Bringing Alaskan Jewish History to Life
A Refuge In the Last Frontier:
Evolution of the Alaska Development Plan
On the eve of World War II, Alaska became a beacon of hope for Jews still trapped inside the Third Reich. Attempts were made by the American government during the 1930’s and 40’s to put into place an immigration policy that would have allowed Jews trying to escape Nazi Germany to settle in Alaska. The failure of the Alaska Development Plan was merely a reflection of the climate in the United States at the time; the nation’s response to the refugee crisis was conflicted.
“It is a fantastic commentary on the inhumanity of our times that for thousands and thousands of people a piece of paper with a stamp on it is the difference between life and death.” Dorothy Thompson, American journalist (1938)
Opening Speech by Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz
Professor Emeritus Stephen Haycox talks about Secretary of the Interior Ickes & the Alaska Development Plan
Opening Speech by Curator Leslie Fried
[Current Exhibit] Bayles.David.Koslosky.Gottstein.Green.Loussac Jewish Movers and Shakers in Early Anchorage
In 1914, the Alaska Engineering Commission (AEC) designated the Ship Creek Flats as a midpoint for overseeing railroad construction that would ultimately link Seward and Fairbanks. On April 9, 1915, President Wilson announced that the government would assume responsibility for building the Alaska railroad. Even before this decision was made public, a “tent city” had begun to emerge.
Lured to Alaska by the abundant resources of furs, fish, copper and gold, early Jewish pioneers sought their fortunes and ultimately made Anchorage their home. They brought not only their families but also traditions that helped create today’s vibrant, diverse community. Their stories comprise the unique legends that are now enduring Alaskan lore.
[Current Exhibit] On the Wings Of Eagles: Alaska's Contribution to Operation Magic Carpet
This permanent exhibit celebrates Alaska’s heroic humanitarian rescue of Jewish refugees during the establishment of the State of Israel and tells the riveting story of Alaska Airlines’ pilots and flight attendants who took enormous risks to rescue Jews from hostile territory and bring them safely to the fledgling Jewish homeland.
Working 16-20 hours shifts under difficult and dangerous conditions, for a period of 17 months from late 1948-1950, the pilots flew twin engine DC-46 and DC-4 aircraft, carrying substantial overloads of passengers as they averted Arab tracers and gunfire.
[Previous Exhibit] Ruth Gruber: Photojournalist
An exhibition celebrating the heroic tenacity of Ruth Gruber, a great humanitarian and photojournalist. Gruber was born in 1911 to Jewish immigrants in Brooklyn, New York. When she graduated from the University of Cologne in Germany, she was the youngest Ph.D. in the world. Her work as a news correspondent focused on the lives of refugees and on international issues of rescue, sanctuary and liberation.
Exhibition highlights included images documenting the harrowing voyage of Jewish refugees on the Exodus 1947, and some of the earliest color photographs from Alaska Territory. This exhibition was organized by the International Center of Photography, sponsored by the Alaska Jewish Museum and hosted by the Anchorage Museum.