"WE FOUND THERE WERE A NUMBER OF LAWS HIGHLY DISCRIMINATORY AGAINST THE JEWISH POPULATION": FASCINATING 1966 TYPED SIGNED EISENHOWER LETTER TO LEWIS STRAUSS, AN EISENHOWER APPOINTEE, CONCERNING THE THWARTED ATTEMPTS OF THE ALLIES TO CREATE EQUALITY FOR JEWS IN NORTH AFRICA AND THE FATE OF THE ANGUS HERD ON EISENHOWER'S GETTYSBURG FARM
EISENHOWER, Dwight D. Typed letter signed. Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, June 9, 1966. Two sheets of cream "DDE" letterhead, each measuring 7-1/4 by 10-1/2 inches; pp. 2.
Wonderful typed signed letter from Eisenhower to his former head of the Atomic Energy Commission and rejected nominee for secretary of commerce, Lewis Strauss, regarding WWII-era attempts by the allies to create equality for the Jewish population in North Africa and the resistance from Jewish leaders fearful of a pogrom, also including a closing mention of his attempts to sell the Angus cattle herd on his Gettysburg farm.
The letter, typed on "DDE" stationery, address to Eisenhower's chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission Lewis L. Strauss, and dated "June 9, 1966," reads in full: "Dear Lewis: The story that I once mentioned to you deals with a problem that came up concerning the Jewish population in North Africa during late 1942. When the Allied Forces established themselves in the region we, while not becoming an 'occupying' force in the strict sense of the word, still had to exercise an over-all influence over the population and local government. My memory has undoubtedly some flaws as to details but in general terms the following is reasonably accurate. Once we had time to look around in the region, we found that there were a number of laws highly discriminatory against the Jewish population. Certain professions were denied to them and in a number of ways they had been treated as an undesirable minority. Quite naturally, the Allied Headquarters was unhappy with this situation and we set about steadily to repeal or modify the pertinent laws and regulations. This process has been going on for some time when I got a message (I cannot recall whether it was written or verbal) from a man who was identified as the Grand Rabbi of Constantine. I had Darlan to my office to discuss the matter. The gist of the message was a request that we slow up materially in trying to carry out these particular reforms. The reason given was that in view of the long time that the existing situation had enduring, both Jews and Arabs had become accustomed to them. Any rapid change would therefore be unsettling and the Rabbi feared that if the excitable Arab population should believe we were trying to set up a government (as Nazi propaganda alleged) real difficulty would occur; possibly even a pogrom. He therefore suggested that both the local French Government and the Allied Headquarters should, in advance, confer with Jewish authorities before any radical reforms were attempted. The above is the heart of the story. I am sure that it could be elaborated a bit either from the records or through such people as Robert Murphy and Julius Holmes and others who were present at that time. Concerning my Angus herd, I have one serious inquiry about it—indeed I have a tentative engagement to meet with a prospective purchaser right after June fourteenth. Two other individuals likewise indirectly indicated an interest in the matter but so far I have made no attempt to contact them. If anything develops I will let you know promptly. As ever, [signed] Ike."
The recipient of this letter, Lewis Lichtenstein Strauss, had a lengthy career rotating between finance and government positions. Although he made his fortune in investment banking, he happily joined the administration of several presidents. At the onset of the First World War, Strauss approached Herbert Hoover for a position with the new FDA, which Hoover headed. Hoover granted him that position and quickly made him his personal secretary. When Hoover ran for president, Strauss was a firm supporter of his former boss and became an active fundraiser for him among the banking set. When World War II broke out, Strauss was already a 15-year commander in the U.S. Naval Reserves. He left the war as a rear admiral, having done extensive work to manage the provision of ordnance and also to deal with economic issues. In the late 1940s, Strauss was made a commissioner of the Atomic Energy Commission and actively supported Truman—despite his political party—in developing the H-bomb. Strauss then went back to the private sector, consulting financially for the Rockefellers, but he again returned to government life when Eisenhower made him chair of the Atomic Energy Commission, a controversial period of his life in which his dislike of Oppenheimer created friction. After leaving the AEC at the end of his term, Strauss became a special adviser to the president on the Atoms for Peace Program. In 1958, Eisenhower attempted to name Strauss secretary of commerce, but new Democratic strength in the Senate meant that Strauss could not be successfully confirmed. Toward the end of his life—the period in which this letter was written—Strauss, a lifelong Republican, threw himself behind Barry Goldwater and Richard Nixon successively.
