Just what we need. Another member of the Tribe circuitously invoking the Holocaust(tm) to increase non-Western, non-Christian immigration into the U.S. In Politico, Josh Zeitz (ahem) argues (though I’m not sure it’s an argument of any sorts) that “Yes, It’s Fair to Compare the Plight of the Syrians to the Jews”:
Last week, Peter Schulman [ahem – Ed.], an associate professor of American history at Case Western Reserve University, caused a political stir when he tweeted results from a Fortune Magazine poll dated July 1938. “What’s your attitude towards allowing German, Austrian & other political refugees to come into the US?” Fortune asked its survey audience. Over two-thirds of respondents answered in the negative.
Shulman’s tweet went viral, igniting a spirited debate about whether opposition to welcoming Syrian refugees is morally or situationally equivalent to American indifference in the 1930s toward Jewish victims of the Nazi state…
So is the analogy a good one? In short, yes. Contrary to what conservatives are saying these days, language commonly invoked in opposition to admitting Syrian refugees bears striking similarity to arguments against providing safe harbor to Jewish refugees in the late 1930s. Then as now, skepticism of religious and ethnic minorities and concerns that refugees might pose a threat to national security deeply influenced the debate over American immigration policy. For conservatives, this likeness is an inconvenient truth.
An inconvenient truth, yes.
Although the 1938 Fortune poll did not specifically mention Jews, most Americans at the time likely understood that roughly 70 percent of Austrian and German refugees were, in fact, Jewish. Months later, when Sen. Robert Wagner (D-New York) and Rep. Edith Nourse Rogers (R-Massachusetts) introduced legislation that would lift immigration caps to admit 10,000 refugee children to the United States, the Nation acknowledged a “sotto voce” understanding that “this is a Jewish bill.”
Was it not, in essence, a Jewish bill? Given the context of the bill, and the sponsors of the bill, wouldn’t it be accurate to describe the bill as a Jewish bill? Wouldn’t this be as accurate as describing what might emerge from recent Congressional debates on Syrian refugees a ‘Syrian bill’?
Zeitz doesn’t answer.
Some conservatives reject the analogy between the 1930s and today because, as David Frum argued recently in the Atlantic, “there were fewer concerns, if any, about whether [Jewish] asylum-seekers had joined a terrorist organization, or shared the liberal, democratic values of the West, or could contribute productively to the economy, or were bringing children who might grow up to be alienated from society and susceptible to radicalization.”
Frum’s argument would be compelling if only it were true. In fact, popular anti-Semitism in the 1930s was chiefly predicated on most of these concerns.
Frum is correct here. But lest it be forgotten that East European Jewish immigrants had, how shall we say it, a penchant for radicalism. Upon their arrival to U.S. shores, vis-à-vis NYC boroughs, this group quickly began radicalizing and organizing on behalf of socialism and communism. Shortly thereafter, European Jews emigrated yet again to Hollywood, where they became cheerleaders for U.S. involvement in WW2.
In February 1942, just two months after the attack on Pearl Harbor, a national poll asked respondents to identify the national, ethnic or religious groups that are a “menace [threat] to this country.” Unsurprisingly, 24 percent identified Japanese-Americans and 18 percent volunteered German-Americans. Jews ranked third, at 15 percent. Three years later, in 1945, the same question yielded more arresting results: 24 percent identified Jews as the most menacing ethnic group in America, ahead of the Japanese (9 percent) and Germans (6 percent).
Zeitz is implying here, as Tribe members are wont to do, that the general American public at that time was chock full of horrifyingly racist anti-Semites.
Which is one way to look at it.
Another way is to see it – qua Kevin MacDonald’s thesis – is a near homogenous Anglo Christian America (90% white and Christian right up until 1960) was interested in maintaining its cultural coherence and identity, and wasn’t keen on bringing in large numbers of an ethnic group known for their clannishness and non-assimilation.
Closer to the anti-Semitic mainstream, the America First Committee found deep pockets of support in the late 1930s when it excoriated Jews for pushing the United States into the European conflict. Many Americans agreed with the famed aviator Charles Lindbergh, who argued that Jews’ “greatest danger to this country lie in their large ownership and influence in our motion pictures, our press, our radio and our Government” and applauded when Sen. Gerald Nye initiated a Senate investigation into Hollywood war-mongering. True, most Americans did not fear Jewish violence, per se (though Smith and his followers clearly did). But they believed that Jews were powerful enough to send their boys off to slaughter in Europe.
More generically, it was common in respectable circles to hear Jews scorned as unassimilable, “undesirable aliens,” as one Michigan newspaper framed the matter. Oregon’s Portland News echoed customary support for the strict immigration quotas that Congress had imposed in 1924 when it identified Jews as a danger to America’s “racial” and “social” unity. The exiles simply would not “make real Americans” or adopt “American principles of democratic government.” In Pennsylvania, the Allentown Chronicle and News held European Jews accountable for their own fate, blaming their “downfall” on an “inability” to fit in with “any other race.”
A survey conducted in July 1939 asked respondents to characterize their position on the “Jewish question.” A plurality (39 percent) affirmed that “Jews have the same standing as any other people, and they should be treated in all ways exactly as any other Americans”; 31 percent thought that “some measures should be taken to prevent Jews from getting too much power in the business world”; 10 percent believed that “Jews are in some ways distinct from other Americans, but they make respected and useful citizens so long as they don’t try to mingle socially where they are not wanted”; and an arresting 10 percent agreed that “we should make it a policy to deport Jews from this country to some new homeland as fast as it can be done without inhumanity.”
Those numbers and corresponding opinions don’t seem that monstrous and “anti-Semitic” to me. The ‘arresting’ 10%’s opinion was just that… 10%.
But, in any event, as we all know, the monstrous anti-Semites that comprised most of America during this period initiated the Holocaust on June 6, 1944.