History Standards

The U.S. Catholic Bishops, Refugees, and Resettlement in the Twentieth Century

Connecting with History Standards

This site’s materials are particularly useful in meeting world history content standards Era 8 and Era 9: (The National History Standards can be found here

World History Content Standard, Era 8, “A Half Century of Crisis and Achievement, 1900-1945”

Standard  2:  “The causes and global consequences of World War I.”

One consequence of World War I is that it created the seedbed for the rise of totalitarian ideologies that would spread through Germany and Eastern Europe.  These documents, particularly the four dating from the 1930s, reveal the effects of the spread of those ideologies, especially Nazism, on the population of Germany.  Later documents detail the effects of World War II, which had origins in the first Worl War, on population displacement throughout Europe.   

Standard  3:  “The Search for Peace and Stability in the 1920s and 1930s.”

The 1920s and 30s saw increases in the number of refugees across Europe due to the effects of emerging political ideologies such as Nazism on demographics.  Those who found their thinking at odds with the Nazi ideology were often compelled to leave the country, as were those discriminated against by the Nazis due to ethnic and religious affiliations.  Displaced peoples were forced to attempt to find more hospitable places to settle.  The four documents from the 1930s describe the situation from the perspective of the Catholic Church, which attempted to address the refugee issue at the time.  Initially lacking the institutional  structures to address the refugee problem in the 1930s, by the 1940s, the Church was a leading force in address the problem.       

Standard  4:  “The Causes and Global Consequences of World War II”

The documents on this site discuss the numbers of individuals displaced by the Second World War, breaking down those numbers by national groupings and religious groupings.  The documents from the 1930s reveal that Catholics, in particular and in comparison with Jews, had very little infrastructure toward address the expanding refugee problem in Europe.  By the end of the Second World War the Church’s efforts to organize an international structure, sanctioned by the Vatican, were in full swing.  The documents here reveal the initial lack or organization, and subsequent attempts to organize a Catholic infrastructure for addressing the refugee issue before and after the Second World War.  By the early 1950s, this infrastructure was largely in place, a mass effort to inform the lay Catholic population of the refugee situation had been undertaken, and large-scale resettlement effort full undertaken.  The documents here chronicle that process from the perspective of the International and U.S. Catholic hierarchy            

Standard  5: “Major global trends from 1900 to the end of World War II”

The documents can be used to address the emergence of the Cold War in the wake of the Second World War, and how refugees became enmeshed in broader political conflicts between communist and non-communist nations.  Correspondence from the 1940s reproduced here, for example, discusses provide a range of supports for refugees, asserting, for example, that funding for the refugee camps needed to continue so that the refugees would not be forced to return to their countries of origin, particularly those under totalitarian control.

This sites materials are also useful in addressing Historical Thinking Skills, grades 5-12 (the U.S. Historical Thinking Standards can be found here..)

Standard 1: Chronological Thinking

This site’s resources help clarify chronological thinking as it presents documents related to a topic across time, and a chronology in which to set the documents.  The documents here illuminate the sequence of events leading to the rise of the refugee populations in Europe in the 1930s, and the organizational response of the Catholic Church to the refugee crisis. 

Standard 3: Historical Analysis and Interpretation

These documents reveal the ways members of the Catholic Church hierarchy viewed the refugee populations in Europe, how they compared different groups of Catholics, and how they viewed communism as a threat to such populations.  Views of different members of the church leadership can be compared, and the documents reveal the variety of influences on the opinions of various individuals involved in refugee work.  

Standard 4: Historical Research Capabilities

This site promotes historical research capabilities in that it presents users with digital primary sources, then presents them with document-based questions toward promoting understanding of the sources. 

Standard 5: Historical Issues Analysis and Decision-Making

The materials on the site reveal a mindset that differs in many ways from today’s.  Firstly, there were no formal Catholic organizational channels through which Catholic refugees could be assisted.  Hence, church leaders needed to recognize the problem, assess it, then act to address it.   The materials here also present early responses to a problem that would intensify in the later twentieth and early twenty-first century, that of individuals displaced by wars and political upheavals.  The documents also reveal an early response to communist ideologies, as well as to Nazi ideologies.     


Thes materials can also be used to teach U.S. History Content Standards, http://www.nchs.ucla.edu/Standards/us-history-content-standards

Particularly Era 8: The Great Depression and World War II

Standard 1: The causes of the Great Depression and how it affected American society.

Standard 2: How the New Deal addressed the Great Depression, transformed American federalism, and initiated the welfare state.

The documents assembled here are international in scope, but many are compiled by American church leaders operating in the U.S. to address the European refugee problem.  They worked within the U.S. legal system to attempt to bring refugees to the U.S., and the documents here reveal the ways in which they dealt with the U.S. system.  Also revealed here is the way church leaders approached the lay Catholic population in order to educate them and solicit funds and service on behalf of the refugees.

And Era 9: Postwar United States (1945 to early 1970s)

Standard 2: How the Cold War and conflicts in Korea and Vietnam influenced domestic and international politics

Standard 3: Domestic policies after World War II

Standard 4: The struggle for racial and gender equality and the extension of civil liberties. 

This era and these standards can be addressed using these materials, particularly those dating from 1946-1951.  The materials here frequently discuss the impact of communism on global affairs, on refugee populations, and on members of the faith.  The documents also detail the work that went into attempting to bring refugees into the country legally.    


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