Holocaust Survivors Have A Powerful Message For Trump About Syrian Refugees

"In the aftermath of World War II, the price for keeping America’s doors closed to refugees due to fear was made starkly clear."

Much has been made of the apparent similarities between the Trump administration and Nazi Germany: chest-beating declarations of nationalism, the denial of basic fact, and rhetoric targeting certain religious groups. While drawing those parallels can be somewhat of a stretch — little measures up to the horrors of the Holocaust — many Jewish people have been spooked by what they see as early signs of fascism from the White House. 

When Trump signed his executive order barring Syrian refugees from entering the country, descendants of European Jews who found refuge in the U.S. during the Nazi regime spoke up. American Jews have felt particularly shaken by the administration's decision to deny their entry into the U.S. — just as it rejected Jews fleeing the Holocaust decades ago. 

On Monday, more than 200 survivors of the Holocaust and their family members wrote a letter to President Trump urging him to take in refugees. The signees are human legacies of the Kindertransport, a British program that took in 10,000 Jewish children from around Europe after Kristallnacht. 

"In the aftermath of World War II, the price for keeping America's doors closed to refugees due to fear was made starkly clear. We are among the very few who were welcomed by a country and its citizens and therefore survived," the letter read. "We have since led successful lives in the United States and many other countries, and have been a benefit to those who have welcomed us."

It particularly expressed concern for children refugees from Central America, Syria, and other countries Middle East. "America has been defined by our generosity towards those who seek safe haven from oppression. Welcoming refugees honors our country's history and reflects the deeply-held American tradition of offering a chance at a new beginning to those who are persecuted."


praszkiewicz / Shutterstock

Trump's son-in-law and senior advisor Jared Kushner is himself the descendant of a Holocaust survivor, Rae Kushner. In lieu of Kushner's conspicuous silence on Trump's immigration policy, his grandmother's retrospective on the U.S.' then closed-door policy to Jewish refugees holds haunting relevance:

For the Jews, the doors were closed. We never understood that. Even President Roosevelt kept the doors closed. Why? The boat, St. Louis, was turned back. What was the world afraid of? I don't understand.

The Kindertransport letter appealed to the American belief in itself as a land of opportunity. "The Kindertransport children came to this country as refugees, and in the years since have become productive American citizens, including two Nobel Laureates, many successful business people, film and theater professionals, teachers, artists, writers, doctors, and philanthropists," the letter read. "We write to urge you to give other children at risk the same opportunity."

Cover image via kafeinkolik / Shutterstock


Subscribe to our newsletter and get the latest news and exclusive updates.