The Blog of the Frances Perkins Center

Posts Tagged ‘Holocaust’

Frances Perkins and the Holocaust

In Biography on April 16, 2010 at 11:15 am

National Days of Remembrance

April 11 – 18, 2010, has been named the National Days of Remembrance. Frances Perkins Center board member Leah Sprague tells the little known story of Perkins’s attempts to save European Jews, intellectuals, artists, and labor leaders from the Nazis.

From 1933-1938, Frances Perkins was the lone official in the Roosevelt Administration to acknowledge the growing threat that Hitler posed to Jews in Europe. Her efforts to relax immigration restrictions were rebuffed by the State Department and an isolationist Congress. Still, she found ways to admit tens of thousands of immigrants, including European Jews, during this period. It was not until Germany invaded Austria in 1938 that FDR finally announced to his cabinet that Frances had been correct in her assessment of the danger.

For more details, read the 2001 article by Bat-Ami Zucker from the journal American Jewish History, “Frances Perkins and the German-Jewish Refugees, 1933-1940.”

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Thank her for the Sound of Music

In Biography on March 25, 2009 at 8:01 am
The Sound of Music CD cover

The Sound of Music CD cover

Well, that’s maybe going a bit far. But Frances Perkins was the official who helped the Von Trapp family achieve asylum in the United States during World War II.

While the Roosevelt Administration dropped the ball when it came to allowing the Jewish and other threatened refugees (the Von Trapps were not Jewish)  from Europe to immigrate to the U.S. in large numbers, Secretary Perkins was successful in helping many escape to safety here — not as many as she would have liked but still a significant number. It was frustrating to her that she couldn’t convince FDR to increase the quotas. However, his Administration was grappling with an isolationist electorate that was also worried about German spies, and he and they decided not to fight that battle. Tragically.