Buried by the Times

Buried by the Times is a 2005 book by Laurel Leff.

The book is a critical account of The New York Times's coverage of Nazi atrocities against Jews that culminated in the Holocaust. It argues that the news was often buried in the back pages in part due to the view about Judaism of the paper's Jewish publisher, Arthur Hays Sulzberger. It also gives a critical look at the work of Times correspondents in Europe.

Buried by the Times: The Holocaust and America's Most Important Newspaper
Buried by the Times
AuthorLauren Leff
SubjectJournalism, The Holocaust
PublisherCambridge University Press
Publication date
21 March 2005


Placement of news articles

The placement of news articles in a newspaper is a good indication of the importance given by the newspaper to a story. The Times consistently placed major stories about the Nazi treatment of European Jews on back pages "by the soap and shoe polish ads."[1] Leff found that during the period September 1939 to May 1945 very few stories about Jewish victims made the Times front page. "The story of the Holocaust—meaning articles that focused on the discrimination, deportation, and destruction of the Jews—made the Times front page just 26 times, and only in six of those stories were Jews identified on the front as the primary victims." [2]


Leff points out that the Times often used a more generic term such as refugee or nationality to refer to Nazi victims who were Jewish. In his review, Gal Beckerman writes, "More shocking even than the chronic burying of articles with the word 'Jew' in them is how often that word was rubbed out of articles that specifically dealt with the Jewish condition. It’s almost surreal at times. How could you possibly tell the story of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising without mentioning Jews? But The Times did, describing how '500,000 persons…were herded into less than 7 percent of Warsaw’s buildings,' and how '400,000 persons were deported' to their deaths at Treblinka. As Leff put it, The Times, 'when it ran front-page stories, described refugees seeking shelter, Frenchmen facing confiscation, or civilians dying in German camps, without making clear the refugees, Frenchmen, and civilians were mostly Jews.'" [3]

Role of religion

Sulzberger was a convinced Reformed Jew which was the basis of his assimilationist approach: Judaism for him was only a religion and that Jews were neither a race nor a people any more than Presbyterians or Methodists were a race. In December 1942 in a memo to New York Times staff he wrote “I have been trying to instruct the people around here on the subject of the word ‘Jews’, i.e., that they are neither a race nor a people, etc.,”[3] Former New York Times journalist Ari Goldman, in his review of the book, writes: "There can be little doubt that Sulzberger’s views about Judaism trickled down to the editors making the decisions about what to put in the newspaper every day." [1]

Staff biases

Leff examines the stances and performances of the Times's reporting and editorial staff. In the field, "She exposes the disturbing Nazi and Vichy attachments of a few European correspondents."[3] While back in New York, Sulzberger's bias was shared by other Jewish staffers: "Between them and influential Catholics among the crucial night editors, who decided where to place news items, the imperiled Jews of Europe had no advocate in the newsroom." [4]


Blame for the lack of coverage: Beside the biases and lack of competence of the European correspondents, Leff "points out the problems with journalistic convention of the time, which preferred reprinting government pronouncements to digging for unknown stories. There was also, of course, a disorganized Jewish community and a Roosevelt administration too preoccupied with the war, both not pushing hard enough for front-page coverage. But the bulk of the blame, in Leff’s telling, falls squarely at the feet of The Times's publisher, Sulzberger." [3]

A number of observers have observed how badly informed the American public was about the Nazis' systematic murder of European Jews. [5] [6] [7] Leff points out that the way the Times covered the Holocaust "contributed to the public's ignorance." But in addition to poorly informing the public, "The Times' coverage mattered so much," she writes, “because other bystanders, particularly the American government, American Jewish groups, and the rest of the American press, took cues from the paper. Among major American newspapers, it was unique in the information it received, how it disseminated the news, and to whom.”[8]


Most of the reviews were very positive. English historian, David Cesarani reviewing the book in the Jewish Chronicle wrote: "The light which Laurel Leff sheds on US government policy adds to the value of her densely documented and judiciously written study. It is a model of research with serious implications for how the press covers atrocity and genocide in our own times." [4]

