WWU’s Sandra Alfers to Discuss German-Jewish Writer Else Dormitzer May 17

  • Sandra Alfers

Sandra Alfers, professor of German and director of the Ray Wolpow Institute for the Study of the Holocaust, Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity at Western Washington University, will discuss her research on the poetry of the Holocaust from 4-5 p.m. on Wednesday, May 17 in Western Libraries Special Collections on the 6th floor of Wilson Library. 

The presentation is free and open to the public.

During her presentation, “Poetry after Auschwitz - Who was Else Dormitzer?" Alfers will introduce the work and life of Holocaust survivor Else Dormitzer and propose a reading of Dormitzer’s poetry collection from the Theresienstadt transit camp.

Else Dormitzer (1877-1958) was a journalist, writer, and activist, who fled her hometown of Nuremberg along with her husband, Dr. Sigmund Dormitzer, shortly after the November pogrom of 1938, also known as "Kristallnacht" (The Night of Broken Glass).

In 1943, the German occupying forces in the Netherlands, where the Dormitzers had lived after their escape from Nazi Germany, deported the couple to the Theresienstadt ghetto. While her husband did not survive the Holocaust, Else Dormitzer returned to the Netherlands and later moved to the United Kingdom. She became a British national in 1951.

With the help of the Association of Jewish Refugees, an organization based in the UK, and of Frank Harris, founder of the “Nürnberg-Fürth Survivors Group” in the U.S., Alfers was able to locate Dormitzer’s surviving relatives in Europe. They opened their extensive private family archive to her, including poetry and diaries from Theresienstadt. Alfers’ German-language book “weiter schreiben. Leben und Lyrik der Else Dormitzer” (Hentrich & Hentrich, 2015) made Dormitzer’s Holocaust writings available in Germany for the first time. The book also places Dormitzer’s contributions to cultural and social history into context as it traces her life in the 20th century.

Alfers teaches a broad range of German language, culture, and literature courses on all levels of the curriculum.

In her research, Alfers focuses on the literature of the Holocaust, particularly on German-language poetry written in Theresienstadt between 1941-1945. Her English- and German-language publications have appeared in international journals such as Monatshefte, Oxford German Studies, and Études Arméniennes Contemporaines, and her work on Theresienstadt has been translated into Czech for “Terezínské Studie A Dokumenty.” Alfers’ book on the German-Jewish activist and writer Else Dormitzer “weiter schreiben. Leben und Lyrik der Else Dormitzer” was published in late 2015 by Hentrich & Hentrich in Berlin, Germany.

This event is being offered as part of the Western Libraries Reading Series, dedicated to showcasing the scholarly and creative work of Western faculty and staff by featuring diverse speakers from a variety of backgrounds and disciplines who are engaged in research, writing, and teaching at Western.

For more information about this event, please contact Peter Smith, librarian, at (360) 650-3175 or Peter.Smith@wwu.edu.

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Thursday, May 4, 2017 - 9:40am