February 16: For Sale to Humanity
FOR SALE TO HUMANITY
GUARANTEED HUMAN BEINGS AT $50 APIECE
“Roumania is tired of killing Jews,” said the text, written and signed by Ben Hecht. “It has killed one hundred thousand of them in two years. Roumania will now give Jews away practically for nothing.” The ad was placed by the Committee for a Jewish Army of Stateless and Palestinian Jews (CJA), a pressure group founded by Peter Bergson (Hillel Kook), showman Billy Rose, and Hecht, among others, and was in response to an offer that had been made to the Allies by upper-echelon members of the Romanian government to assist in the transfer of some 70,000 Jews from their fascist state to Palestine or elsewhere. CJA was denounced by mainstream Jewish organizations as alarmist, unethical, and overly militant, but the campaign did prompt the American Jewish Congress, with the backing of AFL-CIO unions, to create a public protest at Madison Square Garden on March 1, demanding American action to rescue the Jews. Eight days later, also at Madison Square Garden, the CJA presented a pageant, “We Will Never Die,” with a script by Ben Hecht, a score by Kurt Weil, direction by Moss Hart, and performers that included Paul Muni and Edward G. Robinson. The pageant was performed all over the U.S. and was viewed by Eleanor Roosevelt, Supreme Court justices, and many other people of influence. Still, no rescue plan was forthcoming from the State Department.
“The corpse of a people lies on the steps of civilization. Behold it. Here it is! And no voice is heard to cry halt to the slaughter, no government speaks to bid the murder of human millions end.” —Ben Hecht, “We Will Never Die”