Another Holocaust historian, Tim Cole, writing in the Journal of Jewish Studies points out a wider benefit from the study: "Laurel Leff's study of the reporting of the Holocaust in the pages of The New York Times does more than simply fill a gap by offering an in-depth study of America's most significant daily … her book stands as a model for future studies in this sub-field of Holocaust Studies … [and] makes the book of interest not only to those wanting to know what The New York Times reported on the Holocaust. Leff's study offers a broader insight into American Jews in the wartime years, and in particular the relationship between one American Jew and his Jewishness.'" [9]

Columbia University journalism professor (and former New York Times reporter) Ari Goldman commented: "...Laurel Leff, in her excellent book, Buried by The Times, builds a strong and convincing case that The Times was deliberately downplaying a major story because it didn’t want to appear to be championing a Jewish cause. Like her observation about the use of wire stories, much of Leff ’s speculation cannot be verified. But there is much evidence to suggest that the editors were motivated by more than just the news. Leff documents this in great detail both in terms of what The Times published and in terms of the opinions of its publisher at the time, Arthur Hays Sulzberger." [1]

Throughout the book Leff's outrage concerning the behavior of The Times is apparent. Beckerman comments favorably on it: "Beneath every word of Laurel Leff’s extraordinary and thorough new study of The New York Times's coverage of what we now call the Holocaust is this same desire—for the paper to be shocked and outraged beyond its very black-and-white bounds." [3]

However one reviewer criticized her approach. "The tone of Leff's account is one of unremitting outrage. When The Times fails to report any Holocaust-related event, she is outraged. If the paper reports on it, she's outraged that the report isn't on the front page. When a Holocaust story is on the front page, she complains that it isn't high enough on the front page. When there is no editorial on some Holocaust-related subject, she is outraged, and if there is an editorial, she's outraged that it isn't the lead editorial. She is regularly outraged when either reportage or commentary, wherever placed, mentions not Jews alone but other victims as well. When one item made clear that a majority of those killed at a certain locale were Jews, she complains that this was noted "only once" in the story. All of this is so over-the-top as to verge on self-parody."[10]

Finally, former NYT executive editor and Pulitizer Prize winning journalist, Max Frankel used Leff's preliminary research as a reference for his article criticizing the Times's reporting of the Holocaust in its 150th anniversary in 2001. He wrote: "As Laurel Leff, an assistant professor at the Northeastern School of Journalism, has concluded, it was a tragic demonstration of how 'the facts didn't speak for themselves.' She has been the most diligent independent student of The Times's Holocaust coverage and deftly summarized her findings last year in The Harvard International Journal of Press/Politics. 'You could have read the front page of The New York Times in 1939 and 1940," she wrote, "without knowing that millions of Jews were being sent to Poland, imprisoned in ghettos, and dying of disease and starvation by the tens of thousands. You could have read the front page in 1941 without knowing that the Nazis were machine-gunning hundreds of thousands of Jews in the Soviet Union." Frankel called it "the century's bitterest journalistic failure."[11]

Honors and awards

Related work

Leff's ongoing work on American responses to the Holocaust continues to draw commentary. Her research paper "Rebuffing Refugee Journalists: The Profession's Failure to Help Jews Persecuted by Nazi Germany" asserting that journalists, unlike physicians and attorneys, failed to establish committees to help Jewish refugees secure positions that would have made them exempt from immigration limits and allowed them to come to the United States, inspired a campaign to get the Newspaper Association of America to acknowledge its predecessor organization in the 1930s "was wrong to turn its back on Jewish refugee journalists fleeing Hitler".[12] [13] The Newspaper Association of America responded by issuing a statement regretting that its predecessor organization did not give a full public airing to the issue at the time and by holding a special session on the topic at its annual meeting.[14]


