Soon after Adolf Hitler’s rise to power in 1933, he quickly began a process of eliminating political and economic opponents of his usually extremist policies for development in Germany. “The Night of the Long Knives” in 1934 saw Hitler eliminate his political challengers and opponents through extra-judicial executions on the false allegation of an attempted coup1.
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Hitler’s “economic enemies” were the Jews. In his political discourse, Mein Kampf, Hitler had sought to blame the financial woes bedeviling Germany on the Jews in the country. In the book, he accused German Jews of having conspired with Russian Jews to bring about the defeat of Germany in World War I.
Hitler thus sought to ensure that Jews were quickly removed from all public and private positions of influence. Through a series of carefully planned policy edicts, Jews were banned from holding certain positions in the civil service. Hitler then sought to gain the public support of Germans in his quest to “cut Jews down to size” by urging German citizens to boycott Jewish goods and services, and avoid consuming from their shops and stalls.
These actions against Jews created a deep-seated hatred for Germans by Jews in the Diaspora, who continually received news of further atrocities visited on Jews in Germany from their families.
Subsequently, a teenaged (17-years) Herschel Feibel Grynszpan who at the time lived in France assassinated the German ambassador to the country in a fit of rage aimed at obtaining revenge for the discriminative policies that Jews in German-occupied territories (including his family) were being subjected to by the ruling class.
This act by Grynszpan created an opportunity for Hitler and his ministers to launch more aggressive and public acts of violence against the Jews. The assassination provided Germans with the perfect excuse for attacking Jews, destroying their property and places of worship under the guise of revenge.
On the night of November 9 1938, Nazi youths with the overt support of German police and line agencies began a series of violent attacks and extra-judicial executions of Jews in Germany in what came to be known as Kristallnacht, or “The Night of the Broken Glass”2. The destruction of Jewish properties and places of worship during this pogrom that lasted about three days was massive and unprecedented.
The systematic persecution of Jews since the beginning of Hitler’s reign as chancellor thus reached its nadir on The Night of The Broken Glass.
The previous incident of Ambassador Ernst Vom Rath’s assassination had drawn the attention of the world press towards the goings-on in Germany, and the Kristallnacht pogrom put the activities of Germans in the worldwide press’ crosshairs. The actions of the Nazi Party agencies were roundly condemned by world leaders and in press editorials.
However, despite the obvious anti-Semitic attacks targeting the Jews in Germany and Europe by Nazi officialdom, the righteous anger in American citizens was quickly fading.
In the period of 1933-1939, which encompasses Hitler’s rise to power that saw a sustained persecution of Jews in Germany and the pogroms, which culminated in the Night of The Broken Glass, the reception of such news by the American public was mute at best.
According to Lipstadt American news correspondents, representing various newspapers in the US had been stationed in Germany for this entire period up to the year 19423. Accordingly, these news correspondents filed reports that highlighted the incidences of persecution of Jews under the Third Reich4.
However, the receipt of such news was tempered with the editorial exigencies of various newspapers, a general indifference towards the on goings in Europe, and a small but significant anti-Semitic undercurrent in the US.
The state of Michigan offers an appropriate platform for analyzing the factors that led to the lack of significant public and government action at the persecution of Jews under the Third Reich. Michigan, in the years preceding the Second World War, had a significant German population. Incidentally, the State was also home to a large number of persons of Jewish ancestry.
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A significant number of persons of German ancestry lived in the city of Detroit, as did Jews. This set the stage for potential confrontation especially of the matter concerning the persecution of Jews in Germany, its coverage and significance, coupled with what it portended in the event of war.
The people of Michigan hardly knew of the Jewish persecution under the Third Reich due factors such as the editorial choices of leading newspapers in Michigan, and a pro-German stance of powerful and influential Michigan citizens.
Background on the State of Michigan’s Automobile Industry and its Connections to Germany
The State of Michigan, as the home of various automobile companies, was an industrial state. The three largest car-manufacturing companies in the US were stationed in the state – General Motors (GM), Ford and Chrysler. Michigan’s industry and the economy were thus dominated by the automotive industry. Most of the State’s citizens worked in the automobile industry, and the industry was the largest contributor to the state’s earnings.
The Ford Motor Corporation’s head, Henry Ford, created an employment model that not only revolutionized Employment Relations (ER) in the US and the other countries with similar labor markets, but also instituted a system of paying his workers unusually high wages in order to reduce employee turnover and pre-empt union activities within his corporation5.
After the First World War, Germany was economically hamstrung by the monumental war reparation payments she was paying to the allied victors. The Nazi party was constrained concerning the economic policies to implement that would jump-start Germany’s economy, and allow it to grow to its pre-first World War levels. When Hitler came to power, he went to considerable lengths in trying to restore the German economy.
