Anti-Semitism 1919–1939 traces the slow indoctrination of citizens, both non-Jewish and Jewish, through words and images that were seen daily in Germany. Included is Hitler’s original outline of a 1939 speech that he gave to the Reichstag about the “Jewish Question,” announcements of mass meetings dictating the exclusion of Jews, anti-Semitic books and signs, as well as an original printing of the Nuremberg Laws, which laid the legal foundation for Hitler’s Holocaust.
In the wake of recent propaganda and terrorist attacks targeting Jewish communities in Europe and elsewhere, Anti-Semitism 1919–1939 is relevant today. The materials on display, drawn from the collection of the Museum of World War II, Boston, convey to visitors, particularly the 200,000 New York City public school students who learn history with New-York Historical each year, the dangers of ignoring or discounting anti-Semitic discourse, as well as of underestimating the role of propaganda in denying racial and religious groups their right to live without fear or threat of violence. The exhibition also speaks to how New York and America’s demographic changed substantially in the wake of European anti-Semitism, underscoring the old adage about the importance of history: how it is impossible to understand who we are today without knowing from where we came.
Support for this exhibition provided by the Blavatnik Family Foundation, the Charina Endowment Fund, the Barbara K. and Ira A. Lipman Family, Ed and Sandy Meyer, Ann and Andrew Tisch, Lori and Mark Fife, Cheryl and Glen Lewy, Pam and Scott Schafler, the David Berg Foundation, Norman S. Benzaquen, Carol and Roger Einiger, Martin and Ahuva Gross, Patti Askwith Kenner, Ruth and Sid Lapidus, Martin Lewis and Diane Brandt, Sue Ann Weinberg and Tamar J. Weiss
A Letter from Louise Mirrer, our President & CEO
Anti-Semitism 1919–1939 chronicles the gradual “normalization” of anti-Semitism in Germany. Using documents drawn from the collection of Kenneth Rendell, now at the Museum of World War II in Boston, it offers a window into what German citizens—Jewish and non-Jewish—saw and experienced daily during the period, with wrenching evidence of the steady indoctrination of a people into anti-Semitic Nazi dogma.
These materials illustrate the ease with which propaganda can sink its roots in any society, and the dangers of underestimating its power. The moral questions raised by the ascendance of the Nazis transcend geographical boundaries. Who could deny the enormous impact of those who fled Europe on our cultural institutions, universities, and scientific institutions?
It is impossible to understand who we are today without knowing from where we came. This exhibition offers a view on how a significant part of our city’s demographic came to be in New York; this demographic, like so many immigrant groups today, sought not only economic opportunity but the basic right to live without fear or threat of violence because of ethnicity or religious belief. In the best tradition of New-York Historical, our hope is that the exhibition will encourage visitors to make important connections between the past and the present, and be inspired to action. We believe that history has the power to change lives.
Louise Mirrer, Ph.D.
President & CEO