Between 1941 and 1945 six million Jews were killed horrifically at the hands of the evil Nazis and their followers. The world showed virtually no commitment to any sort of rescue especially when it was suggested that the allied countries should take some Jews in as refugees. The most powerful country of all, the United States of America should have taken some sort of initiative and led the world in a rescue campaign. It did not do this and the question must be asked why not? Evidently even a determined allied rescue mission could not have saved all the Jews but is that a reason not to bother with an attempt at all? Human compassion for mankind was forgotten, and mass murder simply ignored. This essay will attempt to answer the question of why the Jews were left alone to perish and conclude whether the answer really justifies the poor effort made by the USA and its allies. It will explore the underlying interests held by the USA, explain the lack of public enthusiasm towards the cause, look at Franklin Roosevelt’s administration and its seemingly apathetic attitude towards the Jews and finally suggest that Zionism prevented a forceful drive from the Jews watching from the safety of the USA.
To begin with however, the Americans themselves provided some reasons for their apathy, reasons that do not hold up. During the Second World War, when the fate of the Jews lay in the hands of the brutal Nazis, the Americans gave four very firm, yet totally fraudulent rationalisation for their inaction to aid the European Jews. Their first one was the statement that there was a definite unavailability of shipping to transport the Jews to some sort of safe haven. This is totally untrue. When the USA wanted to find ships for non-military purposes it did, and without a problem.
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This is proven by the events of 1943, when American naval vessels carried 1400 non-Jewish Polish refugees from India to the West Coast of America. It seemed that the location of ships was only difficult when it was to be Jewish refugees as the passengers. This poses the question, was it really the unavailability of shipping or the allies’ unwillingness to take the refugees in? The Americans’s e cond rationalisation was the claim that Axis governments had planted agents amongst refugees, and thus by taking them in, national security was threatened. This was a totally over emphasised. The likelihood at the time was small and there is absolutely no reason why a reasonable security screening could have been set in motion had the refugees been allowed in. Thirdly, the Americans stated that by helping the Jews in Europe they were essentially forgetting the others that were also suffering at the hands of the Nazis.
The did not see that the Jews had a particularly special situation and furthermore, believed that by giving the Jews ‘special’ attention they would create anti-Semitism in the USA. They did not want to be seen as fighting a war for the Jews and not their own. This rationalisation is a further cover for the reluctance of the Americans to take in Jewish refugees. Finally, the Americans stated that by concentrating their efforts on saving the Jews, they were in effect “detracting from military effort and prolonging the war” Again this is simply inaccurate.
None of the proposed rescue missions involved hindering the war effort enough to prolong it. If the reasons stated above were not the accurate ones, what were the real reasons? And of course, were they justified? The inaction on the USA’s behalf can be simplified to a competition between its humanitarian interests and war interests with the war interests being victorious. It was probably because a world war was raging around the atrocities of the Holocaust, that aid to the Jews was limited – there were effectively two events to be concerned with. In a world war, the mentalities of the players are different than when they are not participating in a war. In other words, what might normally be totally morally unacceptable, is all of a sudden acceptable for the simple reason of war time expediency. Entities are weighed up and sorted into a priority list, usually based on potential lives lost.
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In the case of the Holocaust, the mentality is as follows, bombing a death camp or the train lines to it might have saved 5, 000 Jews but using that same bomb to annihilate a weapons factory in the long run potentially saved a million allies. The notion of the ‘greater good’ is being utilised and in this case is so morally wrong, it should not have been a notion played out. The Americans and the allies saw that victory in the war as being their main priority, thus halting the extermination of the Jews never was a strategic objective. This arrogant desire for victory, if lessened just to a level where humanitarian occurrences were being noticed, might well have saved some Jews. What could have perhaps prompted the Americans to act in a more profound way is simple public support for aiding the plight of the Jews. public interest for the cause in the USA was very low which can be attributed to three major reasons.
Firstly and foremost the lack of reaction from the Vatican. The Catholic Church considers itself to be at the pinnacle of morality and thus when it speaks on moral issues it is listened to. Aside from that, hearing a moral outcry from the Vatican would have undoubtedly rallied thousands of its followers in all nations as well as the USA to aid the Jews. The Vatican was also important to rally support because it had a large role in transporting information out of Europe and thus letting people outside know what was going on. The Nazi atrocities were not condemned and there was no protest from the Vatican yet there is no doubt that the Pope was fully informed of the extermination process occurring.
