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Museum Curation Project: America and the Holocaust

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US History Age Levels High School (16 to 18 years old), Post-Secondary, Adults

When Adolf Hitler, leader of the Nazi party, took power in Germany, the nation undertook an effort to purge itself of non-Aryans in order to "purify" the German state. In the process, 11 million people belonging to minority groups, 6 million of which were Jews, were exterminated in one of the worst genocides in human history. What became known as the Holocaust was addressed differently by the nations of the world. For various reasons, the United States' public attitudes and foreign policy decisions demonstrated a general attitude of indifference towards the Jewish genocide. Widespread anti-Semitism bred contempt for the Jewish cause, while the media called little attention to the genocide, and public opinion remained apathetic to the refugee cause. Worse still, official United States government and foreign policy was at best indifferent and at worse actively hostile to aiding rescue efforts. Although some Americans made heroic efforts to save  persecuted European Jews and aid their immigration process to the United States, their work, while by no means insignificant, is sadly not a reflection of the United States as a whole. The country had great power to make a difference, but unfortunately it did not act on it.

FDR in an Antisemitic Cartoon (1938)

National Museum of American Jewish History, Philadelphia

Map of German-American Bund Camps (1938)

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

Endicott Daily Bulletin Newspaper Column (1942)

Endicott Daily Bulletin (Endicott, New York), November 25, 1942.

Martha and Waitstill Sharp

Unknown Newspaper, Courtesy of United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

Resolution from United Churches of Lackawanna County to Cordell Hull (1933)

National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, MD

US Ambassador William Dodd celebrates Thanksgiving dinner at the Hotel Esplenade in Berlin, Germany (1934)

William Edward Dodd Papers, Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Washington, D.C.

Stephen Wise and Lewis Lipsky (1940)

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Helen Hamlin

Memorial Pageant to the Persecuted Jews of Europe (1943)

US Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Moving Image Research Collections, University of South Carolina

Photo of War Refugee Board Meeting (1944)

Franklin D. Roosevelt Library

Jewish Refugees arriving after Truman Directive (1945)

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

Ohrdruf Camp and General Eisenhower’s Telegram (1945)

US Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Harold Royall