By Mike Smith,
Detroit Jewish News Foundation Archivist

We are going to try something new on the “Looking Back” page. Instead of my usual column that focuses on an interesting bit of Detroit or Michigan Jewish history I find in the pages of William Davidson Digital Archive of Jewish Detroit History, for the next 12 issues of the JN, we will present an exhibit — “The Holocaust Unfolds.” This exhibit is also drawn from the Davidson Digital Archive and was on display at the Holocaust Memorial Center in Farmington Hills from October through December 2018.

The exhibit began with two questions and an idea.

The question: When did the Holocaust become known as the Holocaust, the Shoah? This question was a topic of discussion at a meeting with HMC CEO Rabbi Eli Mayerfield and then-Director of Education Robin Axelrod, along with Arthur Horwitz, JN publisher/executive editor and me.

Well, the answer to the question is that the Holocaust did not become a commonly known, agreed-upon term of description until a decade or so after World War II, when the magnitude of Nazi atrocities against the Jews and other groups came to light.

And, we asked ourselves another question that led to the creation of the exhibit: How did the Detroit Jewish Chronicle and the JN report about the Holocaust as it was happening? The short answer to this question is that, indeed, the Chronicle and the JN constantly reported on events that make up the Holocaust, from Hitler’s rise to power and Kristallnacht, to the atrocities against Jews and the stories of survivors — reports most often ignored by the mainstream American press. It is also the story of how Detroit Jews supported the war against the Nazis, fighting in America’s armed forces and helping the millions of displaced persons afterward. This, then, is the essence of “The Holocaust Unfolds.”

I hope you will find the exhibit panels as they appear on the “Looking Page” to be most interesting and informative. Never forget.

Want to learn more? Go to the DJN Foundation archives, available for free at

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