“American Wartime Indifference to the Plight of the European Jews” by Katherine E. Culbertson

Reference: Hanover College

(29)In April 1943 the Warsaw ghetto was ravaged by revolt. A secret transmitter’s signal relaying the news of the struggle was partially obscured, but two words still reached the outside world: “Save us.”[1] From 1942 until 1945, America and the rest of the Allied world failed to heed that call for help. Armed with complete knowledge of the massacre and resources to alleviate the tragedy, America lacked only the will to spare the lives of millions of Jews and other undesired inhabitants of Hitler’s Europe. To account for its inattention to the problem, the United States unleashed a flurry of excuses. Over the course of the war, the most popular rationalization became the supremacy of war aims over the incidental needs of non-enemy civilians. The frequency and intensity with which American officials invoked this reason reflected the larger mentality implicit in American involvement in World War II. The hardening of warriors to the cries of downtrodden Jews in Europe represented America’s flight from moral responsibility and a retreat from its own standards of humanitarianism. Examining wartime behavior and attitudes in the United States regarding the hapless Jews of Europe dismantles one of the most embedded myths in post-war America, that the United States, as a boundless well of democracy and freedom always outstretching its arms to those seeking refuge, entered the war to in part fulfill that pledge. As Emma Lazarus’s words etched on the Statue of Liberty eloquently promise: “Give us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” Yet as the course of the war proved, the United States slammed its doors shut to six million doomed Jews.

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