The “Jewish Threat”: Anti-Semitic Politics of the US Army
Joseph W. Bendersky
Basic Books, 538 pp., $30.00
“Communazis”: FBI Surveillance of German Emigré Writers
Yale University Press, 362 pp., $29.95
In 1938, at a time when there was much discussion about opening American frontiers to refugees from Nazi Germany, General George Van Horne Moseley gave a speech before a meeting of medical reservists at Tulane University in which he expressed the opinion that America should take no risk of having people who were thrown out of other countries as “undesirables” reproduce their own kind here. Refugees should be accepted only “with the distinct understanding that they all be sterilized before being permitted to embark. Only that way can we properly protect our future.”
Moseley did not use the word “Jew,” but everyone knew that he meant it, and in 1939, after his mandatory retirement, he made himself quite clear in another speech in Philadelphia, in which he asserted that the United States was on the brink of a war that would be “for the purpose of establishing Jewish hegemony throughout the world.” As Robert Bendersky summarizes Moseley’s argument: “While ‘your sons and mine’ would fight side by side with Christian-killing Communists, only the Jews would profit…. The Jewish firm Kuhn, Loeb, and Company had ‘financed the Russian Revolution.’ Americans must not let history repeat itself.”
The details of this harangue were not new, even in an army that projected itself as an institution that would tolerate neither racism nor anti-Semitism. In his disturbing new book, which is based upon research in an impressive number of official and private archives, Robert Bendersky claims that both racism and anti-Semitism had been a staple of army intelligence reports ever since World War I, when nativist xenophobia had for the first time led high army officers to consider Jews as a special problem whose loyalty to the US was open to question.
In the Military Intelligence Department a special file (MID 245) was set aside for data about Jews, and this, which was largely composed of reports from military attachés and special agents in major European capitals, tended, when it was not falsely alarming, to verge on the fantastic. The fact that many American Jews were engaged in international business inflamed the imagination of MID’s correspondents and led one of them, in a paper called “Bolshevism and Judaism,” to describe how the banker Jacob Schiff had conspired with the Warburgs in Germany and Stockholm, as well as with other Jewish bankers in London, Tokyo, Paris, and Petrograd, “to finance Trotzky, a Jew, for the purpose of accomplishing a social revolution.” This story, and similar ones, survived in many forms and influenced the thinking of many officers, including, in due course, General Moseley.
In the uncertain aftermath of the First World War, preoccupation with the alleged link between Jews and Communists continued. One of the strongest forces in shaping it was the Army War College in Washington, D.C., which prepared the elite of the service for the upper echelons of command and the general staff. In the interwar years almost two thousand officers were educated at the War College, and of the …