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tv   U.S. Response to Nazi- Era Refugee Crisis  CSPAN  April 7, 2019 11:00pm-12:01am EDT

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2016 election. they have this terrible effect on what passes as news. there is a social effect any political effect of facebook it is enormous. >> monday at 8:00 p.m. eastern on c-span2. > american history tv, the u.s. commission on civil rights posts a copy early 20th century naziration policy and the refugee crisis. they describe how the immigration act of 1924 quart assistant impact of the crisis. she argues the american racism, anti-semitism and xenophobia played a role in limiting the arrival of jews in america. this is about an hour. >> this meeting of the commission comes to order at 1:30 p.m.
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march 20 2, 2019. -- march 20 2, 2019. the meeting takes place at the commission's headquarters. i'm chair catherine lehman. the commissioners are vice chair tennis goodman, that i understand you run the telephone can you confirm? ,>> i am. m of the commission is present. is the staff director present? >> present. >> thank you. the meeting now comes to order. is there a motion to approve the agenda for this meeting? >> salute. >> i second. >> i'll will begin the call for amendments adding one of my own.
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i also look to move the agenda to place the voting items at the top of the agenda. i understand at least one commissioner will need to leave to catch a flight. is there a second for my amendment? >> second. >> thank you. any other amendment? >> i have an amendment. i like to amend the agenda to include a vote on a draft statement i circulated earlier this week from the commission regarding the enforcement of that reinforcement of crimes of white nationalism. >> thank you. is there a second? >> second. > any other amendments? there are none. sorry. i think your microphone is off .
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do you want to turn your microphone on? >> it appears that commissioner yaki's statement was already included in the agenda. >> it is not. >> ok. i would move in my statement be included in the agenda. >> terrific. is there a second? >> second. >> are there any other amendments? none. let's look to approve the agenda as amendment. all those in favor say aye. any opposed? any extensions? the motion passes unanimously. our first item on the agenda -- the next iteration of the commission's speaker series titled "american responses to rise of nazism -- ism and the crisis in the 1930's and 1940's.
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the commission received a tour of the was holocaust memorial museum specifically titled americans in the holocaust. she is the museum's government and external relations director. we very much appreciate her. we are grateful to welcome back dr. rebecca urbelding, who has been an archivist, curator and historian at the united states holocaust memorial museum for 50 -- years. 15 she has been affiliated with the museum for 17 years. she holds a phd from american history from george mason university. was published in april, 2018, and just won thing the 2018 national jewish book award for outstanding writing based on archival material. congratulations. they hurt over two years ago regarding the msa lewis, and we st. louis.
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we are very glad to have her again with us today. the floor is yours. >> i want to thank the commissioners. for anyone listening who did not come as available online for people who can't make it to washington. the exhibit is part of a major new initiative to share new research on the united states during the holocaust and what americans knew and what they did during the nazi era. i am a historian who works in these questions. my role is to present information of the factors that play into american responses to the refugee crisis in the 1930's and 1940's. the context of the period is crucial here. it is not meant as an excuse for inaction nor is it meant to provide a litany of reasons that we can cherry pick from for political purposes to argue why this period of history is similar or different from today. instead, when we look at the u.s. in the 1930's and 1940's, we realize the path is not a
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-- past is not a foreign country. we cannot look back and assume all decisions were clear in the past and that everything is more complicated today. decisions in the 1930's and 1940's, particularly about refugees, about national security, about economic security and the role of responsibilities in america were difficult. americans had various challenges, just as we do today. this is a reality and should not be an excuse just as it should today. before i get into the particular details of the refugee crisis i heard a quote recently i would like to share. in the plot against america, the novel about a dystopian america aligns with nazi germany, he wrote, "the relentless unforeseen is what children studied as history. harmless history were everything unexpected is chronicled on the pages as inevitable. the terror of the unforeseen is what the science of history hides, turning a disaster into
