OTD in History… August 4, 1944, Anne Frank and her family are captured by the Nazis

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OTD in History… August 4, 1944, Anne Frank and her family are captured by the Nazis

By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

Anne Frank in 1941. Source: Anne Frank Fonds

On this day in history August 4, 1944, the Nazi Gestapo captured Anne Frankand her family, and fellow Jews, the van Pels family and Fritz Pfeiffer all of whom were hiding at Otto Frank’s office building 263 Prinsengracht in Amsterdam in a Secret Annex above the offices. After 10 a.m. in the morning on August 4, SS-Oberscharführer Karl Silberbauer of “the Sicherheitsdienst” and some Dutch police collaborators two of which are known, Willem Grootendorst and Gezinus Gringhuis stormed into the annex directly through the bookcase that hides the entryway, they stayed two hours. It has longed been believed the Franks had been tipped off by a source informed the Nazis police there were Jews hiding there.

The Gestapo forced the Franks and vans Pels to hand over all their valuables, and the Gestapo turned over everything within the annex, including throwing out Otto Frank’s briefcase containing Anne’s diary from the time she was turned thirteen through their hiding. Additionally, they arrested two of the Christians, Victor Kugler, and Johannes Kleiman, who had been taking care of the Franks, and sent them to Amersfoort penal camp. The other two, Otto’s secretary Miep Gies and typist Bep Voskuijl, who helped the Franks were questioned but not arrested. On August 5, Gies went back to the annex, where she found Anne’s diary, the notebooks and pages she added to it and the Franks family albums, and hide them.

There started Anne’s journey through the Nazi concentration camps, that, she, her sister Margot and her mother Edith would never survive. Their mother died at Auschwitz while Anne and Margot died in Bergen-Belsen barely two months before the camp was liberated. Only her father survived. Miep Gies returned Anne’s diaries to him after the war ended, he edited Anne’s diary and had it published, he chose passages from Anne’s original and edited versions of her diaries. After his death, the Netherlands Institute for War Documentation (Rijks Instituut voor Oorlogs documentatie (RIOD) published the full version of her diaries, finally giving a complete depiction of Anne and the events of those two years in hiding through her eyes. The diary was a real-time glimpse of Jewish survival and hiding in Nazi-occupied Europe. As Soviet writer Ilya Ehrenburg said of Anne’s diary, “One voice speaks for six million — the voice not of a sage or a poet but of an ordinary little girl.” Although Anne left a trail of her life in the secret annex in her diary, questions remain as to who really betrayed the family and when she died.

Anne Frank was born Annelies Marie Frank on June 12, 1929, in Frankfurt, Germany, she had an older sister Margot Betti, four years older, the family was liberal Jews. With Adolf Hitler’s rise to power in 1933, the Franks moved Amsterdam, Netherlands, Otto first, then Edith and the children. There they established a routine, Otto worked at Opekta Works, a company that extracted pectin, and they lived in an apartment in Merwedeplein (Merwede Square) in Rivierenbuurt, Amsterdam. In 1938, Otto established a second company Pectacon, which sold “herbs, pickling salts, and mixed spices.” Both girls went to mixed schools, Margot to public schools and Anne to a Montessori school.

Life would change for the Franks again, unsettling them once more, in May 1940, when the Nazis invaded the Netherlands. They instituted “discriminatory laws” against the Jewish population, including “mandatory registration and segregation.” Anne and Margot would have to attend the Jewish school, the Jewish Lyceum, secondary school. Otto had to transfer his business to Christians to avoid the Nazis confiscating them. He transferred Pectacon to Johannes Kleiman, and then it is was liquidated with assets transferred to Gies and Company operated by Jan Gies. Otto Frank tried in vain to acquire visas for the family to immigrate first to the United States in 1938 and then Cuba in 1941, but the US consulate closed in the interim with the Nazi invasion, and the whole application was lost, while the Cuban application was granted only for Otto in December 1941.

Anne’s father bought her a small red-and-white-plaid autograph book she wanted for her thirteenth birthday on June 12, 1942, which she immediately started to use as a diary recording her last month of freedom. On July 5, the SS called up Margot then sixteen to report for a work camp. Otto Frank was planning to hide the family and he intended they go into hiding on July 16, 1942. Margot’s call up from the Zentralstelle für jüdische Auswanderung (Central Office for Jewish Emigration) forced the family to make their move quicker than anticipated.

On Monday, July 6, 1942, the family left their apartment in disarray, with a note implying they fled to Switzerland. Anne left neighbor and friend Toosje Kupers some of her prized possessions including the family cat, Moortje. They walked to the “Opekta offices on the Prinsengracht,” where they hid in a three-floor space called the Achterhuis, “Secret Annex,” which was later concealed by a heavy large bookcase. Four Christian employees Victor Kugler, Johannes Kleiman, Bep Voskuijl, and Miep Gies knew about the Franks hiding and helped them with food and supplies. In addition, Gies husband Jan knew and Voskuijl’s father Johannes Hendrik Voskuijl, who also helped.

