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Inaugural Jewish Journalism Lecture Looks at The New York Times’ Coverage of the Holocaust


Posted 10/01/2014
Posted by David Isgur


The University of Hartford’s Maurice Greenberg Center for Judaic Studies will host the inaugural N. Richard Greenfield Jewish Ledger Lecture on Jewish Journalism, featuring a talk by Laurel Leff, associate professor of journalism at Northeastern University and author of Buried by The Times: The Holocaust and America’s Most Important Newspaper, on Monday, Oct. 6, at 7 p.m. in the University’s Wilde Auditorium. The Greenfield Lecture was created to honor the memory of the former publisher of the Connecticut Jewish Ledger. The talk is free and open to the public.

Buried by The Times, published by Cambridge University Press in 2005, was selected as the best media history book by the American Journalism Historians Association and the best history book of 2005 by ForeWard Magazine.Cover of Burned by The Times

On that same evening, the Museum of Jewish Civilization at the University of Hartford will open a fascinating new exhibition 1945: Liberation that highlights the centrality of the year 1945 in Jewish history, through photography and artifacts from the period of liberation. It was a year of triumph and tragedy, a year to be commemorated, celebrated, and memorialized. For most Americans, the newsreels screened after liberation marked their first awareness of the full-scale horrors of the Holocaust and the true realization of just what America had been fighting for and against. For Jews in Europe, 1945 meant they were liberated, but not yet free.

In 1945, the story of European Jewry’s destruction had not yet been told and it would take an entire generation to unfold. It was a story that had been “buried” by the mainstream press; only recently have we come to appreciate the sacrifices of the “Greatest Generation” to protect and defend the values of Western civilization.  As Laurel Leff argues in her groundbreaking work, America’s most important newspaper buried the story of the Holocaust. Seventy years later, we must commemorate what was lost and not reported – it is our duty to tell and retell the untold stories of our history.

It is in that spirit that we celebrate the accomplishments of N. Richard Greenfield who as publisher of the Connecticut Jewish Ledger worked to inspire future journalists to tell the stories that must be told.

The exhibit 1945: Liberation can be found in the main William Singer Gallery of the Museum of Jewish Civilization in the Mortensen Library at the University of Hartford. The exhibition tells a story that also went unreported for too long: the role of 500,000 “GI Jews” in the fight against fascism and the liberation of Nazi-occupied Europe. These men and women were witnesses to history. In the fall of 1944, Samuel Cotzin was a 28 year old Jewish GI from Worcester, Mass. sent to serve in the European Theater. Assigned to the 188th Engineering Battalion, Cotzin went to battle liberating France, Belgium, and Germany from Nazi oppression armed with a gun and his camera. Like many GIs, he never spoke about his wartime experiences. After his death, his family began to organize the photographs he left behind from the war and discovered an untold story of heroism and heartbreak. When Cotzin’s Battalion entered Germany in the spring of 1945, the final Allied push into Germany signaled the end of the war for many of the Jews who had managed to survive the long years in Nazi concentration camps and ghettos.  Yet it did not necessarily signal the end of their suffering.  Cotzin captured the tragic scenes at the Buchenwald concentration camp, one of the first camps to be liberated by American forces of the 4th Armored division on April 11, 1945.

The 1945: Liberation exhibit will also include photography and artifacts from the collection of Gregg and Michelle Philipson of Austin, Texas. Philipson, an avid collector of the artwork of Arthur Szyk, all aspects of American Jewish history, and Jewish military history in particular, has generously loaned the Museum of Jewish Civilization photography, artwork, and artifacts to display in the exhibition. A postcard dedicated to the Liberation of Dachau, a 42nd infantry Shana Tova Card, a special “Trail of the Rainbow” map created by the 42nd Infantry Division, as well as Szyk artwork depicting Jewish soldiers and photographs from Liberation, are just some of the items to be included in the exhibition courtesy of the Philipson Collection and Archive. Copies of Jewish Ledger covers and coverage of the war will also be featured in the exhibit.

In addition to the “1945” exhibition in the main William Singer gallery a new exhibition in the back room of the Museum of Jewish Civilization will also be open: The Flames of Memory: Yizkor Books, Art and the Holocaust. Yizkor books are memorial books created by survivors to remember Eastern European Jewish communities, and were typically produced by landsmanshaftn (hometown immigrant aid societies) after the Holocaust. These rare books are incredibly valuable not only to the descendants of these destroyed communities as portable memorials carried by survivors after the war, but also serve as a unique resource for historians and genealogists interested in Jewish life and culture before, during, and after the Holocaust.

The Yizkor Books in the Museum of Jewish Civilization were formerly on display at the Hatikvah Holocaust Resource Center, in Springfield, Mass., and are now housed at the Museum of Jewish Civilization thanks to a generous gift from the Zachs Family Holocaust Museum Fund.

The lecture, exhibition and reception are co-sponsored by the Connecticut Jewish Ledger and the families of Alan Cotzin and Norma Passo.