House of Representatives
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In honor of Holocaust Remembrance Day, five Democratic House reps. introduced a bill to award a collective Congressional Gold Medal to American individuals helped rescue Jews during the Holocaust.

Reps. Jamie Raskin (D-MD), Judy Chu (D-CA), Steve Cohen (D-TN), Kim Schrier (D-WA) and Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) noted that Americans who acted to rescue Jewish refugees did so often in an atmosphere of opposition to their resettlement in the United States.

“Across the federal government, officials denied repeated requests to welcome and resettle Jews and other refugees fleeing Nazi Germany and its territories to the United States,” the legislation’s sponsors said in a statement. “In 1939, Congress rejected proposals to offer asylum to 20,000 Jewish children. That same year, the US State Department and President Franklin Roosevelt refused asylum to Jewish refugees aboard the S.S. St. Louis, forcing them to return to Europe where 254 were killed in the Holocaust.”

They noted that “despite the official stance of the US government, American rescue and relief organizations were responsible between 1933 and 1945 for saving many thousands of Jews and other refugees from being forced into concentration camps and facing likely death.”

The American citizens who would be honored include prominent Democrats of the era: Eleanor Roosevelt, former First Lady of the United States; Henry Morgenthau, Jr., former US Secretary of the Treasury; Harold Ickes, former U.S. Secretary of the Interior; and Congressman Thomas D’Alesandro, Jr., of Maryland, the father of former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

“At great personal risk, justice-minded Americans rescued thousands of Jewish refugees and others fleeing violence during the Holocaust. Their bravery spared countless lives from brutality and mass murder,” Raskin said. “With antisemitism and fascism on the rise again all over the world, it is essential to recognize the commitment and sacrifice of so many Americans in the last century so that we may all summon from their courage the resolve to fight bigotry today.”

“This historic legislation will for the first time ever give Congressional recognition to the Americans who boldly took action to rescue Jews and refugees from almost certain death during the Holocaust,” Chu said. “As we face rising antisemitism and authoritarianism in the US and across the world, part of our commitment to ‘Never Again’ must include honoring those who took action, often at great personal risk, to save lives during the Holocaust. Theirs is the example we must memorialize and heed moving forward as we face bigotry and threats to human rights.”

“It is right for Congress to honor those who aided and rescued countless Jews and other refugees during the Holocaust. Awarding Congressional Gold Medals to individuals and groups responsible for saving tens of thousands of lives is well-deserved and long overdue,” said Cohen, the ranking member of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe.

“Amid rising antisemitism, it’s critically important that we never forget the victims of the Holocaust killed by the Nazis, and that we honor the American heroes who put so much at risk to aid and rescue Jews and many other refugees,” Gottheimer said. “These incredible individuals leave behind legacies that continue to teach us of our responsibility to confront bigotry, hatred, and intolerance wherever it rears its ugly head. On Yom HaShoah, I’m proud to help lead legislation to award Congressional Gold Medals to these American heroes who saved thousands of lives during the Holocaust.”