The Atlantic

Where ‘America First’ Once Led

A new exhibit reveals America’s isolationist attitudes and policies during the Holocaust—and speaks to where the country still stands today.
Source: Alex Brandon / AP

According to the authoritative Freedom House rankings, we have seen over a decade of deterioration in free institutions. Outright massacre is the order of the day in countries from Burma to the Levant, and tyrants no less cunning than Mussolini or Franco subvert the rule of law, freedom of the press, and freedom of speech from Warsaw to Ankara, and from Beijing to Moscow. As was the case 80 years ago, many in the United States would rather step back from a world that seems turbulent but not their problem. Their president wants tariffs and walls, while polls show that for many Americans, democracy, freedom of speech, and freedom of the press are not values to be defended to the death. Against this backdrop, a new exhibit at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum—“Americans and the Holocaust”—seems to speak to where America stands today,

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