The Richmond Museum of History (RMH) is participating in History Unfolded a project sponsored by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) involving research about the holocaust in the historical local newspapers of the United States.
Project volunteers conduct research in original newspapers (Richmond Record Herald and the Richmond Independent) for coverage of 20 targeted events developed by the USHMM. Relevant articles will be scanned and uploaded to the USHMM project website to be shared with other interested parties and eventually part of an exhibit in Washington DC.Project information directly from the USHMM website https://newspapers.ushmm.org U.S. Newspapers and the Holocaust - Historical Background
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.Our Questions
- 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?
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?The Citizen Historian's Role: 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. There are two outcomes expected of this project: to inform the Holocaust Museum’s upcoming exhibition on Americans and the Holocaust, and to enhance scholarly research about the American press and the Holocaust.
- Data Entry
- Library Sciences
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Requirements & Commitment
- 2 hours per week
- Attention to detail, familiarity with an iPad, Google Drive, and scanning software
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