Nazi refugees were seen as possible fifth columnists

The Saturday Evening Post told its readers that Nazis “disguised as refugees” were working around the world as “spies, fifth columnists, propagandists or secret commercial agents.” Similar stories appeared in such organs as Reader’s Digest and American Magazine, with the latter running a feature that bore the calm, collected headline “Hitler’s Slave Spies in America.”

The idea in that piece was that the agents among the refugees didn’t want to do Hitler’s bidding. They simply had no choice, because otherwise their relatives back home would be in danger—an approach the article called a “blitzkreig of blackmail.” This theory was endorsed by no less than President Franklin Roosevelt, who said at a press conference that refugees (“especially Jewish refugees”) could be pressed into Nazi service with the words “we are frightfully sorry, but your old father and mother will be taken out and shot.” [link]

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