On November 14, a guest speaker from Seattle's Holocaust Center for Humanity gave a presentation to students in Prof. Naomi Sokoloff's course, "Literature and the Holocaust." Joshua Gortler shared memories of his childhood in Nazi-occupied Poland. Persecuted as Jews, he and his family were confined in a ghetto. Eventually they managed to escape, and, after crossing the border into the USSR, were sent by the Soviets to work in Siberia and Central Asia. Among Gortler's fascinating anecdotes were details of his experiences in DP camps in post-war Germany. There he had his first formal education, which included study of religious texts (Bible, Talmud, and more) as well as secular subjects. He noted that Hebrew served as a shared language of instruction for children who had come from many parts of Europe and spoke a variety of languages. As a teenager Gortler arrived in the U.S., learned English, pursued his education, and went on to a highly accomplished life.
In Prof. Sokoloff's course, students examine fiction, poetry, memoirs, diaries, monuments, commix, song, and other aspects of popular culture to explore literary responses to the Holocaust. It is especially valuable for the class to hear personal testimony from a survivor. Many thanks to Josh Gortler and to the Holocaust Center for Humanity.