Looking Back

The end of the greatest conflict in history was something to be celebrated, and something to remember.

There is another important 75th anniversary this week. On Sept. 2, 1945, on the deck of the battleship U.S.S. Missouri, the Japanese Empire formally signed the papers of surrender to the Allies. World War II was officially over.

The fighting in the Pacific Arena had actually ended earlier in August 1945 when atom bombs were dropped on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on Aug. 6 and 9 respectively. A few days later, in a radio broadcast on Aug. 15, Japanese Emperor Hirohito announced that Japan had surrendered. That day marked the end of the fighting in the Pacific and was celebrated around the world as Victory over Japan Day, or VJ Day. 

Looking Back

Victory in Europe Day, or VE Day, had occurred three months earlier on May 8, 1945. This was, perhaps, a more poignant moment for Jews, for those who remained alive in Europe, and for those in America and Detroit, because VE Day meant the end of Hitler and the Nazis and, therefore, the end of the Holocaust. But we should not forget that Detroit Jews were also deeply involved in the war in the Pacific. 

The Aug. 17, 1945, issues of the JN and the Chronicle celebrated the end of WWII. As the headline on the Chronicle’s front page stated: “City’s Jewry Hails End of Greatest War.” Both Jewish newspapers published lists of VJ Day services held at the city’s synagogues and temples, as well as other such events around the city. Both issues were also full of meaningful articles about the end of the war.

Looking Back

A great editorial in the Chronicle neatly sums up the war within a Jewish context: “A People Unconquered.” It takes the reader from rise of Hitler through the events of the Holocaust as it developed, using a Jewish lens. In the same issue on page 2, there are a series of articles under the title: “Detroit Rabbis Hail Peace; See Dawn of New Era.” 

For example, Rabbi Leo Franklin from Temple Beth El “Urges Fight for Universal Peace” and Rabbi Leo Fram from Temple Israel noted that “Peace Will be a Challenge.” Mrs. Joseph Welt, president of the National Council of Jewish Women, wrote about “The Significance of Victory.”

Also on the front page, however, was another story: “Four Jewish Scientists Credited for Bomb.” Indeed, there were a number of stories regarding the bomb in the Aug. 17 issues of the papers. The Editor of the JN, Philip Slomovitz, penned a preceptive editorial: “The Atom and Mankind.” Subsequent issues of both newspapers that fall published other articles that discussed the ramifications of the Atomic Age. 

Looking Back

One other category of stories from these issues should be noted — stories about the courage and dedication of Jewish Detroiters who served in the Pacific Theater of the war. For example, on Aug. 17, the JN wrote about Sgt. Louis Kaminsky, who was credited with downing six Japanese Zero fighter planes, and about Major Mordecai Fralick, a U-M medical school graduate, who had just returned after 38 months in the Pacific.  

The end of the greatest conflict in history was something to be celebrated, and something to remember. Hopefully, such a celebration will never be needed again. 

Want to learn more? Go to the DJN Foundation archives, available for free at
www.djnfoundation.org.

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