The US and the Holocaust

Hermann Göring, picture of Adolf Hitler, Charles A. Lindbergh, and Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Just to make it clear this post is not meant as an accusation or finger-pointing. I am forever grateful for what the US and especially the US Army has done for my country, the outcome of World War II would have been more than likely completely different, without the intervention of the US.

However, this doesn’t mean I shouldn’t highlight the mistakes made by the US when it comes to the Holocaust. There is this myth that the US didn’t know how bad the Nazis really were. But they were told long before the war started and even a few months before they were drawn into it.

Otto Frank had requested a Visa for the United States in 1938 which was denied. On 30 April 1941, Otto Frank send a letter to his American friend Nathan Straus Jr. (whose friends called him “Charley”), the son of the founder of Macy’s department stores. The two men had met more than 30 years earlier, while Frank was in college in Heidelberg, and had become close friends.

April 30, 1941

Dear Charley,
…I am forced to look out for emigration and as far as I can see the U.S.A. is the only country we could go to. Perhaps you remember that we have two girls. It is for the sake of the children mainly that we have to care for. Our own fate is of less importance. Two brothers of Edith emigrated last year and they work as ordinary workmen around Boston. Both of them earn money, but not enough to have us come.

They would be able to give an affidavit for their mother, living with us here, and they saved enough as, far as I can make out, to pay the passage for my mother-in-law…

In 1938 I filed an application in Rotterdam to emigrate to the U.S.A. but all the papers have been destroyed there…The dates of application are of no importance any longer, as everyone who has an effective affidavit from a member of his family and who can pay for his passage may leave. One says that no special difficulties shall be made from the part of the German Authorities. But in the case that an affidavit from family members is not available or not sufficient the consul asks for a bank deposit. How much he would ask in my case I don’t know. I am not allowed to go to Rotterdam and without an introduction, the consul would not even accept me. As far as I hear from other people it might be about $5,000. – for us four. You
are the only person I know that I can ask Would it be possible for you to give a deposit in my favor?”

The title of the post is taken from the Ken Burns documentary, a 3 part series. which explores the US response to the Nazi persecution of Jews, but, at six hours long, has enough room to extend its remit to other countries’ attitudes towards immigration and refugees (the UK is not spared). The first episode, The Golden Door, is bookended by both the Statue of Liberty and Anne Frank’s family. In 1934, the Franks fled Germany and moved to Amsterdam, along with hundreds of other Jewish families. Their intention was to reach the US. Coyote recounts solemnly that they found that “most Americans did not want to let them in”.

The miniseries begins in 1933, covering the national culture of the U.S. before World War II and the Holocaust, including topics such as antisemitism, racism, the eugenics movement and how Nazi Germany used Jim Crow laws in the American South as models for its own racial policy, including the Nuremberg Laws and other pieces of antisemitic legislation. Through interviews with Holocaust survivors, historians and witnesses, as well as through historical footage, the series examines the U.S. response to the rise of Adolf Hitler and the Holocaust.

The documentary will be televised on BBC 4 on Monday, January 23.



1 Comment

  1. Herman Goering spread race hate in Germany and its satellite countries. Charles Lindberg had an equally receptive audience in the US.


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