NEW YORK (AP) “Against the Odds” A new exhibit opens on US Jews who helped refugees from Nazis. “Against the Odds” attempts to dispel the perception of American Jewish passivity during the Holocaust.
Perhaps there has been not enough said about the efforts of American Jews to bring refugees to the US from Europe during the Nazi era.
This exhibition is the first in a series of five opening Tuesday May 29, 2013 at the Museum of Jewish Heritage at Battery Park. “Against the Odds: American Jews and the rescue of Europe’s Refugees, 1933-1941 will be on view for a year.
The museum says that the show is one of the first of its kind. One of the first major exhibits about the subject, including images, rare documents, first-person accounts and interactive presentations.
I personally found it interesting and hard to learn that strict quotas on US Visas made it very difficult for many to seek refuge in America. There was much incorrect information as a result of misguided wartime priorities as well. The show includes a 1941 letter from Albert Einstein to Eleanor Roosevelt in which he condemns the State Departments “Wall of bureaucratic measures alleged to protect America”. Einstein helped found the International Rescue Committee.
Many of the refugee sponsors were well-connected individuals of means who could guarantee that those brought to the United States would be provided for and not become public burdens and others were quite ordinary, average folks who simply stepped in to help.
Sadly, not all of those who sought to get the Jews out succeeded. “Against the Odds” also describes some of the failed efforts and those left behind.
The show includes artifacts such as photos, diaries, odd items like seed packets from a Virginia Farm and a beaded bracelet that Refugee Lotte Henlein made as a Girl Scout in North Dakota. Both have interesting stories as to why they are in this show.
The theme, information and intent is to me a beautiful reminder that out of unspeakable horror can come every day hero’s and unheralded miracles long forgotten. Anita Kassof, the museums deputy director, said in a press release “It’s true that American immigration law restricted the number of people admitted into the US. But, within those limits it was sometimes possible for dedicated and persistent people to bring refugees to safety. Some of them saved hundreds of people, but “Each started out by bringing a single family to America”. Many of the stories told are of the ingenuity and resourcefulness of the American Jewish Community.
In the photo I chose for this blog, is Universal Pictures founder Carl Laemmle, who came to the US from Laupheim, Germany and helped many individuals from the Laupheim area to the US. The exhibit includes Laemmle’s 1937 letter to Secretary of State Cordell Hull expressing sympathy for the German Jews.
My favorite story is when, a European composer named Erich Zeisl, wrote a letter to someone he found in the New York phone book with a similar name. They were not at all related, but the New Yorker, Morris Zeisel, a plumber, wrote back immediately and got the paperwork necessary to bring the composer and his wife over.
I just love stories like that!
Seriously have to see this Exhibit. Have a great Memorial Day Holiday!