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What Did America and American Jews Do During the Holocaust in Reaction to It?

Essay by   •  January 11, 2011  •  Research Paper  •  1,801 Words (8 Pages)  •  925 Views

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What did America and American Jews do during the Holocaust in reaction

to it?

During the years 1939-1945 America and American Jews had a decision to make of whether they would join World War II and bring the Holocaust to a standstill or not take part in the war. America decided to intercede into the Holocaust when the situation benefited the nation's welfare and when they realized that Jewish annihilation was very real. American Jews were placed in an awkward position because anti-Semitism was at an all time high in America and loved ones were forced to suffer the evil doings of Nazi power. American Jews were torn between patriotism and anti-Semitism. Throughout the years of the Holocaust sources exposed the happenings in Europe between the Jews and Nazis. America had and understanding of the kinds of situations that were occurring with Jews but many Americans did not take it as seriously as it should have been taken. Believing the press and taking action against Germany or simply disregarding a people across an ocean is a decision that America made six million Jews too late.

American Jews did react to the Holocaust but of the millions that knew what was happening to the Jews in Germany their voices were only a mere echo. Information about the Holocaust found its way to the American public and the American Jewish Committee, as well as, the American Jewish Congress took it upon themselves to be involved in the situation to at least attempt to prevent what was soon to be inevitable. According to Weisel in a lecture given by Marvin Kalb entitled "The Journalism of the Holocaust," "information about the mass killings of Jews edged towards knowledge among some people, but obviously not among enough people to awaken the conscience of the world or to affect American[s]" (Kalb). Although most Americans were not aware of the events happening to German Jews by way of newspapers, newsreels exposed the naked truth. As written in an article about fiction and films of the Jewish Holocaust, "you could not read of the last and worst atrocities in the newspaper of record, which suppressed reports of such events even as they were occurring, but certain early depredations you could glimpse, fleetingly, in the newsreels" (Ozick). The Holocaust was not a main concern for America because of the Great Depression and the fact that it was occurring in another country. Therefore actions were not taken immediately. In early 1933 Hitler came into power and this was when many American Jewish leaders stepped back and foreshadowed the futures of millions of Jews in Europe. Rabbi Stephen B. Wise, as well as many other Jewish leaders, "confessed that with Hitler's accession to power, they had Ð''kept silent,' hoping that Ð''Hitler and his followers would come to realize that their conduct was unworthy of the great tradition and culture of the German nation'" (Arad 109). Many Jewish organizations kept close watch at the events in Germany during the previous years but still did not feel the drive to take action. The American Jewish Committee "was in the forefront of efforts to inform the American public and leadership of the situation in Germany" (Abzug 8). Informing the public proved to be difficult because few Americans read these reports but "Americans did have information about the Nazis' actions against the German Jews readily available" (Abzug 9).

American press soon disseminated the information given to the American Jewish Committee and fed it to the public. The media had a great impact on America's opinion towards Nazi power and the dehumanization of Jews. Updated information was given to American citizens on a daily basis and "editorials reflected the general mood of the nation," which effected the American Jewish reaction to the situation (Arad 110). American Jews were torn between continuing to live as a segregated people and defending their homeland or going along with the rest of the American public. Living in America gave Jews a sense of patriotism because of the opportunities that they were given, but at the same time many Jews felt the need to keep quiet because of the rise of anti-Semitism. Most Americans in the 1930s "perceived Jews in their midst with varying degrees of fear and mistrust" they were "different" and a "potential threat" to a "Christian nation" (Azbug 52). In a conference of the American Jewish Committee in May 1933 it was stated that the German situation was a "complicated situation of foreign affairs" and would only "cause a repercussion on the Jews of America for interfering in these larger concerns" (Arad 168). American Jews were left with the dilemma of either witnessing their brothers and sisters being annihilated or stepping in the picture and putting an end to the Holocaust. "Jews everywhere continuously felt emotional allegiances and particular obligations to their coreligionists" because they were responsible for one another according to rabbinic law (Arad 158). This was a moral battle that American Jews were forced to confront hastily because each day that passed more and more Jews perished unjustly.

America did not focus on the Nazi's actions until later years partly because of the emphasis on communism and socialism. "The American press emphasized the fierce campaign against Communists and Socialists. It was only after the elections and the intensified attacks on the Jews that it began to pay explicit attention to their situation" (Arad 110). Skepticism was on a rise due to the loose control of information reported to the American public. "Hope and despair, belief and skepticism were dual perceptions that were shared by all, whether impartial observers or involved witnesses" (Arad 112). Therefore many Americans gave into the press and believed that the reports about Jews in Germany were over-exaggerated and opined that the situation in Germany was not as terrible as it was made to seem. Tourists themselves were also made to believe that the situation in Germany never existed as reported in America because of the deception created by the Nazis. The Nazi's "new regime made every effort to maintain a peaceful, civilized atmosphere-the Nazis were "sickeningly courteous" (Arad 112). This was used as a form of propaganda that would work

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