Date of Award
Bachelor of Arts
Jewish, Holocaust, Europe, Germany, Zionism
This thesis examines the response from the different American Jewish groups during Hitler’s rise to power and the subsequent Holocaust, and how the ideological divide that formed between Zionists and non-Zionists ultimately shaped the ultimately limited their ability to exert political influence toward policies to aid European Jewry. The main groups that were analyzed were the American Jewish Committee, the Joint Distribution Committee, B’nai B’rith, the American Jewish Congress, the World Jewish Congress, and the Zionist Organization of America. For purposes of analysis and clarity, the groups can be divided along the lines of extreme Zionist, which included the two Congresses and the Zionist Organization of America, and moderate to non-Zionists, which included the American Jewish Committee, the Joint Distribution Committee, and B’nai B’rith. At the core of their debate was how to respond to the growing anti-Semitic threat in Germany. The extreme Zionists were concerned with the goal of a Jewish homeland in Palestine and would not divert funds or resources from that goal, while the moderate to non-Zionists were concerned with the more immediate and pressing issue of the destruction of European Jewry. Factors that exacerbated these divides were issues such as anti-Semitism sentiments in the United States, skepticism about reports indicating the scale and scope of Nazi oppression of the Jews, and a Federal Government that believed in an Isolationist approach. What is abundantly clear is that this fundamental divide shaped the overall lack of political mobilization. What was constant was a state of paralysis or ineffective leadership during three seminal moments. Hitler’s appointment to Chancellor of Germany in January of 1933, with his anti-Semitic beliefs and doctrines, was met with some concern but generally dismissed by Jewish and political leaders in the United States. Kristallnacht, the economic destruction of German Jewry on November 9 and 10th, 1938, served as a wakeup call to many in the United States, and helped shed light on the grave situation faced by Jewish refugees, as well as created a sense of urgency amongst Zionists for the establishment of a homeland. News of the Final Solution, that was initially found out in August of 1942, left many Jews in a state of helplessness, as Zionists attempted to further bolster their case for Palestine, while moderate Zionists and non Zionists were paralyzed in terms of what could be done.
Gross, Daniel, "A House Divided: The Development of the Ideological Divide of American Jewry and its Influence on the American Response to Nazi Germany 1933-1943" (2013). Honors Theses and Student Projects. 672.