Dwight D. Eisenhower: Soldier, President, Statesman

By Joann P. Krieg | Go to book overview

20
Dwight D. Eisenhower and the State of Israel: Supporter or Distant Sympathizer?

Isaac Alteras

On September 27, 1948, Dwight D. Eisenhower, at the time president of Columbia University, was awarded an Honorary Degree of Humane Letters by the neighboring Jewish Theological Seminary of America. At the ceremonies he was praised for his role as Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Forces in Europe when he led the fight that ended the terror of the Nazi onslaught. His military accomplishments were lauded for the high moral standards they embodied, such as "statesmanship, tolerance and humaneness . . . [for being] a soldier of intellectual integrity with a love for peace and his fellow man." It was quite appropriate for the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, the spiritual and intellectual center of American Conservative Judaism, to so honor Eisenhower, for his humanity was clearly demonstrated by his humane treatment of Jewish survivors of the Holocaust.

Eisenhower's aversion to Adolf Hitler and Nazism first became known to his Jewish friends in 1938 in Manila, the capital of the Philippines. There, as a young major, he assisted Douglas MacArthur in training the Phillipine Army. At a social function he was astonished to hear American businessmen and some members of the Spanish community express admiration for Hitler. Impressed by his condemnation of Nazism, his Jewish friends asked him to take the job of relocating Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany in places such as China, Indochina, Indonesia, and elsewhere in Asia. The job carried with it a very handsome salary of $60,000 a year plus expenses, with a promise to place the first five years of salary in escrow to be paid to him in full if for any reason he had to leave the job. Apart from the tempting monetary reward, as Eisenhower later recalled, the job offered a challenge: "it would have been a pretty wonderful thing to resettle these poor people who were driven out of their homelands." 1 Despite its advantages, however, Eisenhower turned it down, and the only explanation he gave was that he

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