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an epic." we don't want to hide the terror of the unforeseen. we went to resurface it. we want to remind our visitors of it. mainly particularly when we look at the holocaust we have a tendency to read history backwards we have an image of concentration camps in our mind and we skipped too readily to the end of the story. but americans back then don't have those images at hand. they have not seen them. the holocaust has not happened yet. there is no word "genocide," and there would be no word until 1944. it is unforeseen and it will be terrible. . acting orans are choosing not to act without this knowledge. until the 1920's, the united states with open to immigrants without numerical limits so long as they were considered physically, mentally, and morally healthy and would not become a burden on the state. the exception were chinese immigration that was banned after and japanese immigration, 1882, which the japanese government promised to restrict
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in 1907 in order to avoid their own version of the chinese exclusion act. the right to naturalize and become a citizen was still limited to free white persons of character, and after the civil war to african-americans. asian immigrants cannot become citizens until 1952. in the first 15 years of the 20th century, an average of 900,000 persons immigrated to the united states each year. in some years it was over a million people. in fact, the u.s. grew about 1% every year just through immigration. these are the immigrants we tend to picture. people arriving to ellis island waving at the statue of liberty, going and presenting their paperwork in hopes of qualifying for admission. in those 15 years after the 20th first -- of the 20th century, 40% to 50% of those immigrants listed their racial category as either polish, italian or hebrew. during world war i immigration dropped as becomes more
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difficult to leave europe, and by the time the war is over congress becomes determined to limit immigration. there's a confluence of factors that lead to this change. the u.s. becomes deeply first, isolationist after world war i. the senate doesn't approve of president wilson's plan to join the league of nations. throughout the 1920's the usd demilitarize is, valentin ever go to war again. u.s. demilitarize iss, vowing to never go to war again. this results in anti-immigration sentiment. they felt as though the pressure of large numbers of foreign born may pressure the u.s. to intervene in future conflicts. there is the worldwide influenza pandemic in 1919, which led to 650,000 deaths in the united states. america's understand that disease in infiltrating the u.s. from overseas. at the time history books are focused on the closure of the american frontier and wrap american history up in this idea that america had been a place of opportunity for the many. so long as we could expand. but now that the frontier was
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closed, then we get settled from sea to shining sea those , opportunities were going to be limited from now on. there are fears surrounding the russian revolution and there are anarchist terrorists attacks in the u.s., in l.a., on wall street. there are red scares. roundups and deportations of anarchists and labor activists many of whom were jewish or , immigrants or both. perhaps most crucially, the desire to limit immigration was based in eugenic pseudoscience. social darwinism, the idea that biologically some people are better than others, and by cultivating good racial stock america could retain its white protestant so-called superior culture and avoid being soiled by immigrants. eugenics researchers calculated up between 40% and 50% of immigrants were feebleminded. americans read mass-market books which argued there was a superior nordic race responsible
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for all progress in that this race was in danger. or, "the rising tide of color against white supremacy," which is not meant to be demeaning, white supremacy was the ideal. it went through 14 printings in three years. historians have noted that hiller's "mein kampf" book borrows directly from some of these texts and the organizers of eugenics society's began lobbying congress for this change. over the course of 1919, eight unique bills are quick to congress -- for a period of between two and 10 years. in december 1920 the house passes a bill to end all immigration to the u.s. for one year, aimed to provide for the protection of citizens of the u.s. that's why they would end immigration. to protect americans. the vote is bipartisan. 193-41. 41 against.
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it is not close. the senate was unwilling to take up that bill as written, but starts considering an amended version. the idea of national origins is again based in eugenics. eugenicists argued "immigration is an insidious invasion, just as clearly as and works in national conquests as an invading army. the nordic man in its purity has an absolutely fair skin was the ideal. racial mixtures, whether it is between black and white or so-called good and bad immigrants, would only result in lowering the offspring." the ku klux klan, boasting 2.5 million members led a campaign , against catholics and jews and foreigners, calling for a 100% american campaign. these ideas were everywhere. in 1921, for the first time in u.s. history, the u.s. passes a quota law.
