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

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