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Fifty thousand pesos already collected for the war victims, Di shtime/La Voz Israelita de Mexico, newspaper article 1940

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Jewish Perspectives on the Holocaust

Wartime Jewish Press

Newspapers played an important role in the life of Jewish communities in the 19th and 20th centuries. Reflecting the political and cultural diversity of these publications, the articles featured here show a wide variety of Jewish responses to the Holocaust.

Wartime Jewish Press

By the mid-20th century and the outbreak of World War II, different kinds of newspapers and journals had become the most important sources of information for most Europeans and Americans.1 Commercial radio broadcasting—which had just started in the interwar period—had not yet come to dominate at the time of the war's outbreak in 1939.

Different Jewish newspapers helped shape modern Jewish politics and culture. Major Jewish cultural and political movements nearly all had their own publications. These publications appeared in various languages, reflecting the linguistic and cultural diversity of European Jews. Jewish publications at the time were diverse, ranging from widespread debates about Zionism in middle-class German-language journals to popular daily newspapers published in Yiddish for eastern European readers. The choice of language in these publications often signaled the journals' ideological orientation. For example, the Zionists used Hebrew while Jewish socialists and others often favored Yiddish. Jewish newspapers were also published in several other European languages.

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With the start of World War II, the press in Europe and elsewhere started covering daily events, from battles and campaigns to diplomatic developments. The Jewish press was no different. But the threat of radical antisemitism and violence made Jewish editors and readers particularly interested in covering news about different Jewish populations in Europe. Most Jewish newspapers had followed the Nazi persecution of Jews even before the war began, and they covered landmark stories like the Nuremberg Laws and the November 1938 pogroms known as "Kristallnacht." The German invasion of Poland in September 1939 made reporting on the persecution of Jews more urgent, and most Jewish newspapers covered these developments. It is important to note that Jewish newspapers in areas occupied or controlled by German forces experienced severe limitations. But the Jewish press in countries that remained beyond the reach of Nazi Germany—in places like Britain, North and South America, and the Soviet Union—continued to follow the persecution of Jews in addition to more general news about the progress of the war.

The situation became more complicated with the first systematic mass murders of Jews following the German attack on the Soviet Union in the summer of 1941 and the beginning of Operation Reinhard in the fall of that year. Information was scarce, incomplete, and often based on rumors. Journalists had difficulty confirming these accounts and piecing these events together.

During the Holocaust, Jewish newspapers exhibited a wide variety of approaches. These publications had different outlooks, audiences, and purposes. They included letter-sized communist or Zionist bills passed by hand in the Warsaw ghetto underground, well-established socialist newspapers like Forverts in North America, and state-controlled Yiddish journals such as Eynikayt in the Soviet Union.2 The different sources featured here reflect the diverse nature of the Jewish communities in Europe and show several different Jewish responses to the Holocaust.

To view examples of relevant newspaper articles, visit the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum's citizen history project, History Unfolded.

For more information about the Holocaust and the press (both non-Jewish and Jewish), see Yosef Gorny The Jewish Press and the Holocaust, 1939-1945: Palestine, Britain, the United States, and the Soviet Union (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2012); Robert Moses Shapiro, ed., Why Didn't the Press Shout? American and International Journalism during the Holocaust (New York: Yeshiva University Press, 2003); and Laurel Leff, Buried by the Times: The Holocaust and America's Most Important Newspaper (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005).

All 14 Items in the Wartime Jewish Press Collection

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