- Help locate descendants of Jim Novy, Jack Baumel of the Texas Railroad Commission, and Jesse Kellam who helped LBJ save Jews 70 years ago.
- Adrian Levy served as mayor of Galveston from 1935 to 1939. He was a close friend of LBJ's, and probably played a role in smuggling Jews into Galveston. A Galveston library has some 10 inches of Levy's papers. We need to find a Levy descendant who may have more information and someone to look at those papers. (Pictured: Roosevelt, Johnson and Levy in 1937)
- Still looking for Dr. Louis S. Gomolak and his PhD dissertation, "Prologue: LBJ's Foreign Affairs Background, 1908-1948," Dept. of History, Univ. of Texas, 1989.
How ironic. In some countries, citizens investigate their national leaders’ criminal actions in order to throw them out of office. In the case of Lyndon Johnson and his efforts to rescue European Jews from the Holocaust, we are searching for evidence of wrong-doings in order to honor the president during the year of his 100th birthday celebrations.
The Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial rightfully guards its list of Righteous Among the Nations with strict criteria for membership. Gentiles who risked their lives to save Jews are enshrined in the holy pantheon, and their actions must have collaborating evidence and testimony. One small loophole exists for those who did not risk their lives but broke the law and risked their livelihood to save Jews.
These are some of Yad Vashem’s criteria, as provided by a senior official:
- For our purposes it is not enough to have statements in general terms by people saying that a certain person helped Jews and rescued them. It is only with an exact description (and substantiation by primary sources) that the commission can rule if a certain deed accords with the Righteous program criteria.
- It is claimed that Johnson helped Jewish refugees from Europe to get into the U.S. after they had already left Europe. This of course would have been most significant for those refugees, but is not something that falls within the framework of our program. Therefore we need more information and documentation.
- In some cases, the Commission also bestows the title on people who did not risk their lives, but took grave risks in order to assist Jews in danger of deportation and death. In latter cases it has to be shown that the nominated persons acted against the law or contrary to their professional instructions, thus risking severe punishment.
Historian Robert Dallek suggests in his 1991 book Lone Star Rising, that Johnson did break the law to save Jews and that some of his efforts were carried out in Europe, not just after the Jews departed the cursed continent. Here are excerpts (pages 169-170):One of Lyndon's constituents in Austin was Jim Novy, a successful Russian-Jewish businessman who had come to the United States in 1913 at the age of seventeen. A leader of Austin's four hundred Jews, Jim and his brother Louis were also active in Texas politics. …In the spring of 1938, when Lyndon heard that Jim was planning a trip to Poland and Germany, he urged Novy to "get as many Jewish people as possible out of both countries." Attending to the necessary affidavits in Washington and calling the U.S. consul in Warsaw, Lyndon's efforts allowed Novy to arrange for forty-two Polish and German Jews, including four relatives, to come to the United States later that year.
Early in 1940, four months after the outbreak of World War II, Johnson began helping hundreds of Jewish refugees from Hitler's persecution reach Texas through Cuba, Mexico, and countries in South America. Working with Jim Novy, Jack K. Baumel, a chief engineer at the Texas Railroad Commission and an Austin Jewish leader, and Jesse Kellam, Texas director of the NYA, Lyndon and the others helped Jews get false passports and one-way visas in Latin America and then brought them to NYA training camps in Texas. Because it was illegal to house and train noncitizens at the camps, even though Novy reimbursed camp directors for all costs, Operation Texas, as the rescue effort was called, was kept a strict secret for over twenty years.