Tag Archives: Nazi

Hitler Becomes Useful, When the United States is Charged with Genocide

“THE RESPONSIBILITY of being the first in history to charge the government of the United States of America with the crime of genocide is not one your petitioners takes lightly. The responsibility is particularly grave when citizens must charge their own government with mass murder of its own nationals, with institutionalized oppression and persistent slaughter of the Negro people in the United States on a basis of “race,” a crime abhorred by mankind and prohibited by the conscience of the world as expressed in the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 9, 1948.”

William L. Patterson, We Charge Genocide, 1951[i]

The actions of the German Nazis, especially as they pertain to the concentration camps and the extermination of the Jews during World War II became the touchstone by which the actions of other people or groups were evaluated in terms of Human Rights violations. The Nazis became a reference point because one of the major results of WWII was the Universal Declaration of Human Rights drafted by the United Nations (UN) in 1948 to hold individuals and governments responsible in international court for atrocious acts against humanity.[ii] In the same year, the Genocide Convention defined genocide as an international delict, with a definition of genocide, and relevant punishments for the guilty parties.[iii] Based on the Genocide Convention, William L. Patterson drafted and submitted a petition to the United Nations in 1951 titled We Charge Genocide, indicting the United States (US) government for its treatment and the mass murder of the African American population. Patterson compared the Nazis of Germany and Hitler to the US government and the citizens of the US to argue that the Human Rights violations against African Americans were equitable to the Jews and should be held accountable by the authority of the United Nations and punished under international law.

In the 1950s when We Charge Genocide was submitted to the U. N. many of the states within the US had Jim Crow laws that legally instituted segregation in employment, education, residence, transportation, hospitalization, and so forth, on the basis of race and relegated African Americans to an inferior position in society. In addition to this, the configuration of some state laws stood in contrast to the 15th Amendment of the United States Constitution, which guaranteed the right of citizens to vote regardless of “race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” The state laws in conjunction with the actions of extralegal organizations such as, the Klu Klux Klan (KKK),[iv] deprived many African Americans of their right to vote, and thus barred them from participating in the democratic process.[v] Comparable to the Nuremberg Laws (1935), the Jim Crow laws were depriving a particular group of US citizens their Civil Rights.[vi] Often times enforcing these deprivations with economic, legal, physical, and psychological sanctions, many of which were upheld by the Supreme Court of the United States as permissible. For example, lynching was still permissible in many states, i.e., the hanging of African American people, whether legal or extralegal. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) was waging a major Anti-Lynching campaign to convince the US Congress and or the Supreme Court to criminalize the act, but at the time of this petition, the campaign had not done so yet.[vii]

Furthermore, the United States had just weathered the Great Depression—when upwards of 24% of the US population was unemployed—and World War II, both of which divided the country along racial, ethnic, political and economic lines. The Nuremberg Trials of the Nazi war criminals were made internationally known, which set the stage to ask questions about Jim Crow and segregation, and their relation to the Genocide Convention and international law. After 1945 however, the Cold War between the United States and Union of Social Soviets Republics (USSR) in particular and between Democracy and Communism more generally, began. Many of the people, whom were not in support of the status quo within the United States, were perceived by those in the government of the US to be enemies of the state. This is the social and political climate that Patterson wrote and submitted We Charge Genocide to the United Nations in.

Patterson, with the help of the NAACP and the Civil Rights Congress, collected and analyzed hundreds of cases of brutality and injustice wrought against the African American population in the US between 1945 and 1951.[viii] Then Patterson used the language and the legal framework of the Genocide Convention to present an argument for the justification of the United Nations holding the United States responsible and accountable for genocide. As cited in We Charge Genocide from the Genocide Convention of the United Nations in 1948, genocide was defined as:

‘In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial, or religious group, as such:

(a) Killing members of the group;

(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;

(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;

(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;

(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.’

Article III:

‘The following acts shall be punishable:

(a) Genocide;

(b) Conspiracy to commit genocide;

(c) Direct and public incitement to commit genocide;

(d) Attempt to commit genocide;

(e) Complicity in genocide.’[ix]

Of particular interest to Patterson was the clause “acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part” because it identified that motivation to destroy members of a group for their affiliation with that group, was more important than the successful destruction of that particular group, in whole or in part, at least in the terms of an act or series of acts qualifying as genocide. Patterson also listed several cases under each subheading of genocide and explicated reasons why the US should be punishable under each subheading of Article III.

