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The Life and Thought of Louis Lowy

Social Work through the Holocaust

Lorrie Gardella

Publication Year: 2011

Louis Lowy (1920–1991), an international social worker and gerontologist, rarely spoke publicly about the Holocaust. During the last months of his life, however, he recorded an oral narrative that explores his activities during the Holocaust as the formative experiences of his career. Whether caring for youth in concentration camps, leading an escape from a death march, or forming the self-government of a Jewish displaced persons center, Lowy was guided by principles that would later inform his professional identity as a social worker, including the values of human worth and self-determination, the interdependence of generations, and the need for social participation and lifelong learning. Drawing on Lowy’s oral narrative and accounts from three other Holocaust survivors who witnessed his work in the Terezín ghetto and the Deggendorf Displaced Persons Center, Gardella offers a rich portrait of Lowy’s personal and professional legacy. In chronicling his life, Gardella also uncovers a larger story about Jewish history and the meaning of the Holocaust in the development of the social work profession.

Published by: Syracuse University Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. vii


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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xii

This book is about remembering, about diving into the abyss of the Holocaust and coming out of it, as Louis Lowy and others have shown us. This thoroughly researched and well-written book is also one of the first to explore the relationship between surviving the Holocaust and...

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pp. xiii-xvii

This is the story of Louis Lowy, the international social worker and social work educator, who remembered surviving the Holocaust as the beginning of his career. The early life and thought of Louis Lowy are also a part of a larger story, the story of social work history, Jewish history,...

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pp. xix-xx

This book began when Louis Lowy recorded an oral narrative history during the last months of his life. It was a critically important yet exhausting undertaking for Louis, made possible thanks to the assistance of his friend and colleague Leonard M. Bloksberg, who listened to and recorded...

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1. A European Childhood

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pp. 1-26

At the end of his life, Louis Lowy told a story that he had never tried to tell before, the story of his return from the Holocaust. In an oral narrative that he recorded from October 1990 to April 1991, Louis remembered his survival as the formative experience of his career as a social...

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2. The Terezín Ghetto

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pp. 27-44

The Trade Palace in Prague was a cavernous hall where, in happier times, a trade fair had been held each spring and fall.1 Louis, who was now twenty-one years old, observed the gathering crowd. A group of Bohemian artists, including the graphic artist Bedrich Fritta, were not carrying...

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3. Escape from Auschwitz

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pp. 45-67

Louis Lowy never felt that he could put his memories of Auschwitz into words: “I can tell about it, I can narrate about it, but I have never been able to digest what happened.” All through his life, he had sought comfort in learning. He had faith, if not in God, then in the potential of human...

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4. The Social Statesman

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pp. 68-91

“Returning” was the title of Louis Lowy’s first publication after the war. Writing for the inaugural issue of Deggendorf Center Revue, the newspaper of Deggendorf Displaced Persons Center, Louis defined “the problem of the Jews” who could never return to their homes:...

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5. Louis and Ditta

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pp. 92-105

Nearly all the residents of the Deggendorf Center were hoping to find others who had survived—family, friends, acquaintances from their hometowns—and some would continue hoping and searching for the rest of their lives.1 Success or failure in finding a loved one depended less on...

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6. Deggendorf Displaced Persons Center

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pp. 106-130

Even before the war had ended, those Jews who had survived began to refer to themselves by a biblical name, the She’erit Hapeletah, meaning “the surviving remnant” or “the rest who remained.” Legal names that had been imposed on the Jewish population, such as “stateless...

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7. The Making of a Social Worker

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pp. 131-151

On the Liberty Ship in New York harbor, Vern Drehmel viewed the Manhattan shoreline with a combination of euphoria and dread. Now seventeen years old, he was traveling as a war orphan, and when he landed in America he would be separated from Louis for the first time since Auschwitz:...

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8. A Life’s Work

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pp. 152-166

There may never have been a profession with as broad a purpose, as courageous a stance, or as fully realized a set of values as the field that Louis Lowy called social work. Louis presented his vision for social work in The Function of Social Work in a Changing Society: A Continuum of Practice...

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Afterword: Social Work with Refugees and Displaced Populations

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pp. 167-174

It is often the survivors who first raise awareness of a catastrophe to the outside world. We learned after the Holocaust that eyewitness testimonies may be our primary sources of knowledge for months, for years, or even for generations aft er the event, and if we are to serve refugees and displaced populations effectively, we must begin by listening to them....


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pp. 177-190


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pp. 191-200


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pp. 201-213

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9780815650515
E-ISBN-10: 0815650515
Print-ISBN-13: 9780815609650
Print-ISBN-10: 0815609655

Page Count: 240
Illustrations: 23 black and white illustrations
Publication Year: 2011

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Social workers -- Massachusetts -- Boston -- Biography.
  • Jewish refugees -- Germany -- Deggendorf -- Biography.
  • Lowy, Louis.
  • Jews -- Czech Republic -- Prague -- Biography.
  • Jews, Czech -- United States -- Biography.
  • Holocaust survivors -- Massachusetts -- Boston -- Biography.
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