WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, April 18, 2023, in honor of Yom HaShoah — Holocaust Remembrance Day, U.S. Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5) introduced legislation to award a collective Congressional Gold Medal to Americans who were active in aiding and rescuing Jews and other refugees during the Holocaust, often in the face of U.S. opposition to their resettlement.
Gottheimer is joining with Representatives Judy Chu (CA-28), Steve Cohen (TN-9), Kim Schrier (WA-8), and Jamie Raskin (MD-8) to introduce this legislation.
Among the American citizens to be honored are: Eleanor Roosevelt, former First Lady of the United States; Henry Morgenthau, Jr., former U.S. Secretary of the Treasury; Harold Ickes, former U.S. Secretary of the Interior; and Congressman Thomas D’Alesandro, Jr., of Maryland, the father of Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi.
“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,” said Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5). “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.”
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. In 1939, Congress rejected proposals to offer asylum to 20,000 Jewish children. That same year, the U.S. 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 of them were killed in the Holocaust. Despite the official stance of the U.S. 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 bill is endorsed by the American Jewish Committee (AJC), Pave the Way Foundation, and The Institute for the Study of Rescue and Altruism in the Holocaust.