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An AJHS Podcast Hosted by

SEASON 1: YEAR ZERO

In the aftermath of World War II, many Jewish Americans answered a call to service to help repair the destruction that history’s most devastating war had left in its wake. The war had caused a global refugee crisis, and as the Allied powers worked to govern nations formerly controlled by the Axis, questions over how to punish the perpetrators and re-educate the bystanders loomed – and so did fears that a Fourth Reich could one day emerge. The United States would also have to complete this work without their strongest anti-Fascist ally, the Soviet Union, as Cold War tensions began to escalate.

ABOUT THIS SERIES

The Wreckage is a new narrative podcast from the American Jewish Historical Society chronicling the unique stories of Jewish Americans, from the years immediately following World War II through the end of the Cold War. In the aftermath of history’s most destructive war, American Jews mobilized through aid work, military service, and activism to help solve the largest refugee crisis in history. While fears of a resurgence of fascism were at the forefront, the very real threats of the spread of totalitarian Communism continued to build.

The archives at the American Jewish Historical Society (AJHS) contain millions of documents and photographs and hundreds of hours of audiovisual materials that are a trove of untold stories about one of the most tumultuous times in world history. Through historical audio, commentary from historians and other experts, and first-hand testimony from those who lived through this time, listeners will learn the extraordinary stories of the Jewish Americans who rallied in the aftermath of World War II to help survivors start new lives, stood up against Joseph McCarthy and the House Un-American Activities Committee during the second American Red Scare, and worked to free Soviet Jews trapped in peril behind the Iron Curtain.

New episodes are released bi-weekly.

OUR HOST

The Wreckage is hosted by acclaimed singer and actress Rebecca Naomi Jones. Jones received a Drama Desk nomination for her portrayal of Laurey in Daniel Fish’s Tony Award winning revival of Oklahoma. Additional Broadway includes Significant Other, Hedwig and The Angry Inch, American Idiot, Passing Strange. Off-Broadway: I Can Get It For You Wholesale, Big Love (Drama League nomination), Murder Ballad (Lilly award, Lucille Lortel nomination), As You Like It, Describe the Night, Marie and Rosetta, Fire In Dreamland, The Fortress of Solitude, Love’s Labour’s Lost, Wig Out! Television: Genius: Aretha (series regular); Power Book III: Raising Kanan (recurring); Your Friends & Neighbors (recurring); Black Cake (recurring), High Maintenance (recurring), Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll (recurring), The Pradeeps of Pittsburgh, And Just Like That, Strangers, Inside Amy Schumer, Limitless, Difficult People, Law & Order: SVU. Films: Someone Great, The Outside Story, French Fries, Most Likely To Murder, The Big Sick, Ratter, Ordinary World, Passing Strange, Broadway Idiot. Solo concerts: Lincoln Center American Songbook, Apollo Cafe. Rebecca holds a BFA in Drama from the University of North Carolina: School of the Arts.

SEASON 1: YEAR ZERO

Episode 101

May 1, 2024

In the weeks following V-E Day, the Allied powers were faced with the daunting task of governing Germany and all formerly Nazi-controlled territories. Hitler was dead, the Third Reich had fallen, and it was now up to the United States, the United Kingdom, the Soviet Union, and France to rebuild the continent following the devastation of the war in Europe – all while the war in the Pacific continued to rage on.

Episode 102

May 15, 2024

Throughout World War II, more than 1,000 American rabbis volunteered to serve their country through chaplaincy service, with more than 300 American Jewish chaplains entering active duty. After the war, sixty of these rabbis remained in Europe and beyond, and were among the first witnesses to the true extent of the atrocities committed by the Nazis in pursuit of “the final solution.”

Episode 103

June 5, 2024

As the Allied powers worked to govern Europe, Jewish American GI’s were stationed around the continent. As demobilization - the process of bringing American military personnel home after the war’s end - escalated, the United States found itself understaffed, and many Jewish American GI’s remained in Europe to support efforts to maintain order and rebuild. For those at home, programs like the GI Bill paved the way for a postwar life.

Episode 104

(Coming June 19, 2024)

The Aid Workers

After World War II, organizations like the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) and the United Service for New Americans (USNA) provided critical resources to help evacuate and resettle survivors who were living in displaced persons camps - camps that were often the very same prisons where they were incarcerated during the Holocaust.

Episode 105

(Coming July 3, 2024)

The Advocates

The events of World War II and its immediate aftermath had significant influence on American Jewish political identity. In the wake of the Holocaust, and as the extent of the destruction continued to be revealed, many Jewish Americans took it upon themselves on both local and national levels to tell the story of what happened, advocate for the victims, and lobby for changes to international law to try and prevent future atrocities.

Episode 106

(Coming July 17, 2024)

The Survivors

It is estimated that after World War II, 140,000 Holocaust survivors settled in the United States. These refugees, the majority of whom were between 20 and 40 years old, largely came to the United States due to efforts from HIAS, USNA, and other organizations. Once they arrived, these survivors worked to build new careers, start families, and find community among their neighbors.

Episode 107

(Coming July 31, 2024)

The Scientist

On August 6, 1945, the United States became the first, and thus far only, nation to deploy the atomic bomb. After the war, “father of the atomic bomb” J. Robert Oppenheimer, the Jewish American theoretical physicist and director of the Manhattan Project lab at Los Alamos, joined the Atomic Energy Commission, and would soon find himself at odds with his former professional ally, Lewis Strauss.

Episode 108

(Coming August 14, 2024)

The Soviets

In a 1946 letter to Secretary of State James Byrnes, President Harry Truman proclaimed, “I’m tired of babying the Soviets.” Once the United States’ strongest anti-Fascist ally, the Soviet Union was rapidly becoming its greatest enemy, and fears that the Soviets would have access to atomic weapons led to an unprecedented era of paranoia and spying.

Episode 109

(Coming September 2, 2024)

The Postscript

During this live-to-tape episode, a panel of historians will discuss the ways in which American Jews reckoned with the destruction caused by the Holocaust and how the murder of 6 million Jews and the subsequent refugee crisis shaped Jewish American identity, memory, and culture.