This paper is meant to popularize some of the less known facts of the 20th Century American history pertaining to the Holocaust. To an average American, it will show how the U.S. State Department has deliberately and consistently subverted all efforts to authorize immigration of the Jewish European population to the United States, during the World War II, thereby knowingly condemning these people to certain death at the hands of the Nazi headsmen. It is based entirely on the documentation provided by the Jewish Virtual Library. One may hope that atrocity such as Holocaust as well as a lack of action of those who may prevent it will never repeat, but it is not inconceivable in light of ever growing threats from the various murderous regimes, and the cowering of the United States’ government in the face of these threats.
Shortly after Adolf Hitler was appointed Chancellor of the German Reich in the late January 1933, his Nazi party began an aggressive campaign of violence aimed at the enemies of the Nazi regime. The first victims of this campaign were German Jews. Germany’s Jewish Central Association (VEREIN) responded with a statement asserting their belief that “the responsible government authorities are unaware of the threatening situation”, and that the statement is intended to inform Hitler’s administration of the threat. In spite of this statement, the persecution and discrimination against the German Jews continued and escalated. VEREIN was powerless to change or influence Nazi policies, let alone to provide protection to its subjects. When the word of the Nazi assaults reached the United States, Stephen S. Wise, the founder of the American Jewish Congress, gathered all the major Jewish organizations for an emergency meeting in New York. Initially the conferees decided to establish a joint committee to monitor the events, but decided not to take any action such as public protests amid the fear of repercussions that would adversely affect German Jewry. However, in less than a month, AJC sharply changed its stance, calling on their partners to help organize an American protest campaign. On March 27, 1933, AJC and the rest of Jewish organizations in America conducted simultaneous rallies in New York, Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Cleveland and numerous other locations. The New York rally was broadcast worldwide as 55,000 people filled Madison Square Garden to call for the “immediate cessation of the brutal treatment being inflicted on German Jewry”, and to propose a boycott of German imports so long as the violence continued. In response, Goebbels –Reich Minister of Propaganda, followed with even harsher sanctions, as well as threatened to boycott all Jewish businesses in Germany, until AJC rescind their boycott of the German goods, or the “German Jewry will be annihilated”. S.S. Wise, nevertheless, pressed the US Secretary of State Cordell Hull to protest to the German government. Hull issued a mild statement to the American ambassador in Berlin voicing his opinion that the reports of violence were exaggerated. Meanwhile Nuremberg laws were passed, “Kristallnacht” has occurred, concentration camps were established and the living conditions of the German Jews continued to deteriorate. While the “Final Solution” – (a Nazi plan to annihilate all Jews) was not yet conceived, evidence suggests that the U.S. government officials were keenly aware of the plight suffered by European Jewry. The tragic incident with S.S. St. Louis — (a ship with Jewish refugees from Europe that was refused landing in the U.S. Influenced Cuba, as well as in USA itself based on then current immigration policies. The ship was subsequently sent back to Europe spelling the doom of its passengers) that took place between May 13 to June 20, 1939, is one example of the government officials’ knowledge of the dire situation, as then Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau Jr., sent the U.S. Coast Guard to escort St. Louis in hope for a change of U.S. policy that would allow the ship to land. Yet, despite the knowledge, certain high ranking officials in the State Department began a secret campaign that was designed to halt any possibility for the war refugees to enter the United States and therefore remain alive.
