Category Archives: Audiovisual Materials

A_Roehm

The Saga of the Nazi Newsreel

A_RoehmA group of three uniformed men stand together in silence and black-and-white, engaged in what one imagines is small talk.  They are outside, others like them mill about, the mood one of dulled anticipation.  The men are obviously enjoying the extended gaze of the camera but not certain what to do with it.   One of them is Hermann Gӧring.

The scene comes from a film so long on the shelves at Duke no one could say where it came from.  It was simply titled “Hitler Youth Rally, 1936, Nuremberg.” I was attempting to provide a student with a primary source for a paper he was writing on Nazi propaganda, and hoped this film could help.  But I needed better description.  Our electronic catalog yielded a brief record listing the same title and nothing else, only that it was cataloged from an accession record.  But the paper files we keep on our collections had nothing under “Hitler,” “Nazi,” or “Nuremberg.”  I emailed some colleagues to see if they could help my search, and in the meantime began to analyze the film for clues as to its origins.

The film’s most immediate message was that it was a 31-minute, 16mm, black-and-white newsreel printed on Agfa stock and bearing the Agfa logo, silent but with descriptive intertitles.  Gӧring’s was the first face I recognized.  The two other men with him were mysteries but I thought had to be of similar high position — definitely Nazis, but Hitler Youth, no — and within a few minutes googling I found one of them was Ernst Rӧhm, head of Hitler’s dreaded street gang, the Sturmabteilung (aka Brownshirts).  Rӧhm was close to Hitler but, homosexual, an ardent socialist, and holding that the German army should be absorbed under the S.A., was increasingly considered a liability by the Nazi command.  In 1934 Heinrich Himmler falsely told Hitler that Rӧhm was plotting an overthrow, and Hitler had Rӧhm executed, during the purge known as the Night of the Long Knives.  I was fascinated, taking one step forward and moving one step back.  There was a story in this film, but neither was it about Hitler Youth nor did it date to 1936.  So what did we really have here?

As the film unfolded it was clear the setting was the Zeppelinfeld at Nuremberg, where the Nazis held their annual rallies.  I thought if I had a point of comparison, it might be possible to place the year the film was made.  The most obvious choice was to see if Leni Riefenstahl, the image maker of Hitler and the Nazis in the early 30s, had shot a Nuremberg rally prior to her stylistic landmark, Triumph of the Will, which documented the 1934 rally and which, importantly, did NOT include the recently expired Ernst Rӧhm.  And indeed, Riefenstahl had made a film of the rally in 1933, the year in which the Nazi propaganda machine was officially established under Joseph Goebbels.  However, all copies of the 61-minute Der Sieg Des Glaubens (Victory of Faith) had been destroyed following the purge, in an effort to expunge Rӧhm from Nazi history.  All but one.  And that copy, conveniently, had been digitized and published to the Internet Archive.  I downloaded the Riefenstahl film, set up two video playback windows on my computer, and began a comparison.

What you’ll find as you look through films of the Nuremberg rallies is that a standard narrative tends to be followed:  there are preparations on the Zeppelinfeld as crowds pack the town of Nuremberg proper, followed by the arrival of the high command and Hitler and their international guests – in the early 30s this included England as well as Spain, Italy, and Japan.  Then the speeches and incessant marching, perhaps an interlude where the Hitler Youth are shown setting up their tents and camping out as if at a boy scout jamboree, and ending with a speech where Hitler delivers his menacing vision of German supremacy.

It was when Hitler stepped off his plane in Riefenstahl’s film that I found my first clue.  I remembered a similar spot in our newsreel, and when I lined the scenes up and ran through them several times, I realized it was exactly the same moment, shot from different angles.  Marvelously, the films’ respective cameramen could be seen in the others’ shots.  Confirmed: this was 1933, the year before Rӧhm was killed and all traces of him destroyed.  I ran through the film trying to find similar points and discovered that in several places our photographer and Riefenstahl’s photographer probably stood shoulder-to-shoulder.

