The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum condemned the U.S. treatment of Syrian refugees on Thursday and compared their plight to the ordeal of Jewish refugees fleeing the Holocaust.
Over half of U.S. governors and a slew of national and local lawmakers have recently said they would turn away Syrian refugees in light of last week’s attacks in Paris. During World War II, the U.S. government rejected thousands of Jews fleeing Europe, fearing they were Nazi spies.
Here’s the museum’s statement:
Acutely aware of the consequences to Jews who were unable to flee Nazism, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum looks with concern upon the current refugee crisis. While recognizing that security concerns must be fully addressed, we should not turn our backs on the thousands of legitimate refugees.
The Museum calls on public figures and citizens to avoid condemning today’s refugees as a group. It is important to remember that many are fleeing because they have been targeted by the Assad regime and ISIS for persecution and in some cases elimination on the basis of their identity.
A number of other commenters also noted the similarities between the current refugee crisis and the wave of people fleeing Europe during World War II.
"With politicians in the U.S. and Europe again calling for refugee bans in the name of national security, it’s easy to see parallels with the history of World War II," Smithsonian Magazine's Daniel A. Gross wrote.
The country's largest Orthodox Jewish lobbying group also urged Americans to remember the past.
"We cannot and should not blame [refugees] for the actions of an evil terrorist organization," the Orthodox Union Advocacy Center said in a statement. "The Jewish community has an important perspective on this debate. Just a few decades ago, refugees from the terror and violence in Hitler’s Europe sought refuge in the United States and were turned away due to suspicions about their nationality."
Georgette Bennett, the president of the Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding and the daughter of Holocaust survivors, said that U.S. politicians' opposition to receiving Syrian refugees reminded her of "the refusal to allow the passengers of the St. Louis to disembark in an American port, sending them back to Europe -- many to their deaths."
The MS St. Louis was a German ship that carried hundreds of Jews who were trying to escape Nazi Germany in 1939. The U.S., Canada and Cuba all turned the ship away, and those aboard were forced to return to Europe, which would soon be taken over by the Nazis.