The Life and Thought of Louis Lowy: Social Work Through the Holocaust

Lor­rie Green­house Gardel­la; Joachim Wiel­er, fwd.
  • Review
By – February 3, 2012

Thanks to Lor­rie Green­house Gardel­la, we can add to the archives of Holo­caust his­to­ry the remark­able sto­ry of social work the­o­rist Louis Lowy (19201991). Draw­ing on the rec­ol­lec­tions of Lowy, his wife, and their com­pan­ions, Gardel­la keeps dis­cus­sions of Lowy’s social work the­o­ry rel­a­tive­ly mar­gin­al, focus­ing instead on the wartime sto­ry, mak­ing this slim biog­ra­phy into quite a page-turn­er! Born in Munich in 1920, Lowy was thir­teen when his par­ents sent him — alone — to Lon­don, to edu­cate him­self. In 1936, when he was just six­teen, Lowy left Lon­don to help his fam­i­ly reset­tle in Prague — an act of fil­ial matu­ri­ty,” Lowy called it, a phase of devel­op­ment when chil­dren take respon­si­bil­i­ty for their par­ents. In 1941, the Lowy fam­i­ly was trans­port­ed to the Terezin camp, where Louis defied the author­i­ties by orga­niz­ing the­atri­cal per­for­mances and edu­ca­tion for the younger chil­dren, a mis­sion he char­ac­ter­ized as cre­ative altru­ism.” In 1944 he was tak­en to Auschwitz. He and sev­er­al close friends lat­er escaped a death march con­voy, liv­ing under­cov­er until VE-Day. Reset­tled in the Deggen­dorf DP Cen­ter, which he helped trans­form into a Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ty, Lowy emi­grat­ed to the Unit­ed States with his wife, begin­ning his for­mal social work career. As he real­ized that his expe­ri­ences as a dis­placed per­son gave him spe­cial insight into the chal­lenges of old age, he became a geron­tol­o­gist. A sec­u­lar man his whole life, Lowy believed, as Gardel­la says, that social work was his name for liv­ing as a Jew.” Bib­li­og­ra­phy, index, maps, notes, photographs.

Bet­ti­na Berch, author of the recent biog­ra­phy, From Hes­ter Street to Hol­ly­wood: The Life and Work of Anzia Yezier­s­ka, teach­es part-time at the Bor­ough of Man­hat­tan Com­mu­ni­ty College.

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