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America and the holocaust. The history of antisemitism. “Let me give you my honest advice. First their synagogues or churches should be set on fire, and whatever does not burn should be covered or spread over so that no one may ever be able to see a cinder of it.

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The history of antisemitism
The history of antisemitism

“Let me give you my honest advice. First their synagogues or churches should be set on fire, and whatever does not burn should be covered or spread over so that no one may ever be able to see a cinder of it.

And this ought to be done for the honor of God and Christianity…”

-Martin Luther (1543)


History of antisemitism
History of antisemitism

In your notebook, write your own definitions for the following”

  • Antisemitism

  • Prejudice

  • Stereotypes

    When you have finished, share your definition with the person sitting next to you. See if you have any differences in wording, etc. Be prepared to then share with the class.


History of antisemitism1
History of antisemitism

“Antisemitism is a very peculiar pathology that recognizes no national borders. It is a mental condition conducive to paranoia and impervious to truth. Its lexicon has no word for individuality. It is fixated on group identity. It is necessarily dehumanizing when people become abstractions. Once an emotional stereotype has been created—of the Jews, of blacks, of Catholics, of Muslims—it is readily absorbed in the bones like strontium 90, an enduring poison that distorts the perceptions of the victims. All minority groups have suffered, but none have been stereotyped more heinously and more durably than Jews.”

-Sir Harold Evans

Editor at large, Thomson Reuters


The blood libel and protocols
The Blood Libel and protocols

“The truth is not hard to kill, but a lie well told lives forever”

-Mark Twain

Blood Libel

After watching the video, The Power of a Lie: The History of Blood Libel, and reading the excerpt from A Convenient Hatred: A History of Antisemitism, answer the questions on your worksheet.

Protocols of the Elders of Zion

Read the mini article provided and answer the analysis questions





First phase 1933 sept 1939 wwii begins
First Phase: 1933-Sept 1939 (WWII Begins)

  • U.S. Political Environment

    • Great Depression, massive unemployment

    • Isolationism

    • Congress opposed increased immigration

    • Heightened hostility to minorities

  • Critical time period in Europe

    • German and Austrian Jews could emigrate if other countries would accept them


American attitudes
American Attitudes

  • 1938 Roper survey: “What do you object to?” 38% said Jews (#1 response)

  • 1939 Poll: 77% opposed allowing “a large number of Jewish exiles from Germany to come into the U.S. to live”

  • April 1939: poll on expanding quota for European refugees, 83% opposed

  • 1940 poll: 53% of Americans believed Jews should be restricted in business and social interaction with non-Jews


American attitudes1
American attitudes

  • In 1939, 42.3% of Americans believed German violence against Jews was justifiable

  • Jan. 1943: Even after Allies issued declaration condemning atrocities against Jews, more than half of Americans polled did not believe Nazis were deliberately killing the Jews.

  • December 1944: A majority of Americans were aware that Hitler had been cruel to the Jews but they didn’t know the extent

    • Only 4% believed that over 5,000,000 Jews were put to death


Evian conference march 1938
Evian Conference (March 1938)

  • Worldwide meeting called by FDR

  • 32 countries attended

  • Was intended to find locations/countries for Jews to emigrate to

  • Despite voicing sympathy, most countries made excuses for not accepting refugees


The st louis 1939
The St. Louis (1939)

  • The St. Louis sailed to Cuba with approximately 900 Jews

  • Turned away from Cuba

  • Headed to the U.S.

    • Because the refugees had not been able to secure necessary documents before leaving, and because of strict immigration laws, U.S. government denied entry to the refugees

    • Forced them to return to Europe

    • Many ended up dying in the concentration camps


Wagner rogers bill feb 1939
Wagner-Rogers Bill (Feb. 1939)

  • Would allow for the admittance of 20,000 German refugee children

  • Many religious figures, labor organizations, prominent politicians, and editors supported

  • Isolationists and patriotic groups opposed

  • Public poll: 61% opposed, 30% supported, 9% had no opinion

  • Was not passed by the Senate


Evaluation of fdr in first phase
Evaluation of FDR in First Phase

  • Supported Jewish immigration within context of political realities

    • Congress and public opposition and conflicting advice from Jewish groups

  • 1933-1940: More Jews entered U.S. than all other countries combined (105,000). Second most was to Palestine (56,000)


