Skip to comments.Ken Burns Distorts FDR’s Policy on Jewish Refugees
Posted on 09/19/2022 7:52:15 PM PDT by TigerClaws
If you’re going to make a documentary film about America’s response to the Holocaust, shouldn’t you at least know how many Jewish refugees were admitted to the United States during those years? Surprisingly, filmmaker Ken Burns appears to be unaware of that basic information—or is for some reason seeking to misrepresent the facts.
Burns has announced that his forthcoming film will challenge the “myth” that President Franklin D. Roosevelt abandoned Europe’s Jews. That remarkable assertion flies in the face of the historical record that numerous scholars have thoroughly documented. Nonetheless, in recent interviews, Burns has claimed that during the Roosevelt years, the United States “accepted more refugees than any other sovereign nation.” That’s simply false.
Start with 1933, the year Adolf Hitler and the Nazis rose to power in Germany. America’s immigration laws would have permitted the entry of 25,957 German immigrants. But the Roosevelt administration suppressed immigration far below what the law allowed. That year, only 1,324 German nationals were admitted to the United States. Smaller numbers came from other European countries—961 Poles, 864 Hungarians, 236 Rumanians (and not all of them were Jewish refugees.)
By contrast, the British government in 1933 admitted over 33,000 European Jews to British-ruled Palestine, plus thousands more to the United Kingdom itself, and small numbers to other British controlled-territories.
In the years to follow, the contrast between the Roosevelt administration and the British government was even more stark. In 1934, the U.S. accepted 3,515 German citizens—less than 14% of that year’s quota—while the British admitted about 50,000 Jewish refugees to the U.K. and British territories (mostly Palestine).
Later in the 1930s, the British began reducing Jewish immigration to Palestine in response to Arab terrorism—but they still took in more European Jewish refugees than the United States did.
And it wasn’t just the British. Consider 1938, when the Roosevelt administration admitted 17,872 German and Austrian refugees. Both the British and the Japanese rulers of Shanghai each took in a similar number that year. France, too, accepted more Jews than the U.S. that year.
During the years 1939-1941, the overall picture changed, but the United States still did not accept “more refugees than any other sovereign nation,” as Ken Burns erroneously claims.
From 1939 to 1941, the Soviets took in an estimated 300,000 Jews fleeing from Nazi-occupied Poland, according to the website of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. That was far more than the number of Jewish refugees the Roosevelt administration admitted during those years.
In 1942, the numbers admitted by the American and British governments were similar. In 1943, however, there was a significant gap between the two. That year, the United States admitted just 1,286 German immigrants. The British, by contrast, admitted 8,507 Jewish refugees to Palestine in 1943, as well as small numbers to other British territories. Those trends continued in 1944 and 1945.
Obviously these immigration numbers do not change the cruel reality of England’s White Paper policy, which blocked most Jewish immigration to Palestine; nor do they change the facts about the Soviet regime’s mistreatment of the Jews in its territory. But the numbers show that Ken Burns is seriously mistaken when he contends that the Roosevelt administration’s record on refugees was better than that of any other country.
None of these immigration statistics are a secret. They all appear in publicly-available Immigration and Naturalization Service charts, which historians have been quoting for decades. If Burns has not seen the charts—or has not read any of the many history books that cite them—that’s cause for concern. If he knows the true figures but is choosing to distort them for partisan purposes, that’s even more troubling.
Sheer numbers aside, there is the problem of the moral relativism inherent in the argument that Burns is making. The Roosevelt administration’s response to the Holocaust should not be minimized or excused just because other countries also did much less than they could have.
Moreover, is it really impressive if the president of a country claiming to represent high ideals of humanitarianism was slightly more generous in admitting refugees than, say, the military juntas ruling in South America? Is that the moral standard by which we as Americans judge our country and our leaders?
In fact, the rulers of the tiny South American country of Bolivia—which is only 424,000 square miles—took in more than 20,000 Jewish refugees during the Nazi years. What does that say about the United States, which is nearly 3.8-million square miles?
Translating Burns’s point into more contemporary terms, is it really a badge of pride that America’s meager response to the Darfur genocide was slightly better than the response of, say, Peru or Lithuania? We have a right to expect better from our country.
We also have a right to expect better from our filmmakers. While a full assessment of Burns’s film must await its release, the inaccurate statements that he has been making about the historical record are cause for concern.