He emphasized on Germans that they should buy from Germans (and except Jewish Germans) in order to boost local industries. One of the pet projects for the chancellor was the production of a cheap German-made car model that would be affordable for the average German.
The car would subsequently serve as the tonic for boosting Germany’s ailing automobile industry. The answer came in the form of the Volkswagen Beetle model, which was hailed as the perfect car for Germans desiring fuel efficiency while maximizing vehicle mileage use in their automobiles.
The Volkswagen beetle had many manufacturing qualities, which were present in one of Ford Motor Corporation’s automobile models – Model T. Model T was the brainchild of Henry Ford, who had conceived its features such as fuel efficiency, and ease of use in order to capture the needs of the average American automobile owner.
Model T was a runaway success for Ford Motor Corporation at the turn of the Twentieth Century and later decades, becoming one of the ubiquitous vehicles on American roads. Hitler had been a keen admirer of not only the industrial policies of Ford Motor Corporation, but its leader Henry Ford too.
The similarities of the two vehicle models the Volkswagen beetle and the Ford Model T thus suggest an imitation, or at the very least, a borrowing of ideas, by Hitler from Ford.
The Big Three automobile corporations – Ford, GM, and Chrysler, engaged Hitler in various efforts to open up the German market to the Michigan based companies, and export the US industrial technologies to Germany. The German automobile industry was of specified interest to the three corporations who were keen on maximizing sales on their overseas markets in Europe and particularly Germany.
The German based subsidiaries of both Ford Motor Corporation and General Motors effectively controlled nearly 70% of the German automobile market6. As stated earlier, the Nazi regime (under the guide of Hitler himself) went to considerable efforts to model the German economy after the US system and markets.
Hitler believed that, the mass production of automobiles and other industrial machines at low cost would be the most effective means of boosting the then ailing German economy. Accordingly, Hitler aggressively pursued the path of mass production of industrial machines, planes, and automobiles at low cost.
The fact that Hitler borrowed these economic ideas directly from corporations based in Michigan alludes to a connection between the state and the members in the highest power echelons, in the Nazi Germany.
During the period from Hitler’s ascension to power in 1933 to the end of the Second World War, the use of forced labor in many German factories was common. The Big Three automobile corporations in Michigan thus were not only able to maximize profits through the sale of automobiles to the extensive German market, but the profit maximization also stemmed from the engagement of workers at minimal or no rates by the Nazi regime.
The Michigan based corporations were well aware of the fact that workers in their German plants were not being remunerated at all for work done. The interests of both the Michigan based corporations and the Nazi regime were satisfied through the unfortunate exploitation of mainly Jewish workers in labor camps7.
Hitler and his Nazi regime followers on their part were able to kick-start the rapid economic and industrial growth, which would see Germany soon emerge as a significant industrial force in the relatively short period that Hitler was chancellor. The connection between the Big Three Michigan based automobile corporations and the German automobile industry, however, went beyond the civilian realm.
Desperate to restore the German military arsenal, weaponry, and mobile machines to a level that would enable his planned conquest of Europe, Hitler became interested in the industrial activities of the American automobile corporations. Ford Motor Corporation and GM had practiced advanced and innovative industrial techniques that had ensured their status as industry leaders throughout the world.
During the First World War, Ford had been able to manufacture planes using cheaper materials but with the same functional efficiency of previous models, a move that helped give the American military an edge over its enemies. Similarly, GM’s production of synthetic fuel was a significant discovery for the Germans, who would later use GM’s techniques of manufacturing synthetic fuel for their war campaigns in Europe.
The German based manufacturing plants of the American automakers such as Ford and GM served Hitler’s need for a discreet rearmament program.
Because under the terms of the peace treaties, which ended World War I Germany was not to re-arm or maintain a large army, the re-tooling of the German manufacturing plants of the American corporations, to become veritable military manufacturing plants, served the Nazi regime’s purposes well.
GM played a vital role in the early stage design of the Luftwaffe, the German plane bomber that caused significant losses for the Allies and demoralized the British public due to its efficiency.
Of significant note is that during the same period that the German based manufacturing plants of the US automakers were being re-tolled to serve Germany’s future war effort, the same corporations were resisting US government pressure to militarize some of their production plants8.
GM consistently maintained that its production plants in Dearborn were not sufficiently crafted to undertake the production of military planes, yet the corporation was involved in the production of planes in its Russelsheim plant, in Germany. The three Michigan based motor vehicle corporations thus served to gain from sales in the relatively large German automobile market.
