November 21, 2015


Closing the Borders to Refugees: Wrong in the 1930s, and Wrong Today (Jonathan Greenblatt, National Director and CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, 11/19/2015, Huffington Post)

In July 1938 -- three years after the Nuremberg Laws had stripped Jews of German citizenship, deprived them of most political rights, and left hundreds of thousands of Jews seeking international refuge -- Fortune magazine asked Americans, "What is your attitude toward allowing German, Austrian, and other political refugees to come to the U.S.?" Shamefully, more than two thirds said we should keep the refugees out.

In November 1938, Kristallnacht (the "Night of Broken Glass") left windows of Jewish homes and businesses in Germany shattered, synagogues destroyed, 91 Jews murdered, 26,000 deported to concentration camps and hundreds of thousands of Jews now desperate to flee Germany. With news of Kristallnacht as the backdrop, in January 1939 another poll asked whether the U.S. government should permit "10,000 refugee children from Germany -- most of them Jewish -- to be taken care of in American homes." An astounding and shameful 61 percent said no.

In May of 1939 the St. Louis, carrying 937 German refugees -- mostly Jews fleeing the Third Reich -- set sail for Cuba. Most had applied for U.S. visas. Turned away from Cuba, as the St. Louis sailed so close to Florida that the passengers could see the lights from Miami, they appealed to President Roosevelt to give them safe harbor. With public opinion opposed to lifting the stringent immigration quotas or to make an exception for the ship's passengers, the St. Louis returned to Europe. Almost a quarter of the passengers perished in the Holocaust.

Today, the world faces the largest refugee crisis since World War II. Almost 60 million people around the world have been forcibly displaced from their homes. The war in Syria, fueled by the unparalleled brutality of ISIS, is largely responsible for the spike. And once more -- shamefully -- there is a push for the United States to turn a blind eye to the suffering of refugees and shut our doors to those in need.

Posted by at November 21, 2015 10:40 PM