Skip to comments.The Dark Side Of Joe Kennedy Sr.
Posted on 02/03/2018 6:44:24 AM PST by beaversmom
Joe Kennedy Sr., JFK's father and the patriarch of "America's Royal Family," left behind a complicated legacy, including anti-Semitism and Nazi sympathies.
In 1928, Joe Kennedy Sr. sold two of his small film studios, creating RKO Pictures, best known for allowing 24-year-old wunderkind Orson Welles to make Citizen Kane, the revered film chronicling the rise and fall of Charles Foster Kane, an illustrious yet treacherous American magnate.
But Joe Kennedy Sr.s own rollercoaster of a biography trumps even the fictional Kanes in every regard, from his hand-over-fist stock market days to his persona non grata period as a failed World War II-era diplomat, forever tarnished by what many considered to be an unshakable anti-Semitism.
Like Kanes tale, the story of Joe Kennedy Sr.s dark side begins at his end, when Kennedy bested Kane even in the pathos of his dying days. Felled by a debilitating stroke in 1961, Kennedy was forced to sit, trapped in his own failing body, as two of his sons, Jack and Bobby, were assassinated in the tumultuous decade to come.
All he could do to communicate his grief was cry. For the eight years leading up to his death, in fact, Kennedy was unable to write or speak at all.
The assassinations, incredibly, were just the latest in a string of blows to the Kennedy family predating its patriarchs wheelchair-bound days.
For eight long years, Kennedy couldnt tell anyone what it felt like to outlive his eldest boy, bomber pilot Joseph Jr., who died in an explosion over the English Channel in 1944, engaged in a war that his father virulently opposed.
For eight long years, he couldnt tell anyone how gutted he felt to outlive his second daughter, Kick, who died in a plane crash in 1948, or if he regretted lobotomizing and institutionalizing his mentally-ill first daughter, Rosemary, in 1941 and insisting that uttering her name was verboten in the Kennedy house.
And even if Joe Kennedy Sr. ultimately regretted his many deeds and statements widely regarded as anti-Semitic, from his years in Hollywood as a studio head to his stint as Ambassador to Great Britain, for eight long years, he was unable to express it.
If youre unfamiliar with Kennedys Shakespearean rise and fall, its hard to believe the patriarch of Americas Royal Family could be an anti-Semite. This was the man, after all, who encouraged all of his children (the tragically discarded Rosemary aside) to enter public service, and lived to see that influence bear tremendous fruit.
This was the man, after all, who himself grew up as an Irish Catholic outsider in East Boston, struggling to secure jobs in finance that his less-qualified Protestant banker friends were stepping into with ease. If anyone understood the ignorance of prejudice, you would hope that it would be the grandson of an uneducated Irish immigrant farmer who escaped the potato famine to ultimately sire one of the wealthiest and most respected political families in American history. But Kennedy, paradoxically, frequently found himself on the wrong side of that history.
After gaining immense wealth selling short on Wall Street and flipping Hollywood studios he was a multimillionaire by the age of 40 Kennedy began his short career in public service in 1934 as the first-ever head of the Securities and Exchange Commission under his longtime friend, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
The audacious and ambitious Kennedy wanted to parlay the gig into something bigger: a cabinet position as Secretary of the Treasury. Roosevelt, however, knew the famously stubborn and foul-mouthed Kennedy would have a tough time following orders in that capacity, so he said no.
When Kennedy then suggested the ambassadorship, Roosevelt laughed so hard that he almost fell out of his wheelchair, according to his son James. But upon further reflection, the president decided that the no-nonsense Kennedy was actually the right man for the job.
Roosevelt may have reconsidered had he been privy to correspondence between Kennedy and Joe Jr. from 1934, in which the son calls the Nazis dislike of the Jews well-founded, and the father replies that he is very pleased and gratified at your observations of the German situation.
Four years later, its 1938. War is looming in Europe. Hitler takes Austria. Hitler wants Czechoslovakia. British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain seeks appeasement peace in our time. Ambassador Kennedy approves, insisting that U.S. involvement would lead to a second Great Depression at best and utter devastation at worst.
According to confidential German documents made public by the U.S. State Department in 1949, Kennedy met with the German Ambassador to Great Britain, Herbert von Dirksen, in June. Dirksen later informed Baron Ernst von Weizsaecker, State Secretary of the German Foreign Ministry, that Kennedy told him that the Jewish question was of vital importance to U.S.-German relations.
It is here where the ugly hairline cracks in the Joe Kennedy Sr. facade begin to widen:
He himself understood our Jewish policy completely, Dirksen wrote. He was from Boston and there, in one golf club, and in other clubs, no Jews had been admitted in the past 50 years In the United States, therefore, such pronounced attitudes were quite common, but people avoided making so much outward fuss about it.
Most damning, however, was Kennedys assertion (in Dirksens words) that it was not so much the fact that [the Germans] wanted to get rid of the Jews that was so harmful to [the Germans], but rather the loud clamor with which [the Germans] accompanied the purpose.
In November, the persecution of German and Austrian Jews intensifies into the loud clamor and horror of Kristallnacht. Working with Chamberlain, Kennedy promoted a plan to relocate European Jews abroad, but failed to inform the State Department. The plan fizzled.
