Widespread violence against the Jews, which included the
destruction and plundering of their businesses.
Mass arrests of Jews.
In April, the Nazis began a new technique of getting the Jews
out of greater Germany.
They expelled them from the Reich without the papers that
were required for entry into another country. In essence they were
leaving them in no man's land. They had no where to go.
For example, Wyman details one instance in which 51 Jews
were left on the border of Austria, Hungary and Czechoslovakia by
Storm troopers. Hungary and Czechoslovakia would not let them in,
and as a result they were forced to go back to Austria where they
were subsequently imprisoned by the Nazis. (Wyman, pg. 30)
Many of the things that were occurring in Austria had already
taken place during the early thirties in Germany. From the time
that Hitler came to power in 1932, he had systematically instituted
laws that took away the wealth of the Jews living and working in
Germany, in addition he subjected them into becoming second class
As a result of the laws imposed by Hitler in Germany and
Austria, many thousands of Jews sought immigration permits.
Roosevelt's Reaction: March 23, 1938
Roosevelt proposes an international conference to debate the
issues of immigration confronting the world as a result of the
events that took place in Austria.
Invites 29 European and Latin American countries, along with
Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
The Conference had two purposes:
Facilitate emigration of refugees from Germany and
Establish a new international organization to work toward
an overall solution to the refugee problem.
International Efforts: The Evian Conference: July 1938
Delegates from 32 nations participate.
In addition, several countries sent observers, such as Poland
and Rumania who were anxious to arrange the emigration of Jews from
40 private refugee aid organizations submitted reports to the
various subcommittees that had been set up to hear their
Unfortunately, disunity was prevalent as many of the
organizations could not agree on a common set of plans.
In accordance with Roosevelt's proclamation in April, the U.S.
delegates pledged to open up the immigration quota to Germany and
Austria to its fullest capacity, that of 27,370.
With the exception of the Dominican Republic, delegate after
delegate stated that their country could not increase the number of
refugees that it was already accepting.
England stated that its overseas territories were already
overcrowded, and domestically it was suffering from economic
problems and could not admit any more refugees. It flatly denied
access to Palestine due to the need to keep friendly relations
going with the Arab leadership.
France said that it would do what it could, but it had
already reached "the extreme point of saturation" (Wyman pg.45)
The Dominican Republic offered to contribute large
settlements of land for agricultural colonization.
The Conference did not succeed in getting the other countries
to open up their quotas, but a new international organization was
The International Committee on Refugees had two goals:
Approach the governments of countries with refugees with
an idea for developing opportunities for permanent settlement.
Persuade the German government to cooperate in helping
emigration along, namely in the form of lifting restrictions on the
property that refugees were allowed to take with them when they
left Germany. Hitler had instituted rules that basically taxed the
refugees who wished to emigrate from Germany. They were not
allowed to leave with much of their property, and no wealth to
speak of. This inhibited the successful emigration of many of
these individuals, in particular those who wished to emigrate to
the United States where there was a law requiring that immigrants
must prove that they could support themselves and not become a
burden on society.
Efforts within the U.S. to help: Wagner-Rogers Bill
Senator Robert F. Wagner and Representative Edith Nourse Rogers
introduced identical bills to permit over a single two year period,
entrance outside the quotas of a total of 20,000 German refugee children aged 14 and younger. The bill stated that the children
must be supported and properly cared for by responsible private
agencies or individuals, which would be a guarantee that they would
not become public charges.
The emphasis on the public charge is extremely important for
this bill because of the immigration bills that had been set up in
In 1930, President Hoover requested that the State
Department find a way in which immigration might be restricted due
to the economic crisis that was affecting the United States as a
result of the Great Depression. The citizens of the U.S. were
becoming extremely resentful of the immigrants that were pouring
into the country, and in their minds, taking jobs that should have
rightfully been theirs.
The State Department found a way by reinterpreting a
provision in the Immigration Act of 1917 which excluded persons
likely to become public charges.
From the Hoover administration through to the present day
Roosevelt administration, the LPC clause as it came to be known was
used to deny immigrants visas into the United States.
Supporters of the bill felt that this was an ideal way around
the strict immigration laws in the U.S.
There were plenty of people who were all for the bill when
polled by Gallup.
Its biggest supporter was the NonęSectarian Committee
which lobbied particularly hard in Washington D.C. through pressure
on labor leaders, educators, and prominent liberals to talk with
their Congressmen in favor of the bill.
The bill did have its detractors.
The main argument that was used was that "Charity begins at
Many of the opponents argued that there were many people
in the United States that were struggling and could use this kind
of help, in particular the children.
For example, a handbill distributed by the American
Immigration Conference Board, Inc. read, "Shall we sentence these
slum children to crime, poverty, and hopelessness while we import
children from a foreign country?"
The bill failed to reach Congress due to not only this
opposition which not only included the theme of "Charity begins at
Home", but also the strong currents of nativism, antięsemitism and
economic insecurity that was prevalent in the U.S. during this
time. "The nativists looked on the children's bill as an emotional
stratagem to force a foot into the door. Once pried open, the door
would swing wide and foreigners would flood the country. Also, the
fact that the bill was for Jewish children, antięsemitic feelings
contributed to the aid of the opponent's cause." (Wyman pg.95)
While the economic situation was improving in the United States, it
had not yet reached the peak that it would when it was involved in
the war, the opponents made a good case against foreigners taking
jobs that were meant for American citizens.
1938 was the high point for the rest of the war in terms of
immigration to the United States.
In 1938, over 100,000 Jews were able to emigrate out of Germany
In 1940, visas became "unblocked" which meant that the quota
numbers of people who were unable to obtain travel reservations or
to meet consular standards were set aside and their places were
opened or unblocked for those applicants that could make travel
arrangements and meet consular requirements.
According to Wyman, during the six months following the
unblocking immigration charged to the quotas of Germany and other
countries of refugee origin exceeded that of the previous six
months by 3,500. (Pg.181)
On August 27, 1940 with the passage of the Mercy Ships Bill
which was designed to evacuate British children from England and
keep them in the U.S. until the war was over served to show the
willingness of the U.S. to forget about quotas when British
children were involved, but other refugee children would be forced
to walk within the lines of the Immigration Law. It is an example
of the prejudices and fears that were quite common during this time
period, and how they affected the way in which the U.S. acted
towards those that were in need.
The book entitled Paper Walls: America and the
Refugee Crisis 1938-1941 by David S. Wyman was used as a
reference for the timeline detailed above on the refugee crisis of
written by Suzanne Stone for the World War II Seminar at the University of San Diego, May 1, 1999.