Patterson could very well have cited incidents that reached as far back as the abolishment of slavery with the 13th Amendment of the US Constitution in 1865, but he constrained his reports to three years prior to the Genocide Convention, when WWII ended. Ex post facto is a legal, which is used to describe that a person or an entity cannot be held liable for a crime that prior to the act there was not a law condemning the action. In general practice this is because it is usually believed that a person or an entity must have foreknowledge that something is illegal so that they may make an informed decision about the action in question. However, the Nuremburg Trials of the Nazi war criminals (1945-1949), wherein a new legal framework was designed by the UN to hold those who were either active or complicit in human rights violations during WWII legally responsible, established a new mandate.[x] The UN displayed by its creation of Human Rights laws and the subsequent Nuremberg Trials that in some cases the ex post facto rule does not apply because there are some acts that humans, as members of our moral community, should know are wrong. For example, participating in the extermination of nearly six million Jewish people was perceived as being unequivocally wrong. Patterson recognized this, but also drew a line to 1945 when the United Nations became an official political entity and the United States one of its dominant members, for presenting cases arguing that genocide was occurring in the US.

However, Patterson had to contend with the fact that the United States was one of the founding members of the United Nations and also a major proponent of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Moreover, Eleanor Roosevelt, the wife of the late President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1933-1945) who was president during most of WWII, was the chairperson of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights Committee. She also denied Patterson’s request to present the petition to the UN. In addition to that the US State Department confiscated Patterson’s passport in an attempt to limit his international travel between the United States and France where the UN was at the time located. Both of these actions were an attempt to impede Patterson’s ability to address the UN and officially charge the US with genocide. In part, it was believed to be inappropriate for Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) to indict their governments and that if permitted, there would be no end to the petitions.[xi]

Yet, however true that reasoning may have been it seems more realistic that the US did not want to be implicated in a contradiction between its foreign and domestic policies, especially when the US was actively engaged in the international disbanding of racial oppression. Patterson says in regard to this; “Seldom in human annals has so iniquitous a conspiracy been so gilded with the trappings of respectability. Seldom has mass murder on the score of ‘race’ been so sanctified by law, so justified by those who demand free elections abroad even as they kill their fellow citizens who demand free elections at home. Never have so many individuals been so ruthlessly destroyed amid so many tributes to the sacredness of the individual.”[xii]  By the responses of Eleanor Roosevelt and the US State Department, as well as Patterson’s analysis of the conditions and characteristics of the US, it can certainly be asserted that the US had sufficient reason not to want this petition submitted to the UN. However, in the absence of corroborating evidence the reason can only be speculated upon. Yet, notwithstanding the reason why he was impeded in submitting this petition to the United Nations, the fact remains that there was definite opposition to this petition from the United States in the early 1950s. [xiii]

Patterson was confronted with a further complication, given that the genocide he claimed was occurring in the United States to the African American population was not as evident as the genocide that occurred in Germany to the Jewish population. A stark contrast between the African American population in the US in the 1950s and the Jews of Germany in the first half of the 1940s was that there were no concentration camps as defined by Nazi standards in the US. Furthermore, the African American population was also not indiscriminately as a whole being actively herded by the US military into ghettos or extermination camps. Thus, Patterson had to show piecemeal, on a case-by-case basis, that something very similar to what had occurred in Europe under Nazi occupation was occurring in the United States to sustain his claim that the United States was guilty of genocide.

Patterson referenced the Nazis and Hitler to draw some parallels in his argument to the US government to reveal the common characteristics of genocidal treatment to the Jews and African Americans. Patterson presents the first point of reference to the Nazis in the Introduction to We Charge Genocide: “The Hitler crimes, of awful magnitude, beginning as they did against the heroic Jewish people, finally drenched the world in blood, and left a record of maimed and tortured bodies and devastated areas such as mankind had never seen before.”[xiv] This analogy is drawn after Patterson mentions the “ghettos” and “cotton plantations” of America from which he states that the stories of mass murders “on the basis of race” emerged, before arguing that the then Justice Robert H. Jackson’s opening statements at the Nuremberg trials on November 21, 1945 should apply the same to the US government.[xv] In the Opening Address for the United States, Jackson states: “The wrongs which we seek to condemn and punish have been so calculated, so malignant, and so devastating, that civilization cannot tolerate their being ignored, because it cannot survive their being repeated.”[xvi] Patterson seems to be referencing three points from the opening address, “Crimes against Peace,” “Crimes against Humanity,” and that these acts should not be ignored.[xvii] Patterson’s argument was that Crimes against Humanity were occurring in the United States, that they were being ignored, and that they posed a threat to the continued peace of the world. The painstaking effort to collect and organize the cases in the Evidence section of We Charge Genocide, from the many disparate news articles and court cases from throughout the US, reveals that the conditions African Americans confronted in the United States were, for the most part, being ignored by the international community. Patterson’s allusion to Justice Jackson was a demand to be seen, heard, and respected.

