The US and the Holocaust Project Group:
note March 2012: this page has been translated into Polish
This page was created by Lauren Freeman, about the prevalence of antisemitism in the United States during the Holocaust. Much of the following information was drawn from David Wyman’s book The Abandonment of the Jews: America and the Holocaust 1941-1945 (1984; Wikipedia book page).
A Prevalent Attitude
During the Holocaust, antisemitism was a factor that limited American Jewish action during the war, and put American Jews in a difficult position. It is clear that antisemitism was a prevalent attitude in the US, which was especially convenient for America during the Holocaust. In the United States, antisemitism, which reached high levels in the late 1930s, continued to rise in the 1940s. During the years before Pearl Harbor, over a hundred antisemitic organizations were responsible for pumping hate propaganda throughout the American public. Furthermore, especially in New York City and Boston, young gangs vandalized Jewish cemeteries and synagogues, and attacks on Jewish youngsters were common. Swastikas and anti-Jewish slogans, as well as antisemitic literature were spread.
Another type of antisemitism in America during this time was “passive antisemitism.” While many Americans would not physically harm a Jew, they had negative internal feelings towards them. Throughout history, Jews have been continuously looked down upon, and have been used as scapegoats. Therefore, during the Holocaust, “passive antisemitism” meant that these people were already inclined not to care about the Jews in Europe, let alone America’s response to this crisis. Due to this lack of concern, in the following photo, one can see that when America finally did become involved, it was too late.
Antisemitism in Congress & the Military
There was an antisemitic feeling in Congress, as well as in the US Armed Forces. In Congress, antisemitism was a factor explaining the common hostility towards refugee immigration. antisemitism explained Congress’s actions that blocked all likely havens of refuge for the Jews. For example, Congress passed a Visa policy that allowed only a minuscule number of Jews into the US, and supported Britain’s policy that placed tight limits on refugee entry into Palestine. Representative John Rankin, an example of a blatant antisemite in Congress, frequently and verbally lashed out at the Jews. Clearly, if such a high up representative of the American public spoke out viciously against the Jews, there was an evident problem within the American government. In the military, many high up officers used words such as “kikes,” and openly joked about antisemitic stereotypes. Furthermore, Jewish officers expressed frustration over the antisemitic attitudes in the upper ranks. The following pictures are of the European refugees.
Antisemitism in the United States was also proven in national public opinion polls taken from the mid nineteen thirties to the late nineteen forties. The results showed that over half the American population saw Jews as greedy and dishonest. This is a frightening proportion. These polls also found that many Americans believed that Jews were too powerful in the United States. Similar polls were also taken, one of which posed that 35-40 percent of the population was prepared to accept an anti-Jewish campaign. In conclusion, antisemitism was seriously widespread in the U.S, in turn preventing Americans from wanting to help the Jews in Europe.
If the American public and even worse, its government, looked down upon the Jews within their own country, why would they care about aiding Jews in Europe?
Created By: Lauren Freeman, Dec. 2003, update H. Marcuse 3/26/2012