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Same scene, opposite perspectives. Leni Riefenstahl’s “Der Sieg Des Glaubens” (left) reveals the cameraman who shot our Nuremberg Rally newsreel (right). Riefenstahl’s film and other sources were used to confirm the date the newsreel was made. The photographers’ presence in the frames adds deeper dimension to these carefully staged works of propaganda.

I began to wonder about the rarity of our film, and as I started to reach out to other archives I also prepared the filmfor presentation, creating a finding aid and uploading the movie to YouTube, at first as an unlisted resource so I could share it with other archivists who could help with its identification.  Lauren Reno, our rare materials cataloger, began refashioning the catalog record, while Sarah Carrier, our Research Services Coordinator and a fluent German speaker, accepted the challenge of translating the titles.  During this process Sarah echoed Hannah Arendt when we talked about what these rallies were actually like, commenting that the film really brings home the banality of evil – “There must’ve been a lot of sitting around and waiting at this thing.”

As Sarah worked on the titles, I got an email from our University Archivist, Val Gillispie.  Val had found documentation for the film, picking up the trail in our old card catalog, which was recently digitized, and following it to a gift agreement.   Donated in 1967 by Duke Divinity graduate John Himes, the film came to us in two reels, and the original description stated, “This is perhaps a movie film with sound tracks.  It is a film of a Hitler youth rally in 1936 in Nuremberg.”  We have no idea whether Himes or the accessioning archivist described it so, or where Himes got the film, but there was enough information on the agreement to discover a little more about Himes.  During World War II he was a chaplain in the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, the inspiration for the television film Band of Brothers, so how he came to be in possession of the film spurs the imagination.  At some point after his donation, the two reels, neither one a soundtrack, became one, spliced together in the wrong order but otherwise unharmed.  Several years ago the film was digitized for preservation but no analysis was done.

While these pieces of the puzzle came together, I was contacted by Leslie Swift at the United States Holocaust Museum, who I had queried about the film.  The Museum did not have a copy of it, although they had shorter snippets of other newsreels from the 1933 rally (our film is by far the longest and most detailed after Riefenstahl’s).  Leslie is interested in the narratives of these propaganda films, and noted that one scene in our film, where Hitler is touching the Nazi flags with the flag that is being carried next to him, is something she hadn’t seen before in other similar films.  I talked with Sarah about this, who in doing her research found out it was a ceremony performed using the Blutfahne, or the “blood flag” that had been used in the failed 1923 Nazi uprising, to “sanctify” other flags.  The blood flag, always carried by Jakob Grimminger, was apparently lost after the war, and, grail-like, has its own cult of followers. (It is true that in doing research into materials such as this film, fascination and horror, with the past and present, mix together in equal parts.)

Leslie gave me a contact at the Bundesarchiv, to whom I wrote the next day.  According to Karin Kuehn, a film archivist at the Bundesarchiv, the film “seems to be a so called Schmalfilm-Monatsschau.  These were compilations of several newsreels for home cinema made by Agfa.”  Karin noted that the Bundesarchiv holds some of this type of footage, but only a few might be a match with our film.  I’m hoping within the next few months to be able to view some of that footage.

Re-discovering historical resources such as the Nuremberg Rally film is what makes my job such a joy.  This film and another film we have – in the Doris Duke Collection, portraying the trial of the 20 July conspirators in 1944 – presents two poles of the Nazi propaganda effort. The process we went through to identify the film, to dig a little deeper, will hopefully inform future research, and create a more complete picture of the past.

Post contributed by Craig Breaden, Audiovisual Archivist

 

 

 

“The Guardians of History,” a Documentary

Mary Samouelian, the Heschel Processing Archivist here at the Rubenstein Library, has created a short documentary. “The Guardians of History” features seven archivists working in our Technical Services Department and explores why archivists do what we do.  In Mary’s words, the documentary “reveals our intimate relationship with the historical materials we work with, why we are drawn to the mission of preserving history, and how our work makes it possible for researchers, historians, writers, and the general public to discover and experience intimate connections between their lives and historical materials.”

