Refugees in Times of Reelection: An Analysis of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman’s Responses to Jewish Refugees During and After World War II




Burke, Anabel

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Many individuals hold a false notion that America is a safe haven for refugees, but a closer look at the refugee crisis surrounding World War II (1930-1948) tells a different story; Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) and Harry S. Truman faced the difficult decision of if they should help Jewish refugees, and if so, how. In this thesis I argue that presidents’ actions concerning refugees are tempered by political concerns and driven by a xenophobic America, and that for a president to act humanitarianly and openly in refugees’ best interest that they are usually not facing reelection and are in a relatively safe political position. By examining the political correspondence of both presidents, I show that refugees fare best when they seek aid and admittance to the United States under a second-term president, and the examples of FDR and Truman help to shed a light on the more recent Syrian refugee crisis and former President Obama’s motivations and dealings with those clamoring at America’s gates.



World War II., Refugees., Jewish., Franklin Roosevelt., Harry Truman., Motivations.