Operation Texas: LBJ and the Rescue of European Jews from Hitler
Oct 14, 2010 | 7573 views | 0 0 comments | 44 44 recommendations | email to a friend | print
LITTLE KNOWN to most Texans was a clandestine operation that began in 1937, designed to bring European Jews to Texas, to save them from the onslaught of Nazism and its expanding reach in Germany, Austria, Poland and Czechoslovakia. In an operation somewhat reminiscent of the well-known “Shindler’s List,” a freshman congressman named Lyndon Johnson and a group of Texas Jews brought over 400 Jews rescued in that operation.

While reading scholarly papers recently in a journal from the East Texas Historical Association, I discovered an amazing article by James Smallwood, a retired professor from Oklahoma State University. He is a Texan associated with the East Texas Historical Association, and his paper is a well-researched and well-documented report on Operation Texas, and the role LBJ played in it. Today’s column is principally based upon that paper by Mr. Smallwood. I am writing this column so others can know about Smallwood’s excellent work and the story it contains.

IN THE mid 1930s, LBJ was a young man from central Texas. In 1934, he gave his fiancée, Lady Bird, a book entitled Nazism: An Assault on Civilization, published a year after Hitler assumed power. It predicted the horror Nazism would become and the targets of its madness. That book predicted accurately that Germany would seize Austria and attack Czechoslovakia, Poland and the USSR.

LBJ was greatly influenced by that book, the author, and his related work, which was relentless in its criticisms of Nazism. He carried those views with him as a freshman congressman in 1937.

In 1937, Charles Marsh and Alice Glass contacted LBJ, to enlist his help in a project they were behind: helping Jews in Hitler’s path get safely to the USA. LBJ would provide political help to get people through Immigration.

Soon, other Jews in America began working with LBJ. Jim Novy, a leader of Austin’s small Jewish community, was on board. He, his brother Louis, and LBJ began working in earnest to get as many Jews as possible out of Nazi- dominated or threatened countries.

The Novy brothers found Jews who needed to come to America, and LBJ helped assure the State Department in Washington, D.C. made it possible. In 1938, the Novys made a successful trip to Europe, and with LBJ’s influence at the State Department, got 42 Jews out of Poland and Germany on that first trip.

In the following years, the team would move over 400 Jews from Europe to Texas, and out of harm’s way in war-torn Europe. Professor Smallwood’s article contains much more important information, and I highly recommend it for anyone who enjoys Texas History. It’s a chapter in LBJ’s life I had never read until reading the paper by Mr. Smallwood.

© 2010, Jim “Pappy” Moore, All Rights Reserved.

Jim “Pappy” Moore is a native son of East Texas who still makes the piney woods his home. jimpappymoore@hotmail.com
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