Posted April 7, 2014

Expansive legacy of Holocaust scholar now available at Temple

The life’s work of one of the world’s foremost authorities on Holocaust studies is now available in Temple University Libraries’ Special Collections Research Center. Called the Franklin H. Littell Papers and the Franklin H. and Marcia Sachs Littell Library, the collection documents the work of Emeritus Professor of Religion Franklin Littell—who established many of the nation’s earliest programs in Holocaust studies (including a doctoral program at Temple)—and Marcia Sachs Littell, EDU ’71,’76, ’90, his wife and a prolific Holocaust-studies scholar.

  • Franklin H. Littell, the “father of Holocaust education” in the U.S., confronts a Nazi soldier at the Nuremberg rally that changed his life in 1939. Photo courtesy of Marcia Sachs Littell, EDU '71, '76, '90.
  • Marcia Sachs Littell, EDU '71, '76,'90—a Holocaust scholar and the wife of Franklin H. Littell—visits Paley Library, where the Littell collections will be housed. Photo courtesy Ryan S. Brandenberg.

Spanning roughly 70 years, the Franklin H. Littell Papers collection comprises hundreds of his writings; several hundred articles written by others; and his speeches, unpublished manuscripts and original correspondence. The Franklin H. and Marcia Sachs Littell Library comprises more than 3,400 of their personal books.

Pieces of the collection began arriving at Paley in July 2010. Because of its size, it took more than three years for Temple’s librarians and archivists to catalog and process its contents. Now they are available for research, and selected parts of the collection are digitized and available online. Researchers can delve into resources about peace and pacifism in the 1930s, the U.S. occupation of Germany in the 1950s, Christian congregants, contemporary sects and cults, McCarthyism, Communism, Nazism, fascist regimes, the Holocaust, anti-Semitism, Jewish-Christian relations and much more. The papers were processed using funds from a grant from the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany Inc. and support from Norman Braman, FOX ’55.

“Nearly every box has something fascinating in it,” said Margery Sly, director of the Special Collections Research Center. She adds that some of the materials are “quite rare,” including Littell’s original correspondence with significant scholars and luminaries of the latter half of the 20th century, and the research material he mined to write his books, papers and articles.

Before Littell died in 2009, the couple decided to donate his scholarly papers and books to Temple. That final gift underscores a mission that began in 1939 when, as a religion scholar, Littell saw Adolf Hitler speak at a rally in Nuremberg, Germany. Sachs Littell said the event incensed him.

From then on, Littell made it his mission to educate others about the atrocities of the Holocaust. After World War II, he assisted with the denazification of Germany and established Holocaust studies programs at colleges and universities across the U.S. Littell came to Temple in 1969, and founded the Annual Scholars Conference on the Holocaust and Churches while there. In 1976, he founded Temple’s Holocaust-studies doctoral program. He also served on the Presidential Commission on the Holocaust under presidents Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.

Though other universities approached the Littells about obtaining the materials, Sachs Littell explained that they were confident that Temple would be committed both to the collection and to keeping it unified—issues that were important to them.

“I’m a Temple graduate, and all of my work was done there,” she said. “Because of the time we spent there, we always had a special place in our hearts for Temple.”

The collection opens Wednesday, April 9, with a discussion and reception in Paley Library. To learn more about both the collection and the event, visit Temple Libraries online.

—Christine McLaughlin