At the start of the Second World War, and during the time of the Holocaust in Germany, America was one of the most powerful nations in the world. The nation had made major strides in democracy and freedom. Politically and economically, America was a world model that has made significant advances in these fields. It was at this time in Eastern Europe, specifically in Germany, that Adolf Hitler’s regime stripped the humanity and liberties of all Jews. Approximately six million were massacred as Americans turned a blind eye to the plight of Jews. Had America been involved early and acted accordingly, millions of Jews could have been saved from the Holocaust.
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Various factors led to America failed to act and get involved in the holocaust, these factors are:
- Isolation policy adopted after World War I
- Tight Immigration Laws
- Anti-Semitism in the United States
America’s adoption of Isolationism policy contributed to its failure to act during the holocaust. Soon after World War I, Americans decided to stop getting involved in international conflicts and other country’s domestic affairs. Had America acted at an early stage, they could have successfully stopped the Nazis from carrying out the genocides on Jews.
America was not willing to get involved in the Second World War and at the same time did not want to get involved in issues surrounding Eastern Europe as they felt the region was under their ally, Russia. Any involvement could have put the two nations into indirect conflicts. United States population was also against the government’s involvement in the European war as many felt that American interests could only be protected by avoiding any foreign conflicts. Nobody, including congress, was ready to lose American citizens in the war in Europe.
When the United States joined its allies, Russia, in the war against the Nazi regime, in Germany, it did so selectively, failing to protect Jews from the genocide. For example, by the spring of 1944, the two allied forces were aware of the ongoing mass killing of Jews using poisonous gas at Auschwitz’s Gas Chambers at Birkenau extermination camp. The United States failed to heed Jewish leader’s plea to bomb the railway used in the transportation of Jews to the camp and the gas chambers. Interestingly, from 20th August to 13th September 1944, the United States Air forces bombed industrial targets in Auschwitz located just five miles from the Birkenau gas chambers.
Late involvement in the war by the United States when many Jews had been killed, contributed to the holocaust. Had the US been involved in the war in Eastern Europe at an early stage, they could have formed a strong allied force to overthrown Hitler and his regime hence stopping hatred and genocide against Jews. The US failure to listen to the Jewish leader’s plea to bomb the gas chamber and the rail line also contributed to the Holocaust. Had this happened, a lot of European Jews could have been saved. It is important to note here that over 100,000 Jews died at the gas chambers in Birkenau during the period in which America was bombing the Auschwitz industrial complex, just five miles away. Had the military effort been directed at destroying the gas chambers and the railway line, these people could have been saved.
The holocaust took place from 1933 to 1945, during this period; America relied mostly on information from the Nazi regime. At the start of the war, the information from the Nazi regime was accurate as the violence on Jews was not very severe and there were no major acts of violence that needed to be concealed. As the years progressed, Nazi actions became more severe and misinformation to the American press increased. When the Nazi regime decided to put Jews in death camps, this information was censored and never reached the American press.
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A cable, sent by Gerhart Riegner, World Jewish Congress representative in Geneva, to the U.S State Department confirming plans by the Nazis to destroy all European Jews was blocked from reaching the media and another government official. The report was also received by Stephen Wise, an American rabbi, who was warned by the U.S State Department from making it public. In, 1943, Jan Karski, A polish courier informed American President Franklin Roosevelt of the mass murder in the Warsaw Ghetto, but Roosevelt made all efforts to block the information from being published in the American press. The Nazi regime was very careful with the information they released to the outside world and mostly relied on deceptive tactics. Massive deportation of Jews by the Nazis was termed as a necessary war requirement by the regime. The American press in essence failed to get accurate information about what was happening in Germany during the Holocaust.
American administration’s ignorance to go beyond the information they got from the Nazi Regime was a systematic failure. Accurate information from a reliable source was blocked by the U.S Department and never got to reach the American press. If the American administration acted on the information it received concerning the Holocaust, a lot of lives could have been saved. The administration could have taken a step further and provided the information to the press who in turn could have highlighted the plight of Jews. With such information being made public, it would have been easy for the United States to stop the holocaust on a human basis.
Tight Immigration Laws
The Holocaust began at a period when America was going through the great depression. Many people struggled to survive was all over the country. The United States was not ready to take in any immigrants for fears that they might lose their jobs to immigrants or worse still, burden the already strained economy. As a result, immigration rules and policies were tightened.
The immigration laws placed Quotas on the number of people from any given country who could enter the United States at any given one time. The quota for Germany at the time of the holocaust was only 7,000 people. In 1938, over 20,000 Germans Jews had applied for the United States Visa with only 7,000 visas approved, locking the rest out. The United States was at the same time very careful not to allow immigrants into the US who will depend on State or public funding for survival. A proposed executive order by the US secretary of Labor, Frances Perkins, suggesting that priority be given to immigrants seeking refuge from religious or racial persecution was opposed by congress. Congress opposed the proposed executive order on the basis that it would alienate United States citizens who were jobless at the time and at the same time antagonize the relationship between Germany and United States. As a result, many visa applications by Jews in Europe were rejected.
It is important to note that Nazi Germany had in September of 1935, passed laws depriving of the citizenship of all German Jews. This meant that all Jews in that country were homeless and defenseless and many lost their properties and jobs. By 1939, the number of Jew seeking US visas had increased to 300,000 with only 20,000 getting approval. A plea by the human Rights body to the U.S State Department to increase the German quota fell on deaf ears.
Tight immigration law limiting the number of immigrants to the United States contributed to the Holocaust. If the United States Congress could have increased the German immigrant quota, many Jews refugees could have found a safe haven in the United States. Strict immigration laws meant many Jews could not get US visas which could have enabled them to travel to the United States. As a result, many Jews remained in Germany where they were put in concentration camps and massacred.