The parallel that Patterson makes is not necessarily that a project of mass extermination of the kind witnessed during the Holocaust was occurring in the US. Rather, based on the Genocide Convention of 1948, Patterson argues: “15,000,000 of [the United States’] own nationals”[xviii] were suffering from genocide because of the laws and practices of the US government whom he further claims to be either, complicit in genocide or conspirator to it. The number “15,000,000” was important to Patterson’s case because in the US in the 1950s US representatives were debating the required number of harms for acts count as genocide.[xix] Nearly 6,000,000 million Jews lost their lives during the Holocaust, but many more suffered from the conditions of genocide under Nazi rule and occupation. Patterson establishes that more than just random cases of hate violence and terror were being wrought upon the African American population in the US during the 1940s, and asserts from this point that something parallel to Germany was occurring in the United States.

The crux of Patterson’s argument, although presenting empirical examples of violence and oppression that according to the Genocide Convention satisfy the sufficient conditions to qualify as genocide, rests more aptly on the parallel of the ideology between the United States government and society, and Hitler and his Nazi regime. Patterson writes; “The whole institution of segregation, which is training for killing, education for genocide, is based on the Hitler-like theory of the ‘inherent inferiority of the Negro.’ The tragic fact of segregation is the basis for the statement, too often heard after a murder, particularly in the South, ‘Why I think no more of killing a n—-r, than of killing a dog.”[xx] Patterson essentially argues and presents cases in support of the entire African American population, estimated at “15,000,000” people, being dehumanized, deprived of dignity and value, and being disposed of with impunity under the same pretext as the Jewish people who were exterminated under Nazi rule and occupation in Europe during the 1940s. Based on Patterson’s analysis and characterization of the United States in regard to the African American population, it was the ideology of inferiority that justified Jim Crow laws and red-lining neighborhoods. Permitted police brutality and extralegal organization like the KKK to terrorize people seeking to vote or improve their living conditions. That justified the US Supreme Court’s decisions to hold as Constitutional decisions regarding infringements of the 15th Amendment, extradition, and other state court rulings in criminal cases. And in permitting political leaders, such as governors to publically advocate the murder, “in whole or in part,” of the African American people in the US on the basis of “race”.

Given the considerable space devoted within the petition to justifying that the United Nations both could and should permit the petition, and the opposition from both the United States and its representatives, it is apparent that the petition was not met with wide approval and perhaps even much disbelief. This presented a few problems for Patterson. First, he was opposing the status quo of the United States during the beginning the Cold War, and was perceived as an enemy of the state. Second, a major component of the arguments within We Charge Genocide are economic in nature and not only do they serve as evidence for the “conspiracy to commit genocide” by the US government, but also implicitly advocate redistributive principles, which revealed his communist leanings. Third, he had to establish the grounds for being heard in the General Assembly of the United Nations as a non-governmental organization. Hence, Patterson had a necessity to compare the United States government to Hitler and the Nazi regime as a point of reference and so as to establish the credibility for the claims presented in his petition. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Genocide Convention were both direct results of the Holocaust concerning international law, thus making both Hitler and the Nazi regime the quintessential examples by which to evaluate human rights violations.

African Americans in the United States were suffering under horrendous conditions in the 1940s, but by comparing the perpetrators of that suffering to Hitler and the Nazi regime in such a profound way, Patterson only made the situation appear more dire and repugnant. What Patterson wanted was to have the United Nations force the United States to honor the treatise it had signed and to change the laws of the land to guarantee Civil Rights for the African American population. Yet, nearly ten years later, the Jim Crow laws were still in effect, segregation was still a dominant practice in the South, and African Americans had yet to unequivocally have their Civil Right to vote protected Constitutionally. The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in the October 1960 issue of the Courier, however, did not advocate for the revision of the US laws, but rather for a revision of the manner in which the children in the US were educated.[xxi] The Courier did acknowledge the “Hitler-like” ideology Patterson claimed to exist in the US with the statement; “there is still a fairly widespread feeling that ‘colored’ people are in some way inferior to ‘white’ people,”[xxii] but it did not go so far as to label the feeling “Hitler-like”. If the Courier is taken as representative of the response of the United Nations to Patterson’s petition We Charge Genocide, then it can be argued, the UN was unwilling to hold the United States accountable for the crime of genocide in light of the proof. Furthermore, it also reveals that although, Patterson’s charge of genocide was heard, that in contradiction of the Genocide Convention, it nonetheless still, remained largely ignored by the United Nations in 1960. And while the people of the United States and the representatives of both the US and the UN at the time may have been too close to the claims to fully acknowledge their gravity, a more objective analysis of the evidence and the analogy between Hitler, the Nazi regime, and the US government of the mid-20th Century is very relevant.

