The International School for Holocaust Studies
Advocate for the Doomed: The Diaries and Papers of James G. Mcdonald, 1932-1935
Reviewed by Yael Weinstock
Edited by Richard Breitman, Barbara Mcdonald Stewart, and Severin Hochberg
Indiana University Press, 2007
In the first published work on James Grover McDonald, this book is the first of a 3-volume series that uses his diaries and papers to elucidate McDonald's illustrious career.
First as the League of Nation's High Commissioner for German Refugees (Jewish and Other) and later as the United States' first ambassador to Israel, this series is undoubtedly overdue. In his role as High Commissioner, he traveled the world in search of funding and locations to resettle Jewish and Christian refugees, then homeless in Germany. Within two years, he saw few results, felt frustrated, and wrote a poignant letter of resignation, detailing the menace that was Hitler.
This volume, long and detailed, traces the history from the summer of 1932 to July, 1935, through the eyes of McDonald's excellent memory and meticulous stenographers.
For the reader interested in history, the issue of Jewish German refugees in the 1930s is one not frequently discussed. For this reason, a book like Advocate for the Doomed is crucial in providing an excellent background to the refugee crisis, from the perspective of one who tried to help, also a rare find.
Students often ask, "Why didn't Jews try to leave Germany?" Introducing the personality of James Grover McDonald to a high school class, and initiating a discussion and perhaps future research on the attempts to help Jews leave, will broaden your discussions of the Holocaust. A large book such as this must be divided into sections. With a vast amount of quotations, and divided into chapters with detailed headings, this initially daunting book can become manageable for the classroom.
Classroom lessons should include more information on the creation of the refugee crisis and the efforts made both to leave Germany and to help those who could not afford it or who were blocked by bureaucracy or strict quotas. The story of James Grover McDonald is an excellent place to begin.