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the doors to the u.s. remake opened but immigration is now limited. the opportunity available to immigrants is based on their country of birth, privileging so-called nordic countries. severely limiting visas available to southern and eastern europeans, places where jews and catholics with. -- live. at the last minute the senate rejects a proposed amendment, which would have made a distinction between immigrants and refugees by exempting immigrants who could prove that they were escaping political or racial persecution from these quotas. had this amendment been enacted in 1921, america's response to the refugee crisis in the might have been very different. 1930's for more than two years after the passage of this emergency quota act of the quota 1921, administered at the u.s. border area it is chaos. ships are racing across the atlantic to deliver their passengers before the monthly quotas are filled on ellis island. shipping companies start complaining to congress because they are being fined if they
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deliver immigrants and the quotas of those countries have already been filled. they deal with this congressman albert johnson, who is the chair of the house committee on immigration and a member of the klan, he had written he was once in commerce to bring about a heavy reduction of immigration by any method possible. he proposes a new comprehensive bill, co-authored by senator david reed. johnson is from washington state, reed from pennsylvania. the act of 1924 becomes law on may 24, 1924. it remains u.s. law with very few amendments until 1965. the quota system cap immigration from quota countries. basically all countries outside the western hemisphere. approximately 154,000 people per year. then it give you the number of my country. quotaid not use the word
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the way we do today. instead the quota is the maximum number of immigrants that can enter the upper limit, not the , goal. germany and great britain had the highest portion of the quarter since eugenicists other immigrants as reliably white and protestant and easily assimilated into the u.s. 86% of the quota is reserved for immigrants from northern and western europe. 12% for southern and eastern europe and 2% for elsewhere. some countries had quotas of 100 people per year. the entirety of africa at 1100 quota visas available each year. the johnson-reed act also codifies an asiatic barred zone. the law made exceptions for non-quota immigrants. meeting professors, clergy, rabbis, people born in the western hemisphere. those groups were not numerically limited by the act. to solve the problem of the
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ships racing to ellis island, state department consular officers are responsible for approving the paperwork. applicants had wait in the countries to receive their visas. although all of this happened in the 1920's, 15 years before the refugee crisis, this is when the bulk of the american government's response to that future refugee crisis is decided. the seeds are some long advance of nazism. the refugee crisis is the interesting. immigration is limited, those limits are rooted in racism and anti-semitism. prospective immigrants have to wait in their country. it is a slow, deliberate prices that's not designed to work in a crisis. besides agreeing people playing persecution could be exempt it from a literacy test, there is no differentiation between immigrants and refugees. there is only one process. it will not change until after world war ii. there are no new laws passed to let jews in or keep jews out.
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most of the u.s. government's actions or inactions in the make 1930's sense, at least intellectually when you know these things. for example, i spoke here about the st. louis. most are on the waiting list to obtain visas and are planning to wait in cuba for their turn to come up and present their paperwork. when cuba turned them away, the u.s. does not allow them to enter. we had no refugee or asylum policy. the quota for germany was filled that you're already. anti-immigrant sentiment was still strong. although many americans express sympathy for the refugees, there is no appetite to change the law or make exceptions for them. i just skipped ahead. let's go back for a second. after 1924, the quota is basically filled for a few years.
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the quota allocations are revised in 1929 and the immigration total is lowered from 164,000 total people 153,000. 1929 is also the year of the stock market crash and the beginning of the great depression. as has happened before and since, economic instability in exacerbate anti-immigration sentiment. our unemployment problem was transferred to the united states from foreign lands, a texas senator complained. them, theyefused repeat a serious unemployment problem to harass us. president herbert hoover issues and instruction to the state department to enforce a public charge clause of an older immigration law, forcing the immigrant to prove he or she would never need any sort of public assistance. immigration dropped from 147,000 quota immigrants in 1929 to fewer than 13,000 in 1932.
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1933, there are 8,220 and immigrants. 20 years ago it had been over one million. hitler is appointed chancellor of germany in 1933 and roosevelt takes office a few months later in march. as the front pages of american newspapers spread the word that nazi germany was boycotting jewish businesses and banning and burning subversive books, 25% of the american workforce is unemployed. the labor department, which house the ins, and the state department issues pieces -- that issues visas get into a debate over whether exceptions can be made for german-jewish refugees, and ultimately nothing changes. approximately 90,000 germans sit on the u.s. waiting list. this is the consistent length of the waiting list from 1931 before the nazis take power to 1937. mainly because german jews were escaping locally to kind of germany are traveling wait the
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nazis out. or because they know they can't qualify to come here. between july 1933 and june 1944, the first full quarter year that ear hitler is in power the u.s. , is only issued 4000 visas from germany. roosevelt adjusts the state department's interpretation of this public charge clause in 1933 and again in 1937. as more germans joined the waiting list to get here, they slowly begin to issue more visas. it's clear by 1938 that life in germany is becoming unbearable for jews. in march, germany annexes austria, bringing in another 200,000 jews under german control. thousands wait outside u.s. consulates every day to get on the waiting list for the u.s.