[i] Patterson, William L., We Charge Genocide: The Historic Petition to the United Nations for Relief from a Crime of the United States Government (1951), (p. 3) (doc. P. 32). http://hdl.handle.net/2027/mdp.39015074197859

[ii] United Nations. Universal Declaration of Human Rights http://www.un.org/Depts/dhl/udhr/                           

[iii] United Nations. Genocide Convention https://treaties.un.org/doc/Publication/UNTS/Volume%2078/volume-78-I-1021-English.pdf

[iv] Patterson, “The Opening Statement,” (p. 18) (doc. p. 47)

[v] Patterson, “The Evidence,” (p.106) (doc. p. 135)

[vi] Newsweek, “Germany: Hitler Decrees Swastika Reich Flag; Bars Intermarriage; Relegates Jews to Dark Ages” September 21, 1935. American Views of the Holocaust 1933-1945: A Brief Documentary History, ed. Robert H. Abzug (Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 1999), 58.

[vii] Dr. Glenn, Susan A. Lecture. University of Washington: History Department. The Holocaust and American Life (February 17, 2015).

[viii] Patterson, “The Opening Statement,” (p. 8) (doc. p. 37)

[ix] Patterson, (doc. p. 20)

[x] Dr. Glenn. Lecture. (January 6, 2015).

[xi] Dr. Glenn. Lecture. (February 17, 2015).

[xii] Patterson, “The Opening Statement,” (p. 3-4) (doc. p. 32-33)

[xiii] Dr. Glenn. Lecture. (February 17, 2015).

[xiv] Patterson, “Introduction,” (p. xii) (doc. p. 25)

[xv] Patterson, “Introduction,” (p. xi-xii) (doc. p. 24-25)

[xvi] Jackson, Robert H. “Opening Address for the United States” November 21, 1945. Reprinted in Michael R. Marrus, ed. The Nuremberg War Crimes Trial, 1945-46: A Documentary War History(Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 1997), 79.

[xvii] Jackson, p. 83.

[xviii] Patterson, “Introduction,” (p. xii) (doc. p. 25)

[xix] Dr. Glenn. Lecture. (February 17, 2015)

[xx] Patterson, “The Opening Statement,” (p. 8) (doc. p. 37)

[xxi] United Nations. Courier. United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization. October 1960.

[xxii] Courier, p. 9.

Apathy and Responsibility: The American Response to the Holocaust

There were millions of people dying unjustly at the hands of the Nazi regime in the end of the 1930s and the beginning of the 1940s and the American population and government, for all intents and purposes, were permitting this atrocity, or at least allowing it to happen. The pseudo history that is presented in the United States today about Americans being the “heroes” of World War II is only part of the story. What is usually not entailed in these Hollywood retellings is how many Americans denied the truth and urgency of what later became known as the Holocaust, which in its general form means total destruction. Furthermore, the utter lack of acknowledging that there were pro-Nazi and anti-Semitic organizations active on American soil during the 1930s that were engaging in propaganda campaigns, protest, and violence is slanted to paint the U.S. as more responsive, at best. History tells a different story. The moral burden of the people in the 30s and 40s was paramount because the unprecedented liquidation of an entire ethnic group was occurring and responsibility was both unclaimed and undetermined. There were arguments on all sides, but while the American government officials were engaging in arguments about what to do, if anything, the Jewish population was being exterminated in Europe. On the one hand, people were screaming for justice and for help, screaming for anything other than America’s complicity in Hitler’s plight. On the other hand, there were the skeptics, non-believers, and or non-confrontationists who indicted the screamers as being war mongers, as liars, as being unprepared for the true tasks ahead, and “quietly and gently” calling for America and the people to wait.[i]  And at the heart of the argument was the question of responsibility, because it is on that conception that acceptance or denial to act hinged.