A week later on July 13, another family joined the Franks the van Pels, which included Hermann and Auguste and their sixteen-year-old son Peter. In November a friend of the van Pels, a dentist also from Germany Fritz Pfeffer, would be the join them in the annex. After hearing that the Netherlands wanted people to write diaries recounting the war for publication after the war, Anne began editing her diary and writing with focus. Anne took it seriously because she wanted to become a writer and journalist.

In her diary, Anne recounted in detail not only her feeling and thoughts but also the daily lives and tensions of living in a small space with little food available. She gave aliases to the van Pels and Pfeffer, calling them van Daan and Alfred Dussel respectively. Anne shared a room with Pfeffer and she had the most tensions and clashes with him, portraying him the most negatively in her diary than anyone else. She recounted her difficult relationship with her mother and sister, which she became closer to in the two years, and her blossoming romance with Peter.

Although the two years were difficult in tight quarters and never seeing the outside or anyone else, their nightmare began on August 4, 1944, when the Gestapo charged into the annex. To the Nazis, the Franks were considered criminals for not replying to the notice for Margot in 1942, and for hiding. From the annex, the Franks van Pels and Pfeffer were taken to Huis van Bewaring (House of Detention), a prison on the Weteringschans. They then spent a month in Westerbork transit camp and because they were branded as criminals, the Franks were sentenced to hard labor in the Punishment Barracks.

One of the biggest mysteries surrounding the Franks’ capture was who betrayed them? The Anne Frank House and even police investigations have never been able to pinpoint who betrayed the family. Gerard Kremer recently wrote a book, The Backyard of the Secret Annex giving the latest theory. Kremer’s father, Gerard Kremer, Sr. was the janitor at a building behind the Prinsengracht building. Kremer claims Ans van Dijk, who collaborated with the Nazis after her 1943 arrest helped capture 145 Jews, was the one responsible, she was executed in 1948. Kramer claims his father said he overheard van Dijk speaking with the Nazis about the building where the Franks were hiding. A spokesperson for Anne Frank House, the museum of the building and the secret annex, claims, “Ans van Dijk was included as a potential traitor in this study. We have not been able to find evidence for this theory, nor for other betrayal theories.”

Another book published in 2015, written by Flemish journalist Jeroen de Bruyn and Joop van Wijk, the typist Bep Voskuijl’s “youngest son” claims Bep’s younger sister Nelly was the one who notified the Nazis about the Franks. The book is entitled, Bep Voskuijl, het zwijgen voorbij: een biografie van de jongste helper van het Achterhuis (Bep Voskuijl, the Silence is Over: A Biography of the Youngest Helper of the Secret Annex). Van Wijk states that Nelly did not like that Bep and her father helped the Jewish families, while older sister Diny and her fiancé Bertus Hulsman remember Nelly calling the Gestapo on the day the Franks were captured. Nelly was a known Nazi collaborator, and the SS Officer Karl Silberbauer was noted as saying, the informant had “the voice of a young woman.”

The Anne Frank House did a study in 2016 reexamining the day of the Franks arrest, looking at previously unavailable sources. The study refuted both claims; instead, concluding an investigation into ration card fraud or activities in the company was the most probable reason, which led the Gestapo to the secret annex because the police unit dealt primarily with economic crimes. The report listed some of the possibilities. Otto Frank was certain someone had betrayed his family, and he reserved his greatest suspicion for Willem van Maaren, a new warehouse worker, who replaced the trusted Johan Voskuijl, who had built the bookcase hiding the room. There was, however, no evidence implicating van Maaren, except Frank and those that helped the families were suspicious of him, he was the only one ever questioned by the police and judiciary.

Historians have different opinions. Melissa Müller, the author of Anne Frank: The Biography, believes Lena Hartog, “the wife of another warehouseman” could have been behind the betrayal. Carol Ann Lee that author of The Hidden Life of Otto Frank thought Dutch National Socialist Tonny Ahlers could have betrayed them, while David Barnouw and Gerrold van der Stroom of The Netherlands Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies do not believe Van Maaren, Hartog, or Ahlers were involved.

According to the Anne Frank House, the closest possibility was related to illegal ration cards, they used Anne’s diary as evidence. From March 10, 1944, onward, Anne wrote about a “B” and “D”, most probably salesmen Martin Brouwer and Pieter Daatzelaar, saying, “B. and D. have been caught, so we have no coupons . . .” On March 22, she wrote, “B. & D. have been let out of prison.” As the Anne Frank House concludes, “The possibility of betrayal has of course not been entirely ruled out by this, nor has any relationship between the ration coupon fraud and the arrest been proven. Further research into the day-to-day activities at Otto Frank’s company and what else was happening in and around the premises could potentially provide more information. This article is a first step in thinking more broadly about the raid on the Secret Annex. Hopefully, it will also inspire other researchers to pursue new leads. Clearly, the last word about that fateful summer day in 1944 has not yet been said.”

