Anti-Semitism, Catholics, and Jews around WWII in the Library’s Catholic Pamphlet Collection

by Rachel Bohlmann, American History Librarian

This Sunday, January 27, is International Holocaust Remembrance Day. The library is commemorating it in a number of ways: a program on Friday, January 25, centered on American Catholic newspaper coverage of the Holocaust; a small exhibition on prisoners held at the German Nazi concentration camp, Theresienstadt (Terezín); and this post, which features selections from one of the library’s most notable collections, Catholic pamphlets. The pamphlets shown here display a range of views held by Catholics about Jews, although the larger collection also includes pamphlets published by non-Catholics (Jews and Protestants) about anti-Semitism and Jews.

In 1937 the Catholic Association for International Peace in Washington, D.C. published an English translation of The Church and the Jews: A Memorial Issued by Catholic European Scholars. It had first been published in German, anonymously, as its writers argued against German anti-Semitism even as they called for the conversion of Jews to Christianity.

Three years later Thomas F. Doyle, an American priest, published The Sin of Anti-Semitism in which he stated flatly that “anti-Semitism has long existed in the United States.” He admonished his fellow Catholics to remember the commandment to love your neighbor. It was an idea, he argued, that for Catholics, made a mockery and an insult of anti-Semitism.

In Jewish Problems? by “a Christian Israelite” published in 1944, convert David Goldstein addressed Christian misconceptions about Jews and Judaism. He also quoted then Bishop James Frances McIntyre, that the “Church is anti-sin and not anti-any persons, no matter what their religious beliefs may be.”

Another Jewish convert to Catholicism and a cleric, John (originally Johannes) M. Oesterreicher, fled German-held Austria in 1938. In a pamphlet first published in 1942, The Blessed Virgin and the Jews, he condemned Nazis’ anti-Semitism (and their attacks on Catholics) and called for Jews to convert, and he cited examples of Jews who had done so.

The collection also includes virulent anti-Semitic views, as in The Rulers of Russia, an American edition of an Irish pamphlet by a priest, Denis Fahey C.S.Sp. Published in the US in 1940, Fahey attacked the Soviet Union in part because he claimed that an international cabal of Jews had dominated the Bolshevik Revolution and subsequent Communist rule there.

The pamphlets shown here represent just a few examples of the debate over anti-Semitism during this critical period. We highlight them to commemorate International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Recent Acquisition: The Hildegard Sekler Collection

By Jennifer Brcka, Processing Archivist for Special Collections

In the immediate wake of the Anschluss, or German annexation of Austria on March 12, 1938, the German Reich initiated a campaign against that nation’s Jewish citizens. The Seklers, a Viennese family, were victims of these actions, and later, of the Holocaust. The Hildegard Sekler Collection, a recent archival acquisition by Hesburgh Libraries’ Rare Books and Special Collections, records the family’s story through a series of letters and documents.

The collection consists of over 400 pieces of correspondence generated surrounding the separation of Leopold and Toni Sekler from their daughter, Hildegard. Most relate to Hildegard’s flight from Austria at the age of sixteen, and chiefly date from the years between 1939 and 1945. The bulk are personal letters and postcards sent to Hildegard by family, friends, and her tutor. A body of official correspondence with governmental and aid agencies has been preserved here, as well. More than 100 documents and personal papers are also found within the collection. These range from official records relating to Leopold’s career in the Vienna Finance Ministry to, less formally, Hildegard’s homework assignments, school notes, and essays.

Name change slips for Leopold and Toni Sekler and the latter’s passport, as displayed in the January 2019 spotlight exhibit about Theresienstadt (Terezín).

This group of personal documents includes Leopold and Toni Sekler’s passports. In August of 1938, the German authorities enacted the Executive Order on the Law on the Alteration of Family and Personal Names. This order required Jews with non-Jewish first names to formally add “Israel” for males and “Sara” for females to their legal names. The Seklers were forced to comply. Three slips noting the name changes for each remain inserted in Leopold Sekler’s Passport. Following a similar pronouncement aimed at identifying Jewish citizens, Toni Sekler’s passport was stamped with a red “J”.

