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Willkie Terms Nazi Persecution of Jews ‘worse Than Medieval’

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Congratulatory messages poured in on Wendell L. Willkie today for his acceptance speech yesterday in which he advocated conscription, warned that only the British navy stands between aggression and America, and denounced Nazi persecution of the Jews as “barbarous and worse than medieval.”

Citing the experience of his own grandparents, who fled from similar persecution in Germany, Willkie pledged to keep America “as a land free of hate and bitterness, of racial and class distinction.”

“I have more reason than most of you,” Willkie said, “to feel strongly about this (equal opportunity for all Americans) because the United States gave my family their first chance for a free life. The ancestors of both my father and my mother, like the ancestors of millions of Americans, lived in Central Europe. They were humble people, not members of the ruling or wealthy classes. Their opportunities were restricted by discriminatory laws and class distinctions.

“One was exiled because of his religion, another was persecuted because he believed in the principles of the French Revolution, and still another was jailed for believing in the right of free speech. As their descendant, I have fought from boyhood against these restrictions, discriminations and tyrannies, and I am still fighting.

“My grandparents lived in Germany. They were supporters of the democratic revolutions in that country, and when the revolutions failed they fled to the United States. How familiar that sounds.

“Today also people are being oppressed in Europe. The story of the barbarous and worse than medieval persecution of the Jews, a race that has done so much to improve the culture of these countries and our own, is the most tragic in human history.

“Today there are millions of refugees who desire sanctuary and opportunity in America, just as in my grandparents’ time. The protection of our own labor and agriculture prevents us from admitting more than a few of them, but their misery and suffering make us resolve to preserve our country as a land free of hate and bitterness, of racial and class distinction. I pledge you that kind of America.”

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