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Rachel Deblinger, Author
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Media: Radio

In the late 1940s and early 1950s, radio drew in a wide audience that crossed economic, social, and ethnic boundaries. As both a news and entertainment medium, radio featured stories about Nazi crimes and the victims of Nazi persecution.

Yiddish radio had established room for Jewish broadcasting on the air and the NBC drama, The Eternal Light drew in millions of listeners each week.* The program, sponsored by the Jewish Theological Seminary, featured dramatic readings, biographies of Jewish historical figures, and aired many episodes about the events of Nazi Europe, survivors of Nazi atrocity, and the postwar crisis that faced the surviving Jews of Europe. Among just some of the many episodes that featured stories of survivors or ended with an explicit call for aid to support the survivors were:
"The Girl without a Name," aired December 29, 1946
Told the story of survivors of the concentration camp of Auschwitz

"The Latecomers," aired November 23, 1947
This episode related the DP crisis to the plight of the Pilgrims

"Battle of the Warsaw Ghetto," first aired January 28, 1945
This production was aired every year to mark the liberation of the city of Warsaw

"The Postmaster of Quincy," aired February 12, 1946
At the end of this story about the Civil War, Rabbi Arieh Lev speaks about the work of Army Chaplains with survivors in postwar Europe

American Jewish organizations relied on radio to tell the stories of Jewish victims of Nazism and to draw attention to fundraising and action campaigns directed at aiding survivors in Europe. Radio offered a wider audience than membership materials and allowed for performative elements that captured an audience's attention. Organizations employed celebrities, such as Paul Muni, Henry Fonda, Eddie Cantor, and Orson Welles, to perform in radio dramas and record advertisements.

Clips from a number of radio broadcasts are available in this exhibit, including Out of the Wilderness, Displaced, and A Parable for Easter

To hear more radio broadcasts from the late 1940s about Holocaust survivors, visit the YIVO Max and Frieda Weinstein Archives of Recorded Sound at the Center for Jewish History >

* For more about The Eternal Light see:
  • Morton Wishengrad, The Eternal Light, (New York: Crown Publishers, 1947)
  • Jeffrey Shandler and Elihu Katz, “Broadcasting American Judaism: The Radio and Television Department of the Jewish Theological Seminary,” Tradition Renewed: A History of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, ed. Jack Wertheimer (New York: JTS Press, 1997) 364 – 401
  • Markus Krah, “Role Models of Foils for American Jews? The Eternal Light, Displaced Persons, and the Construction of Jewishness in Mid-Twentieth-Century America” American Jewish History (December 2010) 96:4, 265 – 286.
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