Introduction: Complex social and political factors shaped America's response to the Holocaust,
from "Kristallnacht" in 1938 through the liberation of the death camps in 1945. For a short time
during World War II the US had an opportunity to open its doors, but instead erected a "paper
wall," a bureaucratic maze that prevented all but a few Jewish refugees from entering the
In 1937, a 17-year-old German Jew named Kurt Klein immigrated to the US to escape the
growing discrimination against Jews that had become a terrible fact of life following Hitler's rise
in 1933. Together with his brother and sister, who had immigrated previously, Klein worked to
establish himself so that he could obtain safe passage for his parents out of Germany.
In 1938, American society had its own political, social, and economic problems, including a
long-standing--and rising--anti-Semitism. Despite stories coming from Europe about a
campaign to force Jews out of Germany and about the horrors of Kristallnacht ("the night of
broken glass"), the majority of Americans were fearful that an influx of immigrants would only
aggravate the serious unemployment problem brought on by the Depression.
More than 100 anti-Semitic organizations blanketed the US with propaganda blaming Jews for
all America's ills, businesses discriminated against Jews, and communities proudly proclaimed
themselves "Restricted." Even the government was not immune from anti-Semitic sentiments.
While the Kleins were struggling to obtain visas from the American consulate, the State
Department ordered its consuls to stall the process. Recalls Mr. Klien: Even though we
continued our attempts to get our parents out--because we knew that they were in the
unoccupied part of France which was still not totally under German control--everything we did
for them turned into nothing.
But for Kurt Klein and other German-American Jews with relatives overseas, patience was a
commodity they couldn't afford. By the end of 1941, the Nazis had murdered half a million Jews
and as many of us know six million Jews and
"final solution
Directions: use the following documents to develop your questions about the moral and
practical issues surrounding