Luck was not with the Franks, they left Westerbork on the last train taking Jews to the concentration camps. The Franks, van Pels, and Pfeffer were sent to Auschwitz, and the Franks were separated, only Edith, Margot and Anne stayed together. In October 1944, the Frank women were supposed to be transferred to “Liebau labor camp in Upper Silesia” but Anne had scabies, her mother and sister stayed behind and their fate was sealed. On October 28, the Nazis were forced to abandon Auschwitz, as the allies were closing in, they selected Margot and Anne to go to Bergen-Belsen concentration camp but their mother had to stay behind were she died. Bergen-Belson was a death trap of disease and by February the Frank sisters were battling typhus and died either at the end of February or March, another mystery left unsolved.

With the publication of her diary, Anne Frank became immortalized forever, the teenage Jewish victim of the Holocaust. Her father commented in his memoirs, “For me, it was a revelation … I had no idea of the depth of her thoughts and feelings … She had kept all these feelings to herself.” Anne’s story was first published in the original Dutch in 1947 as Het Achterhuis, The Secret Annex and in the United States in 1952 as Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl. The book has been translated in 60 different languages all over the world selling more 30 million copies; it has been made into stage plays, a Hollywood movie, and taught in school. Melissa Müller in Anne Frank: The Biography wrote of her legacy, “Over the past sixty years, Anne Frank has become a universal symbol of the oppressed in a world of violence and tyranny.” (Mueller, 13) Holocaust survivor and author Primo Levi explained, “One single Anne Frank moves us more than the countless others who suffered just as she did but whose faces have remained in the shadows. Perhaps it is better that way; if we were capable of taking in all the suffering of all those people, we would not be able to live.”

Anne Frank’s legacy is even more important now as Holocaust survivors are dying out. Speaking to NBC News this past spring Holocaust survivor Sonia Klein, 92, pondered, “We are not here forever. Most of us are up in years, and if we’re not going to tell what happened, who will?” A recent study by “Schoen Consulting and commissioned by The Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany” determined the Americans are uneducated and ignorant about the Holocaust, 11 percent of all Americans have never heard of the Holocaust, the number is more devastating among millennials, where one fifth have never heard of the worst genocide in history.

Even if Americans know about the Holocaust, Americans do not know the facts, a third of all Americans and 41 percent of millennials do not realize that 6 million Jews perished and 12 million people in total. Klein expressed, “It’s a must for people to remember, once we are gone they must not be forgotten.” She worries “Unless you know what happened, you don’t understand what never again means.” Despite what Müller wrote about Anne’s diary being considered “often, though only secondarily, as a document of the Holocaust,” it should not, it has to be remembered for what it is primarily, about the Holocaust, because in no other circumstance, would Anne Frank have lived and died as she did. We have to have to educate, remember, read and learn the stories of the Holocaust, not just Anne Frank’s to keep Holocaust victims and survivors’ memory alive and history from ever repeating itself.

SOURCES AND READ MORE

Amir, Ruth, Pnina Rosenberg, and Anne Frank. The Diary of a Young Girl.

Hackensack Salem Press Amenia, NY Grey House Publishing, 2017.

Frank, Anne, Otto Frank, and Mirjam Pressler. The Diary of a Young Girl: The Definitive Edition. London: Penguin, 2012.

Müller, Melissa, Rita Kimber, and Robert Kimber. Anne Frank: The Biography, Updated and Expanded with New Material. New York, N.Y. Picador, 2014.

Lee, Carol A. The Hidden Life of Otto Frank. 2006.

Bonnie K. Goodman has a BA and MLIS from McGill University and has done graduate work in Judaic Studies at Concordia University. She is a journalist, librarian, historian & editor, and a former Features Editor at the History News Network & reporter at Examiner.com where she covered politics, universities, religion and news. She has a dozen years experience in education & political journalism.

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OTD in History… August 1–8, 1943, the Japanese attack John F. Kennedy’s PT-109 boat

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OTD in History… August 1–8, 1943, the Japanese attack John F. Kennedy’s PT-109 boat

By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

On this day in history August 1–8, 1943, during World War II the Japanese attack Lieutenant John F. Kennedy’s PT-109 boat, slitting it in two. As captain of the ship, Kennedy brought the surviving crew members to safety and helped get word to the American base to save them. Kennedy’s role made him a hero back in the United States, not just because of family connections, but spite of them. Kennedy became the example of equality of classes in the military. His newfound hero status helped launch his political career after the war, where he won a seat in Congress in 1946, in less than 14 years he would rise to the Senate and then the presidency. When asked about his hero status, Kennedy would say, “It was involuntary. They sank my boat.”

