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History Unfolded: US Holocaust Memorial Museum Launches Citizen History Project

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How much did Americans know about the Holocaust when it was happening? How did they respond?

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum needs your help. It is launching a “citizen history” project in which people around the country will examine how their hometown newspapers reported on Holocaust-related events during the 1930s and 1940s.

For example, how did journalists report the first news of an extermination camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau, and how did Americans respond?

This is a unique opportunity to engage in real-world research and historical thinking using a combination of online databases, microfilm, and even hardcopies of newspapers held in local libraries, universities, and historical societies. (Read AASLH President & CEO John Dichtl’s article on using this project to engage your institution’s visitors and community.) As you find articles, you can submit data about your discoveries into a centralized online database. This will allow the Museum and others to visualize, analyze, and re-evaluate what we know about trends in US news reporting during the Holocaust. Data collected through this project will be used to inform the Museum’s upcoming exhibition on Americans and the Holocaust, and may even be displayed in the exhibition, when it opens in 2018.

  • Explore Holocaust history as an American and local story.
  • Research the past using primary sources.
  • Challenge assumptions about American knowledge of and responses to the Holocaust.
  • Contribute to what is known about US newspaper coverage of the Holocaust.

Everyone is welcome to participate. The project is particularly well-suited for students and enthusiasts of US and local history, American studies, mass communications, and journalism. A beta version is available for testing at ushmm.org/history-unfolded. Initially, ten events will be available for investigation. The project will be refined based on feedback from participants, and more events will be added in early 2016.

Information about Nazi persecution of Jews and others was often available to broad segments of the American public as it happened. This project allows you to investigate Holocaust-related reporting within a larger context, recognizing how competing priorities in the U.S. at the time weighed heavily into decisions on immigration and intervention. Together, we can gain insight into how Americans—from ordinary citizens to the president—understood the threat of Nazism, perceived responsibility to respond to the Nazis’ expansionist and murderous goals, and dealt with the challenges that influenced response options.

Questions? Contact David Klevan at dklevan@ushmm.org for more information.

Read AASLH President & CEO John Dichtl’s article on using this project to engage your institution’s visitors and community.

3 Responses to “History Unfolded: US Holocaust Memorial Museum Launches Citizen History Project”

  1. December 21, 2015 at 12:11 am, Barbara Weisner said:

    As a child at the time, I was only peripherally aware of the Holocaust. I remember reading articles of Jewish families sending letters to their loved ones in Europe and the letters being returned as addressee not known. I knew that Jews were being killed in Europe, but did not read anything of the US attempting to save them. I remember the Balfour Declaration being discussed and Israel mentioned as a safe haven for Jews, but never read anything about American attempts to save them. And I lived in New York City with its huge concentration of Jewish people!

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  2. December 21, 2015 at 6:13 am, US Holocaust Memorial Museum Unveils Citizen History Project | ResearchBuzz: Firehose said:

    […] US Holocaust Memorial Museum is launching a citizen history project. “The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum needs your help. It is launching a […]

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  3. December 21, 2015 at 10:40 pm, Humanities Books, Holocaust, Mexico, More: Monday Evening Buzz, December 21st, 2015 | ResearchBuzz said:

    […] US Holocaust Memorial Museum is launching a citizen history project. “The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum needs your help. It is launching a […]

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