American Reaction to the Holocaust

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Transcript American Reaction to the Holocaust

American Reaction to the
IB History of the Americas
Guiding Question
Was the FDR administration’s response
correct for fighting total war, or should
he have done more to save those
doomed by Nazism?
Between 1933 and 1945, the German
government led by Adolf Hitler and the
Nazi Party carried out the systematic
persecution and murder of Europe’s Jews.
This genocide is now known
as the Holocaust.
The Nazi regime also persecuted and killed
millions of other people it considered
politically, racially, or socially unfit.
of Jews
The History of Nazi AntiSemitism
Hostility toward or prejudice against Jews
Told Germans that they came from a superior race – the
Used the Jews as a scapegoat – someone to blame for
Germany’s woes after World War I
Jews lived in Germany for 1,600 years.
Hostility toward Jews existed since the Middle Ages.
Anti-Jewish Nazi laws mirrored medieval efforts to
humiliate Jews.
Anti-Semitism changed from prejudice based on religion to
hatred based on ancestry.
The Arguments
Franklin Roosevelt’s administration provided little direct
aid for victims of Nazi genocide. Is it reasonable to
assume that FDR could have done more to save the
doomed Jews of Europe?
Some historians’ interpretation of the facts leads them to
believe that FDR should have done more.
Other historians write that the president did what was
possible, considering the political climate of the pre-war
and war years.
Maybe the President would welcome them
to the United States…
“Roosevelt took no action to help stop the mass murders
in Germany. In early 1944 under pressure from his wife
and the wider American public, he finally created the
War Refugee Board (WRB) to save Jews and other
victims of the Nazis. However, Roosevelt gave the WRB
little cooperation and almost no funding. Contributions
from Jewish organizations covered 90% of the
organization costs. Through dedicated work by a small
number of people, the WRB helped save approximately
200,000 Jews and at least 20,000 non-Jews.” Teachers’
Curriculum Institute lesson guide
Do you believe Roosevelt wanted the Jews and other
victims to come to the United States ? Explain
Maybe the United States Citizens
would welcome Survivors…
“American anti-Semitism may have been one reason the general
public lacked interest in the plight of Europe’s Jews. In
January 1943, after the Allies issued a declaration condemning
Nazi atrocities against Jews, more than half of the American
polled did not believe that Nazis were deliberately killing Jews.
A public opinion poll taken in December 1944 found that a
majority of Americans were aware that Hitler had been cruel to
the Jews, but few fathomed the extent of the killing: 12 %
believed the stories of mass murder of Jews to be totally
untrue, 27 % believed that it involved only 100,000 people, and
only 4 % believed that over 5,000,000 Jews had been put to
death.” Teachers’ Curriculum Institute lesson guide
What could have the reason for such ignorance in the United
States? Explain
Maybe the United States Congress would welcome
“In 1938, when the Nazis intensified persecution of Jews, four separate polls
indicated that 71 to 85 % of Americans opposed increasing quotas and 67
% wanted all refugees kept out. In early 1939, 66% objected to a one-time
exception for 10,000 Jewish orphans to enter the United States.”
“Five year later, in the middle of the war, attitudes had not changed. Asked
in January 1943 whether “it would be a good idea or a bad idea to let more
immigrants come into this country after the war,” 78% of Americans polled
thought it would be a bad idea. At the end of 1945, when the terrible
conditions facing European displaced persons were widely known, only 5%
of the respondents thought the United States should “permit more persons
from Europe to come to this country each year than we did before the war.”
Reflecting the national mood, throughout the war years Congress
repeatedly considered legislation that would have further limited the number
of immigrants beyond what the quota system allowed.” Teachers’ Curriculum Institute lesson
Where were the refugees to go, if the United States did not want
them? Explain
At the time of the initial stages of the war, the Allies were
aware of Hitler’s plans for genocide against Jews and
other groups.
The Allies, however, were reluctant to use scarce ships
needed for the war effort and wary of the effect such a
large- scale influx of immigrants would have on the
receiving countries.
In 1943, for example, Romania proposed the evacuation of
70,000 Jews from within its borders, but no nation
stepped forward to accept them.
