America’s Response to the Holocaust (HGS 760)

Elective for full-time PhD students

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.  The roles of various branches of the American government will be examined, such as the President and his advisors, Congress, the State Department, and other Cabinet secretaries. In addition, the students 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.  Insights gained from the study of this dark chapter in history will be applied to consideration of appropriate responses to more recent international humanitarian crises.  Additional work will be required for doctoral students taking this course for PhD credit.

Semester Information: 
Spring B: February 27- April 23

Current faculty


Required Reading:

- Richard Breitman and Allan Lichtman, FDR and the Jews (Cambridge, Mass.: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2013), ISBN 978-0-674-05026-6. New: $11.00/$19.00  Used: $7.33
- Henry Feingold, Bearing Witness: How America and Its Jews Responded to the Holocaust (Syracuse, New York: Syracuse University Press, 1995). Paperback. ISBN 0-8156-2670-3 (This book is recommended; any required readings from it will be available in Moodle, but some recommended readings will not). New: $19.95  Used: $2.90/$13.68
- Deborah E. Lipstadt, Holocaust: An American Understanding (New Brunswick, New Jersey and London: Rutgers University Press, 2016). Paperback. ISBN 978-0-8135-6476-0. New: $26.16  Used: $12.75
- David S. Wyman, Paper Walls: America and the Refugee Crisis, 1938-1941 (Amherst, Mass.: University of Massachusetts Press, 1968). (no ISBN listed). New: $18.00  Used: $14.59
- David S. Wyman, The Abandonment of the Jews: America and the Holocaust, 1941-1945 (New York: Pantheon Books, 1984). ISBN 0-394-42813-7. New: $19.93  Used: $1.96
- Video: “America and the Holocaust: Deceit and Indifference” (PBS Video, 1994). Viewing the video is required for the Midterm assignment. Gratz will provide copies of this DVD at a cost of $15 each. Students will be billed for the DVD, and Gratz will send copies to you. If, for some reason, you would not like a DVD, please let Hope Matles know (

The texts listed above can be purchased from any book seller. Used copies should be available in most cases.