NEW ORLEANS -- Touring the World War II Museum here means viewing endless images of human heroism and misery. Assault troops dead on the beaches of Anzio and Iwo Jima. Civilians slaughtered by bombing raids against London and Berlin. Concentration camp victims piled onto trucks at Dachau and Buchenwald.
And refugees everywhere.
The museum provides a particularly useful prism through which to view the tidal wave of safety-seekers now flooding Europe. It reinforces the point that the Germans -- who inflicted such catastrophic pain under the Nazis -- are now providing practical and moral leadership.
In Munich, janitor Peter Schriever greeted a trainload of Syrians with a homemade sign reading, "Welcome Refugees." As he explained to the Washington Post: "We caused so much suffering many years ago during the war, when we invaded other nations and did many horrible things. Now it is our time to heal those who suffer."
Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has pledged to take in 800,000 refugees by year's end at a cost of $6.7 billion, said the German response "can make us proud."
"I am deeply convinced that this is the task that will decide whether we maintain our European values," said Merkel. "The entire world is watching us."
The world is also watching the United States, and so far, Washington's response has been a cause for shame, not pride. America has taken in about 1,500 Syrian refugees and expects to absorb another 300 this year. That's a very small drop in a very large bucket.
"The U.S. has historically been the world leader in recognizing the moral obligation to resettle refugees," says David Miliband, the president of the International Rescue Committee, which urges America to resettle 65,000 Syrians. "It is vital for the U.S. to step up its response."
Of course, the two nations face very different situations: Germany is on the front lines of this crisis, while the U.S. is not, and political obstacles also hamper the American response. Republican candidates for president, who are already competing for the anti-immigrant vote, warn darkly that jihadist death squads could slip into the country alongside Syrian dentists and date farmers.
"The difficulty of doing it (accepting more refugees) is met by Islamophobia and conflation of Syrians with terrorists," notes James Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute.
Still, the argument for action is compelling. The U.S. has long been the strongest supporter of international relief efforts. But money is not enough. Last spring, 14 senators wrote to President Obama, urging him to take in thousands of displaced Syrians.
The plea went unheeded at the time -- in the White House and around the country. But widely publicized images of a drowned toddler on a Turkish beach have altered the political landscape.
"It is horrifying," Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who signed the letter to Obama, said to The New York Times. "But it is something we anticipated and that's why we wrote the letter. We knew of the mounting problem for the humanitarian issues, the moral issues."
Even Donald Trump, the loudest fearmonger in Republican ranks, conceded to Cokie on MSNBC that the human tragedy unfolding in Europe was "so horrible" that he could "possibly" consider accepting more refugees here.
Under current regulations, refugees seeking resettlement face an enormously complex process that can take as long as two years. But in emergencies, there is ample precedent for executive action that accelerates the schedule.
Refugees from Cuba, Vietnam, Kosovo and Hungary have all been welcomed in times of trouble and become tax-paying, flag-waving Americans. The same thing will happen with the Syrians if they're given the chance.
While Europe is directly impacted by the swarm of refugees, America is actually better positioned to absorb a large influx of newcomers: We have the world's strongest economy and can afford the cost.
More important, we have a long tradition of successfully integrating immigrants from all over the world. European countries are generally small and homogenous. It's hard to see how a Syrian can become fully German or French even a generation or two from now. Americans, however, come in all colors, nationalities and religions. Our self-definition is not limited by ethnicity. It's elastic and ever-changing.
Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission, made a powerful speech saying, "We Europeans should remember that Europe is a continent where nearly everyone at some point has been a refugee."
We Americans should remember that at some point, nearly every one of us has been an immigrant.
Germany is justly proud of its response to this crisis. The United States could be, too.