This internet meme depicts the coronavirus as Jewish men. —Courtesy of ADL

Our nation is getting a crash course in conspiracy theories. QAnon has been in the spotlight as the latest iteration. With the rise of social media, the messenger may be new, but the message is not. Conspiracy theories have been around for centuries, well before mass communications amplified their potency. The human desire to explain complicated events in simplistic ways often leads to blaming minorities for them, sometimes with deadly consequences.

People have long attributed extraordinary power and influence to Jews, and names like “the Rothschilds” are stand-ins for an alleged global Jewish conspiracy.

A family of bankers, the real-life…

Antisemitism is a global problem. It was born in the West and peaked during the Holocaust, leading to its temporary repudiation by polite society.

A cartoon printed by the Iranian government. —Courtesy of Bahrami

By Robert Williams and Mark Weitzman

Antisemitism is an ancient hatred, but it still plagues our society and can hide in plain sight. For too long, people relied on subjective approaches to identify it — they felt it in their bones. But antisemitism is too big a problem: one needs to define it in order to counter it.

US President Joe Biden administration’s embrace of the non-legally binding Working Definition of Antisemitism of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) makes it the third administration to support this definition. As chair and past chair of the IHRA antisemitism committee, and as…

Left to right, Noor Inayat Khan (Imperial War Museums), Josephine Baker (Library of Congress), and Virginia Hall (Lorna Catling Collection).

Josephine Baker, an American vaudeville performer turned glittering star of Paris, was at the peak of her fame in 1939 when the Nazi regime began its stranglehold on Europe. But then came an offer that changed her life.

Like Baker, Virginia Hall, an American who lost a leg in a hunting accident, and Noor Inayat Khan, a Muslim pacifist, weren’t prototypical spies. And that was exactly the point. In this digital program marking Women’s History Month, learn how they turned prejudice and society’s low expectations of women into weapons that hid their critical work to defeat the Nazis.

A Black soldier with the 12th Armored Division, Seventh US Army, stands guard over a group of German soldiers captured in the forest in April 1945. —National Archives

Racial discrimination and lynchings in America did not discourage James Baldwin from serving his country. As part of the 784th Tank Battalion, he helped free the Dutch from German occupation. Sgt. Leon Bass and his unit proudly bore witness to the Nazi atrocities in the Buchenwald concentration camp after it was liberated, even though they were treated as second-class citizens in the segregated US Army. The “Double-V” campaign encouraged Black Americans to join the war effort by advocating victory against fascism abroad, and against racism at home.

In this digital program marking Black History Month, we honor Black Americans who served.

A wedding photo of Holocaust survivors married in the Weiden displaced persons camp in 1947. US Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of William and Helen Luksenburg

Sam and Regina Spiegel found love in the most unlikely of places — at a forced labor camp in German-occupied Poland. For Gad Beck and Manfred Lewin, their affection put the young Jewish men at a greater risk, so they kept their forbidden relationship a secret. Even in the darkest hours of the Holocaust, love gave many a reason to hope for a better future, the will to survive, and inspiration to rebuild after the war.

In this digital program, Museum historians discuss how love became an act of resistance for people persecuted by the Nazi regime.

During a tour of the liberated Ohrdruf concentration camp in Germany, an Austrian Jewish survivor describes to General Dwight D. Eisenhower and his entourage the use of the gallows in the camp. —National Archives

While Supreme Allied Commander Dwight D. Eisenhower had studied his World War II enemy, he was unprepared for the Nazi brutality he witnessed at Ohrdruf concentration camp in April 1945. Bodies were piled like wood and living skeletons struggled to survive. Even as the Allied Forces continued their fight, Eisenhower foresaw a day when the horrors of the Holocaust might be denied. He invited the media to document the scene. He compelled Germans living in the surrounding towns and any soldier not fighting at the front to witness the atrocities for themselves.

In this digital program on International Holocaust Remembrance Day 2021, Susan Eisenhower talked about her grandfather’s vigilance to preserve the truth of the Holocaust, among the topics covered in her most recent book, How Ike Led: The Principles Behind Eisenhower’s Biggest Decisions.

People salute Hitler while attending a Nazi Party parade in Nuremberg, Germany, 1937. Courtesy of Shawshots/Alamy Stock Photo

Recent events remind us of the ever-present dangers of hatred and propaganda. Some individuals throughout history and today have embraced hate, and even murder, to fulfill their own needs.”

Personal grievances and hardship drove nurse Pauline Kneissler to become a member of the Nazi Party in 1937. Peer pressure eventually influenced her to kill on behalf of the German government. A half century later, loneliness and bullying left American Christian Picciolini vulnerable to a white supremacist organization, which encouraged him to channel his emotions into hate and violence against Jews and other minority groups.

On January 13, 2021, amid a rise in antisemitic incidents and extremism more than 75 years after the Holocaust, experts discussed the reasons why some people in search of belonging use racism, conspiracy theories, and antisemitic lies to justify hate and violence.

The Fenyves family at their vineyard in what was then Subotica, Yugoslavia, circa 1935–38. —US Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Steven J. Fenves

In 1944, 12-year-old Steven Fenves and his family were forced from their home in Subotica, Yugoslavia, into a Jewish ghetto. While neighbors turned against them and looted their home, their former cook, Maris, rescued their treasured family artwork and recipes. These cherished items offer a glimpse into one family’s life before it was shattered by the Holocaust.

In this digital program, Steven, a Holocaust survivor and Museum volunteer, and James Beard Award–winning Chef Alon Shaya talk about family recipes and their connections to childhood memories and Holocaust history.

Chief Prosecutor Benjamin Ferencz at the Einsatzgruppen trial. —US Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Benjamin Ferencz

At age 27, in his first turn as a prosecutor, Benjamin Ferencz led what was then called “the biggest murder trial in history.” On behalf of the US government, he won guilty verdicts against 22 Nazi leaders of mass shooting operations that murdered over a million Jews. The Nuremberg Trials, which began 75 years ago this month, aimed to achieve a measure of justice for the unimaginable scale of Holocaust and war crimes. Ben, now 100, has devoted his life to pursuing peace, demanding justice for victims, and preventing genocide.

In this digital program, learn Ben’s inspiring story and why his motto is: “Never give up.”

Holocaust survivor and eyewitness of Kristallnacht Susan Warsinger, 1941. —US Holocaust Memorial Museum, gift of Susan Warsinger

On the night of November 9, 1938, nine-year-old Susan Warsinger’s life changed forever. That night the Nazi regime orchestrated a wave of violence against Jews, a deadly turning point in Holocaust history known as Kristallnacht. Susan’s neighbors in Bad Kreuznach, Germany, betrayed her family — throwing rocks through her bedroom window and even ripping down a lamppost and ramming it through their front door while a police officer watched. Her father was among 30,000 men arrested simply for being Jewish.

In this digital program, Holocaust survivor and Museum volunteer Susan Warsinger talks about her experience of Kristallnacht and the moment her parents decided to send her away to try to save her.

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

Publisher of Memory & Action

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