Rabbi Stephen Wise, President of the American Jewish Congress, sent this letter to President Franklin Roosevelt, appealing to him to publicly acknowledge that Hitler had begun the “Final Solution to the Jewish question”—the systematic slaughter all Jewish people in the lands he ruled.
Roosevelt met with Wise and other leaders on December 8th. He told them
We are dealing with an insane man— Hitler, and the group that surrounds him represents an example of a national psychopathic case. We cannot act toward them by normal means. That is why the problem is very difficult.
The President declared it was too early to intervene, but granted the committee one of their requests: he offered to make a public statement if Wise and the others would compose it. Wise spent the remainder of the war trying to publicize the genocide.
Office of Dr. Wise
40 West 68 Street,
December 2, 1942.
The White House
Washington, D. C.
I do not wish to add an atom to the awful burden which you are bearing with magic and, as I believe, heaven-inspired strength at this time. But you do know that the most overwhelming disaster of Jewish history has befallen Jews in the form of the Hitler mass-massacres. Hitler’s decision was to exterminate the Jewish people in all Hitler-ruled lands, and it is indisputable that as many as two million civilians Jews have been slain.
I have had cables and underground advices for some months, telling of these things. I succeeded, together with the heads of other Jewish organizations, in keeping these out of the press and have been in constant communication with the State Department, particularly Under Secretary Welles. The State Department has now received what it believes to be confirmation of these unspeakable horrors and has approved of my giving the facts to the press. The organizations banded together in the Conference of which I am Chairman, feel that they wish to present to you a memorandum of this situation, so terrible that this day is being observed as a day of mourning and fasting throughout the Jewish world. We hope above all that you will speak a word which may bring solace and hope to millions of Jews who mourn, and be an expression of the conscience of the American people.
I had gathered from the State Department that you were prepared to receive a small delegation, which would include representatives of the American x Jewish Committee, the American Jewish Congress x, the B’nai B’rith. It would be gravely misunderstood if, despite your overwhelming preoccupation, you x did not make it possible to receive our delegation and to utter what I am sure will be your heartening and consoling reply.
As your old friend, I beg you will somehow arrange to do this.
Source: Letter from Stephen Wise, President, American Jewish Congress, to President Franklin D. Roosevelt; 12/2/1942; OF 76-c: Jewish 1942 - July 1943 (Church Matters); Collection FDR-FDRPOF: President's Official Files (Roosevelt Administration), Record Group Franklin D. Roosevelt President's Official Files, 1933 - 1945; Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, Hyde Park, NY. National Archives.