From Broken Glass by Steve Ross with Glenn Frank and Brian Wallace
Published by Hachette Books, $26, 259 pages.
Because his story of being forced into a labor camp as a 9-year-old child is so relentlessly brutal, Steve Ross, then Szmulek Rozental, wisely alternates chapters between those tortured times and the inspiringly productive life he’s led in Boston in his memoir, From Broken Glass.
He recalls horrifying drumbeats of the emerging disasters under the Nazis: A grandmother was thrown out a window, Hasidic men had their beards set on fire and his family was forced into hiding. He endures, describing the torture, mass killings, starvation, being beaten with rifles—even being raped while “living” as a child in Dachau and other camps. He hides in a latrine while 105 children are shot. The tale is darkly impressive.
Luckily, hope and resilience live within this man who comes to Boston. He goes from living in an orphanage to earning a master’s in psychology. Ross works with disenfranchised kids in Columbia Point during the busing wars. Lovingly, he helps them, while boldly confronting leaders such as one headmaster who brushes off the many absent students: “He would have been a good guard at Auschwitz.”
Ross helps students overcome odds to get into college, equally pushing the resistant college administrations. And dressed in the “shitty” clothes he’d worn for six years, he shocks students into the horrors of the Holocaust. Approaching then-Mayor Ray Flynn about a possible Holocaust memorial, the welcome response is: “Why of course.”
From Page 97: “Inevitably, legs gave way and bodies collapsed, muscles going limp with exhaustion. Groans echoed when someone went down; not sounds of sympathy but sounds of inconvenience, disturbance, annoyance. Somehow the crumpled bodies would be pushed or kicked across the floorboards, discarded, dead or alive, against the edge of the locked doorways.” ◆