Many German and Austrian Jews tried to go to the United States but could not obtain the visas needed to enter. Even though news of the violent pogroms of November 1938 was widely reported, Americans remained reluctant to welcome Jewish refugees.
Influenced by the economic hardships of the Depression, which exacerbated popular antisemitism, isolationism, and xenophobia, the refugee policy of the US State Department and its stringent (and questionably legal) application of the 1924 Immigration Law made it difficult for refugees to obtain entry visas, despite the ongoing persecution of Jews in Germany.
About 85,000 Jewish refugees (out of 120,000 Jewish emigrants) reached the United States between March 1938 and September 1939, but the level of immigration was far below the number seeking refuge.
After the United States entered World War II in December 1941, the trickle of immigration virtually dried up, just as the Nazi regime began systematically to murder the Jews of Europe.
Despite many obstacles, however, more than 200,000 Jews found refuge in the United States from 1933 to 1945, most of the before the end of 1941.
US authorities did not, however, initiate any action aimed at rescuing or providing safe haven for refugees prior to 1944, when the War Refugee Board was established.
The United States admitted 400,000 displaced persons between 1945 and 1952. Approximately 96,000 (roughly 24 percent) of them were Jews who had survived the Holocaust.