Seymour Hersh, "Dark Side of Camelot"
There is no evidence that Ambassador [Joseph] Kennedy understood in the days before the war that stopping Hitler was a moral imperative. "Individual Jews are all right, Harvey," Kennedy told Harvey Klemmer, one of his few trusted aides in the American Embassy, "but as a race they stink. They spoil everything they touch. Look what they did to the movies." Klemmer, in an interview many years later made available for this book, recalled that Kennedy and his "entourage" generally referred to Jews as "kikes or sheenies."
Kennedy and his family would later emphatically deny allegations of anti-Semitism stemming from his years as ambassador, but the German diplomatic documents show that Kennedy consistently minimized the Jewish issue in his four-month attempt in the summer and fall of 1938 to obtain an audience with Hitler. On June 13, as the Nazi regime was systematically segregating Jews from German society, Kennedy advised Herbert von Dirksen, the German ambassador in London, as Dirksen reported to Berlin, that "it was not so much the fact that we wanted to get rid of the Jews that was so harmful to us, but rather the loud clamor with which we accompanied this purpose. He himself understood our Jewish policy completely." On October 13, 1938, a few weeks before Kristallnacht, with its Brown Shirt terror attacks on synagogues and Jewish businesses, Kennedy met again with Ambassador Dirksen, who subsequently informed his superiors that "today, too, as during former conversations, Kennedy mentioned that very strong anti-Semitic feelings existed in the United States and that a large portion of the population had an understanding of the German attitude toward the Jews."
Kennedy knew little about the culture and history of Europe before his appointment as ambassador and made no effort to educate himself once in London. He made constant misjudgments. In the summer of 1938, for example, he blithely assured the president in a letter, described in the published diaries of Harold Ickes, FDR's secretary of the interior, that "he does not regard the European situation as so critical." Diplomats serving on the American Desk in the British Foreign Office quickly came to fear and hate Kennedy. They compiled a secret dossier on him, known as the "Kennediana" file, which would not be declassified until after the war. In those pages Sir Robert Vansittart, undersecretary of the Foreign Office, scrawled, as war was spreading throughout Europe in early 1940: "Mr. Kennedy is a very foul specimen of a double-crosser and defeatist. He thinks of nothing but his own pocket. I hope that this war will at least see the elimination of his type."
Kennedy remained insensitive, at best, about the Jewish issue through the later war years, when the existence of concentration camps was widely known. In a May 1944 interview with an old friend, Joe Dinneen of the Boston Globe, Kennedy acknowledged, when questioned about his alleged anti-Semitism: "It is true that I have a low opinion of some Jews in public office and in private life. That does not mean that I hate all Jews; that I believe they should be wiped off the face of the earth. . . . Other races have their own problems to solve. They're glad to give the Jews a lift and help them along the way toward tolerance, but they're not going to drop everything and solve the problems of the Jews for them. Jews who take an unfair advantage of the fact that theirs is a persecuted race do not help much. . .. Publicizing unjust attacks upon the Jews may help to cure the injustice, but continually publicizing the whole problem only serves to keep it alive in the public mind." Kennedy's discussion of anti-Semitism was withheld from publication at the time by the editors of the Globe, but in 1959 Dinneen sought to include a portion of it in a generally flattering precampaign family biography. Advance galleys of the Dinneen book, entitled The Kennedy Family, had been given to Jack Kennedy, who understood how inflammatory his father's comments would be and had no difficulty in successfully urging Dinneen to delete the offending paragraphs. The incident is described in Richard Whalen's biography of Joe Kennedy.