International Holocaust Remembrance Day
(William Davidson Digital Archive of Jewish Detroit History)

The Davidson Archive holds a tremendous history regarding the theme of International Holocaust Remembrance Day 2021.

International Holocaust Remembrance Day was commemorated two weeks ago on Jan. 27, 2021. The date marks the anniversary of the Soviet Union Army’s liberation of the largest Nazi death camp in Poland: Auschwitz-Birkenau. In 2005, the United Nations General Assembly designated the date as International Holocaust Remembrance Day. This year, the theme for Holocaust educational programs and commemorations was “Facing the Aftermath: Recovery and Reconstitution after the Holocaust” with a special focus upon the estimated 1.5 million children who perished at the hands of the Nazis. 

Much has been written about World War II, an event that claimed the lives of about 20 million people; 6 million of whom were Jews murdered in Nazi death camps. The end of the war and the Holocaust should be remembered, yet that did not end the suffering. There were millions of Displaced Persons (DPs) in the aftermath, and more than 1 million were Jews, including hundreds of thousands of Jewish children.

International Holocaust Remembrance Day

The focus on children this year reminded me of stories in the William Davidson Digital Archive of Jewish Detroit History that have left a deep impression upon me; that is, the coverage of the immediate years after the war in the JN and Jewish Chronicle. In some ways, these reports are just as striking and as sad as newspaper coverage during WWII, but there are also heartening stories.

Shortly after WWII ended, the July 6, 1945, issue of the JN had a chilling report that 1.2 million Jewish children had perished. The month before, on June 20, the headline on page 6 of the JN was: “What Becomes of our Refugee Children?” 

International Holocaust Remembrance Day

Many children went to DP camps established in such places as Italy, Cyprus and the Middle East, or to the Oswego Camp in New York. While waiting to immigrate, the DPs often suffered extremely poor living conditions. The irony is that many Holocaust survivors went from one form of internment into another. Many prominent Detroiters visited the DP camps. For a few examples, see reports in the JN from Nate Shapero (June 11, 1948), Louis Berry and Joseph Holtzman (Feb. 27, 1948), and Congressman John Dingell Sr. (Oct. 1, 1948). 

Over the years, the majority of Jewish DPs were resettled in either British Mandate Palestine or the United States, with smaller groups staying in Europe or going to South America and other places around the world.

International Holocaust Remembrance Day

There are reports, however, that provide some positive counterweight to the sad ones. There are numerous articles in the JN and Chronicle (1945-1950s) regarding the massive support Jewish Detroiters provided for DPs including those adults and children who arrived in the city. Agencies such as the Jewish Social Services Bureau, the Detroit Chapter of the National Council of Jewish Women, and local synagogues and congregations, to name just a few, did their best to place the children in foster homes. Many children grew up in Detroit and became successful citizens who raised their own families here. You may know them as your father, mother, grandfather, grandmother, uncle or aunt.

International Holocaust Remembrance Day

The Davidson Archive holds a tremendous history regarding the theme of International Holocaust Remembrance Day 2021. It is important, impactful reading.

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

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