Winston Churchill had a profound influence on the Michigan landscape.
Seventy-five years ago, on March 3, 1946, Winston Churchill gave a famous speech at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri. It became widely known as his “Iron Curtain” speech.
In the aftermath of World War II, as a shattered Western Europe faced massive rebuilding, Stalin was installing communist puppet governments in Poland, Hungary and other places. Churchill described this as an “Iron Curtain” descending on Europe, and this term was added to our universal lexicon. Churchill considered this speech, where he challenged America to stand up to the communist threat, to be his finest oration.
Certainly, Churchill was among the great leaders in world history. Like most larger-than-life figures, he was a person with huge successes and deep failures, a controversial figure, to say the least. So, I wondered: what might I find about Churchill in the William Davidson Digital Archive of Jewish Detroit History?
Churchill was mentioned on 1,727 pages. Not all citations, however, are related to the Winston Churchill. It seems that there have been plenty of people with the surname “Churchill” living in Metro Detroit.
The search also revealed the profound influence Churchill had on the Michigan landscape. There is a Churchill Street in Detroit, which was the first mention of the name in the Archive in 1919. There is Churchill High School in Livonia and Churchill Community Education Center in Royal Oak. Danny Raskin wrote about “Churchill’s Bistro and Cigar Bar” in his JN “Best of Everything” column on Oct. 3, 2013. There is a Winston Churchill Society with a Michigan Chapter based in Ann Arbor.
Churchill also had an impact upon American leaders. President George W. Bush is one admirer of Churchill. Locally, Sen. Carl Levin was inspired by Churchill (March 28, 2013 JN), and former chief judge of the Federal Court in Detroit Gerald Rosen told me that Churchill is one of his heroes. Like Churchill, these people each had to deal with tough challenges.
While on tours of America, Churchill came to Detroit. He gave an interview to the University of Michigan’s student newspaper in 1901, and gave a speech, “The World Facing Disaster,” on Feb. 5, 1932 (Jan. 29, 1932 Chronicle).
Churchill did make one additional “appearance” in Detroit. The Dec. 3, 1999, issue of the JN has a story about student actors portraying historical figures at Yeshivat Akiva. Churchill was in attendance that day!
Another indication of the lasting influence of Churchill is how often he is quoted in the JN. For example, in a May 7, 2015, story about Hillel eighth-graders studying physics at the JCC by constructing cardboard boats, Elizabeth Applebaum noted that the students were determined to, in Churchill’s words, “never, never, never give up!”
And there is the remembrance of local Jewish WWII hero, veteran of 33 combat air missions, Mort Harris. On the occasion when he was honored by being named a Churchill Fellow (June 14, 2018, JN), Harris stated that Churchill’s “courage was contagious.”
There is a veritable treasure trove of information about Churchill in the Davidson Archive, more than I can address in one column. So, I’ll look into Churchill’s relationship with Jews and his impact upon British Mandate Palestine and the State of Israel in next week’s Looking Back.
Want to learn more? Go to the DJN Foundation archives, available for free at www.djnfoundation.org.