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March of the Clowns

Albert Bloch (American, 1882-1961)

March of the Clowns, 1941

  • Oil on canvas mounted on composition board
  • 36 x 40 in. (91.4 x 101.6 cm)
  • The Jewish Museum, New York
  • Purchase: Oscar and Regina Gruss Memorial Fund, 2001-42

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AMERICAN RESPONSE TO THE HOLOCAUST

During the 1930s and '40s, the United States and most other Western nations maintained strict immigration policies that severely limited the number of refugees allowed in. Even as the situation in Europe deteriorated and war became imminent, the American government did nothing to change its policies. As a result, those who were able to escape the Nazis frequently had nowhere to go.

As the war progressed, reports about Nazi atrocities leaked out of occupied Europe. But the Allies held fast to their war policy, which was to focus all resources on the war effort in order to defeat Germany. It was believed that this was the best way to help those caught in the Nazi vise. In April 1943, the Americans and the British convened a conference in Bermuda on the topic of refugees. Rescue options for victims of the Nazis were discussed, but no action was taken. Many people still believe the United States could have done more to save Jewish lives during the Holocaust.