After the Nazi rise to power in Germany in 1933, Jewish citizens found themselves in peril. Assimilated into German society and in some cases from families that had lived in Germany for centuries, German Jews were confronted with hostility, prejudice, and persecution. Although ensuing years brought increased marginalization, many Jews hoped for a better future.
On November 9, 1938, a nationwide pogrom – Kristallnacht (The Night of Broken Glass) – provided unshakeable evidence that Jewish property and lives were in danger. Mobs of Nazi sympathizers, encouraged by Hitler’s government, smashed windows, looted property, and burned stores and synagogues. Thousands of Jewish men throughout Germany were arrested. Frightened and heartbroken, Jewish families hurriedly made preparation to leave Nazi Germany.
Escape and Exile
Those who were lucky were able to obtain affidavits and secure passage to safety. Doors to freedom closed rapidly and many countries turned their backs, fearful of an onslaught of refugees.
Emigrants were anxious to build new lives and to prove themselves worthy citizens of the countries that offered them refuge. Many enlisted in the military to fight for their new country against the Nazis. Refugees who had escaped to Shanghai – the only place that required neither a visa nor a passport - waited out the war under Japanese occupation.
Despite the difficulties involved in emigration, those who escaped were the fortunate ones. Family and friends who were left behind struggled to find supporters, advocates and rescuers. Jews who reached safety tirelessly sought to rescue their loved ones. For most, however, help never arrived and millions of desperate asylum seekers perished during the Holocaust.
A New Home
Refugees waited anxiously for the end of the war. Waiting in exile and in displaced persons camps, emigrants sought to end their years of wandering and privation. For many, the United States represented a new world, and their best choice for safety. Once again, still refugees, they applied for visas, obtained affidavits, gathered their possessions, and made their final journey to build new lives in freedom and peace.
Pleas for Help
A New Home