It is perhaps not difficult to understand and conceive that many people in the 30s and 40s felt a sense of urgency to help and alleviate the suffering of the millions of Jewish people, Jewish-sympathizers and dissenters from Nazi rule in Europe. It is probably more difficult to conceive of people lacking a sense of urgency, who either, believed the reports coming out of Europe were fabrications, or were devoid of any sense of responsibility to their fellow humans. Fred Eastman was of the latter sort and in 1944 having sufficient knowledge of the situation in Nazi occupied Europe, he wrote a cold and calculated critique of the people with a sense of urgency, titled, “A Reply to Screamers.”[ii]

The document written by Eastman is a response to an author named Arthur Koestler, who was a novelist that wove into his narratives some of the tragic tales he had experienced in Europe. Eastman admitted in his response that the “reports of the mass murders of Jews and countless others are too well authenticated to be denied,” but yet lacks any motivation to join the screamers because he believes it is after the war that that real effort will begin; “the long-term task of building peace.”[iii] He thinks the screamers are responding emotively in eruptions or fits, but does not provide any reason not to have an emotional response to what he termed “no blacker crime,” and that is why he comes across as cold. For example, Eastman draws upon the Biblical parable of the Good Samaritan, which is a story that is supposed to express one’s duty to help those in need, and he could have chosen any example or explanation to follow it, but he chooses to quote a girl so young she cannot form the ‘th’ sound and whom has, as he calls it, an “emotional regurgitation,” instead of the correct moral response, which would have been a desire to help.[iv] The implicit analogy Eastman is making with this young girl is that the screamers are uneducated and immature children who do not understand morality or duty to others, and are in need of guidance. It is this unfeeling and unsympathetic, matter-of-fact, disregard for human connection and the bonds that actually motivate duty to others, that makes Eastman’s response to Koestler so cold. In addition, Eastman believed himself to be a typical representative of the American population who was in opposition of the war and the efforts to help the Jewish people in Europe.[v]

In stark contrast to Eastman, Freda Kirchwey, wrote an article in 1943 titled, “While the Jews Die,”[vi] blaming the United States and the United Nations for their complicity and failure to do their duty to help those in need.  After opening the article with an enumeration of the Nazis’ program of extermination, Kirchwey, straightforwardly identifies the blameworthy by stating; “In this country, you and I and the President and the Congress and the State Department are accessories to the crime and share Hitler’s guilt.”[vii] The “you” is a general you and given the context of the sentence it is found in, it seems most appropriate to assume the audience and recipient of the condemnation is the American people as a whole. Thus, Kirchwey lays blame flatly on both the citizens and government of the United States for their skepticism, apathy, complicity and “share” in the oppression and extermination of the Jews in Europe. Whereas Eastman believes the correct moral response is to wait, Kirchwey believes the Americans have already waited too long and the correct moral response is to act now to help the Jewish people. Kirchwey’s article was written a nearly a year prior to Eastman’s response, when more proof had been compiled, but the evidence was not enough to motivate many Americans to accept the burden of duty, with a sense of urgency to help those in need.

It is too easy of an analysis to suppose that it was anti-Semitic sentiment and prejudice that motivated the apathy of the American people although, this was certainly a factor for many people’s judgment, the reality of the reasons for the lack of urgency are more nuanced than that. There was a lack of faith in the credibility of the reports, but also questions about the motivations of the people making the reports or screaming for action, and a belief that a conflict of this magnitude was inevitable. Eastman argues that the conflict with Hitler and the Nazi regime was a “mighty conflict…over [different] philosophies of life,” that was destined to occur.[viii] Behind Eastman’s belief in this conflict rested a nest of religious and political conflicts about the origination and fruition of rights; God-given rights that lead to democracy and state-granted rights that lead to tyranny by a “master race.”[ix] This fatalistic perspective of the war with the Nazis and the extermination of the Jewish people in Europe omits autonomy, free-will, and choice from the reckoning and thus, attempts to absolve responsibility. Notwithstanding the success of this line of reasoning, the objective was to assert that if there was no responsibility, then there was no duty to help those in need and thus, no need for any moral urgency to help the Jewish people in Europe.

The fatalistic reasoning Eastman employs probably did not have as much resonance with the American people as did his critiques of the screamers wherein he claims that they “do not tell us specifically what they want us to do.”[x] This was the claim that founded his assertion that the screamers are calling for an “emotional regurgitation” instead of educated correct moral responses. Eastman ends this particular critique by appealing to the fact that his sons were in the war fighting the Nazis and that the screamers were non-combatants armchair moralizing, but not assuming any of the risks. What is revealed through these connections, in correlation with what has already been mentioned is that Eastman blames the Jews and the screamers for an imposed duty to risk life and limb for a people and a cause that it was not their responsibility to do so for. In the broader context, even given the anit-Semitic sentiments that existed within the United States in the 30s and 40s, the lack of moral urgency was more an outgrowth of the lack of moral responsibility than prejudice alone.

