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Local Attitudes about

Immigrants and Their Descendants, 1938-1945

His260 students in fall 2016 browsed the Madison Courier (and other Indiana newspapers) from 1938 to 1945, looking for articles that revealed local wartime attitudes toward immigrants and their descendants.  Below are their findings.

(NB: Paragraph numbers were not part of the original articles.  Articles from the Madison Courier are reproduced by permission.)

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Fran Leary, "Prelate Hits at Coughlin Radio Talks: Controversy Continues Over Religious and Racial Tolerance in Broadcasts," Vidette-Messenger (Valparaiso, Ind.), 12 Dec. 1938, p. 8 (available at newspapers.com).

        CHICAGO, Dec. 12, UP

A new controversy centered today around the Rev. Charles E. Coughlin on the matter of religious and racial tolerance.

George Cardinal Mundelein, archbishop of Chicago, formally dissociated the Catholic church from Coughlin's radio utterances.

Frank J. Hogan president of the American Bar association, denied Couglin's assertion that he had been "the engaged spokesman" of the National Jewish Council when he spoke for religious and racial tolerance on the radio yesterday afternoon.

The Brooklyn Diocesan Union of the Holy Name Society, claiming to represent the sentiments of 200,000 members, threatened to boycott the advertisers of a New York radio station which had barred Coughlin from the air.  The Jersey City Council of the Knights of Columbus also took Coughlin's side.

The controversy centered on whether or not Coughlin traduced the Jewish race when, three weeks ago, he asserted that Jews had led and financed the Russian revolution and had been in control of communism.  Coughlin maintains that he hadn't condemned Jews as a whole, but merely communistic Jews, and that Jews should join in a fight on communism.  His opponents have charged that he was seeking to arouse anti-semitism.

Mundelein became the second prince of Coughlin's church to speak out against his radio utterances.  William Cardinal O'Connell, archbishop of Boston, did so in 1934.  Mundelein's statement was read on a coast to coast network of the National Broadcasting company last night.  It declared that Father Coughlin "is not authorized to speak for the Catholic church," and that his views "do not represent the doctrine or sentiment of the church."

Mundelin had been back only a week from Vatican City where he was received in a number of extended audiences by Pope Pius XI.  It was believed that he had discussed Coughlin with the pontiff.  While churchmen doubted privately that he had acted with the personal approval of the Pope, they pointed out that the weight of his statement was increased by the fact that he acted outside his jurisdiction.  Coughlin's ecclesiastical superior is Archbishop Edward Mooney of Detroit, who passes on his radio speeches.

A short while before the Rev Bernard J. Sheil, vicar general and auxiliary bishop of Chicago, read his superior's statement on the radio, Coughlin was on the air with his weekly Sunday talk.  He reiterated his previous assertions that he had not denounced Jews as a whole and again invited Jews to foreswear communism and to join in a fight on communism.  He then informed his listeners that Hogan was to follow him on the same network and invited them to listen to him.

"He is an engaged spokesman for the National Jewish Council," he said.  "He is an eminent lawyer and a member of my faith."

Hogan spoke on a program arranged by the council, the American Jewish committee, the American Jewish Congress B'Nai Brith, and the Jewish labor committee.

"We Catholics cannot permit men of ill will to preach in America bigotry and anti-semitism without raising our voices in protest," Hogan said.  "American Catholics stand shoulder to should with all other Americans in viewing with horror the atrocities committed against Jews in Nazi Germany."

"Cruises off Coast: Refugee Ship Watched by U.S. as It Hovers Near Miami," Madison (Indiana) Courier, 5 June 1939, p. 3.

        HAVANA, June 5, AP

President Federico Laredo Bru today issued qualified permission for the wandering German Jewish refugees aboard the Hamburg-Amerika liner St. Louis to land in Cuba.

He issued a statement they might enter the country provided: 1. They agreed to live in a concentration camp which could be established on the Isle of Pines; 2. Due guarantees were given that their stay would be temporary. 

Jewish aid organizations were given until tomorrow noon to accept the conditions, President Laredo Bru said.

(The St. Louis was proceeding back to Hamburg, Germany, after an aimless cruise in Caribbean waters, begun when the president of Cuba ordered the St. Louis out of Havana harbor.)

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        MIAMI, Fla., June 5, AP

Coast guard and immigration officials held themselves on the alert today as the German steamship St. Louis cruised in the vicinity of the Florida coast, 907 Jewish refugees aboard it having gained their first view of the land many hope eventually to enter.

The big ocean liner was sighted by the coast guard yesterday moving slowly past Fort Lauderdale. A patrol boat dropped in behind it and trailed it until sundown.

For two hours the ship rode at anchor off the Miami channel light, easily visible from shore. The green of coconut palms and the gleaming walls of luxurious beachfront hotels must have been visible, too, to the refugees, who fled Germany for Cuba and were denied entry there.

Two coast guard planes were dispatched from Miami to keep the anchored craft under surveillance.  The patrol boat hovered nearby.  Then the St. Louis hoisted its anchor and, barely making headway, moved southeastward.  Last night it was reported about 10 miles at sea off the Florida Keys.

