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(photo credit: Courtesy)
Walking through the dimly lit corridors of Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, visitors often find themselves asking: How could the world have stood idly by in the face of the Holocaust's atrocities?
An upcoming workshop for international Holocaust scholars at Yad Vashem's International Institute for Holocaust Research hopes to shed some light on this question by examining newsreels, films, radio broadcasts, and political cartoons from the Holocaust era (1933-1947), as well as news commentaries and police reports that might reveal public reaction to the news.
"Looking at a diversity of media and geographic areas, the workshop will help clarify such questions as what 'bystanders' really knew about the Holocaust, during the Holocaust and, if the Holocaust was marginalized in the press, why was this the case?" Prof. David Bankier, head of the International Institute for Holocaust Research, said in a statement.
"So far, research has looked at post-WWII media in relation to the Holocaust," he said. "For the first time, this workshop brings together serious research on real-time media coverage of the Holocaust. Some of the research that will be presented was undertaken specifically for this workshop."
The workshop, which is scheduled for July 13-20, will include presentations by Holocaust scholars from Israel, Canada, Germany, Italy, Belgium, the UK, Hungary, Russia, Holland, and the United States.
"We are dealing with one of the crucial questions of the attitude of the bystanders," said Bankier, in an interview with The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday. "We really want to know what was the reaction of different populations in occupied Europe and the free world to the Jewish plight.
"We are not only dealing with Roosevelt and Churchill, we also want to know what the ordinary Canadian or Hungarian saw when he went to the movies and saw the newsreel. If the Jewish question wasn't included, why wasn't it included? If it was included, can we see any reactions by the public?"
Bankier said much information about public reaction to the news can be gleaned from police records and reports of conversations that took place after the newsreels were shown in occupied European nations.
"Between the screening of the newsreel and the film, people went out to smoke a cigarette or have a coffee, and they would comment on what they had just seen," he said. "The state was under Gestapo control, and recorded those comments.
"People were not arrested for saying something the state didn't like, but it was recorded by Gestapo agents. This then went up to the Ministry of the Interior, [which] composed the propaganda. They were collecting information in order to make their propaganda more effective."
Sample presentations topics will include "German Newsreels and the Holocaust"; "Jews in Hungarian Newsreels, 1933-1947"; "Radio Vaticana: A Catholic Voice in the Second World War"; and "The Bystanders' Perspective: Coverage of the Persecution of the Jews and the Holocaust in the Canadian Print, Radio and Newsreel Media."
"We want to get a better understanding of what was covered and what wasn't," said Estee Yaari, foreign media liaison for Yad Vashem. "Hopefully they can get a discussion going about this and really open a window into this issue. It's something that unless you're researching it, most people don't know about it."
Yaari said the workshop was the initiative of the International Institute for Holocaust Research.
"At this time there are no plans to make a new exhibit for the museum, it's just a presentation of research," she added.