Originally, in 1941, the military refused Kennedy entry into the navy because of his health problems, stemming from an old college football injury. His father former Ambassador Joseph P. Kennedy, however, used his influence “to get” his son “into the navy.” At first, Kennedy worked in the Office of Naval Intelligence. In 1942, after completing the Naval Reserve Officers Training School and Motor Torpedo Boat Squadrons Training Center, Kennedy was assigned to be a captain of a “PT (motorized torpedo) boat” in the Pacific theater of the war.

As part of The Battle of Blackett Strait the Japanese bombed the PT base at Rendova Island, while the Americans made an unsuccessful attempt to attack Tokyo Express and the Japanese Destroyers escorting it to bring supplies to Kolombangara Island. Afterward, Kennedy’s PT-109 was one of the boats left out to patrol the waters near Blackett Strait, “south of Kolombangara in the Solomon Islands.” On the moonless dark night of August 2 at around 2:30 a.m. Japan’s Amaqiri attacked Kennedy’s PT-109, in barely a minute from Kennedy first sighting the Amaqiri, the destroyer broke the PT-109 in half.

In the attack, two of the crew died, 11 survived buy was left clinging to the wreckage hull, with one badly injured, engineer Patrick McMahon. Kennedy and two others swam out to bring those thrown from the boat back to the hull. Kennedy and the 10 crewmen clung to the hull for nine hours but as it was about to sink decided they should try to swim to a small island that was visible which was either “Bird or Plum Pudding Island,” just south of Ferguson Passage, used often by the PTs. Kennedy tied the wounded to him and clenching the ties in his mouth, while “McMahon floated on his back.” The swim took five hours until they reached the Island. (Dallek)

Kennedy hoped maybe American PTs might be in the Ferguson Passage and went out almost immediately after they reached the island to scout the area. Kennedy reached there within an hour and stayed a while, the naval commanders believed that no one survived the PT-109 attack, and shifted their course to the Vella Gulf. Kennedy was sick from the swimming and lack of sleep and could not go out again on August 3 sending out another crew member to swim to the passage.

On August 4, they swam to nearby Olasana Island looking for food but found none. On August 5, Kennedy and crew member Barney Ross swam to another nearby island Nauru Island, which was close to Ferguson Passage. There they found “a one-man canoe, a fifty-five-gallon drum of freshwater, and some crackers and candy,” left by the Japanese. Kennedy took the canoe and supplies back to the crew, while Ross remained. There two native islanders found the men and were taking care of them.

Kennedy returned to Nauru Island on August 6, he carved into a coconut shell the message, “Nauru Is. Native knows posit. He can pilot. 11 alive need small boat. Kennedy.” Kennedy gave it to the two natives, that night him and Ross went out to the passage again looking for help. On August 7, eight natives returned to Nauru Island giving Kennedy and Ross a letter from a New Zealand Infantry Lieutenant Allied coastwatcher, Lt. A. Reginald Evans, who was working with the US military on New Georgia. The letter read; “I strongly advise you to come with these natives to me. Meanwhile, I shall be in radio communication with your authorities at Rendova and we can finalize plan to collect balance of your party.” (Dallek) Late evening they took Kennedy to Gomu, Evan’s camp. Instead, of directly saving the crew, they picked up Kennedy at his request to guide PT 157 and PT 171 to the surviving crew on Olasana, where the rescued were taken to Renova early morning on August 8.

At home, Kennedy was hailed as a hero, John Hersey told Kennedy and the PT-109 story to the public in the New York Times and Reader’s Digest, it was front page on the Boston Globe. Kennedy was given the option to go home, instead, he chose to remain and fight for those he lost. Kennedy took a week off for fatigue and to heal the wounds to his feet and he returned to active duty on August 16. Later he would be awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Medal and a Purple Heart. For all the press that the incident brought Kennedy, including a Hollywood take on PT-109, Kennedy never saw himself as a hero. According to Robert Dallek in his biography An Unfinished Life: John F. Kennedy, 1917–1963, “Jack himself viewed his emergence as an American hero with wry humor and becoming modesty.” (Dallek) The combination of the modest hero, however, only added to the Kennedy mystique that became Camelot.

SOURCES AND READ MORE

Dallek, Robert. An Unfinished Life: John F. Kennedy, 1917–1963. Boston, Mass: Little, Brown and Co, 2003.

Doyle, William. PT 109: An American Epic of War, Survival, and the Destiny of John F. Kennedy. New York, NY: William Morrow, 2015.

Bonnie K. Goodman has a BA and MLIS from McGill University and has done graduate work in religion at Concordia University. She is a journalist, librarian, historian & editor, and a former Features Editor at the History News Network & reporter at Examiner.com where she covered politics, universities, religion and news. She has a dozen years experience in education & political journalism.

