Published On: Mon, Feb 8th, 2016

The Shocking Story of Hitler’s Jewish Spy — And the Lesson It Holds for Us Today

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The leading candidates for the Republican presidential nomination share a commitment to halting the entry of Syrian refugees to the US. They are joined by about half the United States’ governors. Not long ago my colleague Peter Shulman tweeted the results of a 1938 Fortune poll showing that 67 percent of American respondents wanted refugees from central Europe kept out of the US. (A 1939—post Kristallnacht—poll showed that number roughly holding at 61 percent.) For many, Prof. Shulman’s was a chilling admonishment from the past: turning our backs on refugees can mean their death sentence. It was all the more stinging because, as now, it seemed Americans on the eve of the Holocaust rejected these refugees as ethnic-religious undesirables.


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For others, these reminders offered no moral pang. It is a failed analogy, wrote Ian Tuttle, Buckley Fellow at the National Review Institute. “The first and most obvious difference: There was no international conspiracy of German Jews in the 1930s attempting to carry out daily attacks on civilians.…” There is no comparison, in other words, because the Jews, unlike Syrian Muslims, were not terrorists.

Mr. Tuttle’s choice of words is salient because it was precisely “an international conspiracy of Jews” that many Americans feared in the 1930s, most relevantly at the Justice and State Departments. They feared international Bolshevism—imagined to be particularly rooted among “the Jews”—and fifth columnists sowing revolution.


This story was first published at History News Network,  

John Broich is an associate professor at Case Western Reserve University where he teaches British Empire history. His next book on the Royal Navy and the East African slave trade will be published by Overlook Press and Duckworth.


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