During his presidency, John F. Kennedy was accused by the far right of being a communist appeaser at best, a secret sympathizer at worst.
Now, thanks to the release of his diaries from the 1930s, it may be more valid to accuse JFK of admiration of fascism, however youthful the passion.
In a series of diary entries, the future president recorded complimentary references to Nazis during a 1937 visit to Nazi Germany.
He found that fascism to be “the right thing for Germany,” and regarding its brutish features, he rhetorically stated, “what are the evils of fascism compared to communism?”
JFK also lauded Hitler, who he predicted would “emerge from the hatred currently surrounding him in a few years as one of the most important personalities that ever lived,”
As with Hitler, he noted the superiority of the “Nordic races.” He even supported the German belief that the country was being “ganged up on” by the West.
The family has long had to labor under the pro-Nazi sympathies of JFK’s father, an ambassador to pre-war London. Joseph Kennedy was such an open admirer of Hitler and critic of both American and British democracy (he proclaimed them “finished”) that FDR would fire him. Worse, Kennedy, Irish as always, was markedly anti-British. Echoing Hitler, Kennedy called Churchill a “drunk” and a “warmonger.” He was even attempting to formulate to the Hitler-appeasing Neville Chamberlain a solution to the “Jewish problem:” “ship all German Jews to Africa.”
But Kennedy also took credit for Chamberlain’s Munich Agreement with Hitler in 1938, which in effect handed Czechoslovakia to the Nazis. He urged the isolationist, and let’s be frank about it, Hitler-supporting Charles Lindbergh to write down the flier’s impressions of the German Air Force on his recent trip to Germany (Lindbergh believed the German Air Force was the mightiest in the world, and if in a war with Germany, Hitler would destroy America). Kennedy claimed that he took the paper authored by Lindbergh to Chamberlain before Munich and it was this report that influenced the Prime Minister’s appeasement of Hitler.
But not all sections of Britain earned his scorn. Another nail in his coffin as far as FDR was concerned was Joseph Kennedy’s association with the “Mayfair” group, a section of British aristocrats openly sympathetic to Hitler because of their anti-Semitism and belief that Hitler would destroy Communism.
Kennedy’s fascist sympathies had a self-destructive element to them as well, particularly with regard to FDR. The FBI learned that Kennedy told the British that Roosevelt’s increasingly hostile response to Hitler was “a Jewish production,” and promised them that Roosevelt would be lose in 1940.
The family has always tried to live down Joseph’s pro-Hitlerism. But aware of JFK’s recorded admiration of the Third Reich, it appears that, however brief the enthusiasm (JFK fought in World War II), the phrase “like father like son” was applicable.