Michigan Auto Industry’s Connection to Germany’s Role in Obscuring Jewish persecution News
Given that the Michigan auto industry maintained close connections to Germany, news of the auto industry’s progress in its overseas plants took precedence over news regarding the exploitation of workers (a part of the persecution of Jews).
The more Nazi Germany looked towards the Michigan auto industry for innovation, inspiration, and ideas, the more newspapers carried such news in their front pages, and thus the more likely news of the persecution were ignored.
Michigan newspapers, such as The Detroit News and The Frankenmuth News, were more interested in publishing such news of the economic progress of Germany and its affiliations to the automotive industry in Michigan than the news of persecution of Jews.
Prominent Michigan Personalities’ Connections to Germany
There were several prominent personalities who were born and/or resided in Michigan and whose connections to personalities and organizations in Nazi Germany ensured that the state maintained links with Germany, sometimes to a level that, with the benefit of hindsight, bordered on treasonous acts. These personalities included Henry Ford, Charles A. Lindbergh, and the ‘radio priest’ Father Charles Edward Coughlin.
By the time Hitler assumed the chancellorship in Germany, his relationship with Henry Ford, the head of Ford Motor Corporation, had already taken a personal angle. Hitler had previously admired the ideological inclinations of Ford, who in the early decades of the Twentieth was rabidly anti-Semitic. So fond of Ford and his anti-Semitic beliefs was Hitler that he had a picture of him at his Brown House in Germany.
Henry Ford’s influence and stature in the state of Michigan was strong. Because Ford Motor Corporation was based in the Dearborn, in Michigan, he exercised considerable economic and quasi-political power on the affairs of the state. Ford had even, in the year, 1918 ran for a US senate seat from the state, loosing by the narrowest of margins to his opponent.
The events and outcomes of the First World War had a significant impact on Henry Ford on a personal and professional level. Henry Ford acquired the belief that businesspersons mainly sponsor wars in order to advance their interest through profiting from the sale of weaponry and other war necessities.
As an established businessperson, Ford was of the view that corporations should strive to avert wars and that corporations through policies that promoted the holistic welfares of their workers offered the best chance for creating and sustaining peace throughout the globe.
In the years following the First World War, Henry Ford bought into the conspiratorial idea that rich Jewish bankers throughout the globe had necessitated the worldwide hostilities that characterized World War I with a view to making war profits on a global scale. Henry Ford thus became highly critical of Jews and their business practices, especially in the US.
In 1918, ford purchased a local Dearborn weekly newspaper, The Dearborn Independent and began a decade’s long publishing of his anti-Semitic views on the newspaper. Ford in the publications continuously blamed Jews for every problem in the world save the common cold.
The publications in The Dearborn Independent were subject to numerous lawsuits concerning the anti-Semitic angle of the writings, but Ford persisted in his views. He used his significant resources to ensure that the newspaper was published throughout the US, and at one point, it was second to The New York Times in nationwide subscription and circulation.
Ford combined his diverse views on the ‘evil’ nature of Jews in a single article entitled The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, which purported to detail an alleged plan by Jews to control world resources, businesses, and governments through maintaining holdings in the press and national finance institutions of various nations throughout the world.
The article was presented as minutes of an alleged meeting in the late Eighteenth Century of Jewish leaders who subsequently came up with a plan to dominate the entire world. Although The Protocols of the Elders of Zion were quickly confirmed to be fraudulent by critiques in established newspapers throughout the world, Ford hurried the publication of about half a million copies to be distributed throughout the US.
The significance of the widespread circulation of Protocols of the Elders of Zion beyond Europe was Hitler’s almost intimate fascination by its contents. Hitler not only believed in the false contents of the document, but also arrogated himself the personal task of ensuring that the proposed worldwide domination by Jews never became known.
Apparently, he felt that, only him and his Aryan “race” Nazi followers had the right to dominate the world if his plans for the thousand-year reign of the Third Reich are anything to go by. Protocols of the Elders of Zion became massively popular in Germany, as did Henry Ford. Various Nazi leaders described Ford as their inspiration and an ideological partner of the Nazi regime.
Texts of The Protocols were published in the German language and were voraciously studied in German classrooms. For his efforts, Ford received the ignoble honor of being the only American mentioned favorably in Mein Kampf.
Besides The Protocols, Henry Ford published several articles in The Dearborn Independent that casted Jews as the source of all matters wrong in the world. These series of articles were published under the overall title “The International Jew: The World’s Foremost Problem”, continuing his anti-Semitic tirades against Jews.
Charles A. Lindbergh
Charles A. Lindbergh was the first person to fly non-stop across the Atlantic from the US East Coast to Europe in 1927. This feat brought Lindbergh worldwide fame and recognition.