The majority of this letter concerns the situation of Jews in North Africa during World War II. This would have been of deep interest to Lewis Strauss. "Described by his biographer as a 'deeply devout but fully acculturated American Jew,' Strauss also made time to help coordinate the humanitarian work of the Jewish Joint Distribution Committee in war-ravaged Eastern Europe" during World War I (ANB). In the late 1920s, Strauss became president of Congregation Emanu-el, then the largest synagogue in New York City. Eisenhower, on the other hand, was deeply involved with Operation Torch, the 1942 Allied invasion of North Africa. "Eisenhower and his associates feared that, if they drew too close to the North African Jews, the Arabs would revolt, tying down forces that were badly needed elsewhere. By the 1950s, this idea had grown into a more general principle. If the foreign-policy elite in the 1950s was certain of one thing about the Middle East, it was that a close association of the United States with Israel and the Jews would provoke the Arabs, driving them into the arms of the Soviet Union. A primary strategic goal of the Eisenhower presidency, therefore, was to prove to the Arabs that America was not in Israel's pocket" (Mosaic). Interestingly, while scholars have credited this position to a mix of American antisemitism and the influence of the Vichy in North Africa, Eisenhower here attempts to point the finger at the most prominent rabbi in the region, the Grand Rabbi of Constantine [Algeria] who evidently asked that any measures be taken slowly and that Jewish authorities be alerted to them. Ultimately, the leaders of Operation Torch did virtually nothing to correct the religious inequalities, contributing to the mass migration of Mizrahi and Sephardic Jews to Israel that followed. In the letter, Eisenhower directs Strauss to address further questions to Robert Murphy and Julius Holmes. Murphy, Roosevelt's personal representative with the rank of Minister to French North Africa, had a checkered history in North Africa. He installed a Vichy commander as head of French North Africa and later opposed the restoration of citizenship to Algerian Jews. Moreover, he convinced Roosevelt to limit Jewish membership in professions in Algeria to a quota system, exactly equal to their representation in the population. He has come to be regarded as one of the greatest enemies to Jews in North Africa. Julius Holmes was the Executive Officer for the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff during that time. He later became Deputy G-5 for the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF) as well as Assistant Secretary of State. Holmes largely thought strategically with regard to North African Jews and viewed the Arab nations as being bolstered by the Soviets. He recognized the strategy of alignment with Israel, but also acknowledged that a full-scale war was likely to result from it.
Born into farm life in Kansas, Eisenhower was one of a number of agriculturally minded presidents, but his path to becoming a farmer was interrupted by World War II. "After his military career, Eisenhower planned to retire to on a farm he purchased just outside of the Gettysburg Battlefield in Pennsylvania. However, he would again serve his country as president from 1953 to 1961. Eisenhower bought his 189-acre farm that was formerly a dairy and he would continue having a few milking cows along with a herd of Angus show cattle. The farm served a presidential retreat for Eisenhower where he hosted such foreign dignitaries as Prime Minister Winston Churchill from Great Britain and Premier Nikita Khrushchev from the Soviet Union" (Drovers). While Eisenhower expresses a desire to sell his Angus herd, the majority of his property—the farm and house—was donated to the National Park Service just two years before his death in 1969. Two tiny pencil notations.
Original mailing creases, minor staple marks. About-fine condition.