David Bloch: Deaf and Jewish during Nazi Germany

Light in the Shadows Created by David L. Block

Mr. David L. Bloch is a Deaf Jewish man who survived the Holocaust. The interview is part of The Jeff and Toby Herr Oral History Archive. It is accessible from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. The interviewer, Ina R.Friedman, works with an American Sign Language Interpreter to interview Mr. Bloch. Ina R. Friedman owns the copy write for the interview, which she later donated in 2005. The interview was initially recorded by the cassette on October 10th, 1987. The interview with Mr. David Bloch is unedited. Freidman focuses her interviews on people who suffered during the Holocaust, not only Jews.

When many discuss the Holocaust, many do not think about the experiences of Deaf individuals who were imprisoned. This interview is an excellent representation of the historical point of view. When people discuss the Holocaust, people tend to focus on Jewish people and their experiences. However, in the interview, Friedman states that forty-five percent of people were killed for other reasons such as homosexuals, disabilities, and gypsies. The interview is excellent for presenting the history of Deaf individuals. Bloch talks about the oppression that people experience. Oppression continues today, which the Deaf community strives to change today.

The interview with Bloch is awkward due to a language barrier with the interpreter. The interpreter is fluent in American Sign Language but not in German Sign Language. This is apparent when the interpreter states, “I think what he saying is that” multiple times within the interview. The interpreter also states, “I don’t understand what he is saying because it isn’t in ASL.” Due to this, it creates a difficult time to get Mr. Bloch to understand the questions that the interviewer is asking. The interpreter also is talking while signing, which becomes difficult at times to understand. Since this interview has been conducted, it is improper to speak to the interpreter instead of the individual.

During the interview, the cassette tape stops. The interview cuts and begins again after thirty seconds. The interview becoming digital allows the content to reach more audience than if the material would have stayed as a cassette. If the conversation weren’t digitized, then the only audience that could access the information would be the individual with the original tape. Also, the preservation of the material is essential since the cassette is no longer easy to access.

During the interview, Mr. Bloch discusses how he became an artist. Bloch uses the past term “Deaf and Dumb.” This was a common term that hearing people would label Deaf individuals. This term is no longer acceptable in today’s society.

Mr. Bloch struggles with discussing this topic because of the trauma. Within the interview, the interviewer tells Bloch that she writes books for children. Bloch tells Friedman to have the kids come to see his work, and that will be enough. Mr. Bloch then explains that his friends have said to him that “his art speaks for itself; it is much more powerful than he could ever tell from his experiences. ” After researching Bloch’s artwork, this statement is true. However, the information provided by Deaf-Art.org furthers the understanding of the traumatic events that Mr. Bloch has experienced.

Mr. Bloch was freed from a camp and ran to China to escape the ruling of the Nazis. Mr. Bloch continues to tell the interviewer that he was “lucky.” Bloch was part of the three hundred people who escaped to Shanghai. This interview not only provides information about Nazi Germany but how the atmosphere of the Deaf community during the time.

The interview provided a lot of information about the time. However, there is a lack of information that is provided in the discussion about his time in the Holocaust camps. Mr. Bloch has published books about his experiences and portrays his experiences through his artwork. Bloch decided to make his artwork 13×48 to represent the boxcars used to transport prisoners. The dimensions of Bloch’s artwork has an impact on its own. The artwork that Bloch has created was thought through to give the viewer a sense of the traumatic time.

Knock in the Night by David Bloch

Bloch used his experiences during the Holocaust in his painting. The painting on the right captures the moment when he was arrested on the night of broken glass. On the Night of Broken Glass, Bloch was one of the many who was arrested in the middle of the night. Within the picture, two Nazi soldiers are arresting two people in their homes. Bloch chose to use the colors black and blue for many of his artwork to represent the darkness during the time. Below is a quote from the David Bloch exhibit in Mont Vernon, New York.

“These caustic, symbolic Holocaust paintings are extracted from anguished experience. Scapegoated and outcast, Dachau inmate and escape to Shanghai wartime privation, Japanese occupation and a final wrenching to freedom and a new life here, artist Bloch remembers the Holocaust and gives us the only stalwart answer to Hitler’s `Jewish Question’; NEVER AGAIN.”- exhibition of David Bloch’s work 

The interview with Bloch ends with the his experience in China. Within his artwork, he created artwork that represents his time in China. Bloch states that he still believes in God but only at the top of the mountain. Even though Mr. Bloch has experience heartache in his life, his sense of humor is still present within his interview.

