Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Alan Steinweis


During the interwar period in the United States, the looming threat of Nazi Germany and the persecution of Jews was not at the forefront of American minds. However, one prominent journalist and activist, Dorothy Thompson, made it her life’s mission to turn complacency into action. This research explores the American response to Nazism, the refugee crisis, and the Holocaust from the biographical perspective of this American woman who, significantly, was the first foreign journalist expelled from Nazi Germany. Combining American, German, and women’s history, this thesis tells the story of Thompson’s underappreciated role in American journalism and politics as well as her relentless personal and public actions to condemn Hitler’s regime and aid Jewish refugees. Examining this period through the life of a prominent individual and her far-reaching network expands on the existing historical research about the American response during the 1930s and 1940s, arguing that not all Americans were, or had to be, complacent onlookers. In particular, the American press has been scrutinized for its reporting, or lack of reporting, on Nazism and the “Jewish Question.” Likewise, the Roosevelt administration’s strict stance on refugees and “inadequate” foreign intervention has also been disputed. By using archival sources such as letters, diaries, books, newspapers, speeches, and manuscripts, this thesis argues that Thompson, who was tuned into these pressing issues already at the beginning of the Third Reich, consistently offered three impressive contributions to push against apathy throughout the 1930s and 1940s: educating the American masses about Nazism and its threat; warning of the specific Jewish plight; and demonstrating and initiating political and humanitarian activism as Nazi policy and American policy evolved. This research showcases the persistent and courageous efforts of an influential woman who waged her own war on Nazism and successfully fought for Jewish refugees in a variety of ways. Her story highlights and challenges the American bystander narrative, expanding the historical analysis of the American and transnational response to Nazism and Jewish persecution by examining avenues of resistance that were up against forceful forms of indifference, even reluctance, from varying segments of society.



Number of Pages

266 p.