At the heart of the issue of the American apathy concerning the oppression and extermination of the Jewish people in Europe were conflicts with trust. At first it was the unbelievable characteristic of the reports coming out of Germany and Europe, but many of those reports were verified and still people continued to remain skeptic about the severity of the problem and their responsibility in the situation. Noted above, Eastman made two claims; that the screamers made no specific demands and that they were also non-combatants, and while that may have been the case for many, it was not always the case. Varian Fry was an American journalist who volunteered with the Emergency Rescue Committee in France in 1940 and also created an underground network to help Jews escape Nazi extermination; was what Eastman would consider a screamer.[xi] Thus, it is not the case that the screamers were not taking risks and responsibility, but were in fact acting on their convictions while simultaneously calling on others to act as well.

In 1942, Fry wrote “The Massacre of the Jews,” which moves from being accommodating and understanding of why skepticism exists, and transitions to condemning with focused anger the apathetic and skeptical American population and government. Important to note in this account is the list of specific actions being requested that Eastman claims does not exist. Fry calls on President Roosevelt and Churchill to make public statements and to “speak out again against these monstrous events.” Fry also screamed for the development of Tribunals to “amass facts,” for Diplomatic warnings to be issued to the countries in the Balkans region, for the Allies to form a blockade, to provide asylum for refugees, and to feed the Jews in the occupied territories. He also called on the Christian churches, the Protestant Leaders and the Pope, to excommunicate and condemn anyone who assisted the Nazis. Lastly, Fry suggested that any efforts that are made should be broadcasted and made public because the Nazi actions required secrecy and hoped to “create resistance” and foster “rebellion” among the people. This is a very specific list of things that can be done to assist the Jewish people and hardly any of them hint at combat, and this also shatters the conception that the “screamers do not tell us specifically what they want us to do.” What is revealed is that the America population was not listening to the screamers and chose to label them as war mongers as a justification for not assuming responsibility and displaying the moral urgency necessary to prevent or end the mass extermination of the Jewish people in Europe.[xii]

This account should not be taken to mean that Americans did not play a pivotal role in WWII and the liberation of the Jewish people from the Nazi concentration camps and occupation, because that is not true. This account was meant to convey a portion of the complex and disparate moral and ethical views of Americans in the 1930s and 1940s by analyzing their own words and setting them into context with one another. By doing so, I hope this exposition has challenged the pseudo history that presents the decision to go to war as a simple and contradicted it. There is great sacrifice in going to war for any reason, especially when it is for another country and people. Not only was Nazi campaign unprecedented in history, but so was the Allied response to Hitler’s Nazi regime, and it had to be justified both to the United States Congress and the American citizenry. For some, the mere numbers, methods, and length of time of the oppression and extermination of the Jews were enough justification to warrant the moral urgency. However, others were either, reluctant to believe, felt the need to wait, or were not willing to sacrifice the resources and lives necessary for a people they did not feel obligatory duties towards. The volume of people killed and the scope of the Nazis’ plans brought the ethical dilemma; “to kill or let die,” to the surface, wherein America’s apathy was indicted for being; “accessories to the crime” as Kirchwey says and thus, responsible to act with moral urgency.

[i] Eastman, Fred, “A Reply to Screamers,” Christian Century, February 6, 1944.  American Views the Holocaust 1933-1945: A Brief Documentary History, Edit. Robert H. Abzug (Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 1999), 171.

[ii] Eastman, 170-174.

[iii] Eastman, 173.

[iv] Eastman, 172.

[v] Eastman, 171.

[vi] Kirchwey, Freda “While the Jews Die,” Nation, March 13, 1943. American Views the Holocaust 1933-1945: A Brief Documentary History, Edit. Robert H. Abzug (Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 1999), 152-155.

[vii]Kirchwey, 153.

[viii] Eastman, 172.

[ix] Eastman, 172.

[x] Eastman, 172.

[xi] Fry, Varian, “The Massacre of the Jews,” New Republic, December. 21, 1942.  American Views the Holocaust 1933-1945: A Brief Documentary History, Edit. Robert H. Abzug (Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 1999), 126-127.

[xii] Fry, 132-133.