Kennedy continued for years to loudly advocate for appeasement, in London and at home, arguing that Britain would be destroyed otherwise. He attempts to set up a personal meeting with Adolf Hitler, again failing to inform the State Department, but it never materialized.
An embassy aide, Harvey Klemmer, later shared Kennedys summary of his anti-Jewish sentiment, even as news of concentration camps came across the wires: Individual Jews are alright, Harvey, but as a race they stink. They spoil everything they touch. Look what they did to the movies.
Klemmer also recounts Kennedys common terms for Jews: kikes or sheenies.
In May 1940, Winston Churchill replaced Chamberlain and Britain declared war a few months later. The rest, as they say, is history, but Kennedys disgraceful, victim-blaming role during the war is a lesser-known chapter in that history.
Back in the U.S., a paranoid Kennedy blamed Hollywood and its anti-German propaganda, specifically Charlie Chaplin (an English Jew) and his Führer-mocking The Great Dictator, for pushing America into the war. He also blamed the problematic Jew media and the Jewish pundits in New York and Los Angeles for trying to set a match to the fuse of the world.
By the fall of 1940, Kennedy was a pariah in America, a condition not aided by statements like, Democracy is finished in England. It may be here. He then resigned shortly after half-heartedly endorsing Roosevelts third term on the radio.
Whether or not Kennedys ugly remarks and apparent Nazi sympathies stemmed from textbook anti-Semitism or not is merely a semantic exercise history and decency have proven him to be woefully in the wrong.
Nevertheless, investigating his motives is an exercise worth engaging in, and Kennedy biographer David Nasaw does it deftly in his exhaustive biography The Patriarch: The Remarkable Life and Turbulent Times of Joseph P. Kennedy. Nasaw doesnt think that Kennedy was strictly anti-Semitic, considering him instead to be a tribalist of sorts, raised to believe cultural myths both positive and negative about Jews, Catholics, and Protestants alike.
Nasaw doesnt think that Kennedy, unlike high-profile American anti-Semites such as Henry Ford or Charles Lindbergh, subscribed to the idea that there is something in the genetic makeup, in the blood of Jews that makes them sinister, evil and destructive of Christian morality.
Kennedys most comprehensive biographer argues, instead, that the Ambassadors admiration for the Jews allowed him to buy into thousand year-old anti-Semitic myths and succumb to anti-Semitic scapegoating while not crossing the line into actual anti-Semitism.Kennedy continued this scapegoating as late into the war as May 1944, in an unpublished interview with a Boston reporter: If the Jews themselves would pay less attention to advertising their racial problem, and more attention to solving it, the whole thing would recede into its proper perspective. Its entirely out of focus now, and that is chiefly their fault.
Believing that Kennedy would have blamed any tribe thusly doesnt make a statement like that sting any less. That Kennedys status as a post-war pariah and known anti-Semite didnt get in the way of fostering and financing some of the greatest political and public-service minds of the 20th century speaks volumes about how common these ugly sentiments were.
As for Nasaws statements, while they may seem, ultimately, like a distinction without a difference, the biography isnt tantamount to apologia. Commenting on Joe Kennedy Sr.s remarks to Dirksen about understanding the Germans Jewish policy completely, Nasaw does not mince words: [W]hile telling them what they wanted to hear about American anti-Semitism and Jewish media dominance, [Kennedy] was not saying anything he did not believe to be true.
Americas biggest regret is that SOB wasnt sterile
Sets my teeth on edge.
It’s astonishing how the left rails about racism involving blacks but simultaneously can embrace hatred of Jews. It reveals their sinister agenda.
Doesn’t even mention his start in business as a bootlegger.
I wonder who it was that put the curse on that family.......
Rose Kennedy talks about daughter’s lobotomy, banning crying in the ‘cursed’ clan and how she would weigh her children every week in recently uncovered interview
The article skips how many people were killed as Old Joe took control of Scotch Whiskey importing during prohibition. Joe was in bed with the NY mob to distribute the Scotch Whiskey he made $millions on.
Why do we keep hearing about the “Kennedy curse”? If any presidential family was “cursed,” it was Richard Nixon’s. Nixon lost two brothers at an early age. He reached the presidency only to be felled by Watergate and remains the only president to have resigned. Then following his death, one of his daughters went over to the dark side and threw her support to Barack Obama.
When I was a kid I used to go to the same Sunday morning Mass and sit in the same area as Eunice Shriver. Other than her wild hair, I remember that she was a truly very good person. There was however, an intensity about her that could easily have been trouble. I think the whole family was like that.
Outliving four of her siblings, Rose would be the first of Joe's children to die of natural causes at the age of 86.
From what I understand, ol’ Joe was more of a criminal than he was a mere crook.
Oh wow, this biographer works hard to make the point that Kennedy Sr wasnt as strong an anti Semite as he could have been. Well, gee, that is cool and changes so much.
That would be Rosemary.......
Between this howler and reference to the Kennedy's as "a well respected political family" the author self identifies as a LOLI (Liberal of Low Intellect), itself a tautology.
His grandson is a drooler. Maybe he was lobotomized too.
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