Fleeing terror at home, searching for safety and shelter. During the Holocaust, European Jews cried out to the world for help, desperate to escape Nazi persecution. Without legal protection, their lives hung in the balance. Some were granted refuge in foreign countries with an unfamiliar language, new customs, and limited opportunities. Most found nowhere to turn.
Today, war, genocide, and mass atrocities are forcing millions of people around the world from their homes. Often separated from their loved ones, they face an uncertain future. In this digital program, we examine the plight of refugees during the Holocaust and today.
After escaping the Nazis, Arno Mayer and other German Jewish refugees learned how to glean information from the enemy as part of a secret American military operation during World War II.
Mayer faced a moral dilemma when he was ordered to work with German rocket scientist Wernher von Braun and other Nazis who immigrated to America after the war. Von Braun’s skills and know-how were considered so valuable that even President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who had witnessed Nazi atrocities firsthand, embraced him. In this digital program, learn more about Jewish refugee soldiers and the 1,600 Nazis permitted to immigrate to America.
For as long as there has been war, mothers have risked their lives to protect their children. In Nazi-occupied Poland, Olga Litman did everything she could to save her daughters as they were hunted by the Germans. They moved between towns, hid with farmers, and took on false identities. When a man discovered that Olga and her young daughters, Halina and Ewa, were Jewish, she bargained with him, giving away every last belonging and appealing to his conscience. “I don’t know anybody who was as brave as my mother when it came to her children,” Halina recalled. In this digital program, discover stories of mothers’ devotion during the Holocaust and sacrifices mothers are making today in Ukraine.
Beginning in May 1933, university students in Nazi clubs across Germany orchestrated a destructive campaign to burn thousands of books and other materials considered “un-German.” The works of Jewish writers including Sigmund Freud and political activists such as Helen Keller were among countless others scorched in festive ceremonies celebrating Nazi ideology. Even children’s books were destroyed.
The Nazi regime’s early efforts to control the thoughts and lives of its citizens foreshadowed more brutal threats on the horizon. As campaigns to ban books and control information resurface today, watch this timely digital program.
Hannah Szenes was just 23 years old when she parachuted into enemy territory in an attempt to help her fellow Jews. Five years earlier she had left her home in Budapest, but she risked her life to return to Nazi-occupied Europe. In the Netherlands, Marion Pritchard sheltered a Jewish family. One day, a local Nazi collaborator came to her door when the children were out of their hiding place. He threatened to expose them, and Marion fought back. In this digital program, learn about these dynamic women who resisted the Nazis and their collaborators during the Holocaust.
Today, the Ukrainian people are under attack. The story of their nation is forever linked to the 1.5 million Jews who were killed in the region during the Holocaust and millions of other Ukrainian civilians who died in the war. Russian President Vladimir Putin has twisted that history to justify an invasion, falsely claiming to be waging war against Nazism and genocide. In this digital program, learn the history of this land and people, including Holocaust survivors who are under threat once again.
In a matter of hours, they were tried, convicted, and beheaded for the crime of treason. These young friends had dared to oppose the Nazi regime — and were caught in a crucial moment, when the Nazis feared their grip on the public was slipping.
In urgent, pleading messages, copied and mailed to thousands of Germans, the members of the “White Rose” resistance group begged their fellow citizens to rise up. Their voices went unheard then, but today the group is a symbol of righteous rebellion. In this digital program, learn their story.
Jazz musician Freddy Johnson refused to let racism in America stall his career. He embraced opportunities throughout Europe until the United States entered the war and he and other Americans were arrested. At the Tittmoning internment camp, Johnson continued to play music and met Black portrait artist Josef Nassy, who depicted their daily life as prisoners.
Life was even more precarious for Black German artists. While Bayume Mohamed Husen once acted in a Nazi propaganda film, he was eventually arrested for violating Nazi racial laws and died in the Sachsenhausen concentration camp. In this digital program marking Black History Month, we learned about artists’ experiences in Nazi Germany.
From the moment he was born, Arye Ephrath was in danger. His mother gave birth to him with the help of a housemaid in spring 1942 while hiding from the first wave of deportations of Jews from their hometown in Slovakia. Later, a shepherd and his wife took in Arye on the condition they could disguise him as a girl so that he would blend in with their daughters. In this digital program commemorating International Holocaust Remembrance Day, learn how others took risks and sacrificed to help Arye survive the Holocaust.