Letters illuminate desperation the family felt in the months that followed. Leopold Sekler appealed to Switzerland and the United States to obtain visas for the family to emigrate. His requests were met with delays and little success. Undeterred, he sought out directories and wrote to a handful of New Yorkers, strangers with the Sekler name, whom he hoped might provide support for a visa application. Replies from a Constance Sekler express frustration over past experiences with the Consulate in Vienna, as well as with her own limited resources. Empathetic, though unable to assist, she wrote, “Whether or not we are related isn’t of great importance because I am just as much interested in your welfare in any event.” A Jack Sekler, living in the Bronx, was able to offer support, though a quota system placed the Sekler family on a waiting list, and ultimately prevented their seeking asylum in America.

In January of 1939, a letter from the Welfare Headquarters of the Jewish Cultural Society advised that it had secured passage to England for Hildegard. At age 16, she quickly fled, unaccompanied, to London where she lived in a youth hostel. A wave of letters from her parents and concerned family and friends soon followed. Many capture the bleakness of the situation for those who remained in Austria.  A March 14, 1939 letter sent by Trude Mesuse states (in German), “Furthermore, your father wants you to know, if he writes “ich” like this at the end or the beginning of a sentence, you ought to pay attention to this sentence and think about it, because it will have a particular meaning he can’t express clearly writing from Vienna. And you should be careful when you write, too.”

Many letters express the love and concern of parents separated from their only child. In a letter (in English) from her father on June 1, of 1940, he asks his “Dear Hilde” to, “[…] stay in the garden as long as possible and to sleep by open windows. You had better to speak only English, at home too. It would be better for all big girls. The German language you will not forget, I am sure. The conversation is the most important and the best mean to learn a language, believe me, I know it by experience.” By 1941, sending correspondence to countries at war with Germany was prohibited, and Leopold used the Red Cross Message Service to send his daughter greetings on her nineteenth birthday.

Further correspondence within the collection convey the uncertainties of life in London during the Blitz. Hildegard studied in London with a tutor, Dr. Judah Simon Goller, who wrote her frequently. In an undated letter he mentions two children, mutual acquaintances and also displaced minors, who had recently left London to be reunited with family. He muses, “So the twins have gone, and we are short two more. Please God, [may] they reach their parents in safety and soon forget all their sorrows, and remember sometimes the little joys they shared with us. I wonder what’s the good of telling me not to worry about the children when there’s a raid on? I just can’t help it.”

Hildegard continued, unsuccessfully, to seek a means for her parents to flee Austria. In October of 1942, Leopold and Toni Sekler were deported to Theresienstadt, a transit and labor camp. From there, the couple were transported to Auschwitz on October 12, 1944. Neither survived. Hildegard married her tutor, Dr. Goller, in 1960. She remained in London until her death in 2008.

Through materials largely in German or English (and occasionally in French), the Hildegard Sekler Collection presents a unique view of the Anschluss and its aftermath, unaccompanied child refugees of the Holocaust, wartime experiences in London, and personal histories of prisoners of Theresienstadt. The collection (MSE/MD 6408) is open for research in Rare Books and Special Collections, and a detailed finding aid can be found online.

Upcoming Events: January and early February

Please join us for the following events being hosted in Rare Books and Special Collections:

Thursday, January 24 at 5:00pm | The Italian Research Seminar: “German Presences: Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Quartet and the Question of Authorship” by Prof. Alessia Ricciardi (Northwestern University).

Sponsored by Italian Studies at Notre Dame.

Friday, January 25 at 1:30pm |Panel Presentations in honor of International Holocaust Remembrance Day, featuring William Collins Donahue (Director of the Nanovic Institute for European Studies), Judy Shroyer (the Jewish Federation), and Kevin Cawley (University of Notre Dame Archives). After the panel discussion, all attendees are invited to the Scholars Lounge for a reception.

Sponsored by: The Nanovic Institute for European StudiesCushwa Center for the Study of American Catholicism, the Jewish Federation, and Hesburgh Libraries.

