Segments in this Video

Jewish Refugees (04:59)


In 1933, Otto Frank and his family strolled through Frankfurt. Adolph Hitler soon declared Jews parasites. The Franks and hundreds of other Jewish families moved to Amsterdam. ”The New Colossus" and "Unguarded Gates" provided different perspectives on immigration.

Holocaust Beginnings (05:35)

In 1933, Europe housed nine million Jews; six million were dead by 1945. Americans heard about the persecution of Jews, and some responded in support of the persecuted. The U.S. accepted 225,000 refugees; thousands more were denied.

U.S. Immigration (03:54)

America had mostly open borders for centuries; Native American genocide and involuntary immigration were dark aspects. Before the Civil War, most immigrants came from northern Europe. Later, the volume of southern and eastern European immigrants inspired backlash. Over two million Jews arrived.

Eugenics (06:06)

People believed immigrants were the cause of urban anxieties. Thirty-three states enacted laws that mandated sterilization of wards of the state deemed physically or mentally unfit. Eugenics provided a racist rationale for curtailing immigration; many saw Jews as a distinct race.

American Xenophobia (04:02)

After World War I, white on black crime, anarchist bombings, and strikes occurred in many cities. The "Red Scare" resulted in the arrest of 10,000 suspected revolutionaries—many were immigrants. Antisemitism intensified.

Anti-Immigration (06:28)

In the 1920s, support for permanent restriction of immigration increased. A small number of congressmen, including Emanuel Celler, attempted to speak for their immigrant constituents and prevent anti-immigration legislation. President Coolidge signed the Johnson-Reed Act into law in 1924.

Adolf Hitler (07:22)

Hitler approved of the new American immigration law. The Nazis identified Jews as the most dangerous nationality. Hitler admired the United States' approach to westward expansion and envisioned a similar approach to German expansion; Berlin represented everything he hated.

Economic and Political Change (05:56)

The Great Depression followed the 1929 stock market crash; President Hoover ordered strict immigration law enforcement and approved the Mexican Repatriation Program. The Nazis increased party numbers and Hitler became chancellor. He obtained the powers of a dictator and the Nazis staged victory parades.

FDR and Nazism (04:21)

Franklin D. Roosevelt became U.S. president. Some urged him to assume dictatorial powers; he focused on domestic policy while the State Department handled foreign policy. Within weeks of Hitler taking power, the SS sent nearly 5,000 people to concentration camps and beat anyone they thought was Jewish.

U.S. Response to Jewish Persecution (10:56)

The media reported Nazi activities. Jewish representatives debated how to respond. War veterans and English organizations demanded boycotting German goods. The Nazis denounced mistreatment claims and threatened revenge. Across the U.S., hundreds of thousands rallied in support of the Jews. Roosevelt’s Jewish advisors urged caution.

Rise of Nazism (06:15)

Manifestations of the change in ideology was gradual. A book burning marked the end of a month in which the Reich promulgated its first openly anti-Jewish laws. Hitler eliminated opposition parties, labor unions, and potential rivals.

Foreign Reporting and Visas (05:52)

Reporting on activities in Germany proved challenging. Edgar Ansel Mowrer's candor put his safety at risk and Hitler ordered Dorothy Thompson out of the country. Thompson urged State Department officials to ease immigration restrictions; consular officials zealously enforced directives.

Immigration and Antisemitism (03:34)

The State Department, supported by public opinion, refused to relax its rules. Roosevelt's willingness to work alongside Jews was controversial. Anti-Semitic organizations increased; Roosevelt worried about pro-Nazi sentiment and antisemitism. Hitler began building the Luftwaffe and called for re-armament.

U.S. and German Discrimination (07:37)

In 1935, protestors charged the bow of the SS Bremen and cut down the Nazi flag. Hitler made the Swastika Germany's national flag and instilled harsher anti-Semitic laws; Jim Crow laws were an inspiration. The willingness of neighboring countries to accept Jewish refugees declined.

Olympic Games (05:40)

Germany held the 1936 Olympics; some people in Europe and America threatened a boycott. The Nazis tightly controlled Berlin's image, pleasing visitors. In March, Hitler sent troops into the Rhineland. After the games, the Nazis resumed German indoctrination.

Jewish Immigrants (07:01)

In 1937, Gunther Stern prepared to leave Germany. Malcolm C. Burke approved his papers and Stern traveled to St. Louis. The Bland family returned to Suwalki, Poland for a visit. In the ensuing years, Nazis murdered nearly all of the town's Jewish inhabitants.

American Involvement (06:39)

In 1937, authoritarian regimes entered a new phase of conquest. U.S. college students staged a strike for peace, Congress passed neutrality acts, and corporations continued business with the Hitler regime. Roosevelt expressed alarm over international events. In 1938, "Inside Nazi Germany" revealed Jewish persecution.

Expanding Jewish Persecution (06:52)

Hitler unified Germany and Austria in 1938 and targeted Austria's 192,000 Jews; people queued at consulates in hopes of getting a visa. The Nazis required registration of all Jewish-owned businesses and personal property. Roosevelt recognized a crisis, but public opinion opposed immigration.

Intergovernmental Committee for Refugees (02:45)

Roosevelt called for the international community to address political refugees fleeing Hitler. Representatives recognized the problem but refused to accept refugees.

Nazi Expansion (06:01)

In the summer of 1938, Hitler seized the Sudetenland. As Nazi Germany expanded, its Jewish population increased. In Berlin, officials mass deported Jewish men to Poland. Herschel Grynszpan shot German official Ernst vom Rath.

Kristallnacht (06:45)

Hitler ordered a massive, coordinated assault on Jews. Nazis forced 30,000 men to Dachau, Sachsenhausen and Buchenwald. After the Night of Broken Glass, the primary goal for many Jews, including the Frank family, was to get to the United States.

Credits: Episode 1: The Golden Door (Beginnings-1938) (The U.S. and the Holocaust: A Film by Ken Burns) (02:46)

Credits: Episode 1: The Golden Door (Beginnings-1938) (The U.S. and the Holocaust: A Film by Ken Burns)

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Episode 1: The Golden Door (Beginnings-1938) (The U.S. and the Holocaust: A Film by Ken Burns)

Part of the Series : The U.S. and the Holocaust: A Film by Ken Burns, Lynn Novick and Sarah Botstein
3-Year Streaming Price: $199.95



After decades of open borders, a xenophobic backlash prompts the United States to pass laws restricting immigration. In Germany, Hitler finds support for his antisemitic rhetoric and the Nazis begin their persecution of Jewish people, causing many to flee to neighboring countries or America. FDR and other world leaders are concerned by the growing refugee crisis but fail to coordinate a response.

Length: 128 minutes

Item#: BVL282622

Copyright date: ©2022

Closed Captioned

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