Naomi Rothschild

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This photo features my mother in her activist days (which lasted until November 16, 2014!). Naomi is in the front row, second from the left. Click on the photo for a full sized version.

This photo was taken in the late 1930s, when my mother was an undergraduate at New York University. As you can see from the signs, stopping Hitler was still controversial enough at that time to require protest marches.

Many of the signs have "ASU" written on them. This identifies the protest as being associated with the American Student Union, a leftist college student organization arising from earlier Communist and Socialist student groups (both of which were MUCH more mainstream political positions in the pre-war years). The ASU frequently protested militarism - specifically the Nazi crimes against humanity in Europe. The newspaper below shows Naomi at another ASU protest on campus.

I was able to figure out the meaning of some of the signs with a bit of research. here is what I found out:

"Stop Hitler" - self explanatory

"Silk Buys Bombs" - this promotes a boycott of Japanese products. At this point (after the 1937 occupation of China), there were frequent air raids by the Japanese on Chinese civilian targets and a series of horrific incursions (such as the "Rape of Nanking"). The idea was that purchasing Japanese goods like silk and toys would fund their war effort.

"Good Neighbor Policy" - this was FDRs policy of non-intervention and reciprocal exchange with Latin America. Especially during the war years, it was important to maintain good will in South and Central America, to unite the hemisphere. This probably explains the other sign with Hitler wearing a sombrero, and the text "We don't think it fits".

"FDR's Peace Plea" - this refers to an attempt by Roosevelt to prevent Nazi aggression using diplomatic pressure on Germany in the summer of 1939, just before the invasion of Poland on September 1.

"Support the Thomas Amendment" - A number of "Neutrality Acts" were passed by congress in the 1930s to prohibit sale of arms to warring countries, based on isolationist sentiment and the suspicion that there were financial incentives to arm belligerent nations during World War One. One objection to these acts was that they could indirectly aid an aggressor (like Germany or Japan), by preventing the US from supporting invaded countries. The Thomas Amendment allowed for a distinction between aggressor nations and their victims, and the withholding of resources from the aggressors.

"Protest Recognition of Franco" - I'm pretty sure that's what these two partially obscured signs say. By early 1939, the Spanish Civil War had ended, and the nationalist dictator Francisco Franco had prevailed in his coup against the elected leftist Republicans. This was in many ways a proxy war (or "dress rehearsal" for WW2), with the Soviets supporting the Republicans and the Nazis supporting the Nationalists. Franco was internationally recognized as the ruler of Spain following the war, and these NYU liberals were most likely protesting that recognition.

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