Wednesday, January 30 | Exhibit Lecture by curator Dennis Doordan (Emeritus Professor, Notre Dame School of Architecture). Details TBA.


The spring exhibit is As Printers Printed Long Ago. The Saint Dominic’s Press 1916-1936, curated by Dennis Doordan (Emeritus Professor, Notre Dame School of Architecture), opens in January and runs through the summer. The exhibition features different types of publications and posters produced by Saint Dominic’s Press, setting the story of the press within the larger history of the private press movement in England and examining its artistic as well as literary achievements.

The current spotlight exhibits are: Theresienstadt (Terezín), in remembrance of all the victims of the Holocaust (January 2019), and Creeley/Marisol: Presences, curated (January – February 2019).

If you would like to bring a group to Special Collections or schedule a tour of any of our exhibits, please email rarebook @ nd.edu or call 574-631-0290.

Some Satirical Musings for Christmas

by Julie Tanaka, Curator, Special Collections

Vanity Fair, Saturday, Dec. 22, 1860—this was the first Christmas issue featuring a series of satirical columns and illustrations beginning with Richard Henry Stoddard’s account of poor, unemployed John Hardy thinking about “money, money, money” on Christmas Eve. Following this was some  “Christmas Cheer” in England  and a “Christmas Jingle.” Then Heine Heine’s lonely, shivering pine tree covered in snow dreaming about the palm tree in the warm southern lands. At center, a two-page spread of Virginia cavaliers celebrating the holiday.

“Christmas among the Cavaliers, in the Early Days of Virginia.” This satirical wood engraving drawn by E. Leutze and engraved by Andrew and Filmer was featured in the December 22, 1860 issue of Vanity Fair.

Vanity Fair was a popular title used for three subsequent magazines and should not be confused with the current one published by Condé Nast. The issue featured was from the American satirical magazine published by Louis Henry Stephens and edited by his brothers William Allen Stephens and Henry Louis Stephens. Vanity Fair was published with interruptions caused by problems obtaining paper on which to print between December 31, 1859 and July 4, 1863. Noted for its cartoons and satire columns, this magazine was critical of the Civil War’s progress and Abraham Lincoln’s policies.


Rare Books and Special Collections will be closed for Notre Dame’s Christmas and New Year’s Break (December 24, 2018, through January 1, 2019). We are open our regular hours during Exams, and welcome those looking for a quiet place to study.

Upcoming Events: December and early January

There are no events scheduled to be hosted in Rare Books and Special Collections in December or early January 2019.

Rare Books and Special Collections will be closed for Notre Dame’s Christmas and New Year’s Break (December 24, 2018, through January 1, 2019).

We otherwise remain open for our regular hours during Reading Days and Exams, and welcome those looking for a quiet place to study.


There are just two more weeks to see the exhibit In Solzhenitsyn’s Circle: the Writer and his Associates, which runs through December 14 (the Friday of Notre Dame’s final exams week).

The current spotlight exhibits are Frankenstein 200 (August – December 2018) and Delamarche’s États-Unis de l’Amérique septentrionale: The United States in 1785 (November – December 2018).

Road Trip! Long-distance Driving in 1920

by George Rugg, Curator, Special Collections

Long-distance driving in the early days of the automobile was no joke. This fact is conveyed in indelible fashion by the text of an unattributed diary acquired by the Libraries in 2012, whose entries describe a 1920 auto trip from Long Beach, California to Chagrin Falls, Ohio. Despite an exponential growth in car sales in the 1910s, and the annual publication of a route guide called The Official Automobile Blue Book, trips still proceeded from point to point on local, often unpaved and unidentified roads. Rain and mud limited travel, and snow precluded it.

The author of the diary is a young woman of perhaps 20, making the trip with her parents in the family Ford. The journey took almost seven weeks of near constant travel, across the southwestern desert to El Paso and thence to Cleveland by way of New Orleans, Memphis, and Louisville. Ideally, the family spent their nights in campgrounds, but this was not always possible. The journey across the desert was especially difficult:

Thursday [October] 14th … Got off road to Niland [California]. We went up a sandy mountain & thru revines on low mostly. About 50 miles bad road all up grade. We struck civilization just before dusk. We sure was glad to see some one. We went 100 miles and never saw a dwelling. Sand and more sand. We camped beside a well all alone near a store.

