Leadership and Choices: Then and Now 

Throughout history, the choices made by leaders and individuals have often shaped the course of events, leaving indelible imprints on societies and future generations. Recent initiatives by NGOs such as the Sousa Mendez Foundation and Lockdown University have brought captivating narratives to the forefront, illuminating the intersection of leadership and decisions, both past and present. These initiatives include talks, film screenings, and historical explorations, offering profound insights into the complexities of power, compassion, and ethical responsibilities.

John Loftus: Unraveling CIA Archives and Hidden Narratives

Amidst these revelations, the most astonishing was a presentation on YouTube by John Loftus, a former Irish-American military man, lawyer, and author. Loftus discussed his journey through the CIA archives in search of Nazis in America, stumbling upon deliberately misfiled documents that were meant to stay concealed. Loftus unveils the peculiar financing of the Nazi party by a U.S. bank led by Prescott Bush, the father of Bush Senior and grandfather of Herbert Walker Bush.

The narrative unfolds with August Thyssen, the patriarch of the German Thyssen coal and steel industry, dismayed by reparations imposed on his enterprise after World War I. Determined to safeguard the family’s financial assets, Thyssen established three banks in different countries: the August Thyssen Bank in Germany, the Voor Handel en Scheepvaart Bank in Holland, and the Union Banking Corporation (UBC) in New York, with the Bush family overseeing the latter. Despite Fritz Thyssen openly supporting the rise of the Nazi party, he later opposed Hitler’s invasion of Poland in 1939. Unfortunately, it was too late, leading to his and his wife’s imprisonment in the Dachau concentration camp during the war.

The video reveals how, despite the U.S. government appropriating the Thyssen bank in New York in 1942, the family’s wealth endured through strategic transfers, cover-ups, and the efforts of their American lawyer, Foster Dulles, post-war. While wealth often correlates with increased power, the Thyssen family prioritized preserving their assets over leveraging them for ethical political influence.

As a potential act of penance, in 1959, Thyssen’s widow Amélie and daughter Anita Gräfin Zichy-Thyssen established the Fritz Thyssen Foundation, committing 100 million Deutschmarks (equivalent to €246 million in 2021) to advance science and the humanities.

In a riveting segment of the video at 12:30 minutes, Loftus exposes the U.S. State Department’s recurring support for the Arab side in various Arab-Israeli conflicts, driven by their desire to ensure a steady flow of Arab oil to the United States.

Obligations of Kingship in Israel

The book of Deuteronomy outlines the duties and restrictions recommended for a king.

16: The king must not get more and more horses for himself. And he must not send people to Egypt to get more horses, because the Lord has told you, ‘You must never go back that way.’

17: Also, the king must not have too many wives, because that will make him turn away from the Lord. And he must not make himself rich with silver and gold.

18: “When the king begins to rule, he must write a copy of the law for himself in a book. He must make that copy from the books that the priests from the tribe of Levi keep.

19: He must keep that book with him and read from it all his life, because he must learn to respect the Lord his God. He must learn to completely obey everything the law commands.

20: Then the king will not think that he is better than any of his own people. He will not turn away from the law, but he will follow it exactly. Then he and his descendants will rule the kingdom of Israel a long time.” (Deuteronomy 17:16-20)

On the other hand, during World War II, many leaders and ordinary people demonstrated bravery and compassion. These acts continue to inspire us today. A great example of such benevolence is the story told in Noel Izon’s documentary “Open Door” (2018), which the Sousa Mendez Foundation recently screened. The film reveals the previously unknown story of German Jewish refugees finding refuge in the Philippines in the 1930s.

The Filipino Sanctuary: Quezon’s Open Door Policy

In the documentary, Noel Izon, a Filipino native, explores how the Philippines, under President Manuel L. Quezon’s Open Door Policy, provided a sanctuary for German Jews. Despite being part of the U.S. Commonwealth and subject to American immigration laws, Quezon, in partnership with the sympathetic U.S. High Commissioner Paul V. McNutt, granted visas to roughly 1300 German Jewish emigrants. This act of kindness took place at a time when few nations were willing to open their doors to Jews fleeing the oppressive German racial laws and restrictions. The existing Jewish community in the Philippines raised the necessary funds to resettle all Jewish families, who quickly integrated into Filipino society. Many resumed their native professions and endured the Japanese occupation alongside the Filipino people until the American liberation of the islands.

Jewish Responses to Crisis: Benevolence and Solidarity

It is worth noting that during the crisis, Jewish communities around the world responded by opening their wallets, hearts, and homes to Jewish refugees seeking refuge. This aspect of Jewish resistance, spanning the periods before, during, and after the war, is often overlooked but forms an integral part of the Jewish imperative encapsulated in the concept of “shivyon shiurim,” meaning the freeing of captive enslaved people.

In our time, Canadian private donors and charitable organizations, both in the Jewish and secular spheres, have taken on the responsibility of funding the resettlement of Ukrainian refugees in Canada and around the world. Six months ago, during the Ukraine/Russia conflict, Montreal Rabbis Reuven Poupko and Adam Schier visited the Polish-Ukraine border to assess the needs of the fleeing refugees. They reported that Israel was the first to establish a presence at the Polish-Ukrainian border to aid refugees. As is often the case, Israel demonstrated its proactive approach, consistently being among the first responders to disaster zones with personnel and essential supplies. The Jerusalem Post provides an in-depth analysis of the ongoing airlift of Ukrainian refugees to Israel.

As of June 15, 2022, 32,958 Ukrainians have entered Israel, of which 5,888 are new immigrants, and another 4,730 are in the process of aliyah… Had the US taken in a similar number of Ukrainians relative to its population, it would have admitted some 1.2 million Ukrainian refugees. That is not even close to US President Joe Biden’s setting a goal of admitting 100,000 Ukrainians. (Jerusalem Post)

This disparity highlights the different approaches nations take in addressing humanitarian crises, prompting us to reflect on the international community’s role in providing support and refuge during conflicts.

As we face the challenges and ethical dilemmas of our times, stories of leadership and choices from the past and present can guide us. The decisions of leaders shape our collective destiny, but it is the actions of ordinary individuals that shape the tapestry of our shared humanity.



  1. Lockdown University is an impromptu online learning community born out of the pandemic (website under construction), offering free and open access to all. To enroll in courses, please get in touch with info@lockdownuniversity.org and request inclusion in their weekly mailing list.

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