Segments in this Video

Introduction: A Voice Among the Silent: The Legacy of James McDonald (01:41)


In 1933, Adolf Hitler told McDonald he would show the world how to get rid of Jews. McDonald warned world leaders and located safe havens for Jewish refugees.

McDonald's Background (04:01)

McDonald's diaries, housed at the U.S. Holocaust Museum, provided information about world perceptions of the Holocaust. He was born in 1886, attended Indiana University, married, and worked at the Foreign Policy Association.

German Activities (04:08)

McDonald attended the annual assembly of the League of Nations and went to Germany in 1933. He witnessed the boycott of Jewish businesses and directly questioned Hitler. McDonald warned President Roosevelt about Hitler's plan; Roosevelt appointed William Dodd as ambassador.

League of Nations High Commissioner (06:38)

McDonald befriended Eleanor Roosevelt and expressed his concerns about German policies toward Jews. He worked to relocate Jewish refugees. The American government showed little interest and the Vatican signed a concordat with the Nazi government. McDonald resigned in December 1935.

Évian Conference (03:52)

McDonald joined the New York Times editorial board; Arthur Sulzberger did not want him to accept an award for his work as High Commissioner. McDonald became chairman of a White House refugee initiative advisory committee; the conference was ineffective.

World War II (04:28)

The Nazis targeted Jewish businesses and synagogues and sent 30,000 to concentration camps; Roosevelt failed to act. In 1939, the Cuban government denied refugee entry, the British government issued the White Paper, and Hitler invaded Poland. Breckinridge Long became McDonald's adversary.

Holocaust (02:55)

In 1940, President Rafael Trujillo accepted Jewish refugees and issued 5,000 visas. McDonald's committee instituted an emergency visa program. In 1941, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor and the U.S. entered the war. Reports of mass murder of the Jews emerged; Roosevelt deflected press questions.

Plight of the Jews (05:30)

McDonald began broadcasting news and publicly challenged Roosevelt. The State Department's suppression of news about the Holocaust angered Treasury Department staff and Roosevelt established the War Refugee Board; 1,000 Jewish refugees arrived in New York. Roosevelt died in April 1945.

After World War II (05:53)

The world learned the realities of the Holocaust, Harry Truman became president, and McDonald joined a British/American committee to help Jewish survivors; the committee recommended Palestine for relocation. McDonald confronted Truman and the U.N. established UNSCOP.

U.S. Ambassador to Israel (04:36)

Israel was established in May 1948 and McDonald became a special representative. Count Folke Burnadotte was assassinated and David Ben-Gurion's government reacted decisively. Israel held its first national elections in January 1949.

McDonald's Final Years (03:55)

McDonald resigned as ambassador in 1951 and wrote his memoirs. In 1953, he reviewed Israel's progress. McDonald became advisory chairman at the Development Corporation for Israel and died in 1964; locations in Israel bear his name.

McDonald's Legacy (04:28)

McDonald was a voice for Jewish refugees and helped save thousands of lives. His diary helped readers understand the history of that period.

Credits: A Voice Among the Silent: The Legacy of James McDonald (01:39)

Credits: A Voice Among the Silent: The Legacy of James McDonald

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A Voice Among the Silent: The Legacy of James McDonald

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This program profiles James G. McDonald, one of the first Americans to meet face-to-face with Hitler in 1933. Shocked by Hitler's threats, McDonald, who was then High Commissioner for Refugees at the League of Nations, worked tirelessly to find safe have for refugees fleeing Nazi Germany. The program highlights McDonald's efforts to warn world leaders, including President Franklin Roosevelt and the future Pope Pius XII, of the looming tragedy. It follows his career as he was appointed the first US Ambassador to Israel by President Truman, showing the pivotal role he played in shaping the American-Israeli friendship. Based on McDonald's diaries and interviews with his daughter and others who knew him, the program portrays an individual whose bravery is a model for human decency and courage that is as relevant today as it was in his time.

Length: 55 minutes

Item#: FPT203767

ISBN: 978-1-64867-614-7

Copyright date: ©2014

Closed Captioned

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