wouldn't they let them in? I mean, it was clear this was a, the St. Louis was a life and death situation, why wouldn't they let them in?

ARNOLD FORSTER:

Because in those years, a survey would show that fifty percent or more of the American people were perfectly willing to indulge, and I'm explicitly citing a survey, perfectly willing to indulge in a campaign to keep Jews out of the United States. More than fifty-five percent of them believed that Jews had too much power in the United States, more than fifty percent of them believed that Jews were the reasons for our Depression, in those years. The surveys that revealed anti-Semitism, surveys done by the Denver Institute, by the Gallup, by the Roper Polls, all fine, established, American, non-Jewish institutions, were producing shocking results about the attitude of America not wanting immigrants, Jewish immigrant, to come into this country. So, that's what you were up against, you were up against the impact of an established institution of discrimination as an integral part of American life.

INTERVIEWER:

What did it take to get a relative into this country? What did you have to do, what sort of—

ARNOLD FORSTER:

Well, when, when originally they began to open up some of the doors and let some in, the Congress that opposed it insisted that these people would become public charges, so the first thing they wrote into the law was that no one could come here unless he he could prove that he had assets to bring in with him, or assets here, or someone who would support him if indeed he was not able to support himself, and wouldn't become a public charity. The result was, the informed Jewish community prepared affidavits. I was a young man in my twenties, and I must tell you, I executed enough affidavits, if the people who came in as a result would have kept me in bankruptcy for thirty-five years. Happily, those who came in made their way, found jobs, at low levels, menial jobs, but they supported themselves. In the, probably, fifteen or sixteen affidavits that I signed, not one of them was ever called. So that, the Jews who were involved in trying to help, did everything they could to make possible the arrival of Jews, despite the resistance.

INTERVIEWER:

What about, were, was, but there were those who were reluctant to offer that assistance, Jews, I mean? Were there some who were—

ARNOLD FORSTER:

There were Jews who either could not afford it, Jews who were afraid that it would cost too much, and other Jews who were not involved. You see, you must not forget, that there was no serious credence given to the situation that the Jews confronted in Germany. It was just not believed until the early 40s, when the evidence of Hitler's Final Solution came to the United States with documentation. When first we Jews brought it to the White House, the State Department refused to release the study we showed of what they were doing to Jews in Europe, until it was verified. It took three months before the State Department would agree that the information we had given to it was accurate and genuine. By that time, half million Jews were murdered in the du—in the ovens of Germany. This was the kind of situation we confronted.

[missing figure]ZICMe5K-_9U
QUESTION 11
INTERVIEWER:

What about, now, you said that FDR's, didn't do much for Jews. And again, let's try to stay to the 30s, but nevertheless, Jews loved FDR.

ARNOLD FORSTER:

Yes.

INTERVIEWER:

Why did Jews love FDR, what was it about FDR that, that despite all the stuff that they, that they—

ARNOLD FORSTER:

In that period of time, many Jews, even those that hadn't risen very high economically, found themselves part of the Republican party, until Roosevelt came along, and offered to resolve the Depression problems with legislation that would aid people to live. He also talked about the Four Freedoms, and when you talk about freedoms, then and now, you're talking to Jews, to blacks, and to minorities. You're saying to them, I'm for you, brother, and I'm going to help you get equality, so that Four Freedom concept that Roosevelt believed in and tried to disseminate attracted Jews, and they believed in him. Then the War came along, and he was arguing for the United States to be an ally of France and England, who were fighting the Nazis, and if the President of the United States was offering the great power of our country to help the allies against the enemy Hitler, the Jews would again be attracted to him. As a result of which, they moved generally out of the Republican ranks, and into the Democratic ranks, and they believed him. They cried many, many deep tears when he died. The truth is, if you examine the record carefully, you will find that Mr. Roosevelt, in my judgment, because of his reluctance to fight the Congress of the United States, the House and the Senate, did not do what he might have been able to do, were he willing to confront them. As a result of which, there was a failure, of even the White House, to do what should have been done, for the Jewish refugees.

INTERVIEWER:

Great, thanks. Can we cut for a second?

[cut][slate][change to camera roll 317:72][sound roll 317:38]
INTERVIEWER:

—sailed for Cuba, and it ended up off our coast, so—

ARNOLD FORSTER:

You want me to start at the top of the story, though?

INTERVIEWER:

Yeah.

ARNOLD FORSTER:

OK.

CAMERA CREW MEMBER:

OK, any time.

ARNOLD FORSTER:

Yeah.

INTERVIEWER:

OK.

