Thursday, November 8

An Accidental Tourist Comes to Indianapolis

by JCC Staff and Gregory Dawson

Former Indianapolis Star columnist Gregory Dawson returns to the city for a JCC Indianapolis 2012 Ann Katz Festival of Books and Arts author event on November 12 at 7 p.m.

At the festival, Dawson will discuss his latest book, Judgment Before Nuremberg: The Holocaust in the Ukraine and the First Nazi War Crimes Trial. But before his talk, Dawson is sharing the personal story behind the publication of his books with JCC Banter Blog readers.

I’m an accidental tourist – through my own history, and through the history of the Holocaust in a place most people still don’t associate with the Holocaust: Ukraine.

This is remarkable since Ukraine is where the Holocaust as the man on the street thinks of it – the systematic, mass extermination of the Jews – began. Not Auschwitz or Sobibor or Treblinka.

I was one of those men in the street until recently. Growing up in Bloomington in the 1950s and 60s, an IU music faculty brat, I knew nothing about the Holocaust. It wasn’t taught in public school and my mother never talked about the war. My only religion was IU basketball. I didn’t know I was Jewish until I was a teenager.

I was 30 when my mother first told me about her escape from the Nazis in Ukraine. I was 56 when I traveled to Ukraine to research and write her story, Hiding in the Spotlight, published in 2009. I went back a second time in December 2010, this time walking the exact route of the death march my mother’s family followed to the killing field outside Kharkov, on the same day and in the same bitter cold they had done it nearly 70 years before. 

With the writing of Judgment Before Nuremberg, the accidental tourist’s journey was complete.

- Gregory Dawson, November 2012

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