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Arts & Culture

"Citizen Historian" Project Asks: Did Local U.S. Newspapers Cover The Holocaust?

Wikimedia Commons
Still photograph from the Soviet Film of the liberation of Auschwitz, taken by the film unit of the First Ukrainian Front, shot over a period of several months beginning on January 27, 1945.

Seventy-two years ago on January 27, the Nazi concentration camp at Auschwitz was liberated by Soviet troops. Now, "citizen historians" in Connecticut are examining how that and other events of the Holocaust were covered in local newspapers.

The project is called "History Unfolded" -- and it's a call for residents in Connecticut to scour the archives of their local paper, searching for references to the Holocaust.

The hope is to better understand what the local media covered, what it didn't, and how communities responded.

That information will be shared online with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., which is running the project.

Liz Shapiro, with the Connecticut League of History Organizations, said what's great is anyone can get involved. "People can work on the project from their home as long as they have an internet connection," Shapiro said. "They can go to a library and use one of the library's digital resources -- they can work with the state library, they can work with their local historical society."

Gregg Mangan, with Connecticut Humanities, said this way of "crowd sourcing" history is important -- both for digging up information that might have been overlooked -- and for the way it gets history out of the "ivory tower."

"That's where the citizen historian comes in," Mangan said. "These are people who have intimate knowledge of their communities and the events that surround them -- and tapping into that knowledge base has been a huge, huge step forward in the history community."

Mangan said the effort in Connecticut -- is part of a broader national effort spearheaded by the Holocaust Museum. Ultimately, their hope is to have a user-built database of local newspaper Holocaust coverage from around the country. Articles found by Connecticut residents may even appear in an upcoming exhibit at the museum slated for 2018.

For more information, or to participate in the program, visit History Unfolded: U.S. Newspapers and the Holocaust.

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