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The Jews also were not warned of their imminent danger. Had the Pope acted and issued a strong condemnation or protest at what was going on in Germany, the course of the Holocaust could have changed – the church population would have been influenced and thousands of Jews could have been saved. There is no doubt the lack of moral outrage amongst the public in the USA could have definitely been activated by the Vatican. The Pope however was naturally in Italy, a country aligned with fascist Germany, and did not want the Germans to turn on them. By speaking out against the Nazis the Pope would have effectively shattered any allegiance between the two countries. It is interesting to note that although it can be expected that governments can be expedient of the grounds of the greater good, it is certainly not expected that the Catholic Church could be.
Secondly, the lack of interest shown by the media, – which has the key role of chief information supplier in our society, restricted public interest. In fact, the public was probably not even aware of the Jewish extermination until well into 1944 or even later. The media did publicise statistics and accounts from various people in Europe but only gave them inner page status or often ‘in brief’s tat us. There is no certain reason for the media’s failure to report strongly on the Holocaust but some ideas have been suggested. It is more than likely that the information the media received from Europe was bitsy and often conflicting. For this reason the editors of newspapers would have been cautious and the past fabrications of the atrocities World War I that were received, would have added to their scepticism.
The context of war that the Holocaust was embedded in is also significant here, it was competing with other war events and perhaps got lost among them. But more interestingly, the prestigious Times newspaper (which was Jewish owned) was not emphasising the mass killings and thus the perception of its importance was lowered. Other editors would have naturally held that perception and thus considered the events in Germany not important enough to really report. Finally, the editors would have likely been in a state of disbelief. The extermination made no sense because it was not serving a practical purpose – the German explanation that the Jews were being sent to labour camps seemed far more plausible. These reasons for the lack of media involvement are not really good enough.
Prior to the era of Second World War in 1930s, community of Jews had already established their society within the German realm. For last 1600 years of German-Jewish relations, German Jews were first to experience the dramatic persecutions inflicted by the German society. b. Overview German-Jews, despite of their German blood, did not experience any benefits or considerations during the Second ...
They had the information (although of course it was likely to be of a low standard when it was gathered through underground work) and they should have acted and used it. Regardless of whether it was exaggerated or not and whether they themselves believed it, it should have been voiced just to mobilise the public. Bearing in mind all of the reasons stated for not publishing the information, simple humanitarian reasons should have prevailed. The media is chief information supplier and watchdog, as well as a strong mobilise r and it failed at all three of its duties. Finally, had the media and the Vatican spoken out in support of European Jewry, they would have been coming up against a far stronger force – anti-Semitism. It is anti-Semitism that is the third reason that prevented public interest and thus public empathy with the Jews.
“The plain truth is that many Americans were prejudiced against Jews and were unlikely to support measures to help them.” Prior to, and during the war, much hate propaganda and anti-Semitic organisations were in full swing. Their organised anti-Semitism was silenced with the USA’s entry into the war but it did not disappear, and it was during the war that anti-Semitic attitudes that had been simmering just below the surface, boiled over in waves of violence and other anti-Semitic actions. The attitude spread quickly and recurred commonly with ridiculous statements such as “Jews shirked military service, stayed home and prospered, while Christian boys were sent off to fight and die.” Along with this anti-Semitism came strong barriers to initiate some effective action – the American public didn’t care to help and the fact that their help would have assisted Jews, did not make it more appealing. The Jews essentially were victims of dehumanization – a group recognised as ‘them’.
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A Nazi planner Dr Wetzel relating to Poles wrote: .”.. one cannot resolve the Polish problem by liquidating Poles as the Jews were liquidated. Such a solution would brand the German people into and cost us sympathy on both sides” – why did he say this? Simply because the Poles were not dehumanized – it was not okay to kill them like it was to kill the Jews. The President of the USA at the time of the Holocaust was the revolutionary Franklin Roosevelt, but his treatment and reaction to the Holocaust was far from revolutionary. His steps to aid European Jews were severely limited and being a popular President, could have easily won public backing had he spoken out. He hardly spoke of the Holocaust and his priorities were not on rescue missions.
