Identify USA's reaction to Hitler's actions in the mid-1930's.

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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I think that one could make an argument that the isolationism that gripped the nation out of World War I continued as Hitler was on the rise in the 1930s.  For the most part, American attention was focused on the Great Depression.  Economic reality trumped foreign affairs.  While Americans struggled and persevered through the Great Depression, little focus was marshaled on what was happening in Europe, and particularly with the rise of Hitler.  Legislation like the Neutrality Act forbade American intervention with European affairs.  At the same time, President Roosevelt won reelection with a pledge to stay out of what was happening in Europe.  American figures like Charles Lindbergh spoke out against intervening in Europe, and specifically to the strength of the German air force under Hitler.  There was not a coordinated, outspoken effort towards Hitler.  American silence towards Hitler was a unique feature of the US reaction to the rise of Hitler and his actions in the 1930s.  One particular response was the turning away of a boat in 1939 of German Jewish refugees, individuals who understood the threat of Hitler both in Germany and on the move in Europe.  When asked to provide sanctuary, the State Department cabled back to the boat the following terse message:

[The refugees need to] await their turns on the waiting list and qualify for and obtain immigration visas before they may be admissible into the United States.

With Hitler on the rise and the intensity of anti- Jewish policies and practices increasing, the Roosevelt administration turned away a boat of refugees who could speak first hand to what was happening with the rise of Hitler.  It might be in this action where the United States' reaction to Hitler in the 1930s is most illuminated.

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