American refugee policy and European Jewry, 1933-1945 /
Richard Breitman and Alan M. Kraut.
Bloomington : Indiana University Press, c1987.
viii, 310 p. ; 24 cm.
More Details
added author
Bloomington : Indiana University Press, c1987.
general note
Includes index.
catalogue key
Bibliography: p. 299-301.
A Look Inside
Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Choice on 1988-07:
American policy toward Jewish refugees during the Hitler era and the degree of US involvement as a guilty bystander has intrigued historians for two decades, since the appearance of Arthur D. Morse's accusatory While Six Million Died (1968). More recently, David Wyman's Abandonment of the Jews (CH, Apr '85) set a new high in scholarship, judiciousness, and literary quality in treatment of the issue. This new work by historians of American immigration and the Weimar Republic, respectively, is a serious attempt to produce a worthy entry into this engaging yet difficult field. Their story starts earlier and delves more deeply into the political machinations of the New Deal and the Depression era, especially vis-a-vis restrictionist sentiment. They also concentrate on the president and, given the prevailing climate of opinion, the degree of his willingness and ability to ease the growing European Jewish tragedy. More than anti-Semitism, it was ``bureaucratic indifference to moral or humanitarian concern,'' that was the major obstacle to rescue. The authors seem unaware of the dynamics and ideological conflicts within the splintered Jewish community; they are not much more familiar with the inner workings of the War Refugee Board. For them to rely on the Board's distorted ``official'' history re its important role in rescue via Switzerland instead of on the original papers of Roswell McClelland (the primary actor and villain), those of the Jewish organizations, and the Morgenthau Diaries, is poor research to say the least. In summary, Breitman and Kraut's essential theses are unconvincing; Wyman remains the classic. This book, nevertheless, should be included in comprehensive Holocaust collections.-D. Kranzler, Queensborough Community College, CUNY
Appeared in Library Journal on 1987-11-01:
The story of the New Deal's turning its back on the oppressed of Europe has caused some historians to blame a deep strain of anti-Semitism in the United States on the failure of politicians to open the door to Jewish refugees in the 1930s. The authors reject this interpretation. U.S. actions grew out of the complex mix of Washington policy and political realities at a time when increased immigration was seen as aggravating unemployment in the Great Depression. Those who believe stories of anti-Semitic conspiracy or pervasive national prejudice may reject this conclusion, but the authors give a convincing scholarly explication of a tragic failure of policy. Charles K. Piehl, Mankato State Univ., Minn. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review Quotes
" . . . an exhaustively documented and important book . . ." Philadelphia Inquirer"This is an unusually thoughtful and balanced treatment of a controversial subject. Based on very extensive archival research, this will be from here on the first book those interested in the subject should read." Gerhard Weinberg"Informative, even-tempered and dispassionate . . . this comprehensive study of a controversial subject makes for indispensable reading." Dimensions" . . . stands as the most readable of the growing literature on America's response to the Holocaust." History" . . . important, finely calibrated study . . ." Journal of American History"It is a masterful study, and one which future students of American policy during the Holocaust years will have to consult." Midstream" . . . perceptive and penetrating . . . an excellent analysis of the bureaucratic priorities of policy makers in Washington and officials abroad in handling the refugees issue between 1933-1945." Journal of Refugee Studies" . . . the author's novel approach to familiar material makes this a valuable contribution in attempting to understand what happens when humanitarian concerns and national interests collide." American Historical Review
This item was reviewed in:
Library Journal, November 1987
Choice, July 1988
To find out how to look for other reviews, please see our guides to finding book reviews in the Sciences or Social Sciences and Humanities.
Main Description
How does one explain America's failure to take bold action to resist the Nazi persecution and murder of European Jews? Drawing on exhaustive archival research, the authors find that the bureaucrats who made and implemented refugee policy were motivated by institutional priorities and reluctance to take risks rather than by moral or humanitarian concerns.
Main Description
How does one explain America's failure to take bold action to resist the Nazi persecution and murder of European Jews? In contrast to recent writers who place the blame on anti-Semitism in American society at large and within the Roosevelt administration in particular, Richard Breitman and Alan M. Kraut seek the answer in a detailed analysis of American political realities and bureaucratic processes. Drawing on exhaustive archival research, the authors describe and analyze American immigration policy as well as rescue and relief efforts directed toward European Jewry between 1933 and 1945. They contend that U.S. policy was the product of preexisting restrictive immigration laws; an entrenched State Department bureaucracy committed to a narrow defense of American interests; public opposition to any increase in immigration; and the reluctance of Franklin D. Roosevelt to accept the political risks of humanitarian measures to benefit the European Jews. The authors find that the bureaucrats who made and implemented refugee policy were motivated by institutional priorities and reluctance to take risks, rather than by moral or humanitarian concerns.

This information is provided by a service that aggregates data from review sources and other sources that are often consulted by libraries, and readers. The University does not edit this information and merely includes it as a convenience for users. It does not warrant that reviews are accurate. As with any review users should approach reviews critically and where deemed necessary should consult multiple review sources. Any concerns or questions about particular reviews should be directed to the reviewer and/or publisher.

  link to old catalogue

Report a problem