WORCESTER, Mass. – The Strassler Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies at Clark University in Worcester, Mass. is curating a unique online Holocaust exhibit and teaching materials based on more than 1,000 letters written between parents and their children separated during the Holocaust.
In the late 1930s, as antisemitism grew, many Jewish parents attempted to keep their children safe by sending them to other European countries. When the war began and civilian mail between Axis and Allied countries ceased, a 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, 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. In addition, letters by and about children in their adolescent and teenage years will be paired with curriculum for middle and high school students.
The letters, said Debórah Dwork, Rose Professor of Holocaust History and founding director of the Strassler Center, “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.” Dwork is writing a book about the letters as well.
Established in 1998, the Strassler Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies is the sole program to train students for Ph.D. degrees in Holocaust History and Genocide Studies.
Teachers will be given early access to the letters during the Strassler Center’s Summer Holocaust Institute, to be held July 25-29. For information visit clarku.edu/departments/holocaust/.