Holocaust survivor and author Fred Gross will speak on the Atlanta campus on Tuesday from 3:30 to 5 p.m. in the Swilley Library. Gross is the author of One Step Ahead of Hitler: a Jewish Child’s Journey through France, a memoir from Mercer University Press that traces his rediscovery of the story of his family’s flight from the Nazis when he was a small boy. He will also be available to sign copies of the book. The event is free and open to the public.
The event is organized by the Atlanta Campus Quality Enhancement Plan Team as part of a campuswide effort to examine ethical issues. The chair of the QEP team, Dr. David P. Gushee, Distinguished Professor of Christian Ethics and author of Righteous Gentiles of the Holocaust, invited Gross to speak and helped to organize the event. Dr. Gushee also helped to get Gross’s work published through Mercer University Press and wrote the forward to the book. Of the book, Dr. Gushee writes: “It is an important memoir. Some of the most shameful moments of German, French, Swiss — and human — history are recorded here, not for the first time, but in a deeply personal way by someone who experienced their effects as a small child.”
Gross knew much about the history of the Holocaust but knew very little of his or his family’s story. It was not until the late 1980s, when he began to ask questions, that his mother opened up about their flight from the German invasion of Belgium. Later, his two older brothers would add to their mother’s memories. Gross, a former reporter for a daily newspaper in New Haven, Conn., then did what he knew best: he started recording these stories.
Most of the Grosses’ flight takes place in France during its defeat and collaboration with the Nazis, when 75,000 Jews were rounded up for deportation to death camps. Gross and his family made it through these anguished years because of their fortitude and ingenuity along with the help of brave men and women of varied faiths, reverently referred to as The Righteous Among the Nations. One Step Ahead of Hitler is a story of survival told in words and in photographs of a journey beginning in Antwerp and ending with the Gross family’s freedom in America.
It is the story of a Jewish family on the run for five long years. From the day bombs fell on their Antwerp neighborhood in 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. Matching wits with a French regime thirsty for the blood of Jews, the Gross family suffered through physical and emotional distress. They were tormented by the difficult decisions they had to make, just to survive another day.
Gross was born in Antwerp, Belgium, in 1936. He is a graduate of New York University. Gross was a reporter for the Journal-Courier, a daily newspaper in New Haven, Conn., and has been a public relations specialist in education for nearly 30 years. For the past 17 years Gross has been active in the Jewish community in Louisville, Ky. 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.