I'm reading a book on Charles Lindbergh, thinking about his support for non-interventionism leading up to World War II. The America First Committee has a number of prominent names associated with it, so I was led to wonder what their motivations were.

It's possible that these people were taking a principled stand against intervention in foreign conflicts (such as might be expressed these days about the conflicts in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, or Libya), or it might be that they were hoping that Nazi Germany would prevail in its wars.

Clearly the answer could be different for different people. I don't know if the movement has been studied in any depth. (Reflections on whether a question such as this can be answered from historical evidence would also be welcome.)

1 Answer 1


As you say it was no doubt a bit of both, and often in the same person.

Many were tired of war after the losses of WW1, and were still struggling under the economic problems that dominated the 1930s (ironically it was pretty much WW2 which ended those). At the same time support for eugenics and anti-semitism were strong in the USA just as they were across Europe.

The first led to an overall isolationist view among the people, the second especially to people having sympathy for the German laws regarding Jews and other 'undesirables' (in fact similar laws were in place in the US regarding mentally handicapped people, blacks, etc. and to a degree remained in place for decades after the war, think the programs promoting prison inmates from getting themselves sterilised (I think in return for reduced sentences), forced sterilisation of mentally handicapped people, etc.). It wasn't until the true horrors of large scale executions of such people by German forces came to light that sentiments in the US shifted towards open animosity for Germany, their conquests were far from peoples' beds and especially with the memories of WW1 fresh in their minds they didn't want to repeat that.

  • I think the anti-Black sentiment in the USA was as severe if not worse than anti-Jewish sentiment in Germany before WW2. Even legally, Blacks were treated quite similarly to Jews in Germany; moreover Jews could be legally discriminated against in the USA in matters of education, employment and housing although miscegenation laws did not afaik apply to Jews in USA. So it would have been surprising if treatment of Jews in Germany motivated many people in the USA to act against that country.
    – Jeff
    Jul 19, 2017 at 19:59
  • @Jeff it didn't, not until evidence of the mass executions and other horrors of the concentration camps came out, and evidence of the execution of disabled (both mentally and physically) children.
    – jwenting
    Jul 20, 2017 at 5:35
  • This did not then get USA into war since such executions became known only after the war was in progress for some time. I do not know when the euthanasia program became well known -- I don't think the German public knew of the euthanasia program at first.
    – Jeff
    Jul 20, 2017 at 6:08
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    Jeff -- in the US before, during, and after WWII, one of the characters on one of the most popular radio shows was a black character. He was smart, sassy, and often got the best of his boss -- who was white and Jewish. US race relations really belong in the "it's complicated" category, as they've never been as simplistic as popularly believed. Jul 24, 2017 at 19:57
  • @Jeff define "at first". If you mean the first few weeks it was in place, possibly. But after that enough parents would have seen their children taken away, families their parents, to not know. These people weren't given the fake letters and post cards from the "new lands" where the Jews were supposedly "resettled", things that were distributed among Jewish populations in the Reich to keep them in the dark as to their impending doom. They brought their children and other family members voluntarily to be euthanised.
    – jwenting
    Jul 25, 2017 at 5:43

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