In January 1940, a longtime personal friend of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Breckinridge Long was appointed Assistant Secretary of State. Long immediately took a tough stance on immigration, facilitating enforcement of the strict immigration laws that had held sway in the U.S. at the time. On June 26, 1940, he issued an internal memo to State Department officials, ordering them to implement strict controls on immigration by means of [putting] “every obstacle in the way, and to resort to various administrative devices which would postpone [indefinitely] the granting of the visas”. Shortly, after taking the office, Long recorded in his diary that FDR was “wholeheartedly in support of the [Long’s immigration] policy”. In 1943, Long testified before the House Foreign Affairs Committee on account of two bills that proposed an establishment of a separate government agency to be in charge of assisting in the rescue of Jewish refugees. He said that such a bill would be a rebuke of the State Department in Wartime. According to the Institute of Wiesenthal, Long “obstructed rescue attempts, drastically restricted immigration, and falsified figures of refugees admitted”. Meanwhile in January of 1942, the “Wannsee Conference” took place in Germany, and the Final Solution plan was set in motion. Led by Adolf Eichmann, it resulted in 6,000,000 innocent victims of the Jewish origin, who were murdered in the gas chambers and otherwise by the bloody machine of the Gestapo division of the SS. The mass murders of Jews had been going on since June 1941; however, the significance of the Wannssee meeting is that for the first time, the extermination plan of the entire nation was officially embraced as part of the Nazi party platform, institutionalized, industrialized and effectively implemented by the headsmen in charge. On August 11, 1942, the American State Department learned of the Nazi ambitious extermination plan. They received a telegram from the World Jewish Congress (WJC) representative in Geneva by Gerhard Riegner. Through his sources, Riegner gained knowledge of the Final Solution, and redirected it through the American consulate to the State Department. It was not until November 1942, that the U.S. Government became convinced of the authenticity of the information and the telegram was released to the press. This telegram was dubbed “Riegner Report”. Following this report, on December 8, 1942, a group consisting of the top leaders of American Jewish Organizations, submitted a memorandum to FDR imploring him to act for protection of the European Jewry, and to prevent further murder of the Jewish people. By the time the memorandum was submitted, it was almost two million Jews of all ages and genders had been murdered by the Nazi war-machine. The document informed the President and warned that if he will not act, five more million Jews will meet the same fate as the two million before them.
Following the official revelation of the “Final Solution”, as well as the news of Nazi atrocities in Europe, both American and British public opinion demanded actions from their respective governments to rescue the victims of the Nazi regime. Both governments succumbed to this pressure and conferred in Bermuda to discuss refugees. Bermuda Conference proved to be inefficient, and a waste of time; by the end of the conference, the members failed to find a solution capable of saving anyone. After seven months of work the committee self-liquidated due to inadequacy. \
The Riegner Report had such disturbing effect on everyone that by February 10, 1943, the State Department instructed its Swiss mission to stop forwarding reports from Jewish organizations. The telegram cited an apparent violation of the neutral countries’ censorship laws; an action that could potentially cost the American government access to these countries’ means of communication for official matters. It appears that if the actions of the executives in the State Department were to be examined when combined, it would reveal a pattern of behavior, a shadow policy aimed at preventing salvation of Jews and other persecuted groups. It is forever speculation, but given the historical record of the persecution of Jews it is not a far-fetched thought that some men of influence in the United States and Great Britain secretly supported the Final Solution viewing it as a way to get rid of all the traditional trouble-making members of the society who lived amid the “civilized”, Christians for hundreds of years, and served a scape-goat for all who needed one for generations.
It was not until January of 1944, that the U.S. Government began to take serious measures, to save Jews from a total annihilation. It occurred following a secret, personal report to FDR from Secretary of the Treasury Henry Morgenthau. He investigated the operations of the State Department, and found many inadequacies in their performance. That aroused his suspicion of deliberate subversion by the State Department’s officials of the relief efforts designed to prevent mass murders in Europe. After enumerating machinations that he discovered, Morgenthau accused the State Department of deliberately stalling WJC’s proposal to evacuate thousands of Jews from Romania and France as well as of the suppression of facts regarding Hitler’s extermination of Jews in Europe. He provided a list of facts that indisputably pointed to a deliberate wrecking of salvation attempts. Morgenthau’s report resulted in the creation of the War Refugee Board by means of an executive order.
The War Refugee Board worked with Jewish organizations, diplomats, and resistance groups in Europe to rescue Jews and assist inmates in concentration camps. It is estimated that the War Refugee Board was responsible for saving at least 200,000 Jews. Yet, one may wonder how many more could have been saved if the rescue effort began sooner.
We as a nation must stand to the challenges presented to us today by global terrorism and high level corruption. If we know our past, we will accurately predict the future and deal wisely with the present. If there is one factor that is common to the Holocaust and to our post 9/11 world is that both epochs are underscored by an utter indifference on the part of all nations in the face of abominable acts of genocide.
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