As the ultimate American aviation hero, he was idolized throughout the US. Charles A. Lindbergh was born in Detroit, Michigan, and after his prize-winning flight across the Atlantic was considered a native hero of the State of Michigan. Lindbergh maintained a strong connection to the Nazi Party and its leaders in the years following his pioneering achievement in the aviation industry.
Lindbergh’s fame, thus, propelled him to national prominence, and his position on various socio-economic issues aside of the aviation industry held considerable sway in the country. Lindbergh was a strong opponent of communism and on this matter found kindred spirits in the Nazi leaders including the chancellor Hitler himself.
To some extent, Lindbergh believed in the superiority of the white race, and viewed communism as a means of promoting economic systems that would weaken the white race at the expense of other ‘inferior’ races throughout the world.
In this regard, Charles Lindbergh went to exceptional lengths to portray Germans in a positive light in order to avert war between Germany and Britain, conventionally favoring a scenario of the Western nations (with the inclusion of Germany) attacking the Soviet union to pre-empt the spread of communism.
Lindbergh’s ideological and racial beliefs led to his association with various persons in both Michigan and Germany, associations that favored the continual persecution of Jews under the Third Reich.
Lindberg’s belief that the US should collaborate with Germany (as should Britain) in an attempt to nip the spread of communism in the bud earned him the lasting friendship of and partnership with Henry Ford. Henry Ford’s rabid anti-Semitism has already been discussed, including Ford Motor Corporation’s dalliance with the Nazi regime in exploiting workers for no pay in order to maximize profits.
Lindbergh believed that, Americans owed allegiance to their European Caucasian kins, and that the world had a better future with Caucasians (as opposed to Asian or Blacks) as the world leaders. To Lindbergh, Russia was Asiatic in origin, culture and beliefs, and the matter of Communism in the country stirred anger in him, an avowed anti-communist.
The influence of Charles Lindbergh’s view both nationwide and in the state of Michigan can be seen in the prominence that his views and activities were given in the state press. Even an ordinary trip to Germany to receive his medal from the German leadership is splashed on the front pages of some many newspapers in Michigan9.
Father Charles Edward Coughlin
Royal Oak based Michigan priest Father Charles E. Coughlin identified himself primarily as an anti-communist, stating that communism was an evil that if allowed to take root in America would not only destroy the lives of Americans in this world, but also the next.
He had initially supported the “New Deal” policies of President Roosevelt, which were aimed at improving the lot of the lower and middle class in America, before later changing tune and branding the president a warmonger.
Similar to Henry Ford and Charles A. Lindbergh, Father Coughlin believed that Jews were behind the spread of communism in Europe, particularly Russia, and that they were intent on spreading the same to western countries including the United States.
He blamed a faceless band of “Jewish conspirators” for the great depression, and sympathized with the actions of the Nazi party in Germany, stating that all that Hitler and his followers were keen on was halting the spread of communism in Europe10.
The significance of father Coughlin’s beliefs and rests on the fact that his weekly radio audience was exceptionally large – about thirty million every week. Estimates suggest that Father Coughlin may have had the attention of nearly a quarter of the American public’s attention during certain broadcasts. In Michigan, his followers identified themselves as Coughlinites, and believed his every word.
Although father Coughlin consistently denied that he was anti-Semitic, his words, actions, and associations said otherwise. On the destruction visited on Jews on The Night of The Broken Glass, Father Coughlin played down the destruction visited on the Jews, instead pointing out that Bolshevik communists had killed many Christians in Russia without much outcry from the rest of the world.
Michigan’s Prominent Personalities’ Role in Obscuring Jewish Persecution News
Ford, Coughlin, and Lindbergh were rabidly anticommunist. At one point during the 1930s, the Detroit News published an article that accused Jews of being Soviet spies, a view which was held by Father Coughlin and Ford11.
This case is just one instance of how the influence of prominent persons extends to the news covered. Similar to the case of the automotive industry, the views and actions of these prominent persons were given prominence in the Michigan newspapers over the news of the persecution of Jews. Additionally, concerning Ford, he spent large sums of money in advertising campaigns, both for his cars and his ideas.
His huge financial power extended to the newspapers and he thus tended to influence the political and ideological leanings of various Michigan newspapers. When he published The Protocols of the Elders of Zion in his Dearborn newspaper in the 1920s, he used his finances to ensure that the paper was second to the New York Times in nationwide circulation12.