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and suicides skyrocket. only 27,370 people can emigrate each year. roosevelt also called an international conference beyond france.ian, 32 nations attend, most declaring a very the that declaring they are not willing to take any more immigrants, either for economic reasons or they do not have a racial problem and they are not interested in importing a racial problem. the kristallnacht attacks of november 1938 are headline news in the u.s. for 3 weeks, with much larger than the coach of the 1938 midterm elections or the 20th anniversary of the end of world war i. polls showed americans overwhelmingly disapprove of the nazi treatment of jews, but only 21% think the united states should bring in more jewish immigrants. congress is bipartisan in their unwillingness to adjust the immigration laws. the situation is so bad that in
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april 1938, a group of jewish congressmen get together amongst themselves and decide that none of them will introduce any new news legislation to open immigration any further. even having the debate will only lead to bills that will restrict immigration. dozens of those bills are introduced in 1939, from bills to end quota immigration entirely to bills to say that an emigrant's entire family have to be subjected to intelligence tests prior to receiving a visa. none of these bills passed. the few bills the call for opening immigration, none of them do either. the members of congress who favor immigration restriction echo public opinion. in americans are asked if they january 1938, want their member of commerce to open the doors in the united states to more european refugees. only 9% say yes. president roosevelt is a politician.
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he is not a humanitarian. although eleanor continuously refugees, het for prioritizes getting over the depression. it is becoming more and more difficult to physically leave europe. not just because of the quota system and the massive demand on visas, but the german waiting list is over 300,000 people. when september 1, 1939 world war ii begins it becomes , incredibly difficult to physically escape. in october 1938, the month before kristallnacht, 5504 jewish refugees emigrate from europe from 14 different european cities. three years later, the months that nazi germany forbids jewish immigration from its territory, three ships carrying only 100 passengers are able to make the crossing. that was it.
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once the war reaches an area those ports shut down to u.s.-bath transportation. german ports and polish ports close. the spring of ports and the 1940, netherland, belgian, denmark closed u.s.-bound transportation. passenger ships are converted into troop ships. refugees have to get to lisbon if they want to find a ship that can take them to the united states. even after world war ii begins, most americans believe the country will stay out. there was a robust national debate between groups like america first and the committee to defend america by aiding the allies. those debates happen over what america's role should be in the war and in the world. once france falls in june of 1940, many believe the u.s. movie dragged unwillingly into the war. spies and saboteurs possibly disguised as jewish refugees could bring the country down.
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roosevelt capitalizes on this fear in order to urge war preparedness. he says jewish refugees could be trojan horses. their loved ones held hostage in exchange for acts of sabotage. the inf moves from the department of labor to the department of justice. immigration officially goes from a question of economics to question of national security. immigration is restricted even further, and within a year the consulate of the u.s. occupied -- the u.s. consulate in occupied territory is closed. the doors to the united states never officially shut. there is no last ship out of nazi europe. instead many doors were shut on , immigrants all along the way or had bolted closed years before. there are many last ships. many almost made it and hundreds of thousands millions of tragic , stories. we estimate the united states accepted between 180,000 and
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220,000 immigrants fleeing nazism between 1933 and 1945. more than any country in the world. clearly, as i hope you heard from my talks, that is not something we should pat ourselves on the back about. i quoted philip roth with the idea that history is a relentless unforeseen. in the 1920's, the refugee crisis is the unforeseen. with an immigration law based in eugenics, anti-semitism, isolationism, economic insecurity and fear, the american government's response to the crisis that began 15 years later is not surprising. it's important to remember that nazi germany murdered the jews, not the united states. our immigration laws where generous, but america was not homicidal. re however, in the work relentless. in the phase of desperate need the united states did not bend. we do not relent either. thank you very much. >> thank you for the sobering
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talk. really appreciate it i'm open for questions for my fellow commissioners. matter vice chair? >> thank you so very much for joining us. i don't know that i have a question. it's more of a comment. i visited many museums in my time and the holocaust museum that many of us were fortunate to visit today was absolutely incredible. this morning you presented the context, the information, and then the action that was taken. i believe that we can look at -- i took a lot from that. it is a way to look at life in certainly look at the issues that this nation is facing up -- at this time.
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i thank you for causing us to ask questions of ourselves along with much of the information you presented. i will forever take with me the fact that just because an issue, a problem is huge, often even appearing insurmountable, that one need not hesitate to try to do something about it. that small steps are certainly better than no steps. i think that so profound and i thank you very much for doing that for us. madam chair, i thank you for planning and putting this before us. >> thank you.
