From Bro­ken Glass: My Sto­ry of Find­ing Hope in Hitler’s Death Camps to Inspire a New Generation

Steve Ross, Glenn Frank, and Bri­an Wallace
  • Review
By – May 28, 2018

This stir­ring mem­oir of Steve Ross, a high­ly esteemed psy­chol­o­gist for at-risk youth, and founder of the New Eng­land Holo­caust Memo­r­i­al, begins with the cap­ture of nine-year-old Ross in the Nazi sweep of the Lodz ghet­to in 1939. Ross spent the next five years of his life in ten dif­fer­ent death camps. He describes a life-chang­ing event at his lib­er­a­tion from Dachau in 1945. He left the camp to escape its hor­rors and limped down a road where Amer­i­can troops were fil­ing fur­ther into the war zone. On the road, Ross encoun­tered a sol­dier tak­ing a break and eat­ing his canned army rations. The sol­dier spot­ted Ross, an ema­ci­at­ed, bad­ly bruised child, and jumped off his tank to give his can of food to the young boy. Orders came down and the sol­diers had to get back in for­ma­tion and move on. But, before he jumped back into his tank, the sol­dier hand­ed Ross a small, care­ful­ly-fold­ed Amer­i­can flag and said, Amer­i­can.” These acts of kind­ness, writes Ross, ener­gized his life force of hope.” Ross vowed, If I was going to sur­vive this, I would devote my life to help­ing children.”

Ross became a remark­able Amer­i­can. Ray Fly­nn, the long­time Boston may­or and Unit­ed States ambas­sador to the Vat­i­can, described Ross as an all-Amer­i­can hero.”Ross faced unspeak­able hor­rors and used those expe­ri­ences as a spring­board into a life spent help­ing oth­ers. He became a high­ly suc­cess­ful social activist and men­tor com­mit­ted to help­ing at-risk young peo­ple fin­ish high school and attend col­lege. He did his best to push back against the hatred and big­otry block by block” in South Boston. He used sports to help bring kids togeth­er, and advo­cat­ed for change when the Boston School Com­mit­tee refused to accept the inte­gra­tion of African Amer­i­can and white school chil­dren. He also com­mit­ted him­self to remem­ber­ing the vic­tims of the Shoah and became one of the founders of the New Eng­land Holo­caust Memo­r­i­al in Boston.

The book is an enthralling read. The short chap­ters pro­vide detailed descrip­tions of his har­row­ing expe­ri­ences run­ning from the Nazis, and his ter­ri­fy­ing expe­ri­ences in the camps. These chap­ters are fol­lowed by Ross’s descrip­tions of the work he did to help inner city kids suc­ceed in school. The jux­ta­po­si­tion of the two worlds — one hell­ish, the oth­er filled with ener­gy, hope, and benev­o­lence — is very powerful.

Car­ol Poll, Ph.D., is the retired Chair of the Social Sci­ences Depart­ment and Pro­fes­sor of Soci­ol­o­gy at the Fash­ion Insti­tute of Tech­nol­o­gy of the State Uni­ver­si­ty of New York. Her areas of inter­est include the soci­ol­o­gy of race and eth­nic rela­tions, the soci­ol­o­gy of mar­riage, fam­i­ly and gen­der roles and the soci­ol­o­gy of Jews.

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