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The Holocaust History Project.

The Holocaust History Project.

The Response of the United States

One of the questions that we frequently hear is about how the United States reacted to the Holocaust. Our answer is not a happy one. During World War II the United States took virtually no action to impede the Holocaust or rescue the victims from the concentration camps even though both Great Britain and the United States knew about that genocide. Such proposals as bombing the rail system that brought victims to Auschwitz was rejected. The United States even refused to admit the few Jews who were able to escape Europe. One historian has labeled the failure of the United States to aid the Jews of Europe as the greatest single failure of Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

There are many reasons why no attempt was made to aid the Jews of Europe. Part of the reason is anti-Semitism in the United States. Anti-semitism was much more prevalent than it is today. Congressman such as Senator Bilbo of Mississippi and bureaucrats such as Breckinridge Long who was in charge of refugees at the U.S. Department of State, did not help because they did not want to help. This anti-Semitism also impeded Jewish groups who were afraid of provoking their enemies if they protested too much.

Those who defend the failures of the United States think that there was little that really could be done. They point out that the real genocide did not begin until the United States was at war with Germany. Under those circumstances, they think that the best way to halt the Holocaust was to defeat Nazi Germany as quickly as possible.

Where to Start Your Research

There are many books that you can consult to find more information. Three books on the failure of the Allies to react to the Holocaust are:

  • Martin Gilbert, Auschwitz and the Allies, Holt, Reinhart and Winston, New York (1981)

  • Arthur Morse, While Six Million Died

  • David Wyman, The Abandonment of the Jews, Pantheon, New York (1984)

A defense of the actions of the Allies can be found in:

  • Lucy Dawidowicz, What is the Use of Jewish History?

A balanced view of the arguments which also includes decriptions of other sources can be found in:

  • Michael Marrus, The Holocaust in History

Finally, a description of how the survivors of the Holcaust were treated by the United States after the war can be found in:

  • Leonard Dinnerstein, America and the Survivors of the Holocaust, University of Columbia Press (1982)

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Last modified: December 3, 2006
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