Friends of Padre Steve’s World,
There are times that I wish I had never become a historian, as then I could simply ignore history and its relationship to current events. Likewise I know that there are many people in this country who will call me all sorts of names for writing this post, but I can do no other. Thankfully, the U.S. Holocaust Museum which is committed to the truth about the Holocaust and genocide, agrees with me regarding the Syrian refugees.
When I see the way that many in the United States and Europe are reacting to the Syrian refugees, I am reminded just how we turned our back on another group of victims of state sanctioned murder and discrimination in the 1930s. When I see politicians, preachers, and pundits railing against the immigration of these current victims of war and terror, I can see in them the faces of the Jews who attempted to flee the Nazis, but were rebuffed by so many nations, including the United States.
In 1939 the United States and the world turned their backs on what most euphemistically described as the Jewish Question, or the Jewish Problem. It was not hard for them to did, their hearts had been prepared for decades not to do anything by the same kind of anti-Jewish propaganda, and race hatred that the Nazis promoted in Germany. Leading American industrialists like Henry Ford wrote article after article promoting the idea that Jews were behind manipulations of the world financial markets that the Jews controlled the banks, that the Jews were behind radical political movements, and that Jews used diplomacy to bring about wars that Christian fought in order that they might profit. Ford’s articles were published in his newspaper, the Dearborn Independent and collectively were known as The International Jew: The World’s Foremost Problem. The articles were later published in a variety of languages and disseminated widely in the United States and abroad. They are still in the public domain and be found on the websites of many neo-Nazi and White Supremacy groups. Ford and his paper promoted the falsehoods of the anti-Jewish forgery called The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, Through them, millions of Americans had their minds poisoned and believed that the Jews were both sub-human and an enemy.
Despite the support of President Franking Roosevelt for increased immigration quotas for Jews the vast majority of Americans wanted nothing to do with them. The country was still trying to pull itself out of the great Depression, jobs were scarce, isolationism was in vogue, and polls showed that 83% of Americans opposed relaxing immigration restrictions. Even allowing Jewish children into the country was opposed. A proposal to allow 10,000 Jewish children into the country was opposed by 61% of respondents in a Gallup poll released on January 20th 1939, months after the events of Kristallnacht. In June of 1939, over 900 Jewish refugees aboard the SS St. Louis were denied entrance into the country and sent back to Europe.
Of those who succeeded in getting out many faced prejudice and hatred in the nations that they fled. Most had nothing more than the clothes on their back and were faced with discrimination in terms of employment, housing, and civil liberties. The British government limited immigration not only to Britain but Palastine, many of the refugees were placed in British detention camps, where most remained throughout the war. Because they were German Jews they were considered potential enemies.
When war came in September 1939 immigration became immensely more difficult, and after the United States entered the war, virtually impossible. As a result nearly six million Jews were exterminated by the Nazis. I wonder how many more innocent people will die this time because the west turns its back on them just as it did in 1939.
For years there have been Americans and others who have been demonizing all Moslems as if they were terrorists. Major political figures, prominent preachers, and nationally syndicated, radio, television, internet, and print pundits have created a narrative that makes all Moslems the enemy, and blames them for the acts of terrorists
It is actually a brilliant plan that DAESH has concocted. Commit acts of terror, like that in Paris, which the American and other western politicians, pundits and preachers can use to further alienate Moslems, and use to reject the refugees, and to roll back the civil liberties of Moslem citizens. Donald Trump and many others are already suggesting such actions. Our history shows that we will do this, just remember what we did to Japanese Americans in World War Two.
Of course, once another major terror attack happens in the United States you can bet that these cries will become louder and that some people will commit acts of violence against innocents Moslems, their businesses, and their places of worship.
I fear that day as much as any terrorist attack.