American Immigration Regulations
• Several factors limited Jewish immigration to
the United States:
− Jews could not take more than about four
dollars out of Germany, and American
immigration laws forbade granting a visa to
anyone “likely to become a public charge.”
− High unemployment rates in the 1930s made
immigration unpopular.
− Some Americans were anti-Semitic.
Roosevelt’s Response to Governor of South
Carolina Blackwood’s Request to Help European
Jews During 1933
“Confidentially, I instructed the State
Department recently to carefully
observe the situation in Germany
and to take every step that one
Government can take in a situation
where another Government is
dealing with a domestic
problem on its own”
American Immigration Regulations
− The existing immigration policy allowed
only 150,000 immigrants annually.
• At an international conference on refugees in
1938, several European countries, the United
States, and Latin America stated their regret
that they could not take in more of Germany’s
• The St. Louis, with 930 Jewish refugees on
board, was denied permission to dock in Cuba
or the United States and turned back to
U.S. Response to the
• The United States DID know about the death
• The U.S. military refused to
– bomb rail lines used to carry victims to the Nazi
death camps
– bomb Nazi gas chambers such as those at Auschwitz
and Dachau
• because of the belief that bombing would divert
essential military resources
Birkenau Extermination Camp Allied Aerial Photo
25 August 1944
April 4, 1944
U.S. Response to the
• During the Nazi program of exterminating
the Jews in Europe, American officials
were more concerned with the larger goal
of winning the war than with the fate of the
• The Holocaust was NOT a major reason
the U.S. fought World War II
The American response to the
• Despite knowing about Hitler’s policies toward the Jews
and events such as Kristallnacht, American immigration
limited the number of Jews who could move to the
United States.
• In 1942, Americans officials began to hear about what
was happening to the Jews in Europe and specifically
about Hitler’s Final Solution.
– The Americans were doubtful at first and thought the reports
might just be war rumors.
• Finally in 1944, Roosevelt created the War Refugee
Rabbis March To Inform Roosevelt
October 6, 1943
• October 6, 1943,
three days before
Yom Kippur and more
than four hundred
rabbis had come
Washington D.C. to
plead for U.S.
government action to
save Jews from Hitler.
The American Response in
Liberating the Nazi Camps
The Nuremberg trials
• In 1944, Soviet troops began to
discover some of the Nazi death
camps. By 1945 they reached
the huge extermination camp at
• Many Nazis faced trial for their
roles in the Holocaust.
• Their reports gave proof of
Hitler’s terrible plan.
• The court was called the
International Military Tribunal.
• Also in 1945, American soldiers
came upon concentration
• Twenty four Nazis were tried
for war crimes
• Many camp inmates died after
being rescued, but some were
still strong enough to survive.
• The court was located at
Nuremberg, Germany.
• Since Nuremberg, several
Nazis have been captured and
tried in different courts,
including Israel.
Nuremberg Trials
• On trial for
– Planning and waging aggressive war
– War crimes ( killing prisoners ; plundering)
– Crimes against humanity ( extermination; slavery)
• Main Trial
– 24 top leaders ( most executed or imprisoned)
• Other trials of over 200 lesser leaders
• Established precedent = individuals responsible
for actions even in wartime
• The coverage in most places was inadequate. Many
countries and papers believed that they would be
thought of as a “Jewish” paper or “Jewish loving” if
they reported too much.
• The New York Times is a great example of this. It is
said that their reports were brief and buried in the
– “On June 27, 1942, the Times devoted just two
inches to the news that “700,000 Jews were
reported slain in Poland.”
– On July 2, 1942, it noted that gas chambers were
being used to kill 1,000 Jews a day – but only on
page 6.
In The New York Times
On November 25, 1942, it reported
that there had been roundups,
gassings, cattle cars and the
disappearance of 90 percent of
Warsaw’s ghetto population – but
only on page 10.
On December 9, 1942, its report that
two million Jews had been killed
and five million more faced
extermination appeared only on
page 20.
On July 2, 1944, it reported that
400,000 Hungarian Jews had been
deported to their deaths so far, and
350,000 more were likely to be killed
in the next weeks. Yet this news
received only four column inches
on page 12. (That edition’s front