What We Knew and When We Knew It

Madison Square Garen Rally March 1, 1943

Our survivor Siggy Boraks was transferred from the already liquidated ghetto in Czestochowa to a labor camp at Blizyn in March 1943.


On March 1, 1943, during Siggy’s first month at Blizyn labor camp, a gigantic “Stop Hitler Now” rally was held at Madison Square Garden. Twenty-one thousand people filled the hall and ten thousand more stood outside listening on amplifiers. This was the first massive rally on behalf of the European Jews. The speakers denounced the “Rescue through victory” policy of the Roosevelt administration. “Messages of sympathy and support” poured in and were read aloud, including one from Halifax, the British ambassador. Herman Shulman of the American Jewish Congress reminded the audience that “months have passed since the United Nations issued their declaration denouncing the unspeakable atrocities of the Nazis against the Jews and threatening retribution,’ with the promise that ‘immediate practical steps would be taken to implement it,’ but that nothing has been done…” Dr. Chaim Weizmann, then the president of Jewish Agency for Palestine, called upon the United Nations to act: “Two million Jews have already been exterminated. The world can no longer plead that the ghastly facts are unknown and unconfirmed at this moment expressions of sympathy, without accompanying attempts to launch acts of rescue, become a hot hollow mocker in the ears of the dying.” Proposals were presented: open the quota, open up Palestine, rescue the Jews, negotiate with the Germans, and give sanctuary to the victims. The Hebrew prayer for the dead was recited, preceded by the blowing of the shofar. “The audience sobbed, as did those standing outside,” a reporter wrote.

Breckinridge Long of the State Department was talking about the Madison Square Garden rally when he complained in an interdepartmental memorandum that the “hot headed masses” with their emphasis on rescue “would take the burden and the curse off Hitler.”

The Times-Picayune, March 3, 1943, p. 11

Two days later The Times-Picayune carried a brief article about the “Stop Hitler Now” rally on page 11. Once again the editors did not seem to attribute much importance to the story.

The article provided very little information. The United Nations was called upon to “give sanctuary now and after the war to Jews and to all victims of Axis atrocities.” The rally was sponsored by the American Jewish Congress, the American Federation of Labor, the Congress of Industrial Organization, the Church Peace Union and the Free World Association.

Only the quotes were illuminating:

Sir Norman Angell, described as Nobel Prize Winner and member of the Free World Association, expressed an opinion that was seldom heard. He “attributed a measure of responsibility to all nations of Christendom for atrocities against the Jewish people.” He pleaded with the United Nations to “give evidence of our sincerity in this matter by making it plain that those who can be rescued now…will find sanctuary among us; that we will not erect barriers of red tape; that we will not pass the buck to the others.” Wendell L. Wilkie, former presidential candidate, sent a message assuring everybody that “not to take every possible measure consistent with our war effort to give sanctuary wherever possible to these Jews…is unthinkable.” “Consistent with our war effort” and “wherever possible” were the operative words in that sentence.