  1. ^ a b c Goldman, Ari L. (Spring 2005). "In Denial". Columbia Magazine. Retrieved 2013-10-31.
  2. ^ Leff, Laurel (2005). Buried by the Times: the Holocaust and America's most important newspaper. New York: Cambridge University Press. pp. 2–3. ISBN 978-0-521-81287-0.
  3. ^ a b c d e Beckerman, Gal (2005-04-15). "Counting the Gray Lady's Sins". Forward. Retrieved 2013-10-31.
  4. ^ a b Cesarani, David (2005-06-15). "O, Tempora!". Forward. Retrieved 2013-10-31.
  5. ^ Charles Stember, ed. (1966). Jews in the Mind of America.CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link)
  6. ^ Wyman, David S. (1984). The Abandonment of the Jews: America and the Holocaust. New York, NY: Pantheon Books.
  7. ^ Lipstadt, Deborah E. (1986). Beyond Belief: The American Press and the Coming of the Holocaust, 1933-1945. New York: Free Press. ISBN 0-02-919161-0.
  8. ^ Leff, Laurel (2005). Buried by the Times: the Holocaust and America's most important newspaper. New York: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-81287-0. p.358
  9. ^ [Journal of Jewish Studies 2006 Volume: 57 Issue: 2 pp.339-340) Cole]
  10. ^ Novick, Peter (May 1, 2005). "Looking Back in Anger". Washington Post. Retrieved 2012-01-11.
  11. ^ Frankel
  12. ^ Seelye, Katherine Q. (February 20, 2006). "Accusation From Nazi Era: Journalists Failed the Jews". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-06-26.
  13. ^ "Journalism Schools Rejected Holocaust Refugees". National Public Radio. February 15, 2006.
  14. ^ Seelye, Katherine Q. (March 13, 2006). "Newspaper Group Acknowledges a Holocaust Mistake". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-06-26.

External links

Bibliography of The Holocaust

This is a selected bibliography and other resources for The Holocaust, including prominent primary sources, historical studies, notable survivor accounts and autobiographies, as well as other documentation and further hypotheses.

Bill Downs

William Randall Downs, Jr. (August 17, 1914 – May 3, 1978) was an American broadcast journalist and war correspondent. He worked for CBS News from 1942 to 1962 and for ABC News beginning in 1963. He was one of the original members of the team of war correspondents known as the Murrow Boys.

Downs reported from both the Eastern and Western fronts during World War II, and was the first to deliver a live broadcast from Normandy to the United States after D-Day. After the surrender in Europe, he joined a press party that toured Asia in the months leading up to the end of the Pacific War. He entered Tokyo with Allied occupation forces and covered the Japanese surrender, and was among the first Americans in Hiroshima and Nagasaki after the atomic bombings. He later covered the Bikini Atoll nuclear tests, the Berlin Blockade, and the Korean War.

History of the Jews in the United States

There have been Jewish communities in the United States since colonial times. Early Jewish communities were primarily Sephardi, composed of immigrants from Brazil and merchants who settled in cities. Until the 1830s, the Jewish community of Charleston, South Carolina, was the largest in North America. In the late 1800s and the beginning of the 1900s, many Jewish immigrants left from various nations to enter the U.S. as part of the general rise of immigration movements. For example, many German Jews arrived in the middle of the 19th century, established clothing stores in towns across the country, formed Reform synagogues, and were active in banking in New York. Immigration of Eastern Yiddish-speaking Ashkenazi Jews, in 1880–1914, brought a large, poor, traditional element to New York City. They were Orthodox or Conservative in religion. They founded the Zionist movement in the United States, and were active supporters of the Socialist party and labor unions. Economically, they concentrated in the garment industry.

Refugees arrived from diaspora communities in Europe after World War II and, after 1970, from the Soviet Union. Politically, American Jews have been especially active as part of the liberal New Deal coalition of the Democratic Party since the 1930s, although recently there is a conservative Republican element among the Orthodox. They have displayed high education levels, and high rates of upward social mobility. The Jewish communities in small towns have declined, with the population becoming increasingly concentrated in large metropolitan areas.

In the 1940s, Jews comprised 3.7% of the national population. Today, at about 6.5 million, the population is 2% of the national total—and shrinking as a result of low birth rates and Jewish assimilation. The largest population centers are the metropolitan areas of New York (2.1 million in 2000), Los Angeles (668,000), Miami (331,000), Philadelphia (285,000), Chicago (265,000) and Boston (254,000).

