Antisemitism in America

Antisemitic cartoon from the 1896 presidential election that depicts the United States (represented by Uncle Sam) being crucified by greedy Jewish businessmen.

Antisemitic cartoon from the 1896 presidential election that
depicts the United States (represented by Uncle Sam) being
crucified by greedy Jewish businessmen.

When compared to the number of children saved by the British Kindertransport program (roughly 10,000), the One Thousand Children project is quite small. This section will provide a brief outline of the antisemitic climate of America during the 1930s to explain why more attempts were not made to aid German Jewish refugee children. While the United States did not experience the same kind of state-sponsored violence against Jews that occurred in Nazi Germany, Americans during the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s were not immune to antisemitism. Anti-Jewish attitudes were commonplace in all levels of American society, from the rich and powerful to the poor and obscure.

1908 book that contains stereotypical jokes about Jews.

1908 book that contains
stereotypical jokes about Jews.

American antisemitism during the early twentieth century can be roughly divided into "elite" antisemitism and "plebian" antisemitism. The former was expressed in excluding Jews from country clubs, exclusive neighborhoods, and resorts that catered to the wealthy and powerful, whereas the latter was primarily jealousy towards an unfamilar ethnic group that appeared to be achieving a great deal of material sucess in a relatively short period of time. As large numbers of Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe arrived in the United States in the late nineteenth century, they directly competed with the native-born citizenry for jobs, which bred resentment among the latter. Although large-scale immigration had ceased by the 1930s, the economic woes of the Great Depression meant that any attempts to loosen immigration laws would be extremely unpopular.

Antisemitism was common in American political discourse during the Great Depression. Notable public figures such Henry Ford and Charles Lindbergh unapologetically stated that Jews held too much influence in American life. The most popular radio personality of the 1930s was Fr. Charles E. Coughlin, who considered the fascist regimes of Adolf Hitler and Italy's Benito Mussolini to be model states. Given this atmosphere, it was extremely difficult for the American Jewish community to convince their fellow citizens to help Jews fleeing the Nazi regime.