He also paid many writers to write articles criticizing Jews in newspapers. Lindbergh’s contention that Germans were the vanguard against the spread of communism endeared him to Nazi Germany, and his every opinion and activity especially concerning the need for the US to form an alliance with Germany against communist Russia were given a lot of prominence in Michigan newspapers.
Michigan Newspapers Coverage of Jewish Persecution under the Third Reich: 1933-1942
In the period 1933-1939, the continued persecution of Jews caught the attention of newspaper correspondents stationed in Germany. Many US newspapers had reporters stationed in the country even prior to Hitler’s chancellorship13. On a national level, New York Times was most prominent in Germany, and as the leading newspaper in the US by subscription numbers, its subscribers cut across the entire nation.
On a state level, with a focus on the state of Michigan, The Detroit News had some correspondents reporting from Germany. Most other newspapers either relied on reports from other sources in Germany, or simply even gleaned the news from articles in other newspapers in the US.
Overall, news of the persecution of the Jews under the Third Reich did reach the US shores, as will be examined shortly. The following thematic analysis of the articles of various newspapers with circulation and subscription within Michigan during the period 1933-1939 indicates that news of the persecution was mentioned, at the very least.
The New York Times
“Nazi Deeds Called Worst In History”
The New York Times, within a year of Hitler’s ascension to the chancellorship, had the article “Nazi Deeds Called Worst in History” by Michael Williams, writing for the New York Times in 193314. The article by Williams highlighted the beginnings of the travails of the Jews in Germany.
Immediately after Hitler came to power in 1933, he began implementing a series of measures aimed at isolating Jews from the German socio-economic sphere and body politics.
The regular members of the Nazi party were naturally over-enthusiastic in their mission to implement the policies fashioned by the Nazi leadership led by Hitler. Some of the policies included the termination of employment for Jews holding positions in Universities within Germany and other public services posts and roles.
Additionally, Germans were forbidden from buying goods from Jewish shops, which shops were mandated to identify their ownership as being Jewish in order to ensure Germans knew exactly which shops to avoid.
The matter of Jews having to identify themselves made them easy targets for youths belonging to the Nazi party who went about destroying Jewish property, and killing Jews in the name of implementing Nazi Party polices. Williams reports of a conservative figure of about 300 Jews killed by Nazi party faithful.
Furthermore, he states that many Jewish families were the targets of anti-Semitic violence in Germany, stating that there were records of about three thousand (3,000) recorded cases of violence against Jews within the short period of Adolf Hitler’s rule.
Of significance is the fact that, Williams went to Germany on a fact-finding mission, on commission by the American Committee on Religious Reports, which wanted to ascertain the veracity of claims that, Jews were being persecuted or discriminated against in Germany.
Williams records interviewing Jewish youths who seemed disillusioned by Hitler’s policies, reporting that there was no future in Germany for Jewish youths as long as the Third Reich was in power.
“‘New Order’ Dead Listed at 400,000”
The New York Times had again carried another article that highlighted the persecution of Jews under the Third Reich, this time well into the chancellorship of Adolf Hitler, in 1940. Glen M. Stadler, a New York Times reporter, meticulously detailed the excesses of the German military and Nazi faithful in the conquered territories, in Europe15.
Stadler writes that, in countries like Estonia and Latvia, the killing of Jews was akin to an open hunt, where Jews were the target of killing squads sanctioned by the Nazi Party.
In addition to reporting the atrocities visited on Jews, Stadler also zoomed in on the matter of Nazi treatment of its prisoners in the conquered territories. The Germans were shown as being particularly insensitive to the rights of Prisoners of War, summarily shooting surrendered and surrendering fighters in contravention of established war protocol.
Furthermore, the Germans mistreated the captured people under their watch, denying them food and subjecting them to forced labor in order to boost German war efforts. German officialdom consistently stated that it was not the duty of the victor to feed the defeated.
According to Stadler, the hunting down of Jews in the conquered territories of Europe was carried out systematically by the German secret police, the Gestapo. The Gestapo, upon the German military successful conquest of a country or territory, would immediately begin to document all the Jews present in the area.
This obsessive planning and documentation of Jews, an exercise that marked them for death, was of paramount concern for Stadler, who found it offensive and unacceptable. Additionally, Jewish properties were looted and their personal accessories confiscated by the Gestapo and other Nazi party agencies.
The New York Times Subscription and Circulation in Michigan
As the largest paper in the US in terms of circulation and subscription, The New York Times was extensively read in the state of Michigan. Readers were drawn mainly from the urban area and cities such as Detroit, Plymouth, and Bay City.
In relation to the reporting of the persecution of Jews under the Third Reich as indicated by the foregoing articles in its publications on diverse dates of Hitler’s reign in Germany, such articles were placed in the inner sections of the newspaper.
