A three-part documentary aired on PBS stations Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday, entitled The U.S. and the Holocaust. The documentary by Ken Burns, Sarah Botstein, and Lynn Novick explains how Hitler rose to power in Nazi Germany amid global antisemitism and racism, a heavily funded eugenics movement in the US—which held that people of color were biologically inferior to whites—and race laws in the American south.
The series may air several more times, as PBS is known to do, and it is a must-see for all Americans. While we can take great pride in the ideals of democracy this country has stood for through two and a half centuries, we cannot deny the evil that has also been found within these shores and in our treatment of people in other parts of the world throughout that short history.
Burns et al examine this history and give Nazism and Hitler a context that many people may not know. For example, did you know that Anne Frank was denied entry into the US because she was Jewish? That side of the story isn’t exposed in The Diary of Anne Frank, but it is just as true as the events described in Amsterdam. How many more Jews were killed while the US closed its doors to Jewish people?
Another eye-opening factoid from history, at least for me, was that Charles Lindbergh, famous for his flight across the Atlantic and for the kidnapping of his offspring, truly admired Hitler and opposed our entry into the war. Lindbergh was sure Hitler would conquer Europe—he and other wealthy industrialists in the US, including Henry Ford, were strongly antisemitic. Ford even published a book entitled Protocols of the Elders of Zion..
If you get the chance, the documentary is highly recommended. If we are going to teach history, we have to choose whether to be selective or academically honest.