Less than a week after the coordinated and deadly attacks on Paris, the American people have begun an internal battle about whether or not to aid the Syrian refugees that have sought to escape their war-torn country. In the four days that have passed, the political system has been a frenzy of activity as governors of over half of the states in the nation have defiantly declared that they will not be accepting any Syrian refugees. America has been at one such crossroads before though, during the Holocaust when the U.S. was given the chance to help Jewish refugees. The similarity between public reaction to the different refugee situations are quite eerie.
The Syrian refugee crisis is one that existed long before the Paris attacks and President Obama made the decision to welcome 10,000 Syrian migrants into the country, as many countries began to close their borders. Following the attacks, the first wave of migrants due to arrive on the shores of the United States arrived and many governors began to issue statements of refusal about helping any of refugees for fear that one might possibly be a terrorist. The Paris attacks are being used as the reason behind their reasoning despite the fact that all suspects identified thus far are Syrians. Xenophobia and countries closing their borders is exactly what greeted many Jewish refugees when they tried to flee Germany and Poland before the Holocaust even officially began during the reign of the Nazis in western Europe. Coincidentally, the U.N. figures that the current global levels of displacement are ones that have not been seen since World War II.
Historical Opinion, which keeps records of past public opinion surveys, sent out certain figures from polls around the time of the Holocaust that are grim proof that those 26 governors in the U.S. not wanting to help the Syrians are mirroring decisions made then to abandon persons displaced by war. The survey shows that less than 5 percent of persons wanted to help.
A historical event known as “The Night of Broken Glass” (Kristallnacht) saw Nazis rounding up all Jews in Germany and dumping them at the borders after a young man, in retaliation for his Jewish family’s treatment, shot and killed a German official in Paris. Over 1,500 Jews, majority of whom were children, needed new homes and the U.S. public was once more surveyed and over 60 percent were once more against Jewish refugees. The following year, the U.S. did, however, pass laws to facilitate the intake of English refugees, but as Uncut reported, the Jewish ones were left to die and in the ghettos of Warsaw alone – over 300,000 of them did.
Considering that many of the refugees have already arrived within the U.S., the public cry of “not my state,” if allowable, would force these persons to leave the country. Jews fleeing the cruelty of the Nazis were also turned away from the U.S. in the past. In 1939, a cruise ship of 900 Jews called the SS St Louis fled Germany and was prevented from docking in Germany and then Florida, who repeats history now and is one of the states refusing Syrian refugees. The ship had no choice but to return to Europe where at least 250 of those same passengers were killed by the Nazis.
Alabama, Michigan, Oklahoma, Texas, Florida, Idaho, New Mexico, New Jersey, Georgia, Louisiana, North Carolina, South Carolina, Arizona, Tennessee, Wisconsin, Massachusetts, Vermont, Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Mississippi, and Ohio are the 26 states whose governors hope to refuse Syrian refugees. Many persons have publicly tried to be lenient enough to say that maybe only the Muslim refugees should be returned and the Christian ones can stay.
Republican presidential candidate and Governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie, has said though that he would not even allow 3-year-old Syrian orphan to enter his home state; an echo of FDR’s cousin Laura Delano, who said of Jewish refugee children, “Twenty thousand charming children would all too soon grow into 20,000 ugly adults.” A Washington Post’s piece accurately compares today’s fear of refugees to the anti-Semitism of the 1930’s.
Perhaps a more invasive query into exactly what it means to say no 10,000 refugees who are desperately seeking a place to call home and escape members of a terrorism group trying to kill them is in order. Giving aid to those suffering because of the refugee crisis in Syria is a chance to show the most Christian and humanitarianism traits possible.