An unknown American hero of the Holocaust

With thanks for this blogpost to Jack Cohen

(the original post can be found at

Blowing the Whistle on Genocide- Josiah E. DuBois and the struggle for an American response to the Holocaust

Beyond the famous individuals who saved thousands of Jewish lives in the Holocaust (Shoah), such as Raoul Wallenberg and Oscar Schindler, there are the less famous heroes, some of whom were overlooked and forgotten.  Among these were the British Major Frank Foley, the Portuguese Consul in Hungary Sousa Mendes (who may have been of Bnei Anusim origin), the Japanese Vice-Consul in Lithuania, Chiune Sugihara, and a Chinese diplomat in Berlin, Feng-Shan Ho, each of whom saved many Jewish lives by providing visas, against the wishes of their Governments.  Another, who worked for the US Government in Washington DC and who deserves to be included among them, was Josiah E. DuBois Jr.  By his actions he may have saved more Jewish lives than any other righteous gentile. We were informed about the story of Josiah DuBois in advance of the upcoming Yom Hashoah by Leslie Portnoy, a regular lecturer at AACI who always gives a meticulous and enlightening talk.

DuBois was born in Camden, NJ, in 1913 and went on to study law at Penn U.  In 1941, at the start of the Holocaust, DuBois was working in the Foreign Funds Control Board of the US Treasury.  A request for $170,000 to pay a bribe to rescue 70,000 Jews came to his desk and he immediately approved it and passed it on to the State DeptHe was later horrified to find that State had deliberately delayed dealing with the request, and despite his efforts he was not able to get them to act for five and a half months, by which time the Jews had already been murdered!  This was a shock to him and he started collecting information on the apparently deliberate and systematic actions (and inaction) of the State Department under Asst. Secty. Breckenridge Long, whose policy was later expounded in an intra-department memo of June 1940: “We can delay and effectively stop for a temporary period of indefinite length the number of immigrants (i.e. Jews) into the United States. We could do this by simply advising our consuls to put every obstacle in the way and to require additional evidence and to resort to various administrative devices which would postpone and postpone and postpone the granting of the visas.”. Thus, 90% of the US quota places available to immigrants from countries under German control were never filled. (Later Long was caught lying to Congress about the number of visas authorized and was forced to resign in 1944.  But, he and other anti-Semites had done irreparable damage to the Jewish people.

In response to this systematic policy, that was never opposed by Secty. of State Cordell Hull or Pres. Roosevelt, Du Bois began to collect information and on 25 December 1943 he wrote a Report to his boss, Treasury Secty. Henry Morgenthau, who happened to be Jewish but who had deliberately avoided taking up the case of the European Jews with Roosevelt.  This now famous case of whistle-blowing was entitled “Report to the Secretary of the Acquiescence of This Government in the Murder of the Jews.”  To avoid the same kind of bureaucratic silencing that had been going on for those crucial years DuBois told Morgenthau that if the Secretary did not pass his report on to the President he would resign and present the report to a press conference.  To avoid problems in the election then due in onlly 10 months, Roosevelt established the War Refugee Board, in which DuBois was General Counsel, with his colleague John W. Pehle as its Director.

Very quickly the WRB began to take actions to rescue the lives of Jews in Europe by various means, including bribery.  (This usually required sending money, but they also arranged for Raoul Wallenberg as an emissary under Swedish auspices to help rescue the Jews of Budapest)  They also established havens for Jewish refugees in N. Africa, Sweden and elsewhere, but only one in the USA, at Fort Ontario, New York, that housed a mere 982 Jews.  After the war ended in 1945 it was estimated that the WRB’s direct actions had saved ca. 200,000 Jews, and many more had been rescued, ca. 48,000 in Transnistria alone, as well as the 120,000 saved in Budapest.  All of this could not have happened if DuBois had not acted on his principles.  He ended his crucial Report with these words: “If men of the temperment and philosophy of Long continue in control of immigration administration, we may as well take down that plaque from the Statue of Liberty and block out the ‘lamp beside the golden door.'”  However, WRB director Pehle described the work as “too little, too late”.

Later DuBois was part of the legal team as part of the Nuremberg Trials that prosecuted those who ran I.G. Farben, the chemical company that used slave-labor under the Nazis.  He wrote a memoir about this trial entitled “the Devil’s Chemists.”After that he played no further role in these events and his crucial role was almost entirely forgotten until Arthur Morse in his 1968 book mentioned him.

PS. This is my summary of Leslie Portnoy’s lecture that was based largely on Rafael Medoff’s book “Blowing the Whistle on Genocide: Josiah E. DuBois and the struggle for an American response to the Holocaust,” Purdue Univ. Press, 2008.
AACI is the home for English Speakers in Israel with offices in Jerusalem, Netanya, Tel Aviv, Beer Sheva and Haifa.
AACI Jerusalem – Dr. Max and Gianna Glassman Family Center
Pierre Koenig 37, corner of Poalei Tzedek 2 (across from Hadar Mall)
Talpiot, Jerusalem
Buses # 10, 21 & 49 stop on Pierre Koenig across from AACI; 71, 72, 74 & 75 stop at Tzomet Habankim, a 10-minute walk away.
(02) 566-1181 for more information about any programs or to register.

One thought on “An unknown American hero of the Holocaust

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