Earlier this semester the history program held a reception for Theresa Ast, professor of history at Reinhardt, in honor of two recent publications: Confronting the Holocaust: American Soldiers Enter Concentration Camps and Dressing the Bones: Poems 2012-2014, from which she is reading in the photograph below.
• Confronting the Holocaust is based on Dr. Ast’s Ph.D. thesis (Emory, 2001). In it, Ast draws on the oral testimony and personal papers of some 500 veterans of the Second World War, and on documents from the National Archives iand the United States Army Military History Institute. Ast shows that American soldiers were not prepared psychologically for the enormity of what they encountered. Many developed a great hatred for Germans, which sometimes resulted in a “take no prisoners” approach to fighting them. Conversely, American GIs helped the survivors of Nazi barbarity in just about every way they could. Liberators faced the same homecoming difficulties common to all veterans, including what we would now call Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. However, they were often isolated by civilians who refused to acknowledge the camps. Many veterans acknowledge that camp liberation had a long-term impact upon their lives, inspiring involvement in politics, charitable organizations, and community affairs.
As World War II gradually disappears from living memory, Ast’s book is a valuable contribution to our understanding of one of the worst crimes of the twentieth century.
• After a hiatus of 35 years, Dr. Ast began writing poetry again in 2012 shortly after her father’s death. Dressing the Bones contains poems about life and family, sorrow and joy – and includes quite a few visuals as well. Order your copy from Amazon (link above).