In December 1942, after the US had verified that mass murder of Europe’s Jews was underway, Jewish leaders were granted half an hour with the president. He spent the first 23 minutes telling jokes and commenting on other subjects. Then FDR spoke in generalities about the Nazi genocide for a few moments. And then – one participant later wrote – he “pushed some secret button, and his adjutant appeared in the room” to usher the Jewish leaders out.
In his diary, Roosevelt’s vice president, Henry Wallace, wrote about an incident in March 1944, in which FDR met with Jewish leaders and “caused [them] to believe that he was in complete accord with them…” The very next day, Roosevelt boasted to his cabinet that he had told the Jewish leaders “where to get off” and had warned them that their agitation for Zionism was “going to be responsible for the killing of a hundred thousand people.” “Enraged Arabs” would retaliate by attacking Americans in the Middle East, FDR claimed.
“The President certainly is a waterman,” Wallace wrote. “He looks one direction and rows the other with the utmost skill.”