Wendell Willkie, the 1940 Republican presidential nominee, spoke out on behalf of rescuing Jewish refugees and creating a Jewish state.
Willkie (1892-1944) was an early endorser of the Bergson Group’s campaign for a Jewish army. In 1943, he made speeches strongly supporting Jewish statehood in Palestine, sparking concern in the White House, where he was perceived as a potential GOP candidate for president in 1944. Willkie testified on behalf of the 1943 Gillette-Rogers resolution, which urged creation of a U.S. government agency to rescue Jews from the Nazis.
Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau, Jr. urged President Roosevelt to choose Willkie to head the War Refugee Board. An internationally-respected, take-charge lawyer and business executive, Willkie had the clout to ensure the Board would be taken seriously, especially in its dealings with foreign governments. FDR rejected that proposal, for fear that the Board would help give Willkie “build-up” in the months preceding the 1944 election.