This course explores a difficult, complex and emotionally charged subject: the American response to the Holocaust. While most historians agree that the nation’s response was inadequate, and that a more forceful and effective rescue policy might have saved many lives, they disagree about what was realistically possible to accomplish under the circumstances. We will examine the roles of various branches of the American government: the President and his advisors, Congress, the State Department, and other Cabinet secretaries. In addition, we will evaluate the impact of public opinion, the press, religious groups and private agencies on governmental policies related to rescue. Particular emphasis will be placed on the American Jewish community’s reaction to the tragedy, and the factors influencing that reaction. We will apply insights gained from our study of this dark chapter in history to consideration of appropriate responses to more recent international humanitarian crises.
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