While the COVID-19 pandemic has prevented organizations from holding their usual presentations and discussions in person, the benefit of virtual events is that all students, no matter which campus they attend, can partake in all UConn affairs. This was certainly true in last night’s panel discussion hosted by faculty members of UConn Stamford, which examined and celebrated the scholastic works of Holocaust survivor and UConn Stamford Emerita Professor of Sociology Dr. Nechama Tec.
Tec was born in 1931 to a Jewish family in Poland, and eight years later, Nazi Germany invaded her homeland. She was able to survive the Holocaust under the protection of a Polish Catholic family. After the war, Tec emigrated to the United States where she received her doctoral degree at Columbia University, spending her professional career as a faculty member at Columbia and as Professor Emerita of Sociology at UConn.
The panel, moderated by Dr. Richard Watnick, faculty supervisor of the Stamford Interdisciplinary Honors Seminar, discussed the various works Tec has published in her lifetime, many of which have garnered international acclaim and accolades. All three panelists, from varied academic fields, spoke not only to the ideas and themes presented in her books, but also to Tec as a person, sharing stories and reflecting on their relationships with the beloved scholar.
Dr. Joel Blatt, professor of history at UConn Stamford, and Dr. Frederick Roden, professor of English at UConn Stamford, had the opportunity to work alongside her in many courses, as well as use her literature as part of their curriculum.
One of the evening’s speakers was Tec’s son, Roland Tec. He is a filmmaker, writer and teacher, who served as a co-producer of the 2008 film adaptation of her book “Defiance,” starring Daniel Craig. He reflected on his memories with her as a child, as an adult and as a colleague in the production of her book’s film.
Tec recalled that when his mother writes, “one book leads to another.”
“I think it’s important because it says that the person doing the research is following the facts, rather than imposing her own ideas to find the facts that suit her ideas,” Tec said. “She was very intuitive as a researcher. She would sort of sniff around, she wasn’t sure what she was looking for and then she’d eventually figure it out.”
Over the span of her scholastic career, Tec published nine books on various research topics, with her most famous titles not only describing her own experience as a Jew in Nazi-controlled Poland, but also stories of resistance from the people, speaking to the combined efforts of Jews and non-Jews to counter the dominance of the Nazi regime. The theme of yesterday evening’s discussion was human resilience, seen specifically during the Holocaust, but also sharing ties with the themes of today’s difficulties.
Her book, “Dry Tears: The Story of a Lost Childhood,” looks specifically at how her family kept courage during the Holocaust, despite the lack of certainty.
Roland Tec said, “Her father constantly reminded them that there would be an end to this, that this was not going to be forever; and I think that gave them some sort of strength; a belief, a faith that it would end.”