ARNOLD FORSTER:

In the spring of 1939, the—out of Hamburg came a German ship, carrying approximately a thousand passengers, among which were two hundred and fifty children. They were destined for Cuba. I think the International Jewish Rescue Committee had financed the trip to that country. When they got there, after sailing along the American Atlantic Ocean coast, they found that Cuba was not ready to receive them, and after two weeks of dallying in that area, they started back up to find some other port of entry. They never made it. They never made it, because
** the attitude in the Congress was unhealthy, they didn't want more Jews, though there were less than a thousand. The attitude in the White House was that they could do nothing about it in face [sic] of the existing high barriers in the immigration requirements. At the end of several weeks, that ship, with a thousand Jews,
** and that many children, was forced in desperation to return to Europe
** , and to Germany. The evidence indicates that most of them went to the ovens, and the concentration camps of Hitler's Nazi community.

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QUESTION 12
INTERVIEWER:

OK, thank you. I'm going to switch gears altogether, and ask if you remember the boxer Joe Louis, from the 30s.

ARNOLD FORSTER:

Sure.

INTERVIEWER:

What do you remember about him, what, why do you think he was such a significant character in those days?

ARNOLD FORSTER:

Joe Louis, in my view, in my memory, was a significant character because he was black, and had that kind of temperament and attitude, that was the exact opposite of the negative stereotype that most whites had about blacks. The decent people in the media were ready, eager, and willing to prove to the American people the stupidity of bigotry, and he responded with everything that he was, to the point where, and it was unique, he became a hero and a model in the United States. It was in a period when you could count on the fingers of one hand, among the five hundred professional ball players in both leagues, the number of blacks, and don't you forget that. It was the beginning of the destruction of the barrier against blacks in the United States in the sports field. And the Jews were kept out! Paul Gallico wrote a book, saying that the reason the Jews preponderated in basketball was that they were sneaky, and shifty, and clever, and manipulative. You would believe that a very well-known national sports columnist would write a book and say that, and continue until his retirement undisturbed. Today I'm wondering, would a Paul Gallico say that blacks, who are overwhelmingly beautiful in basketball, and they've made it one of the great sports of our country, are sneaky, and manipulative? We've grown up, and Joe Louis helped open the door, and Jackie Robinson, who I was proud to call a dear and—

INTERVIEWER:

Hang on a second, that's, because we can't get into Jackie Robinson, because that's—

ARNOLD FORSTER:

I just wanted to give you one sentence, [laughs] 'cause I loved him and we were close friends, and we traveled together!

INTERVIEWER:

[laughs]  [ gap: ;reason: unintelligible ] , but he's not in there anyway. Max Schmeling, do you remember the fights with Max Schmeling? Joe Louis against Max Schmeling?

ARNOLD FORSTER:

I remember, sure, I remember there was a German, by the name of Max Schmeling, who got crucified, if, that's the wrong word, by Joe Louis, I don't remember much more than that.

INTERVIEWER:

Your, so you don't remember what the Jewish community, if they came out against it, him—

ARNOLD FORSTER:

The Jewish community was not involved, that I knew. First of all, I never went to a football game in my life, I never went to a boxing match, I never read the sport pages, so, I'm in a different world.

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QUESTION 13
INTERVIEWER:

OK, do you remember the incident with Marty Glickman in the '36 Olympics? Where the Jew-, two Jewish runners weren't allowed to—

ARNOLD FORSTER:

No.

[missing figure]ZICMe5K-_9U
QUESTION 14
INTERVIEWER:

Well, what do you know about Avery Brundage?

ARNOLD FORSTER:

I remember only that Avery Brundage, as head of the International Olympics, saw to it somehow, without taking the blame for it, that blacks and Jews were not very welcome, and had a very rough time making it to the Olympics.

INTERVIEWER:

OK, cut please.

ARNOLD FORSTER:

Oh, I didn't know you were on, I was on camera.

[cut][slate]
CAMERA CREW MEMBER:

Take eight.  [ gap: ;reason: unintelligible ] , any time.

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QUESTION 15
INTERVIEWER:

OK, so tell us about the work of the ADL with regard to both blacks and  [ gap: ;reason: inaudible ] .

ARNOLD FORSTER:

The Anti-Defamation League of B'nai Brith, in which I spent most of my adult life, fifty years of it, was created just eighty years ago, in 1913. By charter it said, its purpose was to bring together, in greater understanding, the different groups of Americans that went to make up this great country of ours. We recognized at the very outset, that the weakest link in the chain of democracy, we all had to pay for. As a result of which, we were not concerned parochially with Jewish problems, but with all minority problems, with bigotry and prejudice and stereotyping against any victim group, to that kind of bigotry.

INTERVIEWER:

Great, thanks.

ARNOLD FORSTER:

Is that what you wanted?

INTERVIEWER #2:

Yeah.

CAMERA CREW MEMBER:

That's it.

INTERVIEWER:

OK, cut.

[cut]
[end of interview]