May 4, 2020 | Issue 29
The Ackerman Center has recently begun working on a research project, in cooperation with the Texas Holocaust and Genocide Commission, on Lyndon B. Johnson and his role in a clandestine rescue mission to save European Jews from the Holocaust.
Operation Texas was first more fully explored in 1989 by Louis Gomolak in his PhD dissertation at The University of Texas at Austin. Since that time, it has been repeated in various publications and included in panel exhibits at Holocaust museums.
Clues about Operation Texas first emerged in a Jerusalem Post article on September 23, 1958, in which Austin businessman Jim Novy claimed that he was awarded a Purple Heart for a secret and dangerous mission during WWII.
Five years later, in December of 1963, only one month after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, President Johnson spoke at the dedication of Congregation Agudas Achim in Austin, Texas, at which he was introduced by his longtime friend and supporter, Jim Novy. During that introduction, Novy referred to a trip that he made in 1938 to Poland and Germany. He also claimed that Johnson used his influence as a Congressman to help Novy “to get as many people out of Poland and Germany as we possibly can.”Novy further claimed that “through the efforts of the President…we were able to take many, many people out.”
While the number of people to whom Novy referred in his speech is vague, in his personal notes for his introduction, on file at the LBJ Presidential Library, Novy wrote, “The President gave me a personal letter of introduction to the American Embassy in Poland and called them long-distance to guarantee their support and see that anyone able to qualify as an immigrant be given a visa without delay. President Johnson also helped in getting the affidavits for these immigrants processed, and as a result, 42 people were brought out of Poland and Germany.”
Lady Bird Johnson later recalled the evening of the dedication in her White House Diary, writing “person after person plucked at my sleeve and said ‘I wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for [LBJ]. He helped me get out.'"
The findings will result in academic research training and scholarly publications.
Congressman Lyndon B. Johnson
Jim Novy and President Johnson
Meeting in the Oval Office
Jim Novy, Lady Bird Johnson, Lyndon Johnson at the dedication of Congregation Agudas Achim
Austin, Texas in December 1963
Episode 4: "Rapid Changes: World on Fire" is now available.
Fulfilling our mission is made possible because of the generosity of our supporters like you.
This issue was made possible by the following contributors:
Philip Barber, Research Assistant