It’s the end of the JN’s 75 celebration year, and the end of my year spent reviewing and writing about what I discovered in the pages of the JN from 1942-1943 in the Davidson Digital Archives. I have learned a lot about Detroit and its Jewish community from my immersion into that era.
First, and foremost, I have one big announcement — the Detroit Jewish News survived its first year of publication! This is no small feat. Many new publications do not survive their first few months, let alone a year. But, the JN did. Indeed, it has lasted another 75 years and is still serving Detroit’s Jewish community every week.
The JN was also born in the midst of the greatest conflict the world has ever witnessed. It was, without a doubt, an important source of news for Detroit Jews, reporting on the issues and events of World War II that were not always addressed in the mainstream press.
I must give you a spoiler alert at this point. After following the events of World War II in the JN from 75 years ago with me, I think you should know that … we won the war! Hitler and Nazi Germany were destroyed. The military dictatorship of Japan soon followed the same path as the Nazis. And, the world was a much better place.
The Detroit Jewish community should take great pride that it did its part to achieve this great victory. Jewish men and women joined the U.S. Armed Forces in large numbers and at a higher proportion than their national per capita population.
Jews on the Detroit home front contributed to the war effort with war work and household management of resources. The city’s Jewish organizations raised millions of dollars to win the war and to provide services for veterans and refugees. It was a noble Jewish effort; it was Americans at their best.
The victory, however, came at a massive cost. More than 60 million people were killed as a result of the war, roughly, 3 percent of the global population. And millions of others were injured or grievously maimed, and millions of citizens were displaced.
For Jews in Europe, the war was a horrific experience. Six million died in a systematic, evil process devised by the Nazis. Although it was not called the Holocaust until after the war, when the full impact of the Nazi’s “Final Solution” became public knowledge, in the pages of the JN from 1942-43, one can read about the accumulation of atrocities that came to be known as the Holocaust or the Shoah.
As I wrote my weekly articles, I worried a bit about constantly presenting “bad news” to readers. However, to use a current colloquialism: “It is what it is.” I wrote about our history, what each of us would be reading in the JN in 1942-43. The war brought news of atrocities, death and destruction. But, it is good to keep in mind that there were also many stories of bravery and heroism, fortitude and compassion, as well as stories of the home front: weddings, bar and bat mitzvahs, social activities, graduations, and arts and culture.
There was also beer. I must admit, I looked forward to every new Schmidt’s Beer advertisement to see how that particular beverage was doing its part to win the war. Until reading the ads in the JN, I never realized the important role of beer. I just thought beer was tasty. I was naïve, to be sure.
The idea for my year of looking back 75 years each week was the brainchild of Managing Editor Jackie Headapohl. I’m very grateful she sent me on this adventure, an in-depth review of the JN’s first year. I hope you have enjoyed it as well. Thanks for riding along with me.
Want to learn more?
Go to the DJN Foundation archives, available for free at www.djnfoundation.org.