BOONE—Holocaust survivor Susan Cernyak-Spatz will give a talk titled “Perpetrators Through the Eyes of the Victims,” Thursday, Sept. 17, at 7 p.m. at Appalachian State University. Please note the free presentation has been moved to Parkway Ballroom on the fourth floor of Plemmons Student Union.
Cernyak-Spatz, who is a professor emerita of German literature at UNC Charlotte, was born into a middle-class Jewish family in Vienna. In 1929, she moved with her family to Berlin, where they witnessed Hitler’s rise to power. They fled to Prague in March 1938. Her father managed to escape to Belgium shortly before the German invasion of Poland, but the Nazis arrested and eventually deported Cernyak-Spatz and her mother.
She suffered at the hands of German guards at the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp, as well as from a range of diseases, including typhoid and scarlet fever. However, her connections in the barracks and the fact that she could speak English, French, Czech and German helped her obtain a job in the camp’s administration offices, away from the often deadly outside work details. She survived Auschwitz-Birkenau and the Ravensbrück women’s concentration camp. Her mother died in the Theresienstadt ghetto.
In July 1946, Cernyak-Spatz emigrated from Europe to the United States. She completed a dissertation on German Holocaust literature in 1971, working under the direction of the prominent author and German literature scholar Ruth Klüger, another survivor. In 2005, she published her memoirs, copies of which will be available after the talk.
“She won’t just give a straight survivor narrative,” said Thomas Pegelow Kaplan, the newly appointed director of Appalachian’s Center for Judaic, Holocaust, and Peace Studies. “We wanted to bring Susan Cernyak-Spatz back to campus because she is not only a survivor, but a teacher and an academic who went on to work in areas closely related to the horrors she experienced in the Holocaust.” Cernyak-Spatz last lectured on campus in 2005.
“Many Holocaust survivors are already deceased,” Pegelow Kaplan said. “In a few years there will be no one left, so we should speak with survivors while we still can. She is part of the experience of the modern world, of genocide and mass murder, which, sadly, will be with us for a long time to come.”
Cernyak-Spatz’s talk is co-sponsored by the Center for Judaic, Holocaust, and Peace Studies, Department of History, Department of Philosophy and Religion, the Global Studies Program, Temple of the High Country, and the university’s Hillel chapter. For more information, call 828-262-2311 or email email@example.com.
About Appalachian State University
As the premier public undergraduate institution in the state of North Carolina, Appalachian State University prepares students to lead purposeful lives as global citizens who understand and engage their responsibilities in creating a sustainable future for all. The Appalachian Experience promotes a spirit of inclusion that brings people together in inspiring ways to acquire and create knowledge, to grow holistically, to act with passion and determination, and to embrace diversity and difference. Located in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Appalachian is one of 17 campuses in the University of North Carolina System. Appalachian enrolls more than 19,000 students, has a low student-to-faculty ratio and offers more than 150 undergraduate and graduate majors.
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