Immigration, Antisemitism, and Refugees: Crises of the American Conscience

Endorsed by the OAH Committee on Academic Freedom and the Immigration and Ethnic History Society (IEHS)

Thursday, April 2, 2020, 2:30 PM - 4:00 PM

Type: Paper Session

Tags: Ethnicity; Immigration and Internal Migration; Race


U.S. immigration policy, and Americans’ responses to international refugee crises, were subjects of intense public debate in the 1930s, as they are in our own time. In this session, three leading scholars in the field of American responses to Nazism and the Holocaust will present new research on Americans’ responses, and the factors that shaped them. Dr. Medoff will examine previously unexplored aspects of the U.S. government’s immigration policy, then and now; Prof. Leff will address the question of how American universities responded to the plight of European refugee scholars; and Prof. Norwood will describe efforts by the Nazi regime to spread antisemitism on American campuses, and how those efforts affected public opinion and policy.

Papers Presented

New Research on America’s Responses to International Refugee Crises, Then and Now

Rafael Medoff will present new research on the U.S. government’s response to the German Jewish refugee crisis in the 1930s and consider how it is similar to, or differs from, America’s response to contemporary refugee crises.

Presented By
Rafael Medoff, David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies

Saving the Professors: American Universities’ Life-and-Death Decisions concerning Refugees from Nazi Europe

In the years leading up to World War II, American universities wrestled with the question of whether to help European refugee scholars immigrate to the United States. Based on her latest archival research, Laurel Leff will examine how factors such as budgetary concerns, competition for jobs, and attitudes toward ethnic minorities affected the academic community’s response to the crisis of refugees fleeing the Nazis.

Presented By
Laurel Leff, Northeastern University

Nazi Antisemitism on American Campuses

Drawing on his latest archival research, Stephen Norwood will examine efforts by the Adolf Hitler regime to spread antisemitic propaganda on American college campuses, through student and faculty exchanges, campus speeches by Nazi officials, student tours to the Third Reich, and suppression of anti-Nazi protests.

Presented By
Stephen H. Norwood, University of Oklahoma

Session Participants

Chair: Eunice G. Pollack, David S. Wyman Institute
Dr. Eunice G. Pollack is a historian and author.

Presenter: Laurel Leff, Northeastern University
Laurel Leff is Stotsky Professor of Jewish Historical and Cultural Studies at Northeastern University.

Presenter: Rafael Medoff, David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies
Founding director of The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies, and author of 19 books on American Jewish history, Zionism, and the Holocaust.

Presenter: Stephen H. Norwood, University of Oklahoma
Stephen H. Norwood is Professor of History at the University of Oklahoma.

Commentator: Bat-Ami Zucker, Bar Ilan University
Bat-Ami Zucker is Professor of American History at Bar Ilan University