6 – He Was an Unabashed Anti-Semite
Joseph became the United States Ambassador to the United Kingdom in March 1938, and things got off to a fine start. The other diplomats were terrified of him, and the British press were clamoring to learn more about the Kennedy family. By this time, Adolf Hitler was threatening war and Joseph had no desire to see his nation involved. He favored the appeasement strategies of British Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain, and had no faith in Britain winning a conflict with Germany.
According to Harvey Klemmer, who worked with Joseph at the Maritime Commission, Kennedy was a casual anti-Semite. He apparently said: “Individual Jews are all right, Harvey, but as a race, they stink – Look what they did to Hollywood.” During a fiery meeting with German ambassador, Von Dirksen, Joseph said: “They brought it on themselves.” Although his views softened after the Kristallnacht attacks, Joseph hoped the Nazis could be bought off to ensure that America did not have to enter any war.
Joseph allegedly had a plan to ship every Jew in Germany to Africa, or to a British or American colony. Roosevelt shut the idea down, but Kennedy refused to change his stance on Jews. It is notable that he wasn’t particularly interested in the plight of the Jews. His main hope was that the Nazis wouldn’t follow through on their awful plan because of a fear that public opinion in America would turn against Hitler.
Joseph’s later attempts to clear his name were a complete disaster; none more so than a 1944 interview with two journalists by the name of Joe Dinneen and Lawrence Spivak. He began his defense thusly: “It is true that I have a low opinion of some Jews in public office and private life.” He went on to say that despite his obvious dislike of them, he didn’t think they should be wiped off the face of the earth. Kennedy concluded by saying his dislike was colored by his business dealings with them.