To the editor:
Last year on the anniversary of Pearl Harbor, MPR re-ran a story on WWII through the eyes of New Ulm residents. (https://www.mprnews.org/story/2016/12/07/mpr_news_presents) Have you listened to it? If not, please seek it out and do. Not only is it an interesting bit of New Ulm history, but it is also a good lesson in immigrant discrimination.
We all know New Ulm is a German town and are proud of its heritage. However, during WWI and WWII New Ulm Germans were looked at with suspicion, fear, and discrimination. During WWI the Minnesota Commission on Public Safety, tasked with rooting out “disloyal elements in the state,” targeted New Ulm and even replaced the mayor due to “questionable loyalty.” During WWII the FBI investigated New Ulm men who enlisted to ensure they were loyal to America. One of the interviewees states that a cement company refused to ship cement to New Ulm because it was a German community.
Looking back, and knowing our community, we know that was unnecessary. We know that those first- and second-generation German-Americans were American through and through.
Fast forward to today. Our country has a lot of first- and second-generation Americans from Islamic countries. They are just as American through and through. The discrimination against them today is as unwarranted as the discrimination against New Ulm German-Americans in the past.
There is much fear about letting people from Islamic countries into the US right now. That fear was alive and well during WWII. Are you aware that a ship, the St. Louis, full of Jewish people fleeing Europe tried to land in the United States? They were turned away and had to go back to Germany where many of the passengers died in concentration camps. Did you know Anne Frank’s family applied for, and was denied, Visas to come to the United States? We look back at this with shame and think “Never Again.” But it is happening again. Refugees from war-torn countries facing death are trying to come to America for safety, and we are turning them away due to our fear.
In August of 2016 Pope Francis said, “I don’t think it is right to identify Islam with violence. It’s not fair, and it’s not true.” He goes on to say, “Not all Muslims are violent, just like not all Catholics are violent.” People are violent. Not religions.
Anyway, have a listen to that story and remember how history can repeat itself. What can you do to stop that from happening?