Re: Arbeit Macht Frei: Inter. Greek Scholar

Kevin W. Woodruff (
Fri, 2 Aug 1996 11:11:04 -0400 (EDT)

Dear B-Greek Members:

I was horrified by the appearance to the phrase "Arbeit Macht Frei" in my
mail heading. As a student of the HaShoa (the Holocaust) I know that phrase
stood over the gateway of Auschwitz, Ravensbruck, and other of the imfamous
death-camps. To compare that with welfare reform is cruel. As an Christian I
I am horrified by the insensitivity of the author of this posting.

It also has nothing to do with the purpose of this list

At 08:15 AM 8/2/96, you wrote:
>>Date: Thu, 01 Aug 96 23:15:00 EDT
>>From: Edward Kent <>
>>To: "Laskkowski (Joan)" <>,
>> "Renate Bridenthal (CUNYVM)"Subject: Arbeit Macht Frei
>>"Work will make you free" is an old World War II slogan that
>> resonates well
>>with the current American welfare reform bill which mandates work or
>> you're
>>out of here.
>>There is a bit of a catch that goes back some time and which
>> continues to the
>>present. Work is not all that easy to come by these days in our
>> modern
>>post-industrial economy -- and is less easy for some than for others.
>>If you will allow me to reminisce a bit -- back in the early l960s
>> we were
>>young graduate students who were invited to live in Grant Houses on
>> 125th St.
>>in West Harlem as part of an informal program to desegrigate what
>> was then
>>exclusively minority housing (Latino and African American). We
>> lived in our
>>apartment, 14G, 430 W. 125h St., for three years, were joined by a
>> young
>>German couple amongst the non-minorities and my sister-in-law and
>> her Society
>>of Friends husband in the next door building -- Yale, Sarah
>> Lawrence,
>>Haverford, Bryn Mawr were in residence!
>>It did not last long, but it did teach us all a few things. Among
>> these were
>>the fact that many of our fellow residents were not employed -- not
>> by
>>choice, but because they were no longer welcomed in the labor force.
>> Many
>>had arrived in Harlem in the first place during WW II from the South
>> or
>>from Puerto Rico when jobs for minorities were readily available --
>> they were
>>dumped as soon as the veterans returned home to claim their jobs
>> back.
>>I recall one middle-aged man, who used to glower at us in the
>> elevator,
>>so bursting with happiness one day that he had to tell us that he
>> had just
>>been offered a job as a sweeper at Macy's -- unhappily he was fired
>> two weeks
>>Another fellow resident, an African American who had married a
>> German wife
>>while in the military, lost his job as a security guard and we
>> watched him
>>fall apart in a few weeks time -- baseball in the local playgrounds,
>> then
>>drinking, and then leaving his family. The early sixties were not a
>> time
>>when minorities could get post-high school education, if that, and
>> were in
>>demand for any sort of work apart from politically connected jobs.
>> I recall
>>Jaime Brugueras, an elderly Latino man whom we were assist getting
>> one of
>>these, who fainted on his first day pushing corpses around at the
>> morgue and
>>was laid off.
>>Move ahead some thiry years to the hiring and firing policies of my
>> Upper
>>West Side Manhattan co-op.
>>Two years ago we had an African American superintendent; he has now
>> retired
>>and been replaced by a very able Roumanian (also a good friend) with
>> a
>>college degree. Two African Americans have been replaced by two
>> Eastern
>>Two years ago a substitute appointment of an African American was
>> made to our
>>staff on short notice. It turned out by his admission on his
>> application
>>papers that he had served two years in prison on an assault charge.
>> He had
>>been employed in a factory which closed its doors, could not find
>> another
>>job, had started drinking and got into a bar brawl which led to his
>> assault
>>conviction, had lost his wife and two step-daughters in the process,
>> came
>>highly recommended by his parole officer for his sucessful
>> rehabilitation.
>>He was immediately let go by our co-op board.
>>Same summer I got the papers on hiring under Federally funded
>> programs kids
>>for the summer. Our super was happy to supervise same. Our co-op
>> board and
>>building agent unanimously agreed that "we don't want any of THEM"
>> here.
>>So you think jobs are easy to come by? One of my students whose
>> family runs
>>a restaurant in Brooklyn tells me that any one who want as job can
>> have one
>>-- his family is happy to hire people off the books for $2.00 per
>> hour, but
>>they have to work 80 hours a week. If they miss a day for any
>> reason, they
>>are dumped. They get free food, no benefits.
>>So, if any one asks you about the new welfare legislation, you can
>> tell them
>>that there is a good German slogan that is relevant -- "Arbeit Macht
>> Frei" --
>>any of the Holocaust suvivors can tell you about it.
>>Ed Kent
Kevin W. Woodruff
Reference Librarian
Cierpke Memorial Library
Temple Baptist Seminary
Tennessee Temple University
1815 Union Ave.
Chattanooga, TN 37404
423/493-4252 (phone) 423/493-4497 (FAX)