Response of american jews
Response of American Jews

  • Leaders of Jewish organizations disagreed about degree of danger presented by the Nazis

  • Many opposed allowing in Jewish refugees out of fear it would contribute to anti-Semitism at home

  • Some were verbal against German violence

    • held demonstrations

    • boycotted German products


Second phase sept 1939 dec 1943
Second Phase: Sept 1939-Dec 1943

  • War not going well for Allies

  • Genocide by Nazis had begun

    • Gestapo prohibited Jewish emigration

  • Political environment in U.S. largely unchanged

    • State Dept. pushed for even more strict immigration standards

    • Idea of the 5th Column: people inside the U.S. who would undermine the gov’t to help enemies


First acknowledgment
First Acknowledgment

  • 1941: The mass killings of Jews begin by gassing in specially designed vans at Chelmno

  • June 20, 1942:The New York Timescarried report from the World Jewish Congress that the Germans had massacred one million Jews, and Nazis had established a "vast slaughterhouse for the Jews" in Eastern Europe


Response of american media
Response of American Media

  • Treated the mass murder of the Jews as minor news

  • Most Americans weren’t aware of the atrocities until well into 1944

  • International news services delivered extensive information to American newspapers, but papers usually buried this info in its inner pages that no one read

  • Radio and magazine coverage sparse


Problems within the gov t
Problems Within the Gov’t

  • Despite attempts by FDR to help, many efforts were undermined or sabotaged by American government officials

  • Most well known of these was Breckinridge Long

    • Head of Special War Problems section in State Dept.

    • Responsible for Visa selection


Breckinridge long
Breckinridge Long

  • Wrote a secret memo to State Dept. officials to make Visa granting as difficult as possible

  • Convinced FDR of 5th Column threats

  • Did not include “Presidential Advisory Committee on Political Refugees” in State Dept. budget; sabotaged the project

  • Attempted to keep State Dept.’s info on Jewish situation in Europe from American Jewish leadership

  • Ruined FDR’s plan to bribe key German officials to aid in rescue efforts


Memo from breckinridge long
Memo from breckinridge long

  • How will they deal with non-immigrants? Immigrants?

  • How will the Visa process be delayed?

  • Are there differences mentioned between different countries of origins?


Riegner telegram august 1942
Riegner Telegram (August 1942)

  • Gerhard Riegner sent telegram to Rabbi Steven Wise via the U.S. State Department

  • Informed of Nazi plan for the mass extermination of the European Jews was being implemented

  • November ‘42: NYT carries announcement on page 10 about slaughter of 2 million Jews. Rabbi Wise hold press conference to announce Nazi plan to the world.


Riegner telegram
Riegner telegram

"Informer reported to have close connections with highest German authorities who has previously generally reliable reports says that in Fuehrer's [sic] headquarters plan under consideration to exterminate at one blow this fall three and half to four millions Jews following deportation from countries occupied, controlled by Germany and concentration in east. Method execution undecided but prussic acid has been considered. Information transmitted with reservation as exactitude cannot be ascertained."


Press involvement
Press Involvement

  • December 13, 1942:America's most popular broadcaster, Edward R. Murrow reported the following:

    "Millions of human beings, most of them Jews, are being gathered up with ruthless efficiency and murdered...It is a picture of mass murder and moral depravity unequaled in the history of the world. It is a horror beyond what imagination can grasp...There are no longer 'concentration camps' - we must speak now only of 'extermination camps'."


