American Jewry and the Holocaust

Reference: Shoah Resource Center

When the Nazis rose to power in Germany during the early 1930s, the Jews living in the United States were not prepared to confront the threat to the Jews of Europe. Most Jews in America at that time were either new immigrants themselves or first generation Americans, reluctant to stand up with confidence as citizens with a say in government policies. In addition, American Jewry was not united and lacked a central representative organization like those that existed in other countries. In fact, it could be said that in the 1930s and 1940s there was no one American Jewish community.
Instead, there were small communities that were loosely linked together because they were all Jewish. Partly as a result of the fact that the Jews of America were not unified into one cohesive group with one voice, they were ineffective at rescuing their Jewish brethren in Europe during the Holocaust.

The first evidence of disunity within American Jewry with regard to the Nazi threat was in its failure to agree on how to evaluate that threat when it first reared its head in early 1933. Certain Jewish organizations, like the Jewish Labor Committee, refused to have any dealings with the Nazi government. The American Jewish Committee, which represented the wealthier, more Americanized German Jews, believed that the best way to deal with Hitler was diplomatically and quietly, with behind-the-scenes negotiations. On the other hand, the American Jewish Congress, which represented the less Americanized Eastern European Jewish immigrants, felt that holding protest
rallies, demonstrations, and boycotts was a better way to affect the Nazis.

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