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>> thank you so much for that presentation. it sounded balanced to me. i'm not a scholar of that period. it sounded very balanced to me. i'm also no scholar of the bible. i seem to remember someone are -- somewhere in there is a line about putting your trust in princes. i want to mention the private citizens who did do some ring. americans like mary jane gold, who is a brilliant character for a novel, i would think. a woman who was the heiress, had spent all her life on frivolity. but when the holocaust came, she was there and she helped. and women like marion davenport. an art student in france. the other one i was trying to think of was lois gundan. if you have any comment about
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it is women three-month, and one of the things i pointed out to the commissioner -- it is women's history month, and one of the things i pointed out to the commissioner, social work was a very gendered profession at the time and a lot of the refugee aid organizations were headed by and run by women. that is very important to note. mary jane golden and miriam davenport were crucial to the successful of the operation in southern france. a journalist who gets appointed in 1940, leaves in august, 1940 get 2000ry to intellectuals, or writers, artists, many of them were jewish, some who were political opponents of the nazis, out of france. he does so in spectacular fashion over the course of the year and a half, working with these women in france. miriam davenport was an art student evaluating the artist to see these unknown names, were they good enough to qualify for
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one of these limited visas? lois gunden was also amazing. she was a french teacher in indiana and a mennonite. her community asked her to go overseas to southern france to be in charge of a children's home. there were children of spanish republicans whose families have lost the civil war and had gone into france, and jewish children whose parents were in internment camps. would she go and head a children's home? in two months before pearl october 1941, harbor, she goes across the ocean. there were very few ships crossing west. she goes in east. she goes into an area that almost certainly was going to be a war zone. ssone point, she tells the that they cannot come into the home. she has been named righteous among the nations.
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and in the fall of 1942, she's arrested and interned in nazi germany for over a year, along with american diplomats and quakers who were still doing relief work in southern france. she's amazing. she goes back to the united states in 1944 and she keeps teaching high school french. does not make a big deal about this. this is not -- and that is one of the consistent things you see in rescuers and you see in people who make an effort to help. they do not see this as a big deal. they don't see any other way to do it. this is what you do. when people are in need, this is what you do. >> thank you. >> yes, i want to let people know if you have not seen the exhibit, it's incredibly well done. very powerful. particularly linking in the voices of everyday americans,
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and where they stood on the issues. so thank you very much. i have to say it was actually a very tough exhibit for me because of the echoes of the internment of my parents. think it is very important for everyone to see. i did think that one of the things that struck me was nearly end of the exhibit, there is the discussion of the kids who at the very end were allowed to come to the united states, but then held behind barbed wire basically. so i'd like to hear more about that story, how they got there, and how they were finally released, because i feel like the commission is looking now at the detention and separation of families and their kids at our southern border, and when we saw the pictures, many of the commissioners reacted the same way, that it was very reminiscent to us of what's
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happening today. >> beginning in january 1944, the u.s. has a policy of rescue and release. aere is a war refugee board, government agency tasked with trying to do this. two months later, in march, the war refugee board writes a memo arguing we should establish refugee camps here in the u.s., bring jews here to stay for the duration of the war. they can go back after the war, but they should be held in safety here. they argue that should happen because we cannot let the nazis say that, point out our hypocrisy, saying we care so much about the jews but never offered to receive these people. to gets about two months the rest of the government to agree with them. they launch a propaganda campaign, getting friendly newspaper columnists to talk about how great it would be if we could have a refugee camp here. 1944, they june
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convince roosevelt to unilaterally announce that this will happen. they can only have one camp, and only bring about 1000 people here, and they need to find an emergency to convince roosevelt this is necessary. they find an emergency. they realize that the u.s. military is actively turning away rickety wooden boats of refugees trying to make it from yugoslavia. to allied occupied territory in italy. they are turning them away because they are saying that these territories are full and the allied armies need to be pressing on and they cannot be taking care of people. so they convince roosevelt to rescind that order, saying that the u.s. will take anyone who makes it from yugoslavia to italy, and also to relieve some of the pressure from the camps, we will bring 1000 refugees from allied occupied italy to the united states. more than 900 of the refugees are jewish, and represent 18
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different nationalities. they are kept in ford, ontario, old war ofario, an 1812 fort on the banks of lake ontario, which is now under consideration to become a national park. incorporating both the history america's wars and the site of the only refugee camp in the u.s. bureaucratically, it is run by the war relocation authority, the same agency that was running japanese interment camps and it is staffed by the same people. bureaucratically this is how it worked out. under the department of labor. so these refugees arrived in august 1944 and they are kept in the camp until january 1946. when they are finally released, since you can't change your immigration status in the u.s., they get on buses to canada, register at the consulate at niagara falls, and then reenter as legal immigrants.