OTD in History… July 18, 1940, Democrats nominate Franklin D. Roosevelt for a record third term as president

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OTD in History… July 18, 1940, Democrats nominate Franklin D. Roosevelt for a record third term as president

By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

On this day in history July 18, 1940, the Democratic Party nominatesPresident Franklin Delano Roosevelt for a record third term as president, making Roosevelt the first president to go beyond President George Washington’s precedent of only two-terms for a president. With the world plunged into another world war in Europe and Nazi German gaining and the Fall of France, Roosevelt decided he would run again and break the long-held unwritten rule. Roosevelt, however, looked to be drafted to the Democratic nomination, to make it appear as he was doing a duty and not ambitiously pursuing a third term.

Throughout the primaries, Roosevelt remained evasiveness as to whether he would run for an unprecedented third term. He ignored reporters’ questions and political endorsements. His name was placed on several ballots and beat his leading opponent, Vice President John Nance Garner in the primaries. Despite Roosevelt’s pre-convention statement that he had “no desire or purpose to continue in the office,” orchestrated support capitulated Roosevelt to the nomination for an unprecedented 3rd time. Harry Hopkins was in charge of the Roosevelt “draft” at the Democratic National Convention, in Chicago, Illinois, where he maintained direct contact with the president at the White House. Thomas F. Garry, the city’s Superintendent of Sewers was placed in front of a microphone in a room under the auditorium and ready to scream pro Roosevelt chants to drum up support for the draft movement.

Kentucky Senator Alben Barkley, the permanent chairman’s gave his speech on the second day, when he mentioned Roosevelt, Chicago Mayor Ed Kelly gave the sign to Garry to commence. He yelled, “We want Roosevelt! The world wants Roosevelt!” and other pro-Roosevelt slogans over the speech’s remaining 22 minutes. After his speech, Barkley announced the President’s decision on the nomination: “The President has never had and has not today any desire or purpose to continue in the office of the President, to be a candidate for that office, or to be nominated by the convention for that office. He wishes in all earnestness and sincerity to make it clear that all delegates to this convention are free to vote for any candidate. This is the message I bear to you from the President of the United States.”

The majority of delegates, 86 percent then nominated Roosevelt for a third term on the first ballot, however, not by acclamation, which was Roosevelt’s desire. Roosevelt did not accept the nomination in person this time; instead, he delivered a radio address. He stated he did not want to run again, but the world war called for personal sacrifice. Roosevelt expressed, “These plans, like so many other plans, had been made in a world which now seems as distant as another planet… Those, my friends, are the reasons why I have had to admit to myself, and now to state to you, that my conscience will not let me turn my back upon a call to service. The right to make that call rests with the people through the American method of a free election. Only the people themselves can draft a President. If such a draft should be made upon me, I say to you, in the utmost simplicity, I will, with God’s help, continue to serve with the best of my ability and with the fullness of my strength.”

Historian Richard Moe argues in his book Roosevelt’s Second Act: The Election of 1940 and the Politics of War, “There has been an inclination by many to conclude that the decision was inevitable, that he had decided long before July 1940 to break the two-term tradition established by Washington and Jefferson and regarded as inviolable for a century and a half. Several presidents, among them FDR’s boyhood hero and distant cousin Theodore, had tried to breach the tradition, but none had succeeded. There was nothing inevitable about Franklin Roosevelt’s decision. He made it as he made all of his major decisions — virtually alone and not before the last possible moment, which is to say not until he had to.” (Moe, xiv)

Roosevelt would go on to win the election in a decisive victory against Republican Wendell Willkie, becoming the first president elected to a third term. In 1944, with World War II still in the balance, and American involvement, Roosevelt again ran for his fourth and last term, winning against New York governor Thomas Dewey. Roosevelt made history but early in his fourth term on he died April 12, 1945. Vice President Harry S. Truman took over. Republicans in Congress made sure no president would ever run for more than two terms passing the 22nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution on March 21, 1947, and ratified in 1951.

SOURCES AND READ MORE

Boller, Paul F. Presidential Campaigns: From George Washington to George W. Bush. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 2004.

Jeffries, John W. A Third Term for FDR The Election of 1940. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2017.

Moe, Richard. Roosevelt’s Second Act: The Election of 1940 and the Politics of War. New York: Oxford University Press, 2013.

Bonnie K. Goodman has a BA and MLIS from McGill University and has done graduate work in religion at Concordia University. She is a journalist, librarian, historian & editor, and a former Features Editor at the History News Network & reporter at Examiner.com where she covered politics, universities, religion and news. She has a dozen years experience in education & political journalism.

Radio Address to the Democratic National Convention Accepting the Nomination

July 19, 1940

Members of the Convention—my friends:

It is very late; but I have felt that you would rather that I speak to you now than wait until tomorrow.

