Night of Broken Glass (02:17)
Kurt Klein received a note from his parents, Ludwig and Alice Klein, one week after their home was invaded. Synagogues, businesses, and homes of German Jews were destroyed and thousands were arrested and sent to prison camps. Many Jewish people viewed America as a safe haven.
Germany After Kristallnacht (05:36)
In 1935, Hitler passed the Nuremberg Laws, robbing many Jews of their jobs, savings, and property. Klein and his siblings immigrated to America with the expectation of one day bringing their parents, but the number of Jews seeking to escape Germany overwhelmed the consulates. Franklin Delano Roosevelt publicly condemned Kristallnacht.
American Anti-Semitism (05:27)
Prejudiced laws limited the number of non-British immigrants that could enter the United States. Many feared immigrants would steal jobs and destroy the American way of life. A bill that would allow Jewish child refugees to immigrate outside of the restrictive quotas met with harsh opposition.
Racism at Home and Abroad (06:22)
Ludwig and Alice were forced to abandon their home as the Nazis' campaign against the Jews intensified. Nazi demonstrations in America terrified the public, leading to greater antisemitism; Jews frequently faced discrimination.
No Asylum for Jewish Refugees (05:24)
Though the New Deal created jobs within government agencies for many Jewish people, the State Department remained largely anti-Semitic. Some German Jews tried to immigrate to Cuba, but the country refused to honor visas. Others tried to flee to Palestine, but the British limited Jewish immigration to maintain Arab oil relations.
Scapegoating the Hebrew Population (03:58)
Hitler blamed the Jews for inciting war in Europe. Breckinridge Long used fear of Nazi sympathizers and spies in the United States to implement anti-immigration policies. Kurt lost contact with his parents following the American consulate's reversal of previous approvals to emigrate.
French Internment (02:22)
In October 1940, Kurt learned his parents were deported with no passports to Vichy, France. The French placed many Jewish refugees in detention camps, where they lived in huts and were chronically underfed. Leaving France required all documentation to be completed within four months or the process would need to be begun again.
Difficulties for the Hebrew Population (06:01)
Long moved all visa review decisions to Washington D.C., effectively shutting down immigration. The Klein children again started trying to bring Ludwig and Alice to America. Rabbi Stephen Wise led Jewish demonstrations against Nazi persecution.
Atrocities and Declaration of War (09:17)
As Hitler's forces invaded Russia, they implemented a policy of killing those deemed undesirable. The State Department initially paid little attention to leaked plans for the Holocaust,but eventually allowed Wise to go public. Klein was drafted into the U.S. Army; letters to his parents were returned.
Making the Holocaust Visible (09:05)
Wise and other Jewish leaders brought the Nazis' plans to President Roosevelt. Ben Hecht was commissioned to write a protest pageant to draw attention to the plight of the Jews. The State Department suppressed news from Europe and held a false rescue conference in Bermuda, demoralizing the Jewish people.
American Government Under Fire (04:54)
The U.S. government's policy of not rescuing Jews was challenged on two fronts. The Treasury Department began investigating a delay by the State Department to grant a wartime license to ransom 70,000 Romanian Jews. The Bergson group led a demonstration in Washington D.C., calling for the establishment of a government rescue agency.
Cover-up in Wartime America (08:39)
The Bergson group introduced legislation which would create a government rescue agency. The Treasury Department uncovered the State Department's suppression of information and delivered a report to the president; Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9417.
Finally a Government Rescue Agency (05:43)
The War Refugee Board faced difficulties from other government agencies. One proposal to bomb the gas chambers at Auschwitz was denied on the grounds of bombers being unable to safely fly in the area. The Board successfully rescued 200,000 Jews.
Klein at the War's End (05:19)
In a small Czechoslovakian town, America forces freed 120 Jewish women from a factory where they had been abandoned by S.S. troops. Gerda Weissmann served as Kurt's guide to the camp and would later become his wife. After the war, Kurt learned that Ludwig and Alice were sent toward Auschwitz in 1942 and were not recorded among those recovered.
America and the Holocaust: Credits (01:29)
America and the Holocaust: Credits
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