The editorial choices of the editors, on these two different dates in electing to place the reports of Jewish persecution in the inner pages, suggest a deliberate plan to water down the significance of such news.
The Detroit News
The Detroit News was one of the most widely read newspapers in the metropolitan and urban areas of Michigan, particularly the city of Detroit. A survey of its publications during the period 1933-1939 indicates that the Detroit News hardly reported on the persecution of Jews under the Third Reich, and when it did, such reports were aimed at downgrading the atrocities that Nazi Germany committed on Jews.
On March 12 193716, the newspaper published an article that charged Jews in the US with sabotaging the American and German economies by boycotting German goods. The article further accused Jews as being soviet spies, and proponents of communism.
The Detroit Jewish News and the Detroit Jewish Chronicle
The Detroit Jewish News and the Detroit Jewish Chronicle were weekly newspapers that were concerned with articulating news and affairs affecting Jews in general. As expected, these two newspapers went to considerable lengths to highlight the persecution of fellow Jews under the Third Reich.
In most of the publications by these two newspapers, the fate of Jews under the Hitler regime, as regards their persecution, were headlined and given prominence. The two newspapers had widespread circulation in the cities of Michigan besides Detroit, such as Traverse City and Royal Oak.
“Polish Jews Send Frantic Appeal to World for Food”
The Detroit Jewish News carried the above headline in its April 24, 1940 headline17. An outright two-pronged approach in highlighting the plight of Jews in German territories, the headline both implies a need for action as well as focuses on the persecution of Jews in German territories.
The headline thus affirms the widely held notion that, the Germans were starving their prisoners and Jewish captives to death in deplorable labor camps where they were worked to death.
“Nazis Slaughter 13,000 Jews in Lwow; Report 1500 More Died in Radom of Starvation”
The above headline appeared on the Detroit Jewish News on May 1 194018. As a Jewish-affairs newspaper, the Detroit Jewish News was at the forefront in highlighting the ill treatment of Jews at the hands of Nazi officers and the German army. This headline goes a bit further than just the communication of the plight of Jews, but announces the deliberate killing of Jews in a seeming effort to eradicate Jewish peoples – genocide. That 13,000 unarmed and imprisoned Jews (or any other persons in that case) could be summarily executed indicated malice and a genocidal tendency on the part of the Germans.
“7300 Greek Jews Dead of Starvation under Nazi Rule”
The above headline appeared in the Detroit Jewish News on May 15 1942 headline19. The article appeared three years into the Second World War, after Hitler attacked and conquered Poland in 1939. A system emerges in the news headline publications of the newspaper where the Nazis are portrayed as willfully allowing their prisoners and Jews under their watch to die.
In addition, the Nazis were thus involved in a broad based agenda of eliminating, through deaths, all Jews in their European-held territories. Having allowed Jewish prisoners and captives under their watch to die in Poland, and now in Greece, the systematic plan of the Nazis to eliminate Jews in all the territories that they will conquer unfolds.
“Nazis Exterminate Jews in 5 Polish Towns”
On March 26 1943, the Detroit Jewish News carried the above headline in its front pages20. The pattern of using particularly strong verbs such as “slaughter” and “extermination” when referring to the killing of Jews indicates an attempt to call the vile and heinous crimes perpetrated by the Germans against the Jews for what they were.
In this given headline, the extent and spread of the German persecution of Jews is highlighted through the mention of the killing occurring in five polish towns. To some extent, this headline, especially since it comes deep into the war in 1943, betrays the frustrations of the Jews in Michigan in their efforts to draw attention to the atrocities visited on the Jews by Nazi Germany.
“Reverend Coughlin’s Attempt to Spread Religious Hatred is Most Vicious un-American Scheme”
The above article appeared as an editorial headline in the Detroit Jewish Chronicle on 25 June 1937. The editorial write-up by Philip Slomovitz was aimed at repudiating the utterances and thoughts of Father Charles E. Coughlin through his weekly radio broadcasts21.
Slomovitz was concerned with the manner in which Father Coughlin was denigrating the persecution of Jews in Germany, and twisting the events in the country to appear as if Nazi officials were ‘protecting’ capitalism by eliminating Jews and all forms of Jewish socio-economic and political domination of events, in German society.
Slomovitz was especially concerned that the weekly radio broadcasts by Father Coughlin, which reached millions of Americans, were preventing Americans from appreciating the unfolding tragedy of Jewish persecution and genocide under the Third Reich. The New York Times, The Detroit News, The Detroit Jewish News, and the Detroit Jewish Chronicle all widely read in the urban areas and cities of Michigan.
