Holocaust survivor and author Fred Gross will be speaking about his book, One Step Ahead of Hitler: A Jewish Child’s Journey Through France, on Nov. 14 at 5:30 p.m. at the Washington County Public Library in Springfield. The event is free and open to the public.
Gross, a resident of Louisville, knew little about his own story. It wasn’t until the late 1980s that he began to ask questions about his lost childhood and the trauma he experienced staying one step ahead of the Nazis. He began to talk with his mother first, and later with his two much older brothers. He recorded these conversations and added his own dawning memories to develop a story that has captivated audiences throughout Kentucky and beyond.
This is the story of a Jewish family on the run for five long years. From the day bombs fell on their neighborhood in Belgium in May 1940, until the war ended with Nazi Germany’s defeat, the Gross family simply tried to stay “one step ahead of Hitler” in a journey that took them thousands of miles across France and beyond. They were tormented by the difficult decisions they had to make, just to survive another day. Matching wits with a French regime thirsty for the blood of Jews, the Gross family suffered through physical and emotional distress, at one point interred in a French concentration camp that was a way station to Auschwitz. France deported 75,000 Jews to the death camps in Poland.
In his foreword, David P. Gushee, Distinguished Professor of Christian Ethics at Mercer University and author of Righteous Gentiles of the Holocaust, writes: “The author deftly mixes together the perspective of a three-year-old, at the beginning of the war, a child with few memories of his own and almost entirely dependent on the rest of his family for their stories; and then a four-to-eight-year old on the run, with his own dawning memories; and then a fully grown adult, able not only to ask questions of family members but to gather critically important historical information that can help him understand what was happening to his family at each juncture. We watch the author watching his young self going through these traumatic experiences—at each moment the reader somehow experiences the events both through the eyes of a small child and a grown man remembering what it was like to be that small child. The effect is profound.”
Fred Gross was born in Antwerp, Belgium in 1936. He is a graduate of New York University and was reporter for the New Haven, CT, Journal-Courier Now living in Louisville, Ky., Gross has been a public relations specialist in education. For the past 25 years he has been actively involved in the Jewish community in Louisville and received its Volunteer of the Year award in 2010. He has taught a Holocaust curriculum to Sunday school students, and continues to share his story with middle and high school students, and adult audiences.