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The American Experience
The Film & More
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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."

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