New Research: U.S. Doctors Groups, Including A.M.A, Undermined German Jewish Refugee Doctors In 1930s-1940s

News Release
June 16, 2010

NEW YORK- U.S. doctors’ groups, including the American Medical Association, took steps to prevent German Jewish refugee doctors from practicing in the United States in the 1930s and 1940s, according to new research.

The new research will be presented at a panel organized by The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies, at the Scholars Conference on American Jewish History, which is taking place this week at the Center for Jewish History in New York City. The Wyman Institute panel, “New Research on American and American Jewish Responses to the Holocaust,” will be held on Wednesday, June 16, at 4:00 pm.

The research on the doctors will be presented by Prof. Laurel Leff of Northeastern University. She will explain how, when thousands of German Jewish doctors fleeing Hitler came to the U.S. in the 1930s, doctors’ groups in numerous states mobilized against them. The doctors lobbied for laws preventing non-citizens doctors from taking the exam to receive a medical license. The American Medical Association joined the anti-refugee effort, urging states to adopt such regulations.

Even though there was a shortage of doctors in Massachusetts in 1943, the Massachusetts Medical Society banned all doctors who had already been granted medical licenses in the state but were not yet citizens from being able to practice in hospitals, even if they were U.S. citizens and had licenses. Prof. Leff will also reveal new information showing that Harvard University president James Conant took steps to prevent Jewish refugees from being hired for the faculty of Harvard’s medical school. Prof. Leff will also describe the campaign led by Dr. David Edsall, a former Harvard Medical School dean, to help refugee doctors.

The panel will also feature two other scholars:

— Dr. Rafael Medoff (director of the Wyman Institute) will present new documents revealing what really took place in private meetings between President Roosevelt and American Jewish leaders in the 1940s. One of the documents is a previously unknown account by a prominent Jewish leader, Dr. Nahum Goldmann, that is unusually critical of FDR’s behavior during the meetings.

–Prof. Karen Sutton of Touro College will present her latest research on the activities of the Va’ad ha-Hatzala, an Orthodox rescue group, based in New York City, that used unconventional means, including bribery, to rescue refugees.