Few Americans wanted to accept Jewish refugees before World War II

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Americans Past Thoughts of Jewish Refugees Fleeing Europe In WWII

As more U.S. politicians voice their opposition to allowing Syrian refugees into the country after the Paris attacks, Twitter account @HistOpinion is reminding us that Americans once held similar negative views of Jewish refugees — right before World War II.

Two months after a wave of anti-Jewish violence spread across Germany in November 1938, Americans were asked whether the United States should allow 10,000 mostly Jewish refugee children from Germany into the country.

Around 61% of those surveyed said no.

Those results weren't much different from from a survey taken several months prior, before the anti-Jewish violence known as Kristallnacht. In July 1938, more than 67% of Americans surveyed said the country should not allow European political refugees into the country. Many of them were Jewish Europeans trying to leave the continent's fascist nations (although unlike the survey above, this question did not refer specifically to Jews).

A new wave of anti-refugee sentiment has spread since the attacks in Paris killed at least 129 people on Friday, and the Islamic State claimed responsibility. But so far, the known assailants are all European nationals.

A Syrian passport was found either close to or on the body of one of the assailants, which has stoked fears that ISIS is funneling extremists into Europe posing as refugees. But the passport's rightful owner has yet to be identified. It may belong to one of the assailants, but could also belong to a victim. Someone may also have stolen or forged the document from a legitimate refugee.

Millions of Syrians have fled their homes since the country's civil war began in 2011.

Though President Barack Obama still plans to allow 10,000 Syrian refugees to resettle in the U.S., governors of at least 27 states have said those refugees are not welcome. Around 2,200 Syrian refugees are already living in the U.S.

Some have said that the @HistOpinion graphs aren't comparable to today's sentiment toward Syrian refugees, since there was little fear of terrorism from Jewish refugees.

But Peter Shulman, the Case Western Reserve University history professor who runs the account, said that's not the case.

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