History Unfolded: US Newspapers and the Holocaust
From the webpage:
What did American newspapers report about the Holocaust during World War II? Citizen historians participating in History Unfolded: US Newspapers and the Holocaust will help the US Holocaust Memorial Museum answer this question.
Participants will explore their local newspapers for articles about the Holocaust, and submit their research into a centralized database. The collected data will show trends in American reporting.
Citizen historians like you will explore Holocaust history as both an American story and a local story, learn how to use primary sources in historical research, and challenge assumptions about American knowledge of and responses to the Holocaust.
Data from History Unfolded: U.S. Newspapers and the Holocaust will be used for two main purposes:
to inform the Museum’s upcoming exhibition on Americans and the Holocaust, and to enhance scholarly research about the American press and the Holocaust.
- What did people in your community know about the event?
- Was the information accurate?
- What do the newspapers tell us about how local and national leaders and community members reacted to news about the event?
During the 1930s, a deeply rooted isolationism pervaded American public opinion. Americans were scornful of Europe’s inability to organize its affairs following the destruction of WWI and feared being drawn into European matters. As a result, news about the Holocaust arrived in an America fraught with isolation, cynicism, and fear of being deceived by government propaganda. Even so, the way the press told the story of the Holocaust—the space allocated, the location of the news in the paper, and the editorial opinions—shaped American reactions.
U.S. Press Coverage of the Holocaust
The press has influence on public opinion. Media attention enhances the importance of an issue in the eyes of the public. The U.S. press had reported on Nazi violence against Jews in Germany as early as 1933. It covered extensively the Nuremberg Laws of 1935 and the expanded German antisemitic legislation of 1938 and 1939. The nationwide state-sponsored violence of November 9-10, 1938, known as Kristallnacht, made front page news in dailies across the U.S.
As the magnitude of anti-Jewish violence increased in 1939-1941, many American newspapers ran descriptions of German shooting operations, first in Poland and later after the invasion of the Soviet Union. As early as July 2, 1942, the New York Times reported on the operations of the killing center in Chelmno, based on sources from the Polish underground. The article, however, appeared on page six of the newspaper.
During the Holocaust, the American press did not always publicize reports of Nazi atrocities in full or with prominent placement. For example, the New York Times, the nation’s leading newspaper, generally deemphasized the murder of the Jews in its news coverage. Although the Times covered the December 1942 statement of the Allies condemning the mass murder of European Jews on its front page, it placed coverage of the more specific information released on page ten, significantly minimizing its importance. Similarly, on July 3, 1944, the Times provided on page 3 a list by country of the number of Jews “eradicated”; the Los Angeles Times places the report on page 5.
How did your hometown cover these events?
I first saw this in What did Americans know as the Holocaust unfolded? Quite a lot, it turns out. by Tara Bahrampour, follow @TaraBahrampour.
I have registered for the project and noticed that although author bylines are captured, there doesn’t seem to be a routine to capture editors, assistant editors, etc. Newspapers don’t assemble themselves.
The site focuses on twenty (20) major events, starting with “Dachau Opens,” March 22, 1933 and ending with “FDR Delivers His Forth Inaugural Address,” January 20, 1945.
The interfaces seem very intuitive and I am looking forward to searching my local newspaper for one or more of these events.
PS: Anti-Semites didn’t and don’t exist in isolation. Graphing relationships over history in your community may help explain some of the news coverage you do or don’t find.