Wayland students contribute research to History Unfolded website

PLAINVIEW – Wayland Baptist University history students recently contributed local and area newspaper articles to History Unfolded, a project of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.

As a project for Wayland’s History 4305-Recent America course, Dr. Rebecca Crowe, Associate Professor of History, asked students to research Holocaust-related topics in the archives of the Plainview Herald at Unger Memorial Library, as well as the Hale Center American and Petersburg Post. In addition to presenting their findings, articles the students discovered have been uploaded to the History Unfolded website.

The biggest surprise for Crowe and her students was that their research found local media outlets paid little attention in the 1930s and 1940s to what was happening in Europe as Adolph Hitler came to power and systemically exterminated Jews as well as those who opposed him.

“Even some of these really big World War II stories were not in there,” said Crowe, who noted area publications placed emphasis on local events rather than foreign affairs. “It made it difficult to find, especially some of the European events. There was just not as much reason for a local editor to put them in. It was not going to attract the readership.”

But Crowe’s students still found some interesting pieces to contribute, like a political carton published in the Plainview Herald, that have now become part of the growing History Unfolded database.

Devin Davis, who was researching the Night of Long Knives, discovered the political cartoon showing Hitler standing on top of a swastika surrounded by SS officers, police officers and soldiers while saying, “Boys this is no time to be fighting.”

“It makes Hitler look like the good guy,” Davis said while presenting his findings.

“It was very exciting to find that political cartoon and know that the people in Plainview were looking at the same political cartoon that was being used across the nation,” said Crowe.

Davis explained that the Night of Long Knives took place in 1934.

“It was a complete purge of the Brown Shirts and the SS,” he said. “Everyone who opposed Hitler politically or ideologically, that was in some sort of power, was expunged.”

Jacoby Hunt focused on the 1936 Berlin Olympics, finding an article headlined, “Amateur Athletic Union says Yes to Berlin Olympics.” Hitler would not allow Jews to participate in the games, and questions were being raised about human rights issues in Nazi Germany, yet the Olympics were held in Berlin. Hunt took note of articles showing black American Jesse Owens was the most successful athlete of the 1936 Olympic Games.

Ryan Davis researched the Horror of Kiev on Sept. 29, 1941, in which more than 52,000 Jewish men, women and children were executed by soldiers in Kiev, Ukraine.

“Newspapers in this area — Plainview, Hale Center, Abernathy and Petersburg — do not have any headlines of the massacre,” Davis lamented. “America did not want to fall into the propaganda traps of World War I. It is sad to see how many people had to die before the German forces were stopped.”

With little attention given to the Horror of Kiev in America, a total of 95,567 people died in 13 cities before the killing stopped. American media thought the Horror of Kiev was “Too violent to be true”, Davis said.

Evan Micken conducted his research on Father Charles Edward Coughlin, a Canadian-American Catholic priest who voiced pro-Nazi opinion on his radio program. However, the student found no mention of the controversial talk radio personality in local newspapers.

Crowe became aware of the History Unfolded project last summer when she was contacted by Cynthia Hunt with the Amarillo Public Library.

“She is one of two librarians in the state who are coordinating Texas’ contributions to this national project,” Crowe explained. “She asked if Wayland would be interested in partnering.”

Crowe trained under Hunt during the summer months and then launched the research project as part of the course she instructs.