Why We Watched: Europe, America, and the Holocaust
Theodore S. Hamerow
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This book answers the most pressing question about the Holocaust: Why did the West do nothing as Hitler's killing machine took hold?
The Allies stood by and watched Nazi Germany imprison and then murder six million Jews during World War II. How could the unthinkable have been allowed to happen? Theodore Hamerow reveals in the pages of this compelling book that each Western nation had its own version of the Jewish Question―its own type of anti-Semitism―which may not have been as virulent as in Eastern Europe but was disastrously crippling nonetheless. If just one country had opened its doors to Germany's already persecuted Jews in the 1930s, and if the Allies had attempted even one bombing of an extermination camp, the Holocaust would have been markedly different. Instead, by sitting on their hands, the West let Hitler solve their Jewish Question by eliminating European Jewry.
circles of middle-class American society, but no less, either. And that common ethnic prejudice accounted, at least in part, for the delays and obstacles that many of the Jews trying to gain admittance to the United States encountered. It was not the main reason that the bulk of European Jewry, trying at any cost to escape the rule of the Third Reich, could not find asylum. But it contributed to the mental anguish and physical hardship the refugees often had to endure. In some cases it even led
Third Reich’s anti-Semitism, that the Jews were not entirely without fault in arousing ethnic hostility—that their ambitiousness or aggressiveness or clannishness helped account for the resentment they often encountered—that too has come to seem not only unfair but essentially irrelevant. Yet a few controversies arising out of the Second World War simply refuse to go away. The horror of the Holocaust is so great that even many of those born long afterward, Christians as well as Jews, continue to
the general opposition to any change in the existing immigration legislation. There was, however, a widespread awareness of the problem created by the hundreds of thousands of displaced persons and stateless refugees in the Old World, living in constant fear and anxiety, unwilling to return to their homelands but unable to find a suitable place for resettlement. Clearly something had to be done to help those victims of racist persecution. There was some talk about drafting an international plan
which had started more than a century before was about to be completed. Jews and Gentiles alike would henceforth be free to acquire any education they proved qualified for. They would have the right to enter any profession, establish any business, choose any cultural or artistic occupation, and participate in any political or social movement. There would no longer be any limits, except talent and luck, to what a Jew might achieve. Could anyone doubt that? Were not the liberal promises of the new
states and the anti-Semitic legislation of the Third Reich. But just as striking were the similarities of the rhetoric that each employed to justify that legislation. In Eastern as in Central Europe, there were complaints about Jewish guile and greed, about the growing Jewish domination of the economy, about the excessive number of Jews in the professions, and about their disproportionate role in national politics and culture. Yet, even more seriously, they were being accused of seeking to rule