Department of State Memorandum of Conversation Confidential
Subject: Attitude of Zionists Toward Peter Bergson
Participants: Dr. Nahum Goldmann, Chairman of the Administrative Committee of the World Jewish Congress; Mr. Murray, NEA; Mr. Alling, NEA; Mr. Merriam, NE; Mr. Wilson, NE
In the course of a discussion today on
Zionist affairs, Dr. Goldmann referred to the
accounts appearing in the press of the establishment of a "Hebrew
Embassy" by the "Hebrew Committee of National Liberation" under
the aegis of Peter Bergson. Dr. Goldmann
gave Mr. Murray a copy of the statement which the Zionists had issued to the
press in this connection. He said that the activities of Bergson
and his colleagues had been a matter of the greatest concern to the official
Zionist leadership and that it distressed him to see Bergson
received in high places and given facilities by this Government. The entire
matter, he said, was a gigantic hoax which Bergson
and his group were perpetrating on the more guileless members of the Jewish
community, and he drew particular attention in this connection to the fact that
Bergson's committees are especially active in
The thing which concerned the responsible Jewish organizations, Dr. Goldmann declared, was the fact that Bergson and his colleagues were free to go about the country collecting large sums of money for which they did not make any accounting and giving the impression that they were engaged in a vast humanitarian work. He alluded to the fact that Bergson and his associates were in this country on temporary visitors' visas and he also mentioned their efforts to obtain draft deferments. He added that he could not see why this Government did not either deport Bergson or draft him.
Mr. Murray replied that these were matters which were handled by different Government departments, and he made it clear to Dr. Goldmann that there was no disposition on the part of the Executive branch to support or assist Bergson or his associates.
Dr. Goldmann recalled that Eri Jabotinsky, a member of the
group, had recently departed for
A discussion then ensued as to various aspects of Bergson's activities, including the inquiry which the Foreign Agents Registration Section of the Department of Justice is conducting with a view to determining the liability of the various organizations involved to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act. Dr. Goldmann said that he was quite familiar with this Act as he himself had registered as the representative of the Jewish Agency, and he did not believe that Bergson's registering would in itself curtail his activities. What was needed, he asserted, was for persons in authority to have the facts laid before them and they would then see the light and desist from supporting Bergson or paying any attention to him. Dr. Goldmann mentioned the remaining members of Bergson's committee and declared that he had never heard of most of them, which he cited as showing that their claim to be representative of any element in Jewry was all the more ridiculous.
Dr. Goldmann said that Rabbi Wise
while recently on the
In so far as other branches of the Government were concerned, Dr. Goldmann said that today he had addressed a letter to Secretary Morgenthau pointing out that Bergson's committee intended to float a million-dollar bond issue to be redeemed in 10 years by the "Hebrew nation." He said that in addition he would try to arrange for a group of prominent Jews to call personally on Mr. Morgenthau to expose the background of Bergson's activities. He mentioned the support which Bergson had been receiving from the War Refugee Board, and he said that he had discussed this several times with Mr. Pehle, the Executive Director of the Board, who had taken the position that Bergson's Emergency Committee to Save the Jewish People of Europe had inspired the introduction of the Gillette-Rogers Resolution, which in turn had led to the creation of the War Refugee Board. In one of their meetings with Mr. Pehle, Rabbi Wise had gone so far as to inform Mr. Pehle that he regarded Bergson as equally as great an enemy of the Jews as Hitler, for the reason that his activities could only lead to increased anti-Semitism. Dr. Goldmann said that only yesterday he had again seen Mr. Pehle and had told him that unless the War Refugee Board disavowed Bergson it would be necessary for the World Jewish Congress to denounce publicly the War Refugee Board. Mr. Pehle had agreed to break with Bergson, but Dr. Goldmann added that if this should not take place, it would be difficult for the Zionists to press the matter in view of their obvious interest in the board's activities.
Further on this point, Dr. Goldmann
said that recently Mr. Ira Hirschmann, the War
Refugee Board's representative at
Mr. Wilson inquired as to Bergson's
purpose in all this activity, and Dr. Goldmann
expressed the opinion that it was purely a question of personal ambition on the
part of a group of irresponsible young men who had to leave
Mr. Murray assured Dr. Goldmann that there was no question of the Department's recognizing Bergson or any of his colleagues or urbanizations in any official capacity whatsoever.