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Death register returns to Mauthausen, Austria

Today’s post comes from exhibits conservator Terry Boone and senior registrar James Zeender.

May marks the surrender of the Nazi forces to the Allies—and the liberation of the Mauthausen concentration camp in 1945.

Last year in April, we traveled to the Mauthausen National Memorial, about 100 miles west of Vienna, with one of the original death registers created at the Mauthausen concentration camp. This camp was a part of the Nazi killing machine responsible for 6 million deaths—almost 100,000 at Mauthausen alone.

The register would be part of a new exhibition, “The Concentration Camp Mauthausen 1938–1945,” on display in the infirmary building where the registers were originally kept. The infirmary is within walking distance of the quarry where thousands of prisoners were worked to death, deaths that would be recorded for history by the prison clerks. Prisoners carried stones weighing 50 pounds or more up hundreds of steps eight or more times a day. The exhibition marks the first time that a piece of original Holocaust evidence from the National Archives had returned to its place of origin for public display.

 The front cover of the first volume of the Mauthausen death books. National Archives.

The front cover of the first volume of the Mauthausen death register. National Archives Collection of World War II War Crimes Records, RG 238).

In Austria, our first stop was the Interior Ministry in downtown Vienna, where we met Mauthausen Memorial Archive Director … [ Read all ]

Executive Orders 9980 and 9981: Ending segregation in the Armed Forces and the Federal workforce

Today’s blog post comes from curator Jennifer Johnson and education and exhibit specialist Michael Hussey. Executive Orders 9980 and  9981 are on display in the National Archives Museum. See EO 9980 until January 5, 1015, in “Making Their Mark: Stories Through Signatures” in the Lawrence F. O’Brien Gallery and EO 9981 until June 17, 2014, in “Records of Rights” in the David M. Rubenstein Gallery

“Recent events in the United States and abroad have made us realize that it is more important today than ever before to insure that all Americans enjoy these rights. When I say all Americans I mean all Americans…Our National Government must show the way.” President Truman, in a speech to the NAACP, June 29, 1947

Without Congress’s blessing, the executive branch or the President of the United States can issue a Presidential Proclamation or an Executive Order. Both carry the force of law.

Executive orders, known as decrees in other countries, are issued to manage the Federal government. Proclamations are aimed outside the Federal government and have been issued for things from declaring war as President Wilson did with Proclamation #1364 to declaring Thanksgiving a holiday as George Washington did when he issued Presidential Proclamation #1.

President Truman, the first President to speak to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), had based part of his platform … [ Read all ]

Now on display: A letter from a mother

Today’s blog post comes from curator Alice Kamps. This featured document will be on display from May 9 to May 21.

On May 9, 1914, President Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation declaring the second Sunday in May a holiday for the “public expression of love and reverence for the mothers of our country.”

To commemorate the centennial of the first national observance of Mother’s Day, this exhibit at the National Archives displays just one of hundreds of thousands of letters written by mothers seeking advice from the Children’s Bureau, a Federal Government office established in 1912 to promote the well-being of mothers and their children.

Even 100 years ago, these letter writers wondered: Is it possible to balance the demands of work and motherhood?

With three children under the age of four, and without “conveniences and modern utilities,” Mrs. Neil Williams was at the end of her rope. If anyone could help her, surely it was Julia Lathrop, Director of the Children’s Bureau.

In heartfelt language, Mrs. Williams wrote to Ms. Lathrop in 1920 to ask how to manage “all these scientific and hygienic duties for babies,” keep up with housework, and love and nurture her children. “I love them until it hurts,” she explained, “and know that, when they are out of their babyhood, I can never forgive myself for not making more … [ Read all ]

Reflections on LBJ and Civil Rights

Mark K. Updegrove is Director of the Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library in Austin, Texas.

The first time a sitting President came to the Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library was on May 21, 1971, when President Richard Nixon boarded Air Force One and journeyed to the campus of the University of Texas at Austin to help former President Johnson dedicate the library to the American people.

It had been a little more than two years since Johnson had yielded the Oval Office to Nixon, and Johnson’s place in history was very much in the balance.

The war in Vietnam that Johnson had escalated and that continued to divide the nation hung balefully over his legacy. This, despite the profusion of landmark laws LBJ left in his wake, including the passage of a triumvirate of seminal civil rights legislation: the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the 1965 Voting Rights Act, and the 1968 Fair Housing Act.

As library’s inauguration played out, the voices of 2,100 Vietnam protesters rumbled in the distance, their chants of “No more war!” carried by 25-mile-an-hour winds that swirled throughout the day.

On April 10, 2014, when Barack Obama became the second sitting President to visit the LBJ Library, the weather, which topped out at 88 degrees, was far less tempestuous—and Lyndon Johnson’s legacy had become far clearer.

President Barack Obama discussed the impact of the Civil Rights Act. (LBJ Library photo by Lauren Gerson)

President Barack Obama discussed the

[ Read all ]

Great programs for kids at the National Archives!

This young visitor learned to write with a quill pen, just like the Founding Fathers.

This young visitor learned to write with a quill pen, just like the Founding Fathers.

Take your family to the Constitution-in-Action Family Learning Lab this spring or summer!

Families are invited to take on the role of researchers and archivists for a day. During a two–hour simulation, they will help the President and Bob, his Communications Director, prepare for a special press conference. Families will work together to locate and analyze facsimile documents and find the connection each document has to the Constitution.

This is a great way to explore American history, learn more about the National Archives, and gain a greater understanding of the role the Constitution plays in our daily lives.

Dates and Times:

Tuesday, April 15 at 10:00-12:00 and 2:00-4:00
Thursday, July 10 at 10:00-12:00 and 2:00-4:00
Wednesday, July 23 at 10:00-12:00 and 2:00-4:00
Tuesday, July 29 at 10:00-12:00 and 2:00-4:00

To register please go to http://www.archivesfoundation.org/event/constitution-action-learning-lab-family-program/… [ Read all ]