Chapter 11: “The First Lady Steps In”

Topics Covered

Eleanor Roosevelt and others urge FDR to help the refugees

Quotes From The Film

  • “I met with Secretary Hull and Assistant Secretary Long. I expressed my concern that these Belgian refugees will be in grave danger if they are sent back on that ship."

— First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt

  • “Eleanor Roosevelt always said, “Courage can be as contagious as fear.”

— Blanche Wiesen Cook
Author of Eleanor Roosevelt, Vol. I, II & III

Put Yourself in Their Shoes:

Duke Rosenberg was 14 years old when he and his mother went to visit refugees on the SS Quanza when the ship was docked in Norfolk, VA. He said in the film, "After four months of being homeless with no permanent place to stay, to me as a 14-year-old, I was happy to help."


  • Why do you think Duke was happy to help?

  • If you were a friend of Duke, would you help too? Why or why not?


  • Imagine that you were homeless and without a country for 4 months. Explain some things that would concern you?


Dig a little deeper...

In February 1939, the Wagner-Rogers Bill would have permitted the entry of 20,000 German refugee children, ages 14 and under, into the United States over the course of two years.

  • How did Eleanor Roosevelt feel about this bill?

  • What was the outcome of this bill and why?


Eleanor Roosevelt formed the US Committee for the Care of European Children a few months before the SS Quanza came to the US.

  • What was the committee's purpose and how successful you feel it was?


  • Rabbi Stephen S. Wise was on the President's Advisory Committee for Political Refugees. What did this committee do?


  • What is an unsung hero? Is Patrick Murphy Malin an unsung hero? Why or why not?


  • Why didn't Assistant Secretary of State Breckenridge Long want to help these refugees?


  • Could the Roosevelt Administration have done more to help the Holocaust victims during WWII?


  • Could Rabbi Stephen S. Wise have done more to help the Holocaust victims during WWII?

Dig even deeper...

  • What was there about American politics in 1940 that caused Franklin Delano Rosevelt to be concerned about being seen as too "pro Jewish"?

What's happening now

  • How are Jews treated today in our current political climate?

What Can I Do?

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