Stories from the Archives
Jewish Immigration to America

After World War II

Open the Doors

Rally demanding that more Holocaust survivors be admitted to the U.S., New York City, June 8, 1947.  The Yiddish banner reads, "We come from the concentration camps. Greetings to the Jewish Labor Committee." 

An estimated 6 million Jews were murdered in the Holocaust. Entire communities were destroyed and whole families were wiped out. There was continuing anti-Jewish violence, notably in Poland. It was the beginning of the Cold War and most of Eastern Europe was under the control of the Soviet Union.

Given those and other factors, many Holocaust survivors were unwilling to return to their prewar homes. Most wanted to leave Europe altogether.

Restrictive immigration quotas kept most of them from coming to the U.S. Immigrant advocacy groups and other civic organizations waged a public campaign to allow more Holocaust survivors in. About 150,000 were admitted in the first decade after the end of the war.

Families Outside of HIAS Office

Recently arrived Jewish immigrants at the entrance of the HIAS office in New York City, 1940s.

We isolate ourselves from the rest of the world and tend to think of ourselves as different... A man came to live in our town, a man who had suffered a war that most of us knew only from the headlines. A man came to live among us and we said, "Hello, foreigner"... and refused him admittance to our town.

—The Golden Door: My Town, June 15, 1947, broadcast WNYC, Collection of Radio Programs, RG 130, 17.44-45, YIVO Archives

The Diamonds at the United States Consulate

Eisig and Golda Diamond at the United States Consulate, Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada, 1946.

A unique sort of Thanksgiving celebration will take place at the Hotel Marseilles... It will be an observance by 200 weary men, women, and children who have just reached the haven of American shores. Like their predecessors on the "Mayflower," these pilgrims have wandered for 13 years over the tortured earth of Europe, fleeing from one country to another for a chance to live without persecution.

—"Pilgrims--326 Years Late," press release, n.d., Records of the United Service for New Americans, RG 246, Box 68, Folder 2694, YIVO Archives