Senior co-authors memoir about Holocaust survivor Max Slabotzky

Graduating senior Autumn Minery has gone above and beyond during her career at Keene State College. As she is pursuing her degree in English, both in the literature and writing options, she has attained the position of co-president of Sigma Tau Delta, KSC’s English Honor Society chapter. Minery has also submitted pieces for possible publication, but perhaps the most fascinating of her pieces is a memoir in the works on the life of Holocaust survivor Max Slabotzky.

Minery is co-authoring the memoir with University of Southern Maine student Bryer Sousa. Although Sousa is currently majoring in mathematics, he has accomplished many great feats with his humanitarian efforts and activism. His goal toward improving society and educating young people eventually led him to where he is now: sharing the story of Max Slabotzky.

During his junior year, Sousa attended a talk by Slabotzky entitled “Personal Accounts of the Holocaust: Surviving Auschwitz, Dachau and Buchenwald.” Sousa stated that he was touched when Slabotzky shared with the crowd his intense desire to spread his experiences to the youth, hoping to prevent such tragedies from ever unfolding again.

Immediately after the talk, Sousa reached out to Slabotsky with a proposal for the beginning of a memoir. Slabotzky agreed without hesitation, and Sousa said that he immersed himself in Slabotzky’s life and research on the Holocaust. In the formation of Slabotzky’s story, Sousa stated he was interested in “blending both fictional and nonfictional elements such as dialogue, the manipulation of time and the events that happen in those periods.”

Minery, too, has a history of success in creative nonfiction. She shared that she has been interested in the genre since her high school years, although she has primarily written shorter pieces.

Tim Smith / Photo Editor

Tim Smith / Photo Editor

“I have never before attempted to accomplish finishing a manuscript of this size, especially one of such importance. It has been excellent practice and so fun to finally be in the midst of something so large and so related to what I am passionate about,” Minery said.

Not only has Minery taken a plethora of writing and literature courses at Keene State, but she has also explored some of the courses offered by the Holocaust and Genocide Department. She said these classes greatly impacted her and the way she views not only history but the world today. For this reason, she feels sharing Slabotzky’s story is one of her most significant projects.

“I have felt a moral obligation to work my hardest at best portraying and representing Max and his tremendous life story through the narrative Byer and I are working to complete. He is such an incredible man, and there is so much for our generation to learn from what he went through, especially in the context of current political and social events,” Minery said.

Minery and Sousa’s co-authored memoir will include a full narrative of Slabotzky’s life before, during, and after World War II. The two share Slabotzky’s story of his time in Brussels, Belgium, the loss of essentially all of his family members to the Nazi regime, and his refuge hidden in the attic of a helpful acquaintance.

Slabotzky’s life was overturned, according to Sousa, when he “disobeyed his caretaker’s commands in the hopes of ascertaining a taste of mocha ice cream. What happens after…altered the trajectory of his life and will be unveiled in the forthcoming memoir.”

As Minery joined the project a bit after Sousa’s start, Minery expressed