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as i said, the kids are able to attend public school, but the parents can't work outside the camp or spend any time outside the camp, even to visit relatives who may have immigrated sooner or see sons and daughters serving in the who immigrated and joined up. the parents were not allowed to leave until 1946. otheranted to note one of crossover. you talked about the religious groups who stood up, including the quakers. the quakers were really one of the few who really stood up for justice for americans who were interned, and visited the camps, so just a shout out to quakers. >> commissioner, you may not be on mute, if you could meet your phone, we would appreciate it. i was really struck, at the beginning of your talk, when you said the past is not a foreign
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country, and that's why we have the speaker series, to ask us to consider the lessons of the past and how they apply today. an extraordinary visit at the museum. and also i think we should take a moment to consider that framework. for now, your work, your presentation today, your was enormously painful to listen to and witness, and i want to say thank you to you, for that work, and for helping each of us to remember why we are here on the commission, why we do what we do. i thank you, and i understand the commissioner has a question, now that he is on mute. muted now?n
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>> yes. >> thank you very much. i am really sorry i didn't get a chance to see the exhibit today, but i hope i will in the future. it is something that every person i think you comes to washington, d.c. should go to. more to do with how the past is prologue. i wanted to get your assessment, if you can give it, on the resurgence of anti-semitism worldwide, and even in this country. cemetery was just vandalized a couple days ago in massachusetts, including with wordsymbology and
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scribbled on headstones. you see this and you think about the role the holocaust museum plays, what are your thoughts as you see the world as it is right now? still having the seeds and the feelings that are out there that we thought we had extinguished over 50 years ago? >> i would say i don't necessarily think we had extinguished it 50 years ago and i think the holocaust museum, my colleagues in particular, have always been aware that anti-semitism and white supremacy has stayed part of our culture, unfortunately. i think one of the things you
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see is when hitler's appointed chancellor of germany, you don't see an uprise in german citizens protesting his anti-semitism. you don't see them taking to the streets in defense of their jewish neighbors. few and far between does anyone stand up. and i think that reminds us that when we see acts of anti-semitism and when we see white supremacy, this is something we can do that can change that equation. we can stand up and we can do something about it. our role, the museum's role we feel is in education. after charlottesville, we put out a glossary of terms of signs and terms and symbols of hate speech to remind people the symbols and the signs the marchers used in charlottesville are not new, but these were people deeply immersed in nazi ideology and they are deploying
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it in the same propagandistic and weat the nazis did, should be aware of that and aware of where this rhetoric is coming from, and the hatred bound up in it from the beginning. >> thank you. >> commissioner. >> yes, thank you very much for the presentation. one of the pieces of the exhibit is morning i thought was interesting was the extent to which it explored a distance in time between what our government came to know about what was happening in germany and across europe and what the plans were and when the american public came to have a broader understanding of the atrocities. i was wondering if you could comment on that and help us understand what the historical record has revealed on those points?
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>> what we see is that all along, americans have information. know prettyy accurate information about book burning, about boycotts of jewish stores, attacks on jews in the streets of germany as long as there are journalists and diplomats in nazi-occupied territories. americans are getting this information in newspapers. and this is a time when there are foreign correspondents, multiple foreign correspondents, at least 75 for different newspapers, different american newspapers who are in berlin reporting live, what is happening. so americans can read it. whether they consider this part of their concern isa different question, but they have this information. consulates close and reporters slowly start leaving nazi territory. after pearl harbor, the few
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american journalists still in germany are rounded up and interned, and have to be prisoner exchange out. december 1941 is also the date the extermination camp opens. first the holocaust really ramps up at the exact same time that american journalists are leaving foreign territory or being kicked out, or being interned. so the first reports coming out about mass murder, or a town being rounded up and shot are coming out second and third hand, coming up to the soviets, through the polish government in exile, which is in britain. and americans are unsure about that. they are unsure whether this is just what happens in war. the enemy is always murdering women and children. that is how people get americans to fight, how you get anybody to fight. you demonize the enemy. so americans remember back to world war i, and of the atrocity rumors that they later thought
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were false, and they think that's possibly what's happening here, too. so in 1942, the american government, the state department, gets word there is a nazi plan to murder all the jews in europe. that becomes public information in november. but largely americans are, either don't know what to do, or are busy. they are going to work for the first time. they are trying to make up for the absence of husbands and fathers and sons. who are all fighting. they are concerned about the war. they may have information, but it doesn't translate, for most people it doesn't translate to concerted efforts on that front. it becomes, if anything, an act extra determination to win the war, but not to rescue. very few people, really no one, advocates diverting resources from the war toward humanitarian aid if it will prolong the war.