It is with a very full heart that I speak tonight. I must confess that I do so with mixed feelings—because I find myself, as almost everyone does sooner or later in his lifetime, in a conflict between deep personal desire for retirement on the one hand, and that quiet, invisible thing called “conscience” on the other.

Because there are self-appointed commentators and interpreters who will seek to misinterpret or question motives, I speak in a somewhat personal vein; and I must trust to the good faith and common sense of the American people to accept my own good faith—and to do their own interpreting.

When, in 1936, I was chosen by the voters for a second time as President, it was my firm intention to turn over the responsibilities of Government to other hands at the end of my term. That conviction remained with me. Eight years in the Presidency, following a period of bleak depression, and covering one world crisis after another, would normally entitle any man to the relaxation that comes from honorable retirement.

During the spring of 1939, world events made it clear to all but the blind or the partisan that a great war in Europe had become not merely a possibility but a probability, and that such a war would of necessity deeply affect the future of this nation.

When the conflict first broke out last September, it was still my intention to announce clearly and simply, at an early date, that under no conditions would I accept reelection. This fact was well known to my friends, and I think was understood by many citizens.

It soon became evident, however, that such a public statement on my part would be unwise from the point of view of sheer public duty. As President of the United States, it was my clear duty, with the aid of the Congress, to preserve our neutrality, to shape our program of defense, to meet rapid changes, to keep our domestic affairs adjusted to shifting world conditions, and to sustain the policy of the Good Neighbor.

It was also my obvious duty to maintain to the utmost the influence of this mighty nation in our effort to prevent the spread of war, and to sustain by all legal means those governments threatened by other governments which had rejected the principles of democracy.

Swiftly moving foreign events made necessary swift action at home and beyond the seas. Plans for national defense had to be expanded and adjusted to meet new forms of warfare. American citizens and their welfare had to be safeguarded in many foreign zones of danger. National unity in the United States became a crying essential in the face of the development of unbelievable types of espionage and international treachery.

Every day that passed called for the postponement of personal plans and partisan debate until the latest possible moment. The normal conditions under which I would have made public declaration of my personal desires were wholly gone.

And so, thinking solely of the national good and of the international scene, I came to the reluctant conclusion that such declaration should not be made before the national Convention. It was accordingly made to you within an hour after the permanent organization of this Convention.

Like any other man, I am complimented by the honor you have done me. But I know you will understand the spirit in which I say that no call of Party alone would prevail upon me to accept reelection to the Presidency.

The real decision to be made in these circumstances is not the acceptance of a nomination, but rather an ultimate willingness to serve if chosen by the electorate of the United States. Many considerations enter into this decision.

During the past few months, with due Congressional approval, we in the United States have been taking steps to implement the total defense of America. I cannot forget that in carrying out this program I have drafted into the service of the nation many men and women, taking them away from important private affairs, calling them suddenly from their homes and their businesses. I have asked them to leave their own work, and to contribute their skill and experience to the cause of their nation.

I, as the head of their Government, have asked them to do this. Regardless of party, regardless of personal convenience, they came—they answered the call. Every single one of them, with one exception, has come to the nation’s Capital to serve the nation.

These people, who have placed patriotism above all else, represent those who have made their way to what might be called the top of their professions or industries through their proven skill and experience.

But they alone could not be enough to meet the needs of the times.

Just as a system of national defense based on man power alone, without the mechanized equipment of modern warfare, is totally insufficient for adequate national defense, so also planes and guns and tanks are wholly insufficient unless they are implemented by the power of men trained to use them.

Such man power consists not only of pilots and gunners and infantry and those who operate tanks. For every individual in actual combat service, it is necessary for adequate defense that we have ready at hand at least four or five other trained individuals organized for non-combat services.

Because of the millions of citizens involved in the conduct of defense, most right thinking persons are agreed that some form of selection by draft is as necessary and fair today as it was in 1917 and 1918.

Nearly every American is willing to do his share or her share to defend the United States. It is neither just nor efficient to permit that task to fall upon any one section or any one group. For every section and every group depend for their existence upon the survival of the nation as a whole.

Lying awake, as I have, on many nights, I have asked myself whether I have the right, as Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy, to call on men and women to serve their country or to train themselves to serve and, at the same time, decline to serve my country in my own personal capacity, if I am called upon to do so by the people of my country.

In times like these—in times of great tension, of great crisis-the compass of the world narrows to a single fact. The fact which dominates our world is the fact of armed aggression, the fact of successful armed aggression, aimed at the form of Government, the kind of society that we in the United States have chosen and established for ourselves. It is a fact which no one longer doubts -which no one is longer able to ignore.

It is not an ordinary war. It is a revolution imposed by force of arms, which threatens all men everywhere. It is a revolution which proposes not to set men free but to reduce them to slavery—to reduce them to slavery in the interest of a dictatorship which has already shown the nature and the extent of the advantage which it hopes to obtain.

