These photos from the Museum’s collection illustrate the unyielding bond between mothers and their children in both harsh and happier times from the start of World War II and the Holocaust, and in the years after. Facing heartbreaking decisions and an uncertain future, these mothers did everything they could to survive and to ensure the safety of their own children, and in some cases, to protect other children in danger.

US Holocaust Memorial Museum, Julien Bryan Archive

1939

A Polish mother and child amid the rubble on a street in Warsaw, Poland. It had been bombed during the German invasion, marking the start of World War II.


Nazi perpetrator Adolf Eichmann listens as the court declares him guilty on December 15, 1961. —US Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Central Zionist Archives

The televised Israeli trial of Adolf Eichmann in 1961 ignited international awareness of the Holocaust and of the failure to convict many of its perpetrators. Viewers around the world saw survivors who recounted their experiences in a courtroom, emboldening others to speak up and demand justice. They helped inspire new efforts to prosecute perpetrators and to address the pain and loss they caused their victims.

In this digital program, experts discuss the fight for justice for Holocaust victims and their families and how it informs such efforts in the wake of genocide and mass atrocities today.


Photo of Raphael Lemkin. —Arthur Leipzig Estate, courtesy of Howard Greenberg Gallery

Raphael Lemkin, a Polish Jewish lawyer, escaped the Nazis but lost 49 members of his family in the Holocaust. He coined the word genocide in 1944 to describe the deliberate attempt to wipe out a national, ethnic, racial, or religious group. Lemkin devoted the last 15 years of his life to lobbying governments to recognize genocide as an international crime and changed the legal landscape. Despite his impact, he died alone and penniless in 1959.

In this digital program, a researcher and Museum historian discuss Lemkin’s contributions toward helping survivors achieve a measure of justice.


Student members of the University of Chicago Youth Committee against the War are shown with signs in May 1939. —University of Chicago Photographic Archive, apf3–03030, Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library

While growing up in a time of racial segregation and the Great Depression, some young Americans looked beyond the struggles of their own nation to respond to the Nazi threat in Europe. Their actions varied. Students at Yale and other universities led movements opposing US intervention abroad. Some young Americans helped Jewish European refugees, including students in rural Kansas who raised funds for 19-year-old Tom Doeppner to escape Nazi Germany and attend school in America. Others acted overseas, including William Scott, who photographed Nazi atrocities after he was drafted into a segregated US Army unit.

In this digital program, experts discussed the range of actions young Americans took during the Holocaust.


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 Iranwire.com/Behnam 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.

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

Publisher of Memory & Action

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