American Response To The Holocaust - Union College, The Holocaust - Research Paper

2002 words - 9 pages

The​ American Response to Nazi Germany
When studying the many atrocities committed by Nazi Germany during the
Holocaust, it is often very hard to understand how no force was able to resist such
heinous and cruel behavior. As the Jews were crammed into trains, barracks, and gas
chambers, they often turned to God for answers, explanations, and assistance. As
inmates were being eliminated by the thousand and families were split apart, their
traditional view of God as their Protector and Provider had began to diminish. They
needed assistance from a country with available resources that was willing to help. The
United States had the technology and manpower to stop the extermination, however,
our nation’s willingness to aid the Jews was in question. ​The United States, under the
Roosevelt administration could have reacted in a much more proactive way and as a
result saved many lives during the Holocaust. Through an analysis of President
Roosevelt and other American citizens’ decisions and priorities, it becomes clear as to
why the "home of the brave" did not act in a more proactive manner after continuously
receiving reports of mass extermination.​ Primarily, President Roosevelt was very
concerned with protecting political capital. The Great Depression had recently hit the
United States, and Roosevelt was very focused on passing the New Deal. Additionally,
Roosevelt was very heavily influenced by prominent personalities such as Henry Ford,
Charles Lindbergh, and Father Coughlin. Many of the other issues preventing Roosevelt
from prioritizing the Jews was U.S. military confrontation in Japan, the failure of the
Bermuda Conference, and the disregard for Jews hoping to seek refuge in The United
States. Aside from President Roosevelt himself, many Americans simply either could
not comprehend, or did not want to believe what was happening in Europe. Newspaper
companies did not present Nazi actions properly, which resulted in many Americans
putting the Holocaust in the back of their minds. Decades later, as the Holocaust is
studied, many people still remain curious as to why the Holocaust was able to hellishly
rage on for years. When analyzing the years of operating concentration camps, one can
conclude that it is undeniable that the United States of America acted insufficiently.
The United States suffered very significantly from the Great Depression. At its
height, 25% of Americans were without a job. When President Roosevelt was elected
into office in 1933, he delivered his inaugural address focusing on the importance of
Americans working collectively to repair a nation devastated by bank failures, factory
closings, and farm foreclosures. The United States was clearly dealing with economic
issues, however Americans’ inability to recognize the brutality of the Hitler regime cost
many Jews their lives. As people struggled with unemployment and loss of capital,
newspaper companies began to report the mass extermination. Demonstrated by The
Abandonment of the Jews by David Wyman states “Initially, reports on the massacres
were few, like the first spits of snow that hints at what the winter has in store. With time,
they increased in number and clarity” (Page 19). Within the first year of Roosevelt’s
presidency, the vast majority of Americans became informed that thousands of Jews
were being murdered by the Einsatzgruppen and mobile gas chambers at an alarming
rate throughout Europe. President Roosevelt was very determined to pass the New
Deal to solve the depression, but the Supreme Court slowed the process as they
claimed it was unconstitutional. In 1941, during Roosevelt’s second term, the Japanese
bombed Pearl Harbor, resulting in the American declaration of war against Japan, as
well as Germany’s declaration of war against the United States. The United States
deployment of soldiers into Japan and Europe helped solve many problems of the Great
Depression. As demand for goods in the war increased, women recieved jobs in
factories to produce these goods. When the economic situation in America improved,
the excuse for not focusing on Jews became less acceptable. As the United States
focused their attention on Imperialist Japan, more Jews were murdered. Following the
Battle of Bataan, the Japanese Imperial Army led many Filipino and American soldiers
on a march to their death. The deaths of 650 American prisoners of war also took focus
away from the Holocaust. While President Roosevelt and American citizens became
more concerned with military confrontations in Japan, the rate of Jewish extermination
grew as Zyklon B gas was introduced to Auschwitz. Despite the fact that the United
States had a plethora of its own problems, mass casualties in Europe should have been
a priority. There is no debate that the depression and the Imperialist Japanese army
were both threats to United States. It is evident that American leadership was well
aware that the most cruel crimes against humanity were taking place at an extreme rate
and therefore should’ve directed attention to rescuing the deprived Jewish people all
across Europe.
The United States has typically been one of the world’s most diverse, inviting
nations in the world. Until recently, America has been heralded as a safe haven for
refugees, and immigrants in search of a new life. When Congress enacted immigration
quotas in 1921 and 1924, they were not prepared for a period such as the Holocaust, as
Jews all over the world began to discover their fate. As Nazis marched furiously through
communities, many Jews decided that their best option was to leave. Departure from
their communities was very difficult. Oftentimes it was more difficult for men, due to the
fact that many Jewish men owned businesses, along with the fact that it was very easy
to identify men as Jews, due to the religious practice of circumcision. When Jews
decided to leave, abandoning their businesses and risking their lives, they needed to
find a new home. Unfortunately, some of President Roosevelt’s policies made it difficult
for Jews to settle in the United States. On May 13, 1939, hundreds of German Jews and
their families boarded the S.S. St. Louis. The massive ship set out with hope of seeking
refuge in Cuba, the United States, and/or Canada. Upon arrival, the United States was
not accepting of these refugees. While spending days at the port in Cuba, the U.S.