That is the fact which dominates our world and which dominates the lives of all of us, each and every one of us. In the face of the danger which confronts our time, no individual retains or can hope to retain, the right of personal choice which free men enjoy in times of peace. He has a first obligation to serve in the defense of our institutions of freedom—a first obligation to serve his country in whatever capacity his country finds him useful.

Like most men of my age, I had made plans for myself, plans for a private life of my own choice and for my own satisfaction, a life of that kind to begin in January, 1941. These plans, like so many other plans, had been made in a world which now seems as distant as another planet. Today all private plans, all private lives, have been in a sense repealed by an overriding public danger. In the face of that public danger all those who can be of service to the Republic have no choice but to offer themselves for service in those capacities for which they may be fitted.

Those, my friends, are the reasons why I have had to admit to myself, and now to state to you, that my conscience will not let me turn my back upon a call to service.

The right to make that call rests with the people through the American method of a free election. Only the people themselves can draft a President. If such a draft should be made upon me, I say to you, in the utmost simplicity, I will, with God’s help, continue to serve with the best of my ability and with the fullness of my strength.

To you, the delegates of this Convention, I express my gratitude for the selection of Henry Wallace for the high office of Vice President of the United States. His first-hand knowledge of the problems of Government in every sphere of life and in every single part of the nation—and indeed of the whole world—qualifies him without reservation. His practical idealism will be of great service to me individually and to the nation as a whole.

And to the Chairman of the National Committee, the Postmaster General of the United States—my old friend Jim Farley-I send, as I have often before and shall many times again, my most affectionate greetings. All of us are sure that he will continue to give all the leadership and support that he possibly can to the cause of American democracy.

In some respects, as I think my good wife suggested an hour or so ago—the next few months will be different from the usual national campaigns of recent years.

Most of you know how important it is that the President of the United States in these days remain close to the seat of Government. Since last Summer I have been compelled to abandon proposed journeys to inspect many of our great national projects from the Alleghenies to the Pacific Coast.

Events move so fast in other parts of the world that it has be come my duty to remain either in the White House itself or at some near-by point where I can reach Washington and even Europe and Asia by direct telephone—where, if need be, I can be back at my desk in the space of a very few hours. And in addition, the splendid work of the new defense machinery will require me to spend vastly more time in conference with the responsible administration heads under me. Finally, the added task which the present crisis has imposed also upon the Congress, compelling them to forego their usual adjournment, calls for constant cooperation between the Executive and Legislative branches, to the efficiency of which I am glad indeed now to pay tribute.

I do expect, of course, during the coming months to make my usual periodic reports to the country through the medium of press conferences and radio talks. I shall not have the time or the inclination to engage in purely political debate. But I shall never be loath to call the attention of the nation to deliberate or unwitting falsifications of fact, which are sometimes made by political candidates.

I have spoken to you in a very informal and personal way. The exigencies of the day require, however, that I also talk with you about things which transcend any personality and go very deeply to the roots of American civilization.

Our lives have been based on those fundamental freedoms and liberties which we Americans have cherished for a century and a half. The establishment of them and the preservation of them in each succeeding generation have been accomplished through the processes of free elective Government—the democratic-republican form, based on the representative system and the coordination of the executive, the legislative and the judicial branches.

The task of safeguarding our institutions seems to me to be twofold. One must be accomplished, if it becomes necessary, by the armed defense forces of the nation. The other, by the united effort of the men and women of the country to make our Federal and State and local Governments responsive to the growing requirements of modern democracy.

There have been occasions, as we remember, when reactions in the march of democracy have set in, and forward-looking progress has seemed to stop.

But such periods have been followed by liberal and progressive times which have enabled the nation to catch up with new developments in fulfilling new human needs. Such a time has been the past seven years. Because we had seemed to lag in previous years, we have had to develop, speedily and efficiently, the answers to aspirations which had come from every State and every family in the land.

We have sometimes called it social legislation; we have sometimes called it legislation to end the abuses of the past; we have sometimes called it legislation for human security; and we have sometimes called it legislation to better the condition of life of the many millions of our fellow citizens, who could not have the essentials of life or hope for an American standard of living.

Some of us have labeled it a wider and more equitable distribution of wealth in our land. It has included among its aims, to liberalize and broaden the control of vast industries—lodged today in the hands of a relatively small group of individuals of very great financial power.

But all of these definitions and labels are essentially the expression of one consistent thought. They represent a constantly growing sense of human decency, human decency throughout our nation.

This sense of human decency is happily confined to no group or class. You find it in the humblest home. You find it among those who toil, and among the shopkeepers and the farmers of the nation. You find it, to a growing degree, even among those who are listed in that top group which has so much control over the industrial and financial structure of the nation. Therefore, this urge of humanity can by no means be labeled a war of class against class. It is rather a war against poverty and suffering and ill-health and insecurity, a war in which all classes are joining in the interest of a sound and enduring democracy.