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no one is advocating prolonging the suffering of allied soldiers or the fight of allied soldiers in exchange for trying to rescue people. nor does anyone have a concept of how that would happen, anyway. you very much for the morning and this afternoon. i found it excellent. along the lines of the commissioner's question, this morning, and i got it wrong because i wasn't taking notes then, like i am now, diligently. you mentioned something about the press and the american public finding things out, and there was the exhibit with everything. inalso had our ambassador, the 1930's in germany, and then you said something about facts --ome knowledge, becomes
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when did all that occur, in a timeline, if you can? and i am sorry that i don't remember all three or four of the subjects, but i am sore she will -- sure she will be able to repeat them now. [laughter] >> i think what i was talking about, you can read something and not internalize it. so you might have the information, but it doesn't mean you understand it, and doesn't necessarily mean at this time you believe it. and then, it is the biggest jump, i think, is from knowledge and understanding to believe, translating that into some sort of productive action to deal with what you have read. to some extent, it is because we have short attention spans, and without knowledge of the future, we don't know where to look. are we looking at venezuela? are we looking at syria? are we looking at myanmar? where is the next atrocity going to break out? the museum does a lot trying to predict that.
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but as an average consumer, it is hard to know. but that doesn't mean that we have the excuse not to act. so that i think is the gaps we need to jump. in this history, the press report things, as we went over, at various points the information is perceived by most americans to be accurate, or perhaps inaccurate, or perhaps rumor. people believe it and take action at different points, and that's entirely based on the individual. who you are, what your community is doing and saying, and your personal belief and set of values. some people are taking to the streets in 1933, and then don't pay attention again until 1945. some are in 1938 trying to sponsor a refugee, going to extraordinary lengths. some people are going to europe. people are responding and making that leap from information to
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action at different points. for most americans, they probably do not understand or believe the holocaust until 1944, 1945. they needed to, see it in order to understand what is happening. >> and the government chose to take a different path? >> the government, well, the government is not a monolith. so you could say the state department takes, clearly takes a different path from the treasury department. the state department is all-in, and department is all-in, on the idea we should just win the war as soon as possible to not divert resources. the treasury department favors a yes-and approach, that we can win the war but also administer humanitarian aid, try to rescue people, and that won't divert resources from the war effort. the treasury department wins out in that debate in 1944, and that's why the u.s. has a rescue
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operation set up in january 1944 that saves tens of thousands of lives before the end of the war. most of those people who are saved have no idea that the u.s. government is behind any of that work, but they are. . andmoment in which u.s government response takes a turn, the moment when the treasury department starts to win the argument, is a really interesting moment in u.s. history that they are successful in their argument that we can divert some resources, that our actions can match our rhetoric about democratic values. >> and was there ever, and i apologize for asking too many questions again, was, what was the turning point that got treasury to win? how did they convince the powers that be? >> there are a couple things at play. there's a resolution in congress
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calling for some sort of rescue response. there are activists advocating. there's even an orthodox rabbi march on washington advocating for a rescue response. andy treasury department lays out a case against the state department, a case that they have been to liberally delaying humanitarian aid that could be going and helping people, saying that we could do it and then delaying their approval. that they are deliberately keeping information about atrocities from the u.s. so, they aregue that basically if we don't do something now, we might as well black out the statue of liberty, because we will be forever complicit in the murder of the jews of europe. that's a very powerful thing, for the secretary of treasury to hear and then to take to the president, that your legacy will be forever sullied if we don't do something. >> thank you.
