The Film & More|
DAVID McCULLOUGH, Host: Good evening and welcome to The American
Experience. I'm David McCullough.
On November 25, 1942, more than three years after Adolf Hitler ignited World
War II, The New York Times carried the first authenticated report that
the Nazis had established a policy to exterminate Jews. The front page of
The Times that day was taken up with mostly war news and such other
items as a minor scandal in City Hall. The story of the slaughter of the Jews
-- a report confirmed by the State Department that more than two million Jews
in Nazi-occupied Europe had already been systematically murdered -- that
appeared on page 10. The President, Franklin Roosevelt, could have made much of
this appalling news had he chosen to, but he said nothing; nor, in the months
following, did any reporter ever ask him about it. And thoughThe Times
and other major papers did carry further infrequent reports, such popular
magazines as Time, Life, Newsweek, had little or nothing to say. It was
as if the country preferred not to know. But in watching tonight's program --
one of the most powerful and disturbing films to appear in this series -- it's
important to understand, too, how pervasive was anti-Semitism at the time here
in America. Jews then were unacceptable to many employers, unwelcome at
business and social clubs, vacation resorts. Jokes about "kikes" and "yids"
were commonplace, and such supposed champions of American values as members of
Congress -- people like Senator Bilbo, Representative Rankin -- openly spewed
anti-Semitic poison in the very halls of the nation's capital. In a public
opinion poll taken in 1942 in answer to the question, "Which groups menace the
country most," Jews were listed third, just behind the Germans and the
Japanese. That, tragically, was the atmosphere.
That was the outlook. "America
and the Holocaust: Deceit and Indifference."