Mary enrolled as a student at the CDS in 2011 and this documentary piece is her final project for the Certificate in Documentary Arts. The photographs associated with the documentary will be exhibited on the Student Wall in Perkins Library this coming Friday.

Congratulations to Mary on this wonderful work!

Jean Dominique and Michèle Montas in the Radio Haiti newsroom.

Rubenstein Library Acquires Radio Haiti Archives

Jean Dominique and Michèle Montas in the Radio Haiti newsroom.
Jean Dominique and Michèle Montas celebrating the anniversary of the station in the Radio Haiti newsroom, 1990. From the Radio Haiti Records.

The Human Rights Archive at Duke University’s Rubenstein Library and the estate of broadcaster Jean Dominique have announced a partnership to preserve the broadcast archives of the journalist’s iconic Radio Haiti station.  From the 1960s to 2002, Radio Haiti was that country’s first independent radio station, promoting democratic freedoms, speaking out against human rights abuses, and celebrating Haitian life and culture. The station’s archive includes approximately 2,500 audio recordings of programs, as well as 28 boxes of paper records. Recordings include daily coverage of events, cultural programs, interviews on public affairs, political analysis, and roundtable discussions on different aspects of Haiti’s recent history.

“The Radio Haiti collection is an incredibly important resource for understanding the recent history of Haiti,” said Laurent Dubois, Marcello Lotti Professor of Romance Studies and History at Duke. “Because the station broadcast news and reportage largely in Creole and extensively covered events both in Port-au-Prince and the rural areas of Haiti, the collection gives us unequalled access to an understanding of one of the most important grassroots democratic movements in recent history: the movement that overthrew the Duvalier dictatorship in 1986.”

The Radio Haiti archives were donated to the Rubenstein Library by Michèle Montas, station co-anchor and widow of Jean Dominique. Dominique had an unquenchable passion for Haiti and its people, and his quest for truth and justice may have led to his assassination in 2000.

According to Montas the archives “capture a time and place in which journalists and broadcast journalism played a major role in redefining a country and reaching a people. Beyond Haiti, they bear witness to the turbulent transition from a dictatorship to a functioning democracy. ”

Montas stressed that the archives matter today because they touch on and track issues that remain of paramount importance in Haitian society. “By saving these archives and making them once more accessible to large audiences, Duke and the Rubenstein Library are playing a crucial role in advancing the dialogue about Haiti and its future.”

On April 3, Montas will be at Duke to discuss the history of Radio Haiti and its archive. Archivists from the Rubenstein Library will also share some of the challenges of preserving such a large audio collection and discuss the importance this archive has for the broader Haitian community and the human rights movement.  Those interested in learning more about preserving Radio Haiti can visit Duke Library’s Youtube channel.  The event is free and open to the public and will be held at 12 p.m. in the Forum for Scholars and Publics, Old Chemistry Building Room 011, on Duke’s West Campus. Lunch will be provided.

The Radio Haiti archives join other recent acquisitions by the Rubenstein Library documenting the history of Haiti, including the records of the National Coalition for Haitian Rights, the Mark Danner Papers, and a scribal copy of the Haitian Declaration of Independence dating from 1804.

The Radio Haiti archives will open for research after conservation review and archival processing are complete. For more information, contact Patrick Stawski, Human Rights Archivist.

Nathaniel White, Jr., center, was a native of Durham and one of the first three African-American students to graduate in 1967.

An Interview About a Duke University Pioneer

Nathaniel White, Jr was among the first five black students to attend Duke University in 1963. He was not, however, the first person in his family to attend college. His father, Nathaniel White, Sr., had attended Hampton Institute prior to founding his own printing business in Durham. In a newly-digitized interview, White, Sr. discusses his life, his memories, and his experience as a black man living in Virginia and North Carolina during the 20th century.

