World War II will always be underlying my columns through next March, as I look back each week at the JN issue from 75 years ago. When the JN was first published in 1942, the war not going well for America. Japan still ruled the Pacific Ocean; its navy was the most powerful at that time and it was threatening Australia. But the “Sleeping Giant” that was America was now awakened by the attack on Pearl Harbor and by Adolf Hitler’s declaration of war upon us, and we were now swiftly gearing up for the fight.

Making more guns and ships are one thing, but the April 6, 1942, issue of the JN reminded me that America was increasing the fight on another level. It was taking measures against anti-Semitism and pro-Nazi organizations within the United States.

One of the stories was about the growing demand to crackdown on the political magazine Social Justice, which was the mouthpiece for the infamous Father Charles Coughlin of the Shrine of the Little Flower in Royal Oak. Known as the “Radio Priest,” Coughlin was one of the first individuals to use mass media — radio — to create audiences of nearly 30 million listeners in the 1930s.

Unfortunately, his message was one of isolationism and hate, anti-Semitism and pro-Nazism. In 1939, Coughlin’s radio program was finally shutdown for good.

It should also be noted that part of decreased tolerance for Coughlin, Social Justice and pro-Nazi organizations was due to reports of atrocities in Europe. Indeed, this issue of the JN also carried a story about hundreds of Dutch Jews dying from forced labor in Nazi mines.

While not pretty or fun, this issue of the JN carried important history.

Mike Smith
Detroit Jewish News Foundation

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