The Frankenmuth News
Frankenmuth in Saginaw County in rural Michigan has a large German population. The Frankenmuth News during the period of Hitler’s reign strove to give news of the social, political, and economic progress of Germany. Due to the large German population, news of the ‘home’ country was of interest to the residents of the area, and the larger Saginaw County.
The ascension to political power of the Nazi Party in 1933 had seen Frankenmuth residents with German origins take a particularly keen interest in the affairs of Germany.
Many of the residents of Frankenmuth had escaped the harsh socio-political and economic conditions in post-World War I Germany, and immigrated to the US, and developments in these fronts (social, economic and political) in Germany elicited keen interest in them.
It follows, therefore, that the Frankenmuth News would naturally spotlight the good news coming out of Germany and obscure, or even ignore, the bad. A survey of the headline stories in the newspaper indicates that the paper sympathized with the policies of the Nazi Party in Germany.
News of the persecution of Jews under the Third Reich did not feature much in the articles and news published in the Frankenmuth News. After the US entered the Second World War, the newspaper was keen to portray the war as being against Nazi aggression, and not Germans themselves. In December 24, 1942, the newspaper ran an article titled “War against Nazi aggression, not Germans”22.
Such sympathies with Germans and outright refusal to publish any news of the persecution of Jews under the Third Reich by the Frankenmuth News indicate a bias for the Nazi cause. Near the end of the war, when news of the horror of deaths of Jews in Nazi concentration camps began to trickle in, the newspaper was keen to caution against the ills of revenging against the Nazi in an article appearing on May 10 194523.
The Biasness in the Reporting Of Jewish Persecution in Newspapers Available, In Michigan: An Analysis
As indicated earlier, the 1930s saw the rise to prominence of newspapers and radio as the trusted source for news. The people of Michigan could only learn of the persecution of Jews in Germany if the newspapers and radio broadcasts in the state reported such information.
Sadly, the analysis of the newspapers available for the public to the state indicates that such news was relegated via the editorial choices of various papers, downplayed by the pronouncements of prominent and trusted radio personalities, or utterly ignored by other newspapers and radio stations.
Many of the newspapers that were available in the cities and metropolitan areas of the state of Michigan, such as the New York Times, The Detroit News, The Detroit Jewish Chronicle, and the Detroit Jewish News all had in interest, in either downplaying the news of persecution or highlighting the same.
Naturally, the Detroit Jewish News and the Detroit Jewish Chronicle, as newspapers keen on Jewish affairs, strove to foreground the news of the persecution of the Jews under the Third Reich. The two newspapers consistently carried weekly headlines, which highlighted the persecution of Jews for almost the entire period that such persecutions began under the Nazi party through to the end of the war.
The two newspapers also appealed for help through editorials and fund drives to aid starving and homeless Jews in Europe. However, because only fellow Jews read these newspapers, such endeavors were akin to preaching to the converted. The larger non-Jewish American public in Michigan was thus not acquainted with the news of the ongoing persecution.
The New York Times on its part did carry articles that spotlighted the persecution of Jews in Germany, as has been demonstrated. However, such articles were mostly tucked away in obscure corners of the inner pages of the newspaper, and thus such news as the persecution of Jews was not given prominence.
The Detroit News, which circulated widely in the major cities of Michigan, consistently downplayed the events in Europe insofar as the attack and targeting of Jews was concerned. On many of its publications concerning Hitler’s expansionist activities and the coverage of the progress of the war, the matter of Jewish persecution hardly featured.
One suspects the influence of some of the prominent citizens of Michigan and their pro-German views, such as Ford, Lindbergh and Father Coughlin, may have played a part in the lack of news of the persecution of Jews. Because such personalities were staunchly pro-German and their views carried weight within the state, the newspaper bought into their views that the enemy was not Nazi Germany, but Jews within and outside the US.
The Frankenmuth News on its part was strongly pro-German. With its publishing base being in an area with not only a large number of Americans of German origin, but also persons keen on the news of Germany’s socio-economic and political progress, the Frankenmuth News strove to downplay any news that would hold German officialdom in a negative light.
The ability of newspapers and radio broadcasts to reach large numbers of subscribers made them the preferred source for news in the US, including in the state of Michigan. Accordingly, the news contained in these media represented the totality of news that reached the masses in the state of Michigan.
If the newspapers in the state chose to ignore or downplay the events in Germany, in particular the persecution of Jews, it is likely that the public would have no idea of such events or would not consume such news with the seriousness deserved in the case of a downgrading of events.
Similarly, radio broadcasts that effectively ignored the news of the persecution of Jews in Germany would result in the lack of awareness of such occurrences amongst the masses.
