Flight from Facism

Woman shares her unique perspective on the Holocaust

By Maria Rotelli
Scarlet Staff

When she stepped into the room, you would have never guessed that Doctor Miriam Lipshutz Yevick had survived one of the most intense horrors of Europe’s history. She came in with a warm smile on her face and began making jokes, as any other woman of 88 years old might have. This woman took us many years back to when she was 15 and had escaped the Nazis, fleeing across Europe, luckily never setting foot in a horrific concentration camps.

Dr. Yevick was born in Holland in 1924 into a Jewish family that was originally from Poland. At the age of 11 she moved to Belgium where she met some of her best friends,  that she would later lose to the flames of the Holocaust. In 1935 the bombs started dropping over Belgium, and that’s when she and her family began their escape to France, then to Spain, Portugal and finally took a boat to America.

What was really inspirational about this woman was the fact that all during her journey; she studied, trying to keep academically fit. Her studies could help keep her mind occupied, so instead of constantly worrying about their dangerous situation, she could learn and become the best scholar possible. For the most part, she and her family had an optimistic view of the war; eventually America and England would swoop in and save the world.

When she got to America, she continued with her studies and got a degree in physics at New York University, and in 1947 became the fifth woman ever to receive a Ph.D. in mathematics. She taught remedial math at Rutgers University, and helped to connect mathematics to real life, which is a valuable skill.

Besides being a brilliant mathematician, she knows numerous languages and is a published poet and author of two historical fiction novels. But the book that she came to read was her memoir and testimonial narrative A Testament for Ariela. The book gave vivid detail about her flight, and was a testament to her granddaughter about how she wants her to live her life with good Jewish values. When she read aloud, the warm, grandmother-like smile went away and she was back in the 1940’s, reliving everything.

After she read there was a brief Q&A, and one of the most interesting questions was about the Jewish value of generosity and kindness and was that hard to maintain during her life after the horrors that she witnessed. Yevick explained that as you get older, you either become mellower, or you get bitter, and she has tried to practice these Jewish values to keep her mind and heart open.

Due to time constraints, Yevick did not get to read all of the sections that she had in mind, so we may just have to read her book A Testament for Ariela to get the full story of her struggles.