Several outstanding reviews about the recently released book by Holocaust survivor Steve Ross, “From Broken Glass: My Story of Finding Hope in Hitler’s Death Camps to Inspire a New Generation,” have been written by well-known and highly regarded journalists in local, national and international newspapers and even on NBC’s “The Today Show.” The book is about Ross’ remarkable life journey from living in Nazi concentration camps to becoming an outstanding U.S. citizen. Just out of the Army, I got to know Steve in 1965 when we worked together as youth street workers in several Boston communities.
Steve often told me what it was like as a young boy growing up in Poland under Adolf Hitler’s oppressive regime in the early 1940s. Co-authors Brian Wallace and Glen Frank brilliantly capture both Steve’s early life and career as a professional and effective advocate for inner-city kids and how he devoted his life to helping them stay out of trouble and find positive and hopeful futures.
It was during those years that I learned a lot about the Holocaust from Steve and the people I worked with in the then-Jewish community of Mattapan. We spent a lot of time together visiting numerous public schools like the Lewenberg and Patrick T. Campbell and playgrounds like Franklin Field and Almont Park, talking to kids, parents, coaches and teachers. But the Grove Hall welfare office riots dramatically changed the community in 1967.
I brought those valuable experiences to the State House when I was elected as a state representative in 1970, but it was then that I was determined to learn everything I could about people from different countries, cultures and traditions. It even took me to graduate study at Harvard University, under famed educator Dr. Charles Willie.
During last Monday’s book presentation at the South Boston Public Library, Steve’s son Michael Ross gave the audience a great insight into his father’s life when he said that his dad told him he was going to dedicate the rest of his life to helping children receive the best education possible. The Holocaust survivor certainly lived up to his promise. But when co-author and state Rep. Wallace movingly described Steve’s meeting with me in my office when I was mayor, I could see the packed audience choke up with emotion.
Steve told me it was his hope to see a Holocaust Memorial in Boston for Bostonians and future generations from across the world so they would never forget that 6 million Jews were killed by Nazis in death camps in Europe. The audience was extremely well versed in the tragic events that took place during the Nazi occupation of Europe during World War II. Professor Bob Ellison did an outstanding job organizing the community event.
But when Michael Ross said, “It was Mayor Ray Flynn who made the Holocaust Memorial possible,” I felt thankful to Boston City Council and proud of you, the people of Boston, who whole-heartedly supported constructing one of America’s earliest memorials to the millions of innocent people whose lives were taken from them during this horrendous period in history. “From Broken Glass” and the Holocaust Memorial will ensure that the millions who visit this historic site on Congress Street will “Never forget the innocent victims who perished during this ugly chapter in world history.”
Raymond L. Flynn is a former mayor of Boston and former U.S. ambassador to the Vatican.