Worcester, MA – Clark University announced that the Strassler Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies is curating a unique online Holocaust exhibit and teaching materials based on over 1,000 letters written between parents and their children who were separated during the Holocaust.
In the late 1930s, as antisemitism grew, many Jewish parents sent their children to other European countries to enhance their safety. When the war began and civilian mail between Axis and Allied countries ceased, one Swiss woman became the conduit for parents and children to transmit letters to each other. Elisabeth Luz received the letters, copied them, kept the originals and sent the copies on to the recipients, outmaneuvering the censors.
Copies of these letters are held at the Strassler Center at Clark University, which is in the process of scanning, sorting, transcribing and translating them. For the first time, the letters will be available for research and education on a website the Center is creating. The website will present the letters in a searchable format. In addition, letters by and about children in their adolescent and teenage years will be paired with curriculum for middle and high school students respectively. Students will read and learn from the letters of children who were their age-peers during the war.
“These letters open a window on conversations between Jewish parents and their children during the Nazi years. They provide vivid insights into the crises these families faced, and thus offer important historical materials for students today. These personal letters are a compelling way to teach aspects of the Holocaust because they relate how families dealt with the problems and pain they endured,” said Debórah Dwork,Rose Professor of Holocaust History and founding director of the Strassler Center. Dwork is writing a book about the letters as well.
Sarah Cushman, head of educational programming at the Strassler Center, will offer teachers early access to these letters during the Summer Holocaust Institute, to be held at the Center from July 25-29.