Last month the University of Southern California announced the removal of the name of former USC president Rufus von KleinSmid from a building on campus. Von KleinSmid served as president of the university from 1921 to 1947.
Von KleinSmid’s offense? He was a supporter of the eugenics movement, and he also refused to admit Japanese American students to USC after World War II.
This week, the Los Angeles Times published an article by Steven J. Ross, a professor of history at USC, that provided another justification for removing von KleinSmid’s name from that campus building. It turns out that von KleinSmid was anti-Semitic and even a supporter of Nazi Germany prior to World War II.
If we are going to remove people’s names from buildings for being anti-Semitic, then shouldn’t we remove President Franklin Roosevelt’s name from the White House room named in his honor. Sure, it’s a room, not a building, but why shouldn’t the same principle still apply?
Some people undoubtedly believe that Hitler established his death camps in which he murdered millions or Jews in the 1930s. Not so. The death camps didn’t get going until the middle of World War II.
During the 1930s, the Hitler regime was doing everything it could to let Jews know that they were not welcome in Germany. He wanted them to leave, and he was willing to let them leave.
The problem, of course, is that simply because people are free to leave a particular country doesn’t mean that they have a place to go. If all other countries refuse to accept them, then they are consigned to staying right where they are.
That was what happened to the German Jews who Hitler was willing to let leave. No country was willing to accept them. That included the United States, where President Franklin Roosevelt used America’s system of immigration controls to deny entry of German Jews into the United States.
When asked about his anti-Semitic policy, Roosevelt replied, “We have the quota system.” What he was referring to was America’s system of government-controlled borders, which enabled U.S. officials to assign immigration quotas to each country. Once the immigration quota was filled for German citizens, that was it for all the rest who still wished to escape the country and come to the United States. That’s what consigned countless Jews to remaining in Germany, where they were later killed in the Holocaust.
It’s worth pointing out that if America had still had her founding system of open immigration in the 1930s, there naturally would not have been a “quota system” in effect. Under America’s founding system of open immigration, every German Jew who wished to leave Germany, Eastern Europe, or any other country would have been free to come to the United States. While Hitler would have ended up killing the ones who remained, the numbers of deaths would have been significantly smaller than they ended up being.
FDR’s anti-Semitic immigration policy was on full display in the infamous story of what became known as the “voyage of the damned.” In 1939, prior to the outbreak of the war, a German ocean liner named the SS St. Louis that was filled with Jewish refugees from Germany attempted to land at Havana Harbor in Cuba. But the FDR regime wasn’t the only anti-Semitic one. So was the Cuban regime, and it refused to permit the Jewish refugees to disembark in Cuba.
The ship then approached Miami Harbor, but the FDR regime took the same anti-Semitic position as the Cuban regime: Not one German Jew would be permitted to land on American shores. The U.S. Coast Guard made certain that FDR’s anti-Semitic policy was enforced.
Given FDR’s absolute refusal to permit the refugees to disembark in the United States, the German ship captain reluctantly began returning to Germany. At the last minute, England and some of the European countries agreed to accept the refugees. Most of those who ended up in Europe ended up being killed in the Holocaust.
This dark part of America’s history of immigration controls and the FDR regime’s abuse of America’s immigration-control system is depicted in the excellent movie The Voyage of the Damned.
One of the ironies of Roosevelt’s anti-Semitic immigration policy is that if American had still had its founding system of open immigration in the 1930s, the likelihood is that the state of Israel would never have been formed. That’s because Jews, like everyone else around the world, would have seen America as the refuge from tyranny that it had always been during the 100 years of its open-immigration policy.
Do we really want a room in the White House named after a man who supported an anti-Semitic immigration policy, one that led to the deaths of millions of Jews? I say we change the name of the Roosevelt Room to the Gustav Schröder Room. He’s the German ship captain who commanded the SS St. Louis.