Nor was food always readily available; sometimes “Dad” went hunting for birds and rabbits. Frequent tire punctures and breakdowns came to a head in Hot Springs, New Mexico (“the worst city in the world I believe by a dam site”), where the family was forced to remain for a week. Sometimes they took a break to enjoy local sights, but mostly the schedule called for day after day on the road. Just like travelers on the Oregon Trail, cars welcomed the company of other vehicles, for companionship and safety and for help with the inevitable breakdowns. Expense accounts in the diary indicate that in their first month of travel the family spent around $150.00. Gas seems to have run about 40 cents per gallon. On one occasion the author notes progress of 185 miles in a day, but this was certainly exceptional.

Even the very end of the trip was eventful:

It has rained all day. About 12 miles from Cleveland the darned tire had another puncture. Just got out of the main part of Cleveland & the front left tire went down. Before we got to Lorain the front left tire blew out. Dad said let it go so we drove on it & the left hind tire punctured so we took it off & went on the rim. We got stuck in the mud in Chagrin Falls & walked a couple blocks to Aunt Eustella’s at 10:30 P.M.

In the 20s the government sought to rationalize long-distance auto travel with the introduction of the U.S. Highway System; by late 1926, our travelers might have followed Route 66 from Los Angeles to Chicago. The 50s saw the development of the Interstates. But in 1920, the amenities offered by modern highways were few and far between.

Thanksgiving from the Margins

by Rachel Bohlmann, American History Librarian

This Thanksgiving we’re highlighting a book of poetry and prose that is part of a group of avant-garde American literary works called the Small Press/Mimeograph Revolution, 1940-1970s collection. Millbrook Thanksgiving, by poet and writer Walter Schneider (1934-2015), is a panegyric to the psychedelic-fueled community Timothy Leary created in upstate Millbrook, New York from 1963 to 1967. A psychologist interested in the effects of synthetic drugs on human consciousness, Leary settled in Millbrook after being fired from Harvard University for using the substances he was studying (LSD was legal in the US at that time). In the wake of local police harassment that led to Leary’s repeated arrests for minor drug infractions, he moved to California where he crossed paths with Schneider, a PhD student at Berkeley.

Schneider’s spirited defense of Leary’s counter culturalism places the book’s content in the cultural vanguard of 1971. But so does the book’s production. Printed as a small run of just 3,000 copies, its design—from the soft cover, typography, and heavy paper, to its eclectic illustrations—signals the book’s origins outside of mainstream American publishing. Mad River Press, the small California-based operation that produced Millbrook Thanksgiving, specialized in experimental poetry and creations like Schneider’s. The press released very small runs of poetry chapbooks, which were short (40 pages or less), inexpensively constructed, soft-cover booklets. Some were published anonymously and with no identifying publication information, indicating that publisher and author rejected the authority of copyright law.

Mad River Press and its authors also placed important visual pieces in their publications. Millbrook Thanksgiving used the first photograph in Robert Frank’s The Americans (published 1958), an extended photo essay that captured Americans in real life. Beat writer Jack Kerouac, who introduced the 1959 edition, noted that “he [Frank] sucked a sad poem right out of America onto film.” His book of photographs remains an important visual text of post-war America. In a chapbook of poetry by Fred Glazer also published in 1971, Mad River Press included an image by the African American painter Louis Delsarte.

The library’s Small Press/Mimeograph Revolution, 1940-1970s collection holds more than 350 items. Some, like Millbrook Thanksgiving, were produced by small, experimental presses, while others were created by individuals or small collectives using relatively inexpensive copying technologies like the Ditto machine (remember the smell of those purple ink pages?) or the mimeograph. The collection is searchable in the library’s catalog.


