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History unfolded: ASU students uncover Holocaust history through newspaper search

Associated Press article in Gazette and Bulletin from Williamsport, Pennsylvania was submitted to US Holocaust Memorial Museum History Unfolded project.

PHOENIX — Last month, Arizona State University students participated in a “research sprint” to pull American newspaper clippings from the 1930s and ’40s to show how the Holocaust was reported.

It’s part of the History Unfolded project put on by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. The project seeks to learn how American newspapers covered the Nazi persecution and killing of Jews.

At ASU, the goal was to find how African-American covered the Nazis and the Holocaust.

The three-hour research session in April was led by ASU history professor Matt Delmont. Most of the 60 participants were students and they found 150 article clippings.

“When Nazis were forcing Jews to wear yellow stars, that shows up in the newspapers,” he said. “When they were confiscating property, that shows up in the newspapers.

“It was not a mystery or a secret to general American readers or African-American readers what was going on then, the question was what can the U.S. do about it.”

Delmont said there was a debate on how large of a role the U.S. should have in world affairs. There was also debate on whether the United States should participate in the 1936 Olympic games in Berlin.

“I didn’t realize in the years leading up to [the Olympics] that there was a significant debate about whether the U.S. should or should not boycott, whether it [would] be endorsing Nazi policies to even go to the Olympics,” Delmont said.

There was also discussion as to if the United States should take in Jewish refugees. Delmont said the arguments were similar to those made on whether or not to accept Syrian refugees.

“These have never been easy questions that we face, but we can try to do better the next time we encounter them,” he said. “[History] gives us lessons that are continually unfolding and continue to help us think in more nuanced and better ways about the present.”

The History Unfolded project is a large part of an upcoming exhibit at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum focusing on Americans and the Holocaust, which will open in April 2018.

Delmont wants to hold another research sprint with ASU students in the fall with a focus on how Arizona newspapers covered the Holocaust during that time.

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