The American failure to rescue European Jews came to light in the 1960’s when documents were declassified. Critical articles were written that were critical to the Roosevelt administration and the inaction of the United States. Henry L. Feingold essay is one that attacks the administration and the agencies that he believes could have helped in saving lives.
In retrospect he writes that mass rescue could have been possible if that was a “passionate commitment to save lives,” and the Roosevelt administration did not have this commitment but many individuals did. Refugee-rescue advocates believed that FDR could handle the international refugee crisis since he saved the US with his New Deal policies. FDR arranged an international conference in Evian and the Intergovernmental Committee on Political Refugees, (IGC) was formed and the Rublee-Schacht negotiations began. As a result instead of bringing order to the crisis it only focused on rescuing the elite of Europe.
What was promised to the advocates did not become a reality. Good intentions of FDR and implementation of his policies were not put into action. U.S. Immigration laws, the lack of cooperation from other countries, confusion, and red tape left the European Jews in limbo. According to the author FDR’s search for a haven for the Jews were half hearted and it wasn’t until 1944 that Oswego, NY was established to take them. The visa procedure and quotas were underestimated and played on the fear of spies by the State Department. The Bermuda Conference only yielded political gestures and labeled the refugees as “political refugees” and focused on rescuing Jews that were already safe in Spain and other neutral counties.
The administration and decision makers were split on how they wanted to deal with the refugees. Departments of the US opposed FDR’s humanitarian plans because of the fear of spies. FDR was enthusiastic in his search for havens and sought to balance his ideas and the fears of his opponents.
American Jews did not have the power politically or socially to implement rescue efforts. Changing immigration laws and easing suspicion of spies and of course the European Jews were a foreign minority. Within themselves there was opposition and would interfere with the simple idea of rescue. The Zionist wanted a homeland in Palistine and increased pressure in the White House.
To save the European Jews there would have to be a passion to save Jews which was not felt back then. They were a minority and if the US couldn’t fix its own domestic problems with racism how could the implement procedures to help in Europe’s race issues. Congress voted down saving children of German-Jewish refugee with the Wagner-Rogers Bill but approved the rescue of children of non-Jewish British children during the Blitz. FDR did not want to take a political risk due to domestic anti-semitism but his did appoint Jews to high positions hoping to give them power.
Legal technicalities overseas held up the rescue operations. Since the German Jews had been stripped of their citizenry other nations were not legally responsible for the refugees and international law was not utilized. Neutral nations were able to protect it Jewish populations but there were many Jews left behind with not clear cut rescue.
Public opinion did a lot to hinder the rescue efforts and the public had no idea of what was really happening to the Jews in Europe. The idea that the Nazi’s were killing them by the millions was beyond comprehension and knowledge was held only in the State Department and Hitler’s final solution was kept secret for fear of retribution.
Even if FDR had made more of an effort it doesn’t mean that other nations would have followed his lead. The Jews were not a high priority of the nations that could have helped and victory over Hitler would be their rescue. The Nazi’s were so focused and driven to the final solution that efforts to save them would have been futile.