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Americans and the Holocaust

Americans and the Holocaust: A Traveling Exhibition for Libraries

Coming Soon to the Prairie State College Library!

Dates: 3/18/2020 - 4/21/2020

The Americans and the Holocaust traveling exhibition addresses many important themes in American history, including Americans’ responses to refugees, war, and genocide. It also provides a comprehensive look at what shaped American attitudes and actions towards the escalating persecution of Europe’s Jews. 

Drawing on a remarkable collection of primary sources from the 1930s and ‘40s, the exhibition dispels the myth that Americans knew little or were indifferent to the threat of Nazism and the plight of Europe’s Jews. It directly challenges the commonly held assumption that Americans did nothing about the Nazi persecution and murder of Jews as the Holocaust unfolded. 

The exhibition will introduce prominent individuals to a new generation of young people: Dorothy Thompson, Jesse Owens, Edward R. Murrow, Charles Lindbergh, Theodor Geisel (“Dr. Seuss”), Eleanor Roosevelt, and President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. It also includes stories—sadly too few—of exceptional actions undertaken by some members of civil society, a few government officials, and various ordinary citizens to try to promote a more vigorous response to Nazism and, in some cases, even to save Jews. 

Americans and the Holocaust showcases reproductions of historic artifacts, documents, photographs, and period film footage. Focusing on the stories of individuals and groups of Americans who took action in response to Nazism, the exhibition challenges visitors to consider the responsibilities and obstacles faced by individuals—from President Franklin Delano Roosevelt to ordinary Americans—who made difficult choices, sought to effect change, and took significant risks to help victims of Nazism. 

Although this exhibition focuses on Americans’ lives in the 1930s and the 1940s, the resonances for our culture today are apparent throughout. The USHMM and ALA PPO hope to challenge people to not only ask “what would I have done?” but also, “what will I do?”