Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken on Thursday spoke of the State Department’s inability to protect refugees fleeing the Holocaust, linking the atrocities to the recent rise in anti-Semitism, violence against Native Americans Asia and other human rights crises around the world.
Mr Blinken, speaking virtually at an event hosted by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, singled out Breckinridge Long, Assistant Secretary of State during World War II, for blocking the processing of refugees for all but a “tiny fraction” of candidates, and lying to Congress about the gravity of the Holocaust “when thousands of Jews were murdered every day.”
“He had immense power to help those who were being persecuted,” Mr. Blinken said of Long. “Yet as the Nazis began to systematically round up and execute Jews, Long made it increasingly difficult for Jews to gain refuge in the United States.
Long also held back the cables with reports of the massacres, Mr Blinken said, and inflated the number of Jewish refugees the United States accepted during the war. On November 26, 1943, Long testified before the House Foreign Affairs Committee that the United States admitted 580,000 “victims of persecution by the Hitler regime.” In fact, Mr Blinken said, the United States had admitted 138,000 at that time, less than a quarter of the number claimed.
“We live in a time when anti-Semitism is on the rise again in America and around the world,” Mr. Blinken said.
“As always, hatred of Jews tends to go hand in hand with hatred of others,” he added. “When hate ideology rises, violence is never far behind, as the recent attacks on Asian Americans have illustrated.” He also spoke of “people imprisoned in modern internment camps because of what they worship or believe, or tortured for speaking out against tyranny.”
The impact of the Holocaust is personal to Mr. Blinken. Her stepfather, Samuel Pisar, was a survivor of the Nazi death camps of Majdanek, Auschwitz and Dachau, and was freed by American troops towards the end of the war.
His stepfather’s experiences influenced Mr. Blinken’s interventionist tendency in foreign policy. During a press briefing after the speech, Ned Price, a spokesperson for the State Department, said Blinken was motivated by his personal connection to the Holocaust tragedy.
“This is precisely why he has spoken so passionately about the human rights violations, abuses and atrocities occurring around the world,” Mr. Price said.