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when you areer, not speaking, if you could mute your line, it would make it easier for us to hear. >> thank you, madam chair. thank you for speaking to us. >> i have been on mute since my last comment. making someone else is noises. i apologize for casting aspersions on your muteness. >> i believe they are coming from jeff. could you mute your line when you are not speaking? >> thank you for speaking to us for a second time here about lessons we can learn from the holocaust. i was very lucky to have as a professor a hero from world war ii, don carsten. when i was an undergraduate at georgetown. can you mention the role he played, and how important that was, especially after the questions we had. >> he is a polish resistance
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fighter, who's smuggled into the warsaw ghetto to witness what is jews, and it outside of a belgian extermination camp. he is then smuggled to london, where he talks to british government officials and to the united states, with the help of the polish government in exile. he meets with roosevelt for about one hour, in july 1943, to discuss what he is seeing in poland, not just what's happening to jews, but let's happening in poland. he explains what he has seen in the warsaw ghetto. within the span of a year, he goes from being in the ghetto to being in the oval office, explaining to roosevelt what is happening. at the end of their meeting, he asks roosevelt, so what are we going to do about this? a 27-year-old polish man, in the oval office, probably intimidated, asking the
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president, the most powerful man in the world, what are we going to do? roosevelt says, we are going to win the war. that is consistent u.s. policy for this entire period. we are going to win the war as soon as possible. that is how we will stop all the killing, not just the murder of jews, but all the killing. finally, six months later, roosevelt signed the executive refugeetablishing a war board and a dedicated rescue response. roosevelt, because he doesn't live to see liberation, he doesn't live to write his memoirs, doesn't live to reflect in a post holocaust world, we don't know what his motivations really are for establishing the war refugee board. we don't know why that change happens in him. jan karski is in the back of his mind, remembering that meeting, it certainly had an effect on him, because he orders him to go see other government officials and to tell
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his story. so roosevelt is at least clearly moved by what he heard, even if he doesn't say that rescue is possible. whether that is still on his mind six months later when he creates the war refugee board is hard to say, but it is certainly a pivotal moment, and a pretty incredible moment to happen. >> commissioner? >> one factual clarification. at that point, when there is the turning point between the treasury department and the department of state, what is the best understanding of how many jews had been killed in europe? >> between 4.5 million and 5 million had already been killed. >> and picking up on the questions of my colleagues, are there other names of individuals who carried the debate forward for treasury, who we should be aware of historically, the people who got in the trenches and said the united states must do something, just share their
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names with us for the record? >> john paley, assistant secretary of the treasury. josiah dubose. randolph paul, general counsel of treasury. these are major figures in this history. thanks. >> commissioner? >> thank you, madam chair. you mentioned a lot of executive branch individuals involved in this. what, if any, individuals in congress could you highlight as being advocates for greater refugee influx, doing anything? were there factions in congress? it was notably absent from much of the discussion we had. you would think there might be more involvement from the legislative branch. >> sure. i talked earlier today about a bill for child refugees sponsored by robert wegner, democrat from new york, and edith north rogers, republican
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from massachusetts. that effort is bipartisan. emmanuel seller, a democrat from brooklyn, is a constant voice on behalf of refugees. amuel dickstein as well, also new york democrat. thenuel seller is, hart-seller act that replaces the johnson-reed immigration ler, is after emmanuel sel 20 years after the holocaust finally overturning the immigration act. a career for him spent advocating on behalf of more immigration to the u.s. there are a lot of the senators and congressmen who have become involved in pushing roosevelt for a rescue response, they tended to not be long-term senators, so they are not names
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we know. but will rogers junior, a democrat in california. i think he was a democrat, sorry. you actually do have to remember which party people are from, because immigration and refugee matters are bipartisan. , bothisan for and against camps. it was not a party issue at the time. so i believe he was a democrat, from california. he was in congress for less than five years, but he really leads the charge in terms of pushing for a resolution calling on roosevelt to do more to rescue. >> thank you very much for your presentation. i thank you and also the holocaust museum for hosting us today and sharing expertise. we will take a 10-minute recess and come back at 2:40.
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look forward to that. thanks. [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2019] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit] >> you are watching american history tv, 48 hours of programming on american history, every weekend on c-span3. follow us on twitter for information on our schedule and to keep up with the latest history news. tv was simply three giant networks and a government-supported service called pbs. then, in 1979, a small network with an unusual name rolled out big ideas. let viewers decide all on their own what was important to them. c-span opens the door to washington policymaking for all to see, bringing you unfiltered content from congress and beyond. in the age of power to the people, this was true people power. in the 40 years since, the
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