Eva Moseley 2015-01-26 13:58:32
A federal child labor amendment was a hot issue in the 1920s. The Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where I worked from 1971 to 1999, has collections documenting the attempts to get it ratified. And it has one collection that documents opposition to such an amendment: the papers of Alexander Lincoln, a director of the Sentinels of the Republic, a group for states’ rights, liberty, and “a free republican form of government.” In 1939 the Sentinels heard a fierce speech by U.S. Army General George Van Horn Moseley, who equated the New Deal with communism and attacked both, along with democracy. He defended the Germans, the Japanese, and Francoist Spain, and, while expressing some sympathy for refugees, he said that many “have Communistic tendencies and were a thorn in the side of the German people.” He called for “new leadership, Christian, by God!”. Even the right-wing Sentinels found the General too far right. I was born Eva Steiner in Vienna. My relatives and I were among those refugees to which the General referred. We were secular Jews, and my father was briefly held in the Dachau concentration camp but was let go when we got the necessary papers to immigrate to the United States. We were lucky to escape from Europe about a year after Germany annexed Austria. It was shortly before war broke out and well before the Nazis implemented Hitler’s “Final Solution.” In 1958 I married George Van Horn Moseley III, whose political views were radically different from those of his grandfather. In 1960 the General came to New York and George met him for lunch. Because we lived in the Bronx and had a very small child, I didn’t join them—a missed last chance, for the General died soon after. When my husband told his grandfather that his wife was Jewish, the General replied, “Some of my best friends are Jews.” The General figured so prominently in Joseph W. Bendersky’s book, The “Jewish Threat”: Anti-Semitic Politics of the U.S. Army, that the review in the New York Review of Books led off with a summary of another Moseley speech, in which he declared that, to protect good American stock, refugees should have to agree to be sterilized before entering the United States. In reviewing the General’s papers at the Library of Congress, I learned that he didn’t hate individual Jews but abhorred “the Jew,” viewing Jews as disloyal citizens. That was the reasoning that allowed an anti-Semite to have Jewish friends. (The General also thought “the Negro” was a loyal American but not a good soldier, running when the fighting got too rough.) In The American Axis: Henry Ford, Charles Lindbergh, and the Rise of the Third Reich, Max Wallace writes that in 1940 the FBI arrested members of a Christian Front group that apparently aimed to “seize the White House and place Major General George Van Horn Moseley in the Oval Office as a military dictator.” The General may have been unaware of this plot, but when he retired from the Army, in 1938, he publicly declared that the Roosevelt administration was controlled by the “alien element in our midst.” In 1939 he said that “The war now proposed is for the purpose of establishing Jewish hegemony throughout the world.” (Some FDR haters even insisted FDR was Jewish, and that his name was really Rosenfeld.) The General was of course not the only prominent American who welcomed Hitler’s program to rein in supposed undue and dangerous Jewish power. Bendersky’s book details how common some degree of anti-Semitism was in the Army. Albert Lee in Henry Ford and the Jews noted that the famously anti-Semitic Ford “refused to build aircraft engines for England while building five-ton military trucks for Germany.” Michelle Dubert-Bellrichard’s article “That’s My Grandpa!” (Archival Outlook, September/October 2013) inspired me to send this parallel but very different instance of finding a relative in the archives. It’s not always a happy connection, but the discovery is bound to be interesting, and may even be startling: according to the clippings in the Lincoln papers about the General’s Sentinels speech, I saw that he gave it on March 4, 1939, which was the day we Steiners arrived in New York.
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