Dr. Medoff is founding director of The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies and author of more than 20 books about Jewish history and the Holocaust. His latest is America and the Holocaust: A Documentary History, published by the Jewish Publication Society & University of Nebraska Press.
Ken Burns is a leftist propagandist and hopefully future generations remember as such.
Why does Burns hate America?
I hate that f*ckin smug elitist cuck
Burns is a longtime supporter of the Democratic Party, contributing almost $40,000 in political donations.
In 2008, the Democratic National Committee chose Burns to produce the introductory video for Senator Ted Kennedy’s August 2008 speech to the Democratic National Convention, a video described by Politico as a “Burns-crafted tribute casting him [Kennedy] as the modern Ulysses bringing his party home to port.”
In August 2009, Kennedy died, and Burns produced a short eulogy video at his funeral. In endorsing Barack Obama for the U.S. presidency in December 2007, Burns compared Obama to Abraham Lincoln. He said he had planned to be a regular contributor to Countdown with Keith Olbermann on Current TV.
In 2016, he also gave a commencement speech for Stanford University criticizing Donald Trump.
In 2020, Burns endorsed Ed Markey in the Massachusetts Senate Democratic Primary.
FDR DESPISED Jews, just as the Democrats today do. But since Jews support Democrat polices and provide MASSIVE amounts of money, Democrats will continue to fake ‘liking’ Jews.
Ken Burns distorts everything, to suit his preferred narrative.
Shelby Foote was appalled at how Burns edited and butchered his contributions to his “ Civil War “ series.
Has Burns recanted his extolling Confederates in his Civil War Doc. The Doc that made him.
Shelby Foote is an American treasure. He has forgotten more about the “late unpleasantries” than a hack like Burns will ever know.
FDR’s actual policy towards Jews fleeing Hitler is distorted in the Ken Burns documentary to make it look like FDR gave a rip.
I saw Alan Dershowitz talking this when he was young and I was a child 50 some years ago. FDR would not allow Jews on the St. Louis, a ship that Cuba also refused help to, into the USA.
Some made it to the UK others to Holland, Belgium and France. The latter three conquered by the Nazis.
254 died in the Holocaust.
He hates Mexicans.
I dislike him intensely.
You only have to listen to him being interviewed to understand immediately: What he cares about isn’t history...it is Leftism.
Like all good Leftists, he knows what the beating collective heart wants.
All politics, all the time, if history is inconvenient or does not forward “the cause”, it must be ignored, repudiated, or re-written. (it is why their innocent “Forward!” slogan is one of their official ones)
It is his job to re-write. That is his specialty.
FDR was a hypocrite in this and gave Barnard Baruch the occasional bone to make it look good. And Baruch is a good example of Jew who supported FDR and the Democrats while getting screwed royally.
The movie Ship of Fools was based on this.
Good question. Extolling those Confederates was the pinnacle of his work.
Foote defended the series against critics when it came out. He had to realize that the show wasn’t going to just be the Confederate point of view over and over again.
Burns should limit himself to doing sports documentaries. Didn’t he do one on baseball?
Maybe he should do one on pickle ball, or badminton.
(Apologies to fans of one or the other. Nothing personal, just trying to be funny.
The three biggest events where FDR demonstrated he didn’t give a fig about the Jews were:
1, the conferences on the Jewish refugee question held in 1938 in Evian, France, and Bermuda in 1943. In both cases it was unanimously agreed that something needed to be done but no one (America included) volunteered to be the one to do the something.
And this was at a time when Hitler was publicly stating that he wouldn’t interfere if a foreign country would take the Jews off his hands and grant them asylum elsewhere. In other words, it was opportunity to save all the 6 million who were murdered, but no on cared enough to put forth the effort.
2, The 1939 voyage of the SS St Louis, AKA “The Voyage of the Damned,” a chartered passenger liner carrying some 937 German Jewish refugees. Most were refused entry at Havana harbor so the ship proceeded to sail up the east coast of America, but FDR ordered the Coast Guard to deny the St Lewis entry into US waters.
Finding no entry into either the US or Canada, the St Louis eventually returned to Europe and roughly a third of its Jewish passengers ended up dying at the hands of the NAZIs.
Thank you, FDR.
1933 was the height of the Great Depression.
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