RBSC will be closed during Notre Dame’s Thanksgiving Break (November 22-25, 2018). We wish you and yours a Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving 2015 RBSC post: Thanksgiving and football
Thanksgiving 2016 RBSC post: Thanksgiving Humor by Mark Twain
Thanksgiving 2017 RBSC post: Playing Indian, Playing White

Sharing our Collections

Robert Boyle. Some considerations touching the usefulness of experimental naturall philosophy: propos’d in familiar discourses to a friend, by way of invitation to the study of it. Oxford, 1663. Rare Books Medium Q 155 .B68 1663

by Aedín Ní Bhróithe Clements, Irish Studies Librarian

Digitizing our books is one way to share our collections with a wider readership. An area where we have begun this digitization is our early print collection in Irish studies. The collection includes books on Ireland and Irish affairs, often from an English perspective, and also books by Irish authors on science, theology and other subjects. The core of the collection was acquired in 2007, and as many of the books are rare and particularly difficult to find in America, we are enthusiastic about sharing the digital images.

In addition to having copies stored in our own CurateND, the digital collection is made available on the Internet Archive and we have plans to share also on Hathi Trust. While Hathi Trust is limited to member libraries, the Internet Archive is freely available to all, and allows readers a number of ways to view the books, including ‘turning pages’ by clicking on a page.

Our collection is easy to find on the Internet Archive by searching on the www.archive.org page for  ‘Hesburgh Libraries’, to find a page that displays the collection.

The account of the trial of Saint Oliver Plunket, executed in 1681, is one of the thirty-three books digitized.  Use this link to view the book page by page: https://archive.org/details/nd828590865/page/n3

The tryal and condemnation of Dr. Oliver Plunket Titular Primate of Ireland, for high-treason, at the Barr of the Court of King’s Bench, at Westminster, in Trinity Term, 1681. Dublin, 1681. Rare Books Medium DA 448 .P586 1681

This book is an example of the kind of primary document that makes a great impression on a student who can visit and see the physical book — printed shortly after the trial and execution, the book provides a tangible link to the events of the time.

Upcoming Events: November and early December

Please join us for the following events being hosted in Rare Books and Special Collections:

Tuesday, November 6 at 3:00pm | Workshop: Alternate Careers in Rare Books, Special Collections, Archives, and Museums.

Wednesday, November 7 at 3:30pm | Black Catholic History Month: “The Black Catholic Movement: The First 50 Years, 1968–2018” by Fr. Clarence Williams, CPPS, Ph.D. Co-sponsored by the Cushwa Center for the Study of American Catholicism, Hesburgh Libraries, and the University Archives.

Thursday, November 8 at 5:00pm | The Italian Research Seminar: “Fascist Im/Mobilities: A Decade of Amedeo Nazzari” by Alberto Zambenedetti (Toronto). Sponsored by Italian Studies at Notre Dame.

Friday, November 9 at 3:00pm | Operation Frankenstein: “Melodramatic Frankenstein: Radical Content in a Reactionary Form” by Jeff Cox (University of Colorado Boulder). Co-sponsored by the Department of English and the Indiana Humanities Council.

Tuesday, November 13 at 3:00pm | Workshop: Archival Skills. CANCELED

Thursday, November 15 at 4:30pm |  Iberian & Latin American Studies: “Language and Power: Searching for the Origins of Catalan Linguistic Identity” by Vicente Lledó-Guillem (Hofstra University). Co-sponsored by the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures, the Institute for Scholarship in the Liberal Arts, the Medieval Institute, the Nanovic Institute for European Studies, and the Center for the Study of Languages and Cultures.

Thursday, November 29 at 5:00pm | The Italian Research Seminar: “Dante’s Florentine Intellectual Formation: From Quodlibets to the Vita nuova” by Lorenzo Dell’Oso (Ph.D. Candidate, Notre Dame). Sponsored by Italian Studies at Notre Dame.


The exhibit In Solzhenitsyn’s Circle: the Writer and his Associates runs through the end of the semester.

The current spotlight exhibits are Frankenstein 200 (August – December 2018) and Delamarche’s États-Unis de l’Amérique septentrionale: The United States in 1785 (November – December 2018).


RBSC will be closed during Notre Dame’s
Thanksgiving Break (November 22-25, 2018)
.