International response to the Holocaust

In the decades since the Holocaust, some national governments, international bodies and world leaders have been criticized for their failure to take appropriate action to save the millions of European Jews, Roma, and other victims of the Holocaust. Critics say that such intervention, particularly by the Allied governments, might have saved substantial numbers of people and could have been accomplished without the diversion of significant resources from the war effort.Other researchers have challenged such criticism. Some have argued that the idea that the Allies took no action is a myth—that the Allies accepted as many German Jewish immigrants as the Nazis would allow—and that theoretical military action by the Allies, such as bombing the Auschwitz concentration camp, would have saved the lives of very few people. Others have said that the limited intelligence available to the Allies—who, as late as October 1944, did not know the locations of many of the Nazi death camps or the purposes of the various buildings within those camps they had identified—made precision bombing impossible.In three cases, entire countries resisted the deportation of their Jewish population during the Holocaust. In other countries, notable individuals or communities created resistance during the Holocaust.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus

Julia Scarlett Elizabeth Louis-Dreyfus (; born January 13, 1961) is an American actress, voice artist, comedian, and producer. In television comedy, she is known for her work in Saturday Night Live (1982–1985), Seinfeld (1989–1998), The New Adventures of Old Christine (2006–2010), and Veep (2012–present). She is one of the most awarded actors in American television history, winning more Emmy Awards and more Screen Actors Guild Awards than any other performer (eight of the Emmy awards were for acting, tying Cloris Leachman for the most acting Primetime Emmy wins; she has also received three Emmy Awards for producing).

Louis-Dreyfus broke into comedy as a performer in The Practical Theatre Company in Chicago, Illinois, which led to her casting in the sketch show Saturday Night Live from 1982 to 1985. Her breakthrough came in 1989 with a nine-season run playing Elaine Benes on Seinfeld, one of the most critically and commercially successful sitcoms of all time. Other notable television roles include Christine Campbell in The New Adventures of Old Christine, which had a five-season run on CBS, and her role as Selina Meyer in Veep, which has been renewed by HBO for a seventh and final season. Her film roles have included Hannah and Her Sisters (1986), National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (1989), Deconstructing Harry (1997), and Enough Said (2013). She voiced roles in the animated films A Bug's Life (1998) and Planes (2013).

Louis-Dreyfus has received eleven Emmy Awards, eight for acting and three for producing, with a total of 24 nominations throughout her career. She has also received a Golden Globe Award, nine Screen Actors Guild Awards, five American Comedy Awards, and two Critics' Choice Television Awards. Louis-Dreyfus received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2010, and was inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame in 2014. In 2016, Time named Louis-Dreyfus one of the 100 most influential people in the world on the annual Time 100 list. In 2018 she received the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor, presented by the Kennedy Center as America's highest comedy honor.

Léopold Louis-Dreyfus

Léopold Louis-Dreyfus (5 March 1833 – 9 April 1915) was a French investor and businessman, founder of the Louis Dreyfus Group, and patriarch of the Louis-Dreyfus family.

The French government awarded him the title Commander of the Legion of Honour in 1912.

The New York Times

The New York Times (sometimes abbreviated as the NYT and NYTimes) is an American newspaper based in New York City with worldwide influence and readership. Founded in 1851, the paper has won 125 Pulitzer Prizes, more than any other newspaper. The Times is ranked 17th in the world by circulation and 2nd in the U.S.

The paper is owned by The New York Times Company, which is publicly traded and is controlled by the Sulzberger family through a dual-class share structure. It has been owned by the family since 1896; A.G. Sulzberger, the paper's publisher, and his father, Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Jr., the company's chairman, are the fourth and fifth generation of the family to helm the paper.Nicknamed "The Gray Lady", the Times has long been regarded within the industry as a national "newspaper of record". The paper's motto, "All the News That's Fit to Print", appears in the upper left-hand corner of the front page.

Since the mid-1970s, The New York Times has greatly expanded its layout and organization, adding special weekly sections on various topics supplementing the regular news, editorials, sports, and features. Since 2008, the Times has been organized into the following sections: News, Editorials/Opinions-Columns/Op-Ed, New York (metropolitan), Business, Sports of The Times, Arts, Science, Styles, Home, Travel, and other features. On Sunday, the Times is supplemented by the Sunday Review (formerly the Week in Review), The New York Times Book Review, The New York Times Magazine and T: The New York Times Style Magazine. The Times stayed with the broadsheet full-page set-up and an eight-column format for several years after most papers switched to six, and was one of the last newspapers to adopt color photography, especially on the front page.

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