Jul 1 1989

Holocaust: Back-Page News

A wall exhibit, “A people in Print: Jewish Journalism in America,” held in 1987 at the National Museum of American Jewish History in Philadelphia, featured enlarged photocopies of articles from the New York Times about the Holocaust–the most terrible stories–but given short shrift, relegated to the back pages of the paper. Included were items like the October 30, 1941 article on the back page of the times: “More Berlin Jews shipped to Poland; Sent Away in Freight Cars–48,000 Uprooted in Prague.”

Dr. Kenneth Libo, curator of the historical exhibits at the museum and organizer of the journalism exhibit, sought to compare how the Holocaust was handled by the Times–its owners Jewish but their paper part of, indeed a leader of, the mainstream press–with how it was handled by the Jewish press. The Jewish press emphasized the Holocaust and “reported it on the front page,” said Libo. For the mainstream press, “the New York Times set the standard–by putting this news not on the front page but on the back pages.” “The horror,” he said, “is to find a one column headline on page 16 of the Times announcing, ‘One Million Jews Killed.'”

The exhibit was brought to the Jewish Museum in New York last year and ran until February 1989. The narrative posted on the wall at this exhibit spoke of how “the Anglo-Jewish press, fearful of having the war effort perceived as a Jewish issue, did not play as important a role as it could have in informing the public” of the Holocaust. “Setting the tone for coverage in the general press, the New York Times downplayed reports on the planned destruction of East European Jewry.”

However, the documentation of the Times‘ downplaying of the Holocaust–the enlarged photocopies of the horrendous stories given little importance–was missing from the exhibit at the Jewish Museum. The museum  has a “rule” that it only exhibits originals, not photocopies, and the originals could not be obtained.