White’s interview is part of the Behind the Veil digital project, which has just added over 300 new interviews with North Carolinians, including many from Durham. The interviews capture details of what life was like in the Jim Crow South for African Americans. In White’s interview, he shares the story of his childhood, the black business community in Durham, and the influence of scouting on his life. Of particular interest to local researchers, he describes individuals and businesses in the Durham black community in the mid-20th century, providing deep insight into Durham’s history.

Nathaniel White, Jr., center, was a native of Durham and one of the first three African-American students to graduate in 1967.
Nathaniel White, Jr., center, was a native of Durham and one of the first three African-American students to graduate in 1967.

He also briefly discusses his son’s pioneering role at Duke. He mentions that White, Jr., had considered Hampton Institute himself, but then had the opportunity to attend Duke. His father candidly remarks in the interview, “There’s one thing about a situation like that, it’s more like the real world than some other places that you might go and everything seems like it’s alright but it’s not training you for what you’re going to meet when you get outside. It’s a real struggle out there. The sooner you learn that, the better off you might be. . . . In other words, every day he had what it’s like to be an African American citizen in this country. So he didn’t have to learn that after he graduated. He learned it every day at Duke.”

Learn more about the fascinating Behind the Veil project on Bitstreams, the blog of the digital collections department of Duke University Libraries.

Post contributed by Val Gillispie, Duke University Archivist.

Andrew Young in Mississippi, 1963

“No car, no money, no food…just me.”

In the mid 1980s, Duke history student Joseph Sinsheimer interviewed veterans of the fight for voting rights in early-1960s Mississippi. The generational distance between the interviews and the subject worked in Sinsheimer’s favor: his narrators had gained the perspective of years but many still had their youth, with memory intact, and were ready to talk at length of their experiences. The collection guide to these remarkable interviews is a roll call of Civil Rights Movement leadership in the deep South:  C.C. Bryant, Robert Moses, Lawrence Guyot, Willie Peacock, Hollis Watkins and others detail Mississippi’s struggle through stories of their involvement.

Andrew Young in Mississippi, 1963
Andrew Young during Mississippi’s Freedom Summer, 1963. From the Joseph Sinsheimer Papers.

As we digitize the audiocassettes that Sinsheimer used to record the interviews, one story immediately stands out. Activist Sam Block’s retelling of how he came to be involved in the movement is a coming-of-age story informed by the death of Emmett Till and galvanized by a confrontation with a white customer at his uncle’s service station. His subsequent recruitment into the Movement via the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, and his training at Highlander Folk School, were prologue to the courage Block demonstrated when he asked Robert Moses to drop him in Greenwood, Mississippi, with “no car, no money, no food…just me.”

Listen here: Sam Block interviewed by Joseph Sinsheimer

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Post contributed by Craig Breaden, Audiovisual Archivist in the Technical Services Dept.

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A Journey’s End

A couple of weeks ago the finding aid for the Doris Duke Audiovisual Collection was posted on the Rubenstein Library website. The audiovisual collection, which is now opened for research, has a fascinating variety of materials, including film reels, vinyl records, and audio cassettes reflecting Doris’ interests in travel, music, the performing arts, and historical events. It’s chock-full of surprises for those willing to delve into the detailed and intricate collection. Homemade recordings of Doris practicing the piano and singing, four original nitrate film reels of the Nazi Supreme Court Trial of the Anti-Hitler Plot from 1944-45 (which we’re presuming Doris obtained while working for the Office of Strategic Services [OSS] during World War II), and a somewhat sketchy telephone interview with Howard Hughes from the 1970s are just a few of the treasures awaiting discovery in this collection.

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The Doris Duke Audiovisual Collection also marks a significant milestone for the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation Historical Archives. It is the final collection in the historical archives to be processed, described, and opened for research, thus ending my three year processing journey.

