U.S. Opinion of Jewish Refugees in 1939 Matches Racial Panic of GOP Governors Over Syrians | Alternet

Twitter user @HistOpinion (Historical Opinion) tweeted out polls from 1939 and 1938 showing what Americans thought of political refugees, most of whom were Jewish, on the eve of World War II. On the question, “What’s your attitude towards allowing German, Austrian & other political refugees to come into the US?” the numbers are, in retrospect, devastating:

 

Only 4.9% of Americans thought the U.S. should encourage immigration by raising quotas. Another poll six months later, about children of refugees, doesn’t look much better:

 

A few caveats. Obviously no one is planning on committing genocide against Muslims per se, but ISIL has committed what is tantamount to genocide against Yezidi, Christians, Shi’a Muslims and to a great extent other Sunni Muslims, targeting them for not meeting its rigid definition of religious purity. Yezidis, a minority group despised by ISIL, is probably the most clear-cut case of genocide, with even more mass graves coming to light this past week.

 

Some on Twitter have expressed outrage for the comparison because Jews didn’t possess a radical and dangerous political ideology. But this objection displays ignorance of the climate of late 1930s United States as @HistOpinion noted in a followup tweet, “Try Googling ‘Emma Goldman’ and ‘Alexander Berkman.’ Their anarchism was widely associated with their Jewishness.”

 

Jews were also seen by some US Neanderthals as having socialist tendencies and so were kept out as radicals. There was talk of the Jewish-Bolshevik conspiracy. (Hatred of Jews was irrational, so that they were blamed for being bankers [they were less than 1 percent of bankers] at the same time they were excoriated for being Marxists.) There was also the Society for the Defense of Christianity, so fundamentalists did their part.

 

 

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