I do not believe for a moment, and I know that you do not believe either, that we have fully answered all the needs of human security. But we have covered much of the road. I need not catalogue the milestones of seven years. For every individual and every family in the whole land know that the average of their personal lives has been made safer and sounder and happier than it has ever been before. I do not think they want the gains in these directions to be repealed or even to be placed in the charge of those who would give them mere lip-service with no heart service.

Yes, very much more remains to be done, and I think the voters want the task entrusted to those who believe that the words “human betterment” apply to poor and rich alike.

And I have a sneaking suspicion too, that voters will smile at charges of inefficiency against a Government which has boldly met the enormous problems of banking, and finance and industry which the great efficient bankers and industrialists of the Republican Party left in such hopeless chaos in the famous year 1933.

But we all know that our progress at home and in the other American nations toward this realization of a better human decency—progress along free lines— is gravely endangered by what is happening on other continents. In Europe, many nations, through dictatorships or invasions, have been compelled to abandon normal democratic processes. They have been compelled to adopt forms of government which some call “new and efficient.”

They are not new, my friends, they are only a relapse—a relapse into ancient history. The omnipotent rulers of the greater part of modern Europe have guaranteed efficiency, and work, and a type of security.

But the slaves who built the pyramids for the glory of the dictator Pharaohs of Egypt had that kind of security, that kind of efficiency, that kind of corporative state.

So did the inhabitants of that world which extended from Britain to Persia under the undisputed rule of the proconsuls sent out from Rome.

So did the henchmen, the tradesmen, the mercenaries and the slaves of the feudal system which dominated Europe a thousand years ago.

So did the people of those nations of Europe who received their kings and their government at the whim of the conquering Napoleon.

Whatever its new trappings and new slogans, tyranny is the oldest and most discredited rule known to history. And whenever tyranny has replaced a more human form of Government it has been due more to internal causes than external. Democracy can thrive only when it enlists the devotion of those whom Lincoln called the common people. Democracy can hold that devotion only when it adequately respects their dignity by so ordering society as to assure to the masses of men and women reasonable security and hope for themselves and for their children.

We in our democracy, and those who live in still unconquered democracies, will never willingly descend to any form of this so-called security of efficiency which calls for the abandonment of other securities more vital to the dignity of man. It is our credo-unshakable to the end—that we must live under the liberties that were first heralded by Magna Carta and placed into glorious operation through the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution of the United States and the Bill of Rights.

The Government of the United States for the past seven years has had the courage openly to oppose by every peaceful means the spread of the dictator form of Government. If our Government should pass to other hands next January-untried hands, inexperienced hands—we can merely hope and pray that they will not substitute appeasement and compromise with those who seek to destroy all democracies everywhere, including here.

I would not undo, if I could, the efforts I made to prevent war from the moment it was threatened and to restrict the area of carnage, down to the last minute. I do not now soften the condemnation expressed by Secretary Hull and myself from time to time for the acts of aggression that have wiped out ancient liberty-loving, peace-pursuing countries which had scrupulously maintained neutrality. I do not recant the sentiments of sympathy with all free peoples resisting such aggression, or begrudge the material aid that we have given to them. I do not regret my consistent endeavor to awaken this country to the menace for us and for all we hold dear.

· I have pursued these efforts in the face of appeaser fifth columnists who charged me with hysteria and war-mongering. But I felt it my duty, my simple, plain, inescapable duty, to arouse my countrymen to the danger of the new forces let loose in the world.

So long as I am President, I will do all I can to insure that that foreign policy remain our foreign policy.

All that I have done to maintain the peace of this country and to prepare it morally, as well as physically, for whatever contingencies may be in store, I submit to the judgment of my countrymen. We face one of the great choices of history.

It is not alone a choice of Government by the people versus dictatorship.

It is not alone a choice of freedom versus slavery.

It is not alone a choice between moving forward or falling back. It is all of these rolled into one.

It is the continuance of civilization as we know it versus the ultimate destruction of all that we have held dear—religion against godlessness; the ideal of justice against the practice of force; moral decency versus the firing squad; courage to speak out, and to act, versus the false lullaby of appeasement.

But it has been well said that a selfish and greedy people cannot be free.

The American people must decide whether these things are worth making sacrifices of money, of energy, and of self. They will not decide by listening to mere words or by reading mere pledges, interpretations and claims. They will decide on the record—the record as it has been made—the record of things as they are.

The American people will sustain the progress of a representative democracy, asking the Divine Blessing as they face the future with courage and with faith.

Citation: Franklin D. Roosevelt: “Radio Address to the Democratic National Convention Accepting the Nomination.,” July 19, 1940. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project. http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=15980.

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