Traverse City Record-Eagle


April 20, 2013

Anti-Semitism expert to speak at History Center

TRAVERSE CITY — The History Center of Traverse City will present “Anti-Semitism in America, The High Tide: 1921-1940” today from 3 to 5 p.m. at the center, 322 Sixth Street.

The program coincides with the center’s current Legends Exhibit focusing on the late Dr. Harry Weitz, along with Les Biederman and Marshall Collins. Speaker will be Dr. Barry Mehler of Ferris State University, an internationally recognized expert in the history of eugenics and anti-Semitism.

Weitz was the area’s first radiologist. Mehler will help explain the atmosphere in which Weitz worked to create new medical and educational facilities in Traverse City.

“Dr. Weitz was selected for the Legends program because of the positive impact he made to the area’s medical field as well as his work in breaking the barrier of discrimination against the area’s Jewish citizens,” said Peg Siciliano, the center’s archivist.

Along with pioneering the field of radiology in northern Michigan, Weitz also was instrumental in the development of Munson Medical Center, which started as a medical branch of the State Psychiatric Hospital in the 1920s.

He also was one of the driving forces in establishing Northwestern Michigan College and was a prominent member of Congregation Beth-El, serving as president of the Congregation in the 1940s.

According to Siciliano, Weitz moved to Traverse City in the 1930s after completing his education and residency in Detroit.

“Today, people didn’t realize how overt anti-Semitism was in the late ’30s and early ’40s,” Siciliano said. “Many were aware that something sinister was going on in Germany regarding the Jewish population. They were aware that boats of Jewish refugees were being turned away from America’s shores, but most people at the time didn’t seem to care about it.”

After years working to advance radiological medical science and his involvement in the expansion of the area’s medical facility, Weitz brought to light the predicament of Jews living in Traverse City in the late 1940s and early 1950s.

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