Virginia Tech Magazine

Virginia Tech Magazine


Volume 17, Number 3
Spring 1995

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Letters to the Editor

First Holocaust survivor alumna remembers Virginia Tech

"I just received the winter 1995 issue of the Virginia Tech magazine. Your article on Judaic studies was of great interest to me. I was the first Holocaust survivor to study at VPI, from 1947-1951. Throughout my years there, I was the only Jewish coed in Hillcrest Hall, where all women were then housed. I never met anti-Semitism on campus, but I did meet a lot of ignorance. Most of the coeds had never met a Jew before me, and had definite misconceptions. Throughout my four-year stay, I worked in the dorm dining room as a waitress three times a day, seven days per week. Because I did not attend church and have a number tattooed on my arm, I attracted immediate attention. When I explained that I was not a Christian but a Jew, I found very baffled and confused coeds who asked questions such as why was I a waitress, since all Jews were rich; where was my jewelry, since all Jews had lots of that. I felt I was a good 'ambassador' for the Jewish people, and I was able to change this stereotypical Jewish image in the minds of most of the coeds. There were some less pleasant consequences of being Jewish at VPI. Representatives of most Blacksburg churches came to my dorm room, uninvited, trying to save my soul. While I could not spare that time from my studies, I almost always treated these people with great courtesy, never rushing them, and later discreetly disposing of the assorted literature and New Testaments which they inevitably forced on me. My husband and I are involved in a Holocaust education program, which takes place every April for one week in a small liberal Christian college in a suburb near us. The program is going into its fifth year." Gerda Nothmann Luner (BIOL '51)

Alumnus of Plaszow and Virginia Tech

"In the winter '95 issue of Virginia Tech magazine, I have read about the Judaic studies class and about the Holocaust course. This had a special meaning to me. I am both a VPI graduate (BSME '66) and a Holocaust survivor. I arrived in Blacksburg in the fall of 1963 from Israel. My wife and my two small children joined me about two months later. I came with little knowledge of English and with a formal educational background of five grades of elementary schooling from Poland. Otherwise, I 'graduated' from several campuses, including the infamous Plaszow camp mentioned in 'Schindler's List,' Mauthausen, and St. Valentin. The VPI community, faculty, and staff did not know of my background. Nevertheless they were wonderfully helpful in making our years in Blacksburg some of the best in our lives. I have written two stories about my Holocaust experience. One is called 'The Angel from St. Valentin' and the other 'The Execution of Capo Beim.' Both are in the library and archives of the Holocaust Museum in Washington." Nathan Gutman (BSME '66)

Concentration camp liberator thanked

Richard R. Bond (EE '50) writes of one of the high points of his visit to Dachau concentration camp almost 50 years after liberating it as part of the 45th Infantry Division: "There was a big, strapping survivor who picked me out (at a dedication of a memorial to the Dachau's survivors and dead). He came up with a big smile and bear-hugged me until I almost lost my breath and kissed me on both cheeks. He kept bringing other survivors over, bear-hugging, kissing, and then introducing me around. Only handshakes and a few tears from the other survivors ... He excused himself, saying to wait. He returned with a red booklet titled 'Dachau' by Jacques Songy--him. He autographed it with his address. I'm getting it translated from French here in Wilmington In the article, 'Making Connections,' the picture of the prisoners waving from the barbed wired windows--it's as though I took that picture. Memories! The caption says 'during World War II,' but they are too happy. I'll bet my nickel that picture was taken while the 180th Infantry Reg. was policing the camp--right after the war was over."


Letters to the Editor Policy

We encourage letters to the editor. All letters must be signed, and a telephone number must be included so letter authorship may be verified. Selected letters will also be edited for length, clarity, and adherence to Virginia Tech magazine editorial style. Major changes will be discussed with the author prior to publication. Correspondence should be sent to: Editor, Virginia Tech Magazine, 102-C Media Building, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA 24061. The fax number is (703) 231-4943 and our email address is sclaus@vt.edu.

Virginia Tech Magazine Volume 17, Number 3 Spring 1995


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