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During the first two years of World War II, the United States stayed neutral. The U.S. was debating whether they should help their allies or they should stay out of it. The majority of Americans wanted to stay out of the war due to the trauma and events that happened during WWI and coming out of the Great Depression. Most Americans felt that problems at home should be more important than European problems. The United States decided to join the war after Pearl Harbor was attacked by the Japanese in 1941. Even though, the United States joined the war late; was it also because there was antisemitism and isolationist politics that also stopped the country from intervening before the Holocaust.
According to the dictionary, the definition for Anti-Semitism is defined as hatred/hostility toward Jews. It did not originate with Hitler but it definitely grew and became a whole bigger problem. Anti-Semitism was mostly based on Jewish stereotypes. They were portrayed as taking money from people, not belonging to any country, and as dangerous. Anti-Semitism spread across American society, such as in magazines/newspapers, commercials, and graffitis. Most commonly newspapers had Anti-Semetic cartoons and articles. There was another type of Anti-Semitism in the United States called “Passive Anti-Semitism”. Where these Americans wouldn’t physically hurt a Jew but had negative feelings toward them. These negative feelings led to people to not really caring about what was happening to the Jews.
In 1939, an article from the Transcript had a title called “Menace of Anti- Semitism in the U.S.A is Abated by Intelligent Action” and showed all kinds of popular examples of Anti-Semitic propaganda. It stated that Jews were mostly targeted with controversial political and social positions in the 1930s. They were part of Communism, responsible for the New Deal, the Great Depression (economic crisis), a conspiracy of the Elders of Zion, and increasing the Black population. These accusations also depended on the person’s political views, many were labeled as Anti-American, which shows that being “American” is defined as one color, background, and specific race.
In the United States of America, there have been a number of Anti-Semitic groups/organizations. These groups were Christian Identity Churches, KKK, American Nazi Party, White Aryan Resistance, and many more. Before WWII, KKK had about five million members. After WWI, the KKK blended religious prejudice, xenophobia, and white supremacy together to scare people. The way KKK saw that Eastern European immigrants were coming to the U.S to spread Communism and take over politics. This way, they took it out on Jews, African Americans, women, and other groups of people that they disagreed with and wanted to control. Even though the KKK existed way before WWII or even before WWI, they were mostly targeting African Americans. Another group, the Christian Identity wanted to go one step ahead of those Christians that had persecuted Jews for rejecting Jesus. They believed that Jews were evil and immoral so they have to be an enemy. They accepted the fact that even Jesus would not forgive the Jews. Some organizations weren’t as violent as others but showed that Jews weren’t welcomed. Westboro Baptist Church wrote Anti-Semetic Messages. The American Nazi Party, had members shave their heads and tattoos of Nazi symbolism like the swastikas and Heil Hitler. The group would set up Anti- Semitic marches and yell out Anti-Jew messages across America.
In 1939, there was a rally held by German American Bund with around 20,000 people attending. It took place in Madison Square Garden, the participants had uniforms and carried Nazi with American flags, they also had swastikas and Nazi iconography. This rally was approved by Mayor Fiorello La Guardia, who was half-Jewish, and predicted that the Bund’s rally would be a largely publicized spectacle and would discredit the group from the public eye, which the Mayor was right in that case. The German American Bund was an organization that was pro-Hitler in the United States before WWII even happened. The organization endorsed Nazi propaganda, their main type of propaganda was combining American patriotic imagery with Nazi imagery. Even though most members were young German Americans, any American could have joined. After the rally gained popularity among other organizations, there was another group called the Christian Front. This group was made up of Irish Americans, in 1940, 13 members were arrested by the FBI for setting up a bomb targeting offices of the Forward, which was a Jewish paper. This group also wanted to murder Jewish members of Congress.
One well-known Anti-Semitic figure was a Roman Catholic Priest named Father Charles Coughlin. He had radio programs that had about forty million listeners. In the late 1930s, the priest was broadcasting that people should support the Nazis and blamed the Jews for economic such as the Great Depression and political problems that the country.
Anti-Semitism also appeared in Colleges/universities. By 1934, Jewish women made up about more than fifty percent of the New York student population. From 1936 through the early 1940s, colleges reduced the number of Jewish women acceptances by almost half. It went down in ranks from 24.8 to 16.0, even though applications from Jewish women rose during the same period. Colleges, mostly in New Jersey, had interviews with each applicant who applied and evaluated every single person based on their personality, character, background, health, religion, and family life. This process lets the administrators single out the applicants for rejection. Most of whom they considered as “undesirable” and “harmful” were Jewish women. That’s when Jewish groups noticed the high proportion of rejection, they pressured the universities to lower their expectations and restrictions.
Of course, Anti-Semitism occurred in Politics and the Military. In Congress, this was a factor of explaining the repeating hostility towards refugees and immigration. Congress passed a Visa policy that only allowed a specific number of Jews into the U.S, it also supported Britain’s policy that limited refugees’ entry into Palestine. John Rankin, a Representative who was openly Anti-Semitic and verbally abused Jews. It was an evident problem in America since, this representative was in a higher-up representative and could speak like that in public, without getting punished or paying for the consequences. In the military, high-ranking officers were allowed to make anti-semitic jokes and call out stereotypes.
Anti-Semitism definitely played a role of the United States joining the war late. If Pearl Harbor never happened, I think the U.S would have waited longer or never joined. It is pretty clear that Anti-Semitism was widespread in that particular time and area. Anti-Semitism in the U.S reached high levels in the late 1930s. Many organizations/groups and individuals were responsible for spreading propaganda and hate to the public. Swastikas, graffiti, anti slogans were common, and so were violent attacks on Jews, especially young Jewish people.
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