The Record - September 1998

Truman Library Opens Papers on Post-World War II Jewish History

The Harry S. Truman Library, in connection with the 50th anniversary of the United States' recognition of Israel, has opened three manuscript collections that relate to different aspects of the history of the Jewish people in the years following World War II. They are the papers of Bernard Bernstein (22,000 pages), A. J. Granoff (3,000 pages), and Charles F. Knox, Jr. (100 pages).

Bernard Bernstein served in 1944-45 as the director of the Finance Division and Division of Investigation of Cartels and External Assets, U.S. Group Control Commission for Germany. In this position, Bernstein was involved in identifying the economic assets of Nazi Germany, in accumulating evidence that was later used in the prosecution of Nazi war criminals at Nuremberg, and in formulating policies to ensure that the products of German industry would never again threaten the peace of Europe.

Materials on Post-War Assistance and the Recognition of Israel

Among other duties, Bernstein in April 1945 accepted responsibility for safeguarding and preparing an inventory of the cache discovered in the Kaiseroda salt mine at Merkers, Germany, of looted gold, works of art, currency, jewelry, and other items that the Nazis had taken from Jewish and other victims. Bernstein's papers contain a small amount of material on this activity, as well as his activities as an attorney involved in assisting Jewish organizations following the war to obtain just retribution and compensation for Nazi atrocities.

A.J. Granoff, a Kansas City attorney, formed a remarkable friendship with President Truman's friend Eddie Jacobson that arguably helped to change the course of history in an important part of the world. In 1947 and early 1948, Granoff and Jacobson worked closely together to persuade President Truman to accept the partition of Palestine and to recognize Israel.

The Granoff papers include a letter from Granoff to his son, Loeb, in which he describes a meeting he and Jacobson had with President Truman on December 9, 1947, about ten days following the passage by the United Nations of a measure that would partition Palestine into Jewish and Arab states. "When the truth is finally told ... about Harry Truman's contribution towards a Jewish State," he wrote, "I am sure his name, above all others in the Christian world, will by the Jewish people everywhere be blessed in their temples and synagogues. About this I am as sure as anyone could possibly be...." Besides documentation of the friendship between Granoff and Eddie Jacobson, the collection includes files of correspondence relating to Eddie Jacobson's work on behalf of Israel from 1948 to 1955, and to A. J. Granoff's efforts to memorialize Jacobson's contributions to the Jewish people and to Israel.

The small collection of papers of Charles F. Knox, Jr. documents the work of a State Department official involved in establishing the first American mission in Israel in 1948. The collection includes letters that Knox wrote to his sister and others in which he describes the difficulties of living and working in a city that is being bombarded several times a day by Arab armies. In one letter, he says of the Israeli people, "their face is toward 40 million Moslems and their back is to the sea. So far they've done the impossible, militarily. They are so completely determined to establish a homeland for the Jewish race where they can live free from persecution that they will never give up."

These three collections are being opened in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of the recognition of Israel by the United States and with the Truman Library's exhibit, 1948: Year of Turmoil and Triumph.

(Excerpted from Truman Library press release.)