WorldMiddle East


Syrian Refugees Are And Aren't Like Jewish WWII Refugees

Since the Paris attacks, we're seeing more comparisons between today's Syrian refugees and Holocaust-era Jewish refugees.
Posted at 3:50 PM, Nov 17, 2015

More and more people are drawing parallels between the plight of Syrian refugees today and Jewish refugees before World War II. (Video via Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

Many are in response to state governors and other politicians saying they won't accept refugees. 

That comparison has some strengths but also some weaknesses. 

It's true the U.S. was strict in admitting refugees from Germany and Austria before the Holocaust. The country stuck by its quota system, on the back of popular opposition to Jewish refugees. (Video via United States Holocaust Memorial MuseumNational Geographic)

Radio personality Martin Goldsmith explained, "There was a certain strain of anti-Semitism in this country in 1938. ... Fifty-three percent of the American people who responded to this poll declared that 'Jews were not like the rest of us.'"

That's remarkably similar to a recent Public Religion Research Institute poll, which found 56 percent of Americans say Islam is "at odds" with American values.

But there are important differences. People against admitting Syrian refugees today mainly cite security concerns.

"I will not roll the dice and take the risk on allowing a few refugees simply to expose Texans to that danger," Texas Gov. Greg Abbott told the press.

While the State Department did have fears Jewish refugees could end up as operatives for Germany, Judaism wasn't associated with terrorism, and the American people's concerns were mainly economic. (Video via UCLA Film and Television Archive

The country was in the midst of the Great Depression at the time, and Americans worried refugees would compete for jobs and burden social welfare — hence the quotas. (Video via History ChannelNational Archives and Records Administration)

Still, the movement of Syrian refugees in Europe is the biggest since the second World War, so the comparisons aren't surprising. (Video via CNN)

This video includes images from Getty Images and the Library of Congress.