Working so intimately with the materials has been quite a remarkable experience, and not surprisingly I’ve grown quite attached to both Doris Duke and the materials over the past three years! The nineteen collections comprising the historical archives are filled with artifacts and clues that leave evidence of a woman who did big things, yet they also give insight to unexpected and hidden facets of Doris’ life. Collectively they paint a picture of Doris that challenges the general perception of her as an eccentric and tragic figure.

While I am sincerely grateful for having had the opportunity to process and promote the materials in the historical archives, I am equally thankful for having had the chance to meet researchers and patrons interested in both Doris Duke and the historical archives. Their enthusiasm for learning more about her spurred several of the events, exhibits, and digital initiatives developed during the course of the processing project.

And so a journey for me ends, but the journey for the materials in the historical archives continues!

Post contributed by Mary Samouelian, the former Doris Duke Collection Archivist. Mary will continue in the Technical Services Dept. as the Processing Archivist for the Abraham Joshua Heschel Papers.

Wense Grabarek addressing the congregation at St. Joseph's AME Church, May 1963.

Wense Grabarek in the First Person

The 50th anniversary of a key moment in the desegregation of Durham, North Carolina came and went largely without fanfare last month.  It was in May 1963 that, amid growing racial discord in the city, Mayor Wense Grabarek prevailed upon business and community leaders, black and white alike, to cooperate in desegregating the city. The mayor was in an unusual position: having held office for less than a day when a series of sit-ins around Durham resulted in 130 arrests, Grabarek’s first task upon being sworn in was to stop a riot at the jail. Achieving this by letting supporters deliver sandwiches and cigarettes to the jailed protesters, he then turned his attention to the NAACP and CORE, who promised mass demonstrations in the wake of the arrests. Jean Anderson, in Durham County: A History of Durham County, North Carolina, tells the story this way:

He went in person, a slight, dapper man, always with a red carnation in his lapel, to a meeting of protesters, one thousand strong, held at Saint Joseph’s A.M.E. Church.  Habitually soft-spoken and immensely polite, he asked permission to enter and address them.  Then, pointing out that by their demonstrations they had informed the community of their deeply felt grievances, he spoke about the danger of racial tension and division and promised to take positive steps to respond to their complaints.  Finally, he asked for their support and understanding.  Impressed by his coming, his tone, his words, they accepted his sincerity and promised to halt demonstrations and give the mayor time to act on his promises.

Mayor Grabarek formed the Durham Interim Committee to reconcile the community’s opposing groups, in so doing acknowledging the damage of segregation and the real possibility that Jim Crow could prevent Durham from realizing its potential, particularly given the economic promise of the newly formed Research Triangle Park. The efforts of Grabarek and of the leaders appointed to the Committee allowed Durham a degree of progress that eluded many other southern cities.

Wense Grabarek addressing the congregation at St. Joseph's AME Church, May 1963.
Wense Grabarek addressing the congregation at St. Joseph’s AME Church, May 1963.

A modest man and a successful accountant who continues to work full time six days a week, Wense Grabarek is now 93 years old and eager to add his perspective to the history of Durham, the adopted hometown that called him mayor from 1963 to 1971. To this end he has donated to the Rubenstein Library a number of recorded interviews he has given since the early 2000s, as part of a larger collection of papers that he is gathering for donation later this summer. You can check out the finding aid for the interviews here.

Wense Grabarek in conversation with Tim Tyson, Sept. 2011
Wense Grabarek in conversation with Tim Tyson, Sept. 2011

The recordings include an interview with Steven Channing for his documentary Durham: A Self Portrait, an 8-hour conversation with author and scholar Tim Tyson detailing his work as mayor, and, presented here, with the permission of WTVD, an interview with Angela Hampton on the events of May 1963:

An oral history has been scheduled with Mr. Grabarek in July, and this time the interviewer will be the Rubenstein Library. We hope to learn more about the mayor’s life before and after the 1960s, including his experiences as a soldier in World War II and the philanthropic work he and his wife have done over the years in education.

Post contributed by Craig Breaden, Audiovisual Materials Archivist in the Technical Services Dept.