Ambassador relayed President Roosevelt’s message that the United States would not
accept any refugees. After not being able to settle in North America, the ship returned to
Germany where most of the passengers were sent to concentration camps. After
receiving backlash, the United States attempted a development of the
Intergovernmental Committee of Refugees. Their attempt was merely a “primary
exploration”, which resulted in the committees failure. Throughout this period of time,
President Roosevelt and other American representatives did in fact consider policy
change with regard to the slaughter of the Jews. However, their attempts were
half-hearted, as Roosevelt tried to deal with public pressure. Both Great Britain and the
United States agreed to explore a potential solution to the abandonment of liberated
Jews in Europe. Bermuda was selected as the location for the conference due to laws
restricting public access to the island during wartime. This disallowed the American
Jewish community to hear the discussion. As explained in the Abandonment of the
Jews, on page 109 the author writes “It concluded that shifting the meeting to Bermuda
was a ploy ‘to keep the proceedings in’”. President Roosevelt ensured no Jewish
influence shall be present. Prior to the conference, the Joint Emergency Committee on
European Jewish Affairs attempted to discuss the conference with President Roosevelt,
hoping to gain the president’s approval of a small Jewish delegation to be heard at
Bermuda. President Roosevelt rejected this request. After discussing the possibility of
Jewish delegates being represented in Bermuda with other American policymakers
such as Sumner Welles and Joseph Proskauer, the Joint Emergency Committee
received no response to their appeals. After briefly considering militant action, the
Jewish community released their frustration with American policymakers through a
press conference. On April 19, 1943 both British and American representatives
discussed the issue of stranded, persecuted Jews in search of a place to seek refuge.
Ultimately, the representatives provided no solution. The Bermuda Conference
concluded that defeating the Axis powers and winning the war would remain their
priority. Additionally, President Roosevelt refused to lift immigration quotas allowing
more Jewish refugees access to the United States.
Part of the reason President Roosevelt was so reluctant to push for change was
because of the presence of very prominent, wealthy personalities in the United States
who were entirely anti-semitic. Father Charles Coughlin, a radio priest from Detroit,
became openly anti-semitic when he blamed Jewish bankers for causing the United
States’ economic failure during the Great Depression. Father Coughlin’s radio show
was listened to by 40 million Americans, suggesting that anti-semitism was present in
the United States. Amongst other influential American anti-semites was Henry Ford.
Ford published many articles in the Dearborn Independent, blaming Jews for every
problem in America, from financial scandals to agricultural misfortune. Ford used his
position as a wealthy car dealer to provide the public with his opinion on Jews. He
placed copies of the Dearborn Independent inside the revolutionary Ford Model T to
spread his anti-Jewish theories. He later republished the Protocols of the Elders of Zion,
which included conspiracies linking Jews to planning a financial meltdown throughout
the entire world. Additionally, Charles Lindbergh spoke out as a public isolationist, who
believed that the “Jews were sucking the US into the war to save themselves.” There is
conclusive evidence that suggests President Roosevelt feared public backlash from
anti-semitic groups within America who did not believe the United States should change
their policy. It is unclear whether or not President Roosevelt was anti-semitic himself,
but it is clear that he felt public pressure from anti-semitic Americans.
On April 1,1943 seven Jewish members of the House of Representatives met
with Roosevelt. Pressure on Roosevelt to implement policy changes were very high
following the Bermuda Conference. The Jewish representatives did not put an emphasis
on the Bermuda Conference’s failure, nor did they present any rescue proposals.
Rather, they focused primarily on the strict, unfair immigration screening procedures.
This faulty process resulted in refugee immigration remaining at less than 10% of
previously established quotas. President Roosevelt determined that this issue was in
the hands of Breckenridge Long, the State Department secretary who led immigration
regulation. Despite the fact that Long considered the Jewish representatives’
suggestions, it was simple for him to avoid push for policy change. The American
Jewish representatives failed in their attempt for a change in immigration screening due
to the fact that Roosevelt did not have to take responsibility for changing policy.
Roosevelt failed the immigrating Jews.
World War II, and the years between 1933 and 1945 shaped the world in ways
never seen before in our history. Psychologists and historians continue to study the
science behind why Germany decided to attempt the eradication of an entire religion.
Aside from these irreversible wrongdoings, American people should and will learn from
this time period. The United States did not act promptly, nor was their assistance
sufficient. The Holocaust was a true crime against every human being on the planet.
There was an imbalance of motivation within both Germany and the United States. This
kept the slaughter alive, and allowed the Holocaust to reach its peak. When President
Roosevelt was elected, his primary motivation stemmed from his hope to end the Great
Depression and rid Americans of their financial devastation. When Adolf Hitler was
elected, he was motivated to erase every Jewish person from the planet. This
imbalance was the reason Hitler was so successful. Until the United States felt just as
determined to save the Jews as the Nazis felt determined to murder Jews, Hitler would
thrive. Ultimately, the United States’ response to the horror of the Holocaust was half
hearted for many reasons. This resulted in Hitler gaining ability to murder as many Jews
as possible, until the United States felt equally motivated as the opposition.
Unfortunately, the United States took much too long to prioritize the rescue of Judaism
due to economic and political blockades.

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