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Each week at In The Past Lane, the American history podcast, host and Historian-at-Large, Edward T. O’Donnell, brings you news, stories, interviews, and special features on all things U.S. history. His aim is to be both engaging and thought-provoking, inspired by the notion that history explains the world we live in and provides insights into how to achieve a more prosperous, peaceful, and just future. So come along with us as we journey In The Past Lane.  

Aug 11, 2018

This week at In The Past Lane, the history podcast, I speak with historian Rebecca Erbelding about her new book, Rescue Board: The Untold Story of America's Efforts to Save the Jews of Europe. It’s a fascinating book about a forgotten World War II story about the War Refugee Board, a US agency created in 1944 to help save European Jews from the Nazi genocide. Historians and other scholars have long argued that the US could have done more to disrupt the Nazi efforts to exterminate the Jews of Europe. Erbelding acknowledges the validity of this claim, but says that it’s not the same as saying the US did nothing. She chronicles the work of the War Refugee Board and how it managed, often through creative and off the books ways, to save tens of thousands of Jews in the last 20 months of World War II.

In the course of our discussion, Rebecca Erbelding explains:

Why US government officials initially resisted demands that it do something to save European Jews from the Nazi genocide.

How the War Refugee Board was created by the US government in 1944 to save Jews from the Holocaust. 

Why President Franklin D. Roosevelt authorized the creation of the War Refugee Board to save as many European Jews as possible during World War II. 

How the US government used threats of post-war prosecution via propaganda to dissuade Europeans from carrying out atrocities against Jews.   

How the War Refugee Board used deception to get food and medicine into Nazi concentration camps during World War II.

How the Nazis, aware that Americans wanted to save Jews from the concentration camps, offered to release some in exchange for money, food, and war equipment.

How the Goodyear Tire Company secretly helped the W.R.B. save thousands of lives during World War II.    

Recommended reading

Rebecca Erbelding, Rescue Board: The Untold Story of America's Efforts to Save the Jews of Europe 

Deborah E. Lipstadt, Beyond Belief: The American Press And The Coming Of The Holocaust, 1933- 1945

Haskel Lookstein, Were We Our Brothers' Keepers?: The Public Response of American Jews to the Holocaust, 1938-1944

Barry Trachtenberg, The United States and the Nazi Holocaust: Race, Refuge, and Remembrance

More info about Rebecca Erbelding   website 

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Related ITPL podcast episodes:

084 with James Q. Whitman on his book, Hitler's American Model: The United States and the Making of Nazi Race Law 

Music for This Episode

Jay Graham, ITPL Intro (

Kevin McCleod, “Impact Moderato” (Free Music Archive)

Andy Cohen, “Trophy Endorphins” (Free Music Archive)

Andy Cohen, “Bathed in Finest Dust” (Free Music Archive)

Jon Luc Hefferman, “Winter Trek” (Free Music Archive)

The Bell, “I Am History” (Free Music Archive)

Production Credits

Executive Producer: Lulu Spencer

Technical Advisors: Holly Hunt and Jesse Anderson

Podcasting Consultant: Dave Jackson of the School of Podcasting

Photographer: John Buckingham

Graphic Designer: Maggie Cellucci

Website by: ERI Design

Legal services: Tippecanoe and Tyler Too

Social Media management: The Pony Express

Risk Assessment: Little Big Horn Associates

Growth strategies: 54 40 or Fight

© In The Past Lane, 2018

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