America and the Holocaust

I. American society in the 1920's and 30's

A. More rural, less mobile

B. Fear of foreigners

C. An overtly racist society

D. Jews in American society

II. American views of Germany, 1933-1918

A. Admiration for Hitler's economic recovery program and anticommunism

B. Seeking a rational explanation for antisemitism

1. Temporary scapegoats

2. Blaming the victims

3. Antisemitism as a smokescreen for something else

B. Nuremberg laws, 1935

1. Subsumed under other stories

C. The Olympic Games: 1936

1. A propaganda triumph for Germany

2. Awarded to Germany 1931 (pre-Nazi)

3. Germans assured Committee Jews would not be banned; an obvious untruth by 1935

4. Some press reactions

5. Newspapers call for a boycott

6. Jesse Owens' victory vindicates American decision to participate

D. Annexation of Austria and Kristallnacht: 1938

1. Refugee crisis: Conference at Evian

a. Dedicated to avoiding refugees

b. Press reactions

2. Kristallnacht

a. Hampered by the Neutrality Act

E. June 1939: The St. Louis

1. Map of the Voyage

2. List of passengers

2. Press reactions

III. Invasion of Poland to Pearl Harbor: 1939-1941

A. Fears of the Fifth Column

B. Immigration doors slam shut

IV. The Final Solution

"Newspapers are read at the breakfast and dinner tables. God's great gift to man is appetite. Put nothing in the paper that will destroy it." -- W.R. Nelson, publisher of the Kansas City Star

"There's an old saying in journalism. You say your mother loves you. Check it out." John Chancellor

A. Secrecy of the mass murder program

1. Official German denials

2. Scepticism affects coverage

3. Jews universalized as "refugees"

4. Reports too fantastic to be believed

B. First reports

1. Concentration on Western Europe; caution about the East

2. Repatriated reporters

3. Confirmation: June 1942 -- Polish government in exile in London report

4. Allied confirmation: November 1942

5. News leaks out in bits, then when put together, seen as old news

V. Persistent disbelief

A. Atrocity stories are mere propaganda

1. By December 1944 76% of Americans believed that many people had been murdered in concentration camps
2. Did not know the method or the scope

B. Doubts partly the fault of press coverage during the war

1. Babi Yar in 1943

C. Universalizing the victims

1. Poles, Russians, or "innocent civilians"
2. British afraid of pressure to open Palestine

a. Official policy to call them "political refugees"
Moscow Declaration, Fall 1943

D. Failure to grasp the intent of Nazism

1. "It's as though they realized a battle had taken place against innocent civilians but did not understand what war it was part of." Lipstadt
2. Could not link Babi Yar, Maidanek, and other sites

E. Fall 1944: The news of Auschswtiz

1. John Pehle,War Refugee Board, released documentation to press after Allies refused to bomb the gas chambers
2. Made
headlines everywhere

F. Jewish lives a cheap commodity

VI. Lessons Learned?

A. Bosnia, 1992-1995

B. Elie Wiesel's Dedication Speech, 1993