The U.S. Government’s Disregard of the Jewish Holocaust
In the 1930s, Adolf Hitler rose to power and lead the Nazi party to discriminate and murder people of the Jewish race. In the span of four years, millions of innocent civilians were killed. During that time, citizens of the United States had at most their condolences to offer, and the government did almost nothing until the U.S. was directly attacked. Most of the population expressed extreme anti-Semitism toward Jewish people. If they had not been so hesitant to aid refugees, the death toll could have been lowered. The United States government’s response to the Jewish Holocaust was late and insignificant.
On July 31, 1941, Hitler called for the systematic mass murdering of the Jewish people in territories under Nazi control. He called this the final solution of the Jewish question. Later that year, the first of six extermination camps started functioning in Poland. Most of these camps involved locking Jewish prisoners into a room and filling it with carbon monoxide. On 1942, the Nazi regime’s chief of security held a conference where he planned more extensively the annihilation of the Jewish race. Mass shootings resulted in most of the executions in 1941 and 1942. It was reported that at these grave sites, Nazi soldiers would not always deliver a lethal shot, and the surviving victims would later be buried alive among the other countless bodies. From 1942 to 1944, Nazis across most of Europe were packing Jewish people into freight cars and transporting them to death camps. This was so prevalent that the railroad system became overloaded in Poland to an extent that limited the movement of Nazi troops and supplies. The Nazis were more concerned with exterminating the Jewish race than fighting the war. The United States entered the war in 1941 and assisted the Allied Forces with taking control of Europe. Nazi Germany surrendered in May, 1945, and their ally, Japan, surrendered in August, which ended World War II. However, misery for Jewish people prevailed for years after.
Fleeing to the United States was hardly an option for the Jewish people. The Great Depression caused most Americans to act against immigration. They blamed immigrants for the high rate of unemployment, even though immigrants also function as consumers. Beside the economic issue was legitimate racism. Most Americans became xenophobic after the first World War, and Nativism remained widespread throughout the Holocaust and World War II. American war veterans were particularly skeptical of immigrants and resisted job competition by demanding that all immigration be cut off for the next decade.
Considering how hostile United States citizens were makes it easier to understand why politicians went along with the anti-immigration sentiments. In a 1939 radio broadcast, or fireside chat, former president Franklin D. Roosevelt told citizens that it was his every intention to keep the United States out of the war. I hope the United States will keep out of this war. I believe that it will. And I give you assurance and reassurance that every effort of your Government will be directed toward that end. His ultimate goal was peace, although he touched on the idea that the United States needed to extinguish war abroad to prevent war on the home front. And those wars today affect every American home. It is our national duty to use every effort to keep those wars out of the Americas. Although concerned and empathetic, the United States government did not want to risk getting too involved with international conflict.
One striking example of inadequate immigrant management involved a refugee’s visa being approved in November of 1941; however, the United States had entered the war before she received it. The refugee technically became an enemy alien and was required to redo the entire procedure. Her niece presented the case in Washington, but the court refused to grant her aunt the visa. No further settlement could be made for six months while the case was closed. In that time, the refugee was deported to Auschwitz and surely killed. This was an issue both with handling of immigration and with coming to an irrational court decision that lead to an innocent person’s death.
Roosevelt died shortly before the Allied forces invaded Normandy. His Vice President, Harry S. Truman, took office and saw Germany defeated. Truman was also responsible for nuking the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which killed over one-hundred-thousand people. In his addresses to the German surrender and Japanese surrender, Truman does not mention those directly targeted by Nazis in the Holocaust. He seeks only to establish unity with the American population. This helps to testify how both the United States government and its people disregarded the issue of remaining refugees in Europe.
Even years after the war, emigration from Europe was still rampant. Truman became more lenient on allowing foreigners into the United States. In a 1947 transmission, he said, I urge the Congress to turn its attention to this world problem, in an effort to find ways whereby we can fulfill our responsibilities to those thousands of homeless and suffering refugees of all faiths. Since the war had ended, liability for the refugees remained with the Intergovernmental Committee. However, it was a poorly handled, underfunded organization that hardly took steps to better itself and its own cause.
In conclusion, the United States’ anti-Semitic actions during the Jewish Holocaust certainly did not age well. I am surprised that the government got away with their cruel treatment of refugees and their refusal to offer more aid during what was undoubtedly a problem that concerned every nation. World War II statistically holds the highest death toll in human history. Might that fact have been changed if the United States had acted sooner? Regardless, I do not think the government is solely to blame. It was our entire nation’s view. That negligence was present in everyone: consumers, business owners, journalists, working class. No one person can be pinned responsible. We did not set an example to follow; we set the lowest of standards. During future conflict, to what degree will we better ourselves?
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