Fdr speaks dec 17 1942
FDR Speaks – Dec 17, 1942

  • FDR warns Hitler and the Germans that they will be held individually responsible for what they were doing to the Jews of Europe

  • Announcement was joint statement between US, Britain, and USSR

  • Next day, front page story in NYT about atrocities in Europe

    • first public acknowledgment by the U.S. government and ten other nations of the mass murder of the Jews


Bermuda conference april 1943
Bermuda Conference – April 1943

  • British-American Conference held in Bermuda to discuss the situation of the Jews in Europe

  • Official result: only way to help is to win the war

  • Largely regarded in its aftermath as a hoax


Jan karski
Jan Karski

Jan Karki’s Life

Karski delivered his shocking eyewitness account to dozens of people – politicians, journalists, writers – the leaders of the Free World. He reported to British Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden, U.S. Secretary of State Cordell Hull, Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter and even to U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt himself. The emissary pleaded with leaders to act. Transmitting the demand of the Jewish leaders, he gave a detailed account of what he had seen. “I was a camera”, “I was a machine”, “I was like a gramophone record” – he used to say later. 


Karski’s Meeting with FDR

Karski’s Meeting with Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter

“My mind, my heart, they are made in such a way that I can’t accept it. I am a judge of men. I know humanity. I know men. Impossible! No! No!”

-Felix Frankfurter


“The Lord assigned me a role to speak and write during the war, when -- as it seemed to me -- it might help. It did not. When the war came to its end, I learned that the governments, the leaders, the scholars, the writers did not know what had been happening to the Jews. They were taken by surprise. The murder of six million innocents was a secret, a ‘terrible secret’. ... Then I became a Jew. But I am a Christian Jew. I am a practicing Catholic. …

My faith tells me the second Original Sin has been committed by humanity: through commission, or omission, or self-imposed ignorance, or insensitivity, or self-interest, or hypocrisy, or heartless rationalization.

This sin will haunt humanity to the end of time. It does haunt me. And I want it to be so.”

— Karski said at the International Liberators’ Conference in 1981


A failed attempt late 1943
A Failed Attempt (Late 1943) war, when -- as it seemed to me -- it might help. It did not. When the war came to its end, I learned that the governments, the leaders, the scholars, the writers did not know what had been happening to the Jews. They were taken by surprise. The murder of six million innocents was a secret, a ‘terrible secret’. ... Then I became a Jew. But I am a Christian Jew. I am a practicing Catholic. …

  • Congress considers legislation that would assist in the rescue of the Jews by Senator Guy Gillette and Congressman Will Rodgers, Jr.

  • Moves rapidly through the Senate but is held up in the House when Breckenridge Long gives misleading testimony

    • Under reports numbers of refugees, Jewish refugees in particular


Third phase jan 1944 end of war
Third Phase: Jan 1944-End of War war, when -- as it seemed to me -- it might help. It did not. When the war came to its end, I learned that the governments, the leaders, the scholars, the writers did not know what had been happening to the Jews. They were taken by surprise. The murder of six million innocents was a secret, a ‘terrible secret’. ... Then I became a Jew. But I am a Christian Jew. I am a practicing Catholic. …

  • Victory in Europe seems to be within reach

  • U.S. political environment:

    • FDR still popular but health is failing


War refugee board jan 1944
War Refugee Board (Jan 1944) war, when -- as it seemed to me -- it might help. It did not. When the war came to its end, I learned that the governments, the leaders, the scholars, the writers did not know what had been happening to the Jews. They were taken by surprise. The murder of six million innocents was a secret, a ‘terrible secret’. ... Then I became a Jew. But I am a Christian Jew. I am a practicing Catholic. …

  • War Refugee Board (WRB) established

  • Deals directly European Jews and other victims of Nazi terror

    • “Rescue as many victims of the Nazi oppression as possible”

    • Can go around the State Department

  • Rescued over 200,000 Jews, including 48,000 Rumanian Jews and at least 70,000 Jews from Hungary


Bombing auschwitz
Bombing Auschwitz war, when -- as it seemed to me -- it might help. It did not. When the war came to its end, I learned that the governments, the leaders, the scholars, the writers did not know what had been happening to the Jews. They were taken by surprise. The murder of six million innocents was a secret, a ‘terrible secret’. ... Then I became a Jew. But I am a Christian Jew. I am a practicing Catholic. …

  • WRB recommended that crematoria at Auschwitz be bombed - the War Dept. refused to do so

    • Told it was not possible because the bombers would have to fly from England without fighter support

    • Reality: American bombers had been bombing nearby oil refineries and even bombed the BUNA refinery at Auschwitz from airbases in Italy


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