Below is a link to David Bloch’s artwork with descriptions of the events that inspired his work.

https://deaf-art.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/David-Bloch.pdf https://deaf-art.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/David-Bloch.pdf

References used:

Petersen Collection—Light in the Shadows—David L. Bloch Epilogue. (n.d.). Retrieved May 9, 2020, from http://library.rit.edu/exhibits/deafhistory/bloch-epilogue.htm


https://deaf-art.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/David-Bloch.pdf https://deaf-art.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/David-Bloch.pdf

https://deaf-art.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/David-Bloch.pdf https://deaf-art.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/David-Bloch.pdf

Fifty-Five Years of Change in Deaf Education

Elsa Auerbach is a teacher for the Deaf in America. Auerbach has been teaching the Deaf since 1963. All Ears at Child’s Voice: A Hearing Loss Podcast interview Auerbach to discuss the changes that she has seen in education for Deaf children. There is no music during the podcast. Before 1960, Deaf children’s access to education was through oralism. William Stokoe is credited for the change to the option of American Sign Language after publishing his research called Sing Language Structure in 1960. Auerbach can reflect on fifty-five years of evolution.

The podcast supports the historical view by discussing the changes in oralism since 1963—the information the Auerbach does help the historical narrative since the shift to the bilingual approach. Oralism programs became spars until the 1990s. Auerbach describes that in the ’70s, she began private practice for oralism due to requests from the parents. Due to the change from oralism, there were no longer programs for children to use their voices. New advances for communication, such as sign language and total communication, were predominant during that time in Missouri. In 1996, she helped establish a program called A Children’s Voice. She discusses that children were commonly diagnosed at the age of five in her classroom. Today, this is not the case due to new technology where children are tested at birth. New technologies such as the cochlear implant were introduced during her time as an educator.

I feel as this podcast provides useful information about difficulties with technology in the 1960s. However, the podcast is lacking Deaf culture, Deaf pride, Identity, and other factors that many Deaf people identify as. In Deaf culture, there are two types of Deaf people. The community classifies it as capital D, Deaf and little d, deaf. Lower case d, Deaf is an individual that views their deafness as an impairment instead of an identity. This podcast represents that part of the community. When listening to the podcast, I felt that the title of the podcast did not represent all Deaf education such as oralism and bilingualism. I enjoyed listening to how oralism has changed just as other aspects of Deaf education. The sound quality is excellent, and I was able to hear both the interviewer and Elsa Auerbach.



911 Oral History

For History 390, I was instructed to find an interview that intrigued me. I chose Annie Bratcher Oral History. The interview was conducted on November 17th 2017. During this interview, Rebecca Brenner sits down with Annie Bratcher to discuss Annie’s experience at the Pentagon on September 11 2001. Annie Bratcher worked in the Pentagon as a secretary during the historical September 11th terrorist attacks.  

The interview is broken into two sections named Annie Bratcher and Annie Brratcher two. The length of section one is 0:00 and section two is 12:07. The interview belongs to The September 11 Digital Archive: Saving The Histories of September 11, 2001. The interview can be located at the URL: https://911digitalarchive.org/items/show/98504. On the web page, the oral interview is displayed with transcripts below each section. The interview is only accessible through audio. The September 11 Digital Archive also provides the output formats which are atom, dc-rdf, dcmes-xml, json, and omeka-xml. 

This interview piqued my interest because the interview was conducted with a survivor of September 11th. In the interview, Annie Bratcher discusses that she had believed that the planes had hit the trade center by accident. Her coworker then explained that it was not an accident. Soon after the plane had hit the Pentagon which she had not known about since she did not hear it. She was instructed to leave and evacuate. Bratcher further explains how 911 affected and will continue to affect her life. Bratcher states, “I will talk about it. It will make me feel better to talk about it. It is one day that I will not forget. Things happen in your life, and you just but it behind you. But this one day, I will always remember.” Annie talks mostly about how her faith continued to grow because of the events. The interview ends with Annie saying “God always took care of me.” The first section of the interview is harder to listen to since there is a lot of background noise. Brenner has to stop the interview to relocate due to the background noise during the interview. This oral history was delightful to listen to get a better understanding of the forever effects of 911 on individuals, the community, and our country. 

As there is a lot of emotion-based on the dramatic events that the interviewee has the experience, I do believe it is essential to warn/support the audience that accesses this material. This traumatic event could be a trigger for some, such as other survivors. Attached is the World Trade Center Survivors’ Network information.


“Annie Bratcher Oral History,” September 11 Digital Archive, accessed February 17, 2020, https://911digitalarchive.org/items/show/98504.