Immigration Inspector Walter B. Thomas emphasized today that his concern with the German vessel was a routine matter.

He had no instructions from Washington, he said, and the attention paid the vessel was only that which would be paid any craft with aliens aboard.

The St. Louis sailed from Hamburg May 15 but upon arrival at Havana was ordered out of the harbor by President Federico Laredo Bru of Cuba.  It sailed Friday, and apparently has cruised aimlessly while negotiators sought to arrange for the refugees' entry into Cuba, from where many hope to join relatives in the United States.

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"Weary Refugees Sail Homeward: No Asylum Found in New World for Those Driven from Nazi Germany," Madison (Indiana) Courier, 7 June 1939, p. 1.

        MIAMI, Fla., June 7, AP

Their aimless Odyssey apparently ended, 907 Jewish refugees were reported on their way back to Germany today aboard the liner St.Louis, which wandered along the Florida coast for five days while welfare agencies sought to gain permission for them to land in Cuba.

Their hope crushed by the Cuban government's refusal for the second time to give them asylum, victims of one of the strangest sagas of the sea renewed an appeal to President Roosevelt for last minute intervention.

The ship reported to Tropical Radio shortly before midnight it had set its course for Europe.  Capt. Wilhelm Schroeder, the ship's master, reported before leaving Havana Friday he feared mass suicides or a passenger mutiny if the vessel set its course for Germany again.

The St. Louis left Hamburg May 15 with the refugees, many of whom hoped to land at Havana and eventually emigrate to the United States.  Cuban President Federico Laredo Bru asserted that the steamship company had been told not to bring them back to Havana and ordered the ship to sail.

Friday the St. Louis moved out of the harbor.  Sunday it anchored off Miami Beach for two hours, the heartsick Jews getting their first view of the palm trees and towering hotels of Miami and the United States they longed to enter.

Until Monday the ocean liner cruised aimlessly about.  Then hope was buoyed high by a conditional offer by President Bru for the passengers to land on the Isle of Pines and live virtually in concentration campus until their fate could be settled.  He set a deadline for noon yesterday for welfare representatives to accept the offer.

The St. Louis, then 60 miles east of Daytona Beach, Fla., turned toward Cuba.  But the deadline passed without acceptance of the plan, and once again the Jews were wandering on the sea, until Captain Schroeder decided to steer for Germany.

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"U.S. Holds Jap Aliens," Madison (Indiana) Courier, 8 Dec. 1941, p. 2.

        WASHINGTON, Dec. 8, AP

Federal agents arrested 73 Japanese aliens during the night in the United States and Hawaii, Attorney General Biddle announced today.

The Japanese are being placed in custody of immigration officials after arrest by special agents of the federal bureau of investigation.

The attorney general said that hearing boards would be set up to pass on evidence gathered by the FBI and determine the "future status" of the aliens.

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"What's Wrong with America?" Madison (Indiana) Courier, 18 Feb. 1942, p. 2.

What's wrong with America that it cannot instill loyalty in the immigrant who has come to these shores to escape from undesirable conditions or find a better place in which to live?

One can understand why a Japanese, born in the orient and denied citizenship and the right to own real estate in the United States, might retain a certain affection for his native land and always feel that he must be an alien in the land of his adoption although when at home he saw opportunities in the new world which are denied him in the old.

But the second generation of Asiatics, those born in the United States are citizens with all the privileges that are enjoyed by other citizens, they know that undesirable conditions caused their parents to migrate and they must have some knowledge of the advantages which were sought.

In a way they are doomed by race to be set apart from the dominant whites but that was expected when they left home or their parents left and was but a reversal of the situation in Japan where citizenship and real property is denied the western world.

All Japanese in the United States or its possessions are now suspects and well so as revelations show that what loyalty they possess lies with the  mother country and not with their land of adoption.

The arrest Saturday night of a former Madison resident, Mrs. Viola Heise Baudenschantz [Viola Heise Bodenschatz], at Louisville for distributing nazi literature is another case.

Mrs. Baudenschantz is a third generation German.  She was born in the midwest where Americanism is supposed to thrive and be at its best.  Her education was in Madison and Hanover and the greater part of her life, by far, was spent in this city and Sellersburg - - typical small midwestern towns - - and at Louisville, a typical midwestern metropolis.

Her husband came to America two years before World war I and has lived the greater part of his life in this country.  Both have enjoyed the fruits of financial success and the freedoms of the American people and yet neither have felt a loyalty to the government which afforded them opportunities which they could not secure in Germany.

According to the laws of the Nazi regime both of them has risked death by firing squad, beheading on the block or by purge for their acts in disseminating foreign literature but fortunate for them in the land which they would betray, a fine and comparatively short imprisonment in a fairly humane prison is the greatest penalty which they may be called upon to pay.

But if conditions are as bad in Germany or in Japan as the American people are told and if they are as good in the United States as we would like to believe, why do these people seek to bring about in this country the conditions of their homelands?

What is wrong with America that it does not impress these people more favorably and make loyal citizens of them?

That a loyalty and a love for the much-talked-about American way has not taken possession of these people is clear and that shows the great task when peace comes of making a new world which will appeal to those nations with which the English-speaking peoples are now in conflict.

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