The news of systematic killings came out of Poland in 1942. Most of the information was withheld and no action was taken until the Roosevelt administration bowed to political pressure and finally drew attention to the rescue question fourteen months later in late 1943, and formed the War Refugee Board. Its establishment in part was also in response to the potential danger a major scandal would break over the State Department’s persistent obstruction of rescue. However, the Board’s funding was minimal, it was not strengthened, and FDR took virtually no interest in it. Between the release of information and the birth of the WRB, Roosevelt avoided a Rabbis’ pilgrimage to the White House in October 1943, took no interest in the Bermuda conference, and was tardy in opening the refugee camps in North Africa. He also refused to question the State Department’s arbitrary shutdown of refugee immigration to the USA.
Roosevelt’s evident lack of interest in the Holocaust was affected a lot by political expediency. He already had a large Jewish support network, therefore a rescue mission would not have been at all advantageous politically, but being pro-Jewish may have lost him votes and 1944 was to be election year. Furthermore, due to the pending election he did not want to lose the support of Congress who were seemingly indifferent to the plight of the Jews. They were not in favour of the WRB’s original rescue strategy, which was to provide several temporary safe havens.
The lives of the Jews in Germany were punctuated by long periods of suffering and many problems. The Jews went through a lot of hardships such as; going through hard labor, loss of family union due to separation, torture and their freedom was also suppressed. Introduction Holocaust was a serious happening ever witnessed and it involved killing of over six million people (Jews) at the time of World ...
Consequently Roosevelt set up only one haven, no doubt to avoid straining relations with Congress for election purposes. It is also important to note that Roosevelt was immersed in a world war. Other dominant events no doubt had most of his attention consequently making ‘other matters’s lip into the background. Winning the war was very important to him.
To further to condemn Roosevelt’s handling of the issue, a certain quote of his could point to his own anti-Semitic beliefs. At a Casablanca conference he spoke for keeping the number of Jewish professionals in North Africa proportional to the Jewish population there. He went on to say that it would avoid the “understandable complaints which the Germans bore towards the Jews in Germany, namely that while they represented a small part of the population over 50% of lawyers, doctors, school teachers etc in Germany were Jews.” In reality, the Jews only comprised 2. 3% of professional positions. To sum up, the Roosevelt administration made two terrible decisions.
Firstly to wait so long before establishing the WRB and funding it badly, and secondly not touching its immigration quotas. The USA did not want an exodus of Jews (it even turned ships away in 1939) and they were obviously relatively unconcerned to what would happen if they did not take them in. What possibly could have happened to basic human compassion at this time? A final yet seemingly contradictory problem in gaining support to help the Jews was the Zionist movement. It created a divide in the Jewish community – some were Zionist followers and some were not.
With this division came conflicting opinions amongst the Jews and thus the prevention of a united movement to rally the American government for rescue action. There were regular clashes between Zionist and non-Zionist organisations and the Zionists themselves fought bitterly amongst themselves. Had they been a little more united in their struggle to save European Jewry, the American government might have been a little bit more prepared to listen and acted faster. In the latter years of World War II moral principles were ignored not only by the public but also by those who claim to uphold moral principles – the Catholic Church. The greater good prevailed in a situation that should have focused on the humanitarian aspect – saving the lives of innocent victims who were perishing at the hands of pure evil.
The public was not aroused both through the lack of information and a strong leadership to take a stand and also through their own pre-established attitudes. The war raged on and people worried about it – worried about their loved ones fighting, but forgot about the nameless victims in Hitler’s Europe. The Holocaust was in competition with the war for the most attention, and the war won. Reasoning for the slow and tardy rescue effort have been established, analysed and argued. But, nothing can possible be said to apologise to those still alive and the families of those who died. In four years a race was nearly wiped out – six million innocent victims and the world watched, made excuses and disgracefully let it happen.
It does not say much about the innate nature of humans – there was no compassion, yet some people knew exactly what was going on, in time to have done something… BIBLIOGRAPHY. Wyman, David (1984) The Abandonment of the Jews New York: Random House Inc… Areas, Moshe (1998) The Abandonment of the Jews web >.
Kimel, Alexander (2000) Why Was the Pope Silent? web >. Kimel, Alexander (2000) Abandonment of the Jews web >. Kimel, Alexander (2000) Demonization of the Jews web.