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.”