World War II: Race--The Allies


Figure 1.--For nearly two millenia, Jews in both Europe and the Middle East were persecuted for their religion. Jew could evade the worst of the percecution simply by converting. This changed dramatically with the rise of Hitler and the NAZIs. The NAZIs were not disturbed so much with Judaism, many challenged Chritianity as well--essentially a desire to destroy Western civilization. The NAZIs turned to psuedo science and persecuted Jews on racial terms. This was not fully understood in America and Britain at the time of the War or the fact that Hitler had made the extermination of Jews a primary German war goal. One of the few places in the world that Jews were safe, although not exempt from descrimination, was America. Here New York City boys are sitting on their synagogue steps during 1942. At the sane time in Europe, the Germans had burned countless synagogue and were murdering Jewish men, women, and children in the millions. Photographer: Collins Marjory.

Racism was not limited to the Axis. America entered the War as a still largely racist country. These racist ideas, unlike Germany and Japan, did not significantly affect its foreign policy. The South was still strictly seggregatated with black Americans denied civil rights and prevented from voting. America fought the War with a segregated military. The anti-Japanese prejudice of the time was often intense and sharply reflected in American war propaganda that is today very disturbing. There are lots of blatantly racist images of slanted, weaked eyes Japanese with over-sized glasses. Of course this was exacerbated by Pearl Harbor. Anti-German propaganda was not racist, of course, because so many Americans looked like Germans. Anti-Japanese racism was reflected in the disgraceful internment of Pacific-coast Japanese-Americans simply on grounds of their ethnicity. The internees included American citizens and not only Japanese nationals resident in America. One interesting aspect is that with all this anti-Japanese feeling, is that racist attitudes toward Asian Americans declined sharply atter the War. Andcthis process continued even when the Korean War turned into a war with China. All kinds of restrictions on Asians as to citizenship, employment, university admission also disappeared. It is a phenomenon I do not fully understand, but have been meaning to address. Such overt descrimination did not exist in Britain, but Britain at the time did not have a substantial minority population. The situation in the colonies was different. We are less sure about France. The difference between the Axis and Allies was that while racist ideas were prelaent among both sides, it was the Axis which fought the War with significant racial goals.

United States

America entered the War as a still largely racist country. These racist ideas, unlike Germany and Japan, did not significantly affect its foreign policy. In fact, America found itself fighting a war against racism, although this was not entirely evident to most Americans including political leaders until after the War. NAZI anti-Semitism was well known, but not what the NAZIs were planning for the Slavs in the East. The South was still strictly seggregataed with black Americans denied civil rights and prevented from voting. America fought the War with a segregated military. (Ironically there were Jews in the German military.) The anti-Japanese prejudice of the time was often intense and sharply reflected in American war propaganda that is today very disturbing. There are lots of blatantly racist images of slanted, weaked eyes Japanese with over-sized glasses. Of course this was exacerbated by Pearl Harbor. Anti-German propaganda was not racist, of course, because so many Americans looked like Germans. Anti-Japanese racism was reflected in the disgraceful internment of Pacific-coast Japanese-Americans simply on grounds of their ethnicity. The internees included American citizens and not only Japanese nationals resident in America, as was the case for Italians and Germans. One interesting aspect is that with all this anti-Japanese feeling, is that racist attitudes toward Asian Americans declined sharply atter the War. Andcthis process continued even when the Korean War turned into a war with China. All kinds of restrictions on Asians as to citizenship, employment, university admission also disappeared. It is a phenomenon I do not fully understand, but have been meaning to address. The War in many ways also set in motion the Civil Rights movement that ended racial seggregation in the South. The virulence of racism and the social consequences exposed during the War was surely a factor in the American decesion to attack domestic racisn after the War.

Britain

Legal racial descrimination, as far as we know, did not exist in Britain. Black American soldiers noticed how the British people tended to have had different attitudes toward them than Americans. The British at the time, however, did not have a substantial minority population. The situation in the colonies was different. Here institutionalized racism in Africa, and Asia was very much a part of colonial rule. And this included how colonial troops were treated. One the Panzerswre stopped at the English Chnnel, Britain became one of the few plscs in Europe that Jews were safe. Tragically Britain had only a very small Jewish populatiom and after the fll of France (June 940), kit was vijrtually imposible for K=Jews to reach Btitain.

France

As in World War I, there were blacks in the French Army. There were separate units for blacks recruited in Africa. This had been asore point with the Germans after the War because the French used black troops in its occupation of the Rhineland, giving rise to the Rhineland bastards (mixed-race children that the NAZIs constantly harped on. After the Germans defeated France (1940), many of these black African troops were taken prisioner. There were instances that the Germans murdered groups of blck POWS. Once in POW cmps, however, blck POWS were generally treated correctly. Frbce had the largest Jewish populstion in Western =Europe, both French citizens and foreign Jews that had sought d=saftey from the Germns in France. This proved to be a tragic trap when Vichy without promting from the Germans gebgan to perceute Jews, t first fireign Jews nd then French Jews as well.








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Created: 8:15 PM 11/15/2006
Last updated: 4:12 PM 10/11/2015