With the exception of Jewish focused newspapers in Michigan, an analysis of other newspapers in the state indicates that news of the persecution of Jews under the Third Reich was either ignored, or effectively downgraded, so that the atrocities were portrayed as being mere exaggerations.
Newspapers, in both the urban and rural areas in Michigan effectively ignored or downplayed the news of Nazi persecution of Jews. The New York Times, which was widely read in Michigan cities, displayed news of the persecution in its inner pages in obscure sections, effectively categorizing such news as unimportant.
The Detroit News ignored any news that concerned the persecution of Jews in Germany, and was pro-German through its portrayal of Jews in a negative light in its articles. The Frankenmuth News was also pro-German and ignored news that held Germany in a bad light.
Additionally, radio broadcast by Father Coughlin, who was rabidly anti-Semitic, and whose broadcasts reached hundreds of thousands of Michigan residents, downplayed the persecution of Jews under Nazi Germany. Therefore, the people of Michigan hardly received a true picture of the atrocities visited on Jews in Nazi Germany.
A combination of factors, such as the editorial choices by leading newspapers in Michigan, and a pro-German stance of powerful and influential Michigan citizens, ensured that Michigan residents remained in the dark concerning the news of Jewish persecution under the Third Reich.
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Detroit Jewish News. “Polish Jews Send Frantic Appeal to World for Food”. April 24 1940, P1.
Detroit Jewish News. “Nazis Slaughter 13,000 Jews In Lwow; Report 1500 More Died In Radom Of Starvation.” May 1 1940.
Detroit Jewish News. “7300 Greek Jews Dead of Starvation under Nazi Rule.” May 15 1942.
Detroit Jewish News. “Nazis Exterminate Jews In 5 Polish Towns”. March 26 1943
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1Lothar Machtan. “Hitler, Rohm, and the Night of the Long Knives. (Cover story).” History Today 51, no. 11, (2001), 5
2Janet Jacobs. “Memorializing the Sacred: Kristallnacht in German National Memory.” Journal For The Scientific Study Of Religion 47, no. 3 (September 2008), 487
3 Deborah Lipstadt. Beyond Belief: The American Press & The Coming of The Holocaust. (New York: The Free Press, 1986), 14
4 Lipstadt, Beyond Belief, 15
5 C. V Glines. “Ford’s Forgotten Aviation Legacy.” Aviation History 18, no. 5 (May 2008),31
6 Thomas Fetzer. “Exporting the American model? Transatlantic entanglements of industrial relations at Opel and Ford Germany (1948-1965).” Labor History 51, no. 2 (2010), 173
7 Susanne Higler. “‘Globalization by Americanization’: American companies and the internationalization of German industry after the Second World War.” European Review Of History 15, no. 4 (2008), 375
8 Alex Kay. “A ‘War in a Region beyond State Control’? The German-Soviet War, 1941-1944.” War In History 18, no. 1 (2011), 110
9 Edward Spook. “Lindbergh Speaks, Berlin Cheers”. Detroit News, April 8 1933, P1.
10 Charles E Coughlin. Father Coughlin: His ‘Facts’ and Arguments. (New York: American Jewish Committee, 1939), 12
11 James Marlon. “Soviet Spies”. Detroit News, March 12 1937
12 Frost, Harry Frost. “Henry Ford: Driven and sometimes dangerous.” Biography 4, no. 1 (January 2000), 92.
13 Lipstadt, Ibid, 15
14 Michael Williams. “Nazi Deeds Called Worst in History”. The New York Times, June 14 1933, P4
15 Glen M Stadler. “New Order Dead Listed at 400,000”. The New York Times, May 18 1942, P4
16 Marlon, ibid
17 Detroit Jewish News. “Polish Jews Send Frantic Appeal to World for Food”. April 24 1940, P1
18 Detroit Jewish News. “Nazis Slaughter 13,000 Jews in Lwow; Report 1500 More Died in Radom of Starvation”. May 1 1940, P1
19 Detroit Jewish News. “7300 Greek Jews Dead of Starvation under Nazi Rule”. May 15 1942, P1.
20 Detroit Jewish News. “Nazis Exterminate Jews in 5 Polish towns”. March 26 1943, P1
21 Philip Slomovitz. “Reverend Coughlin’s Attempt to Spread Religious Hatred is Most Vicious un-American Scheme. The Detroit Jewish Chronicle, 25 June 1937, P5
22 Kyle Dacey. “War is Against Nazi Aggression, not Germans”. Frankenmuth News, December 24 1942, P4.
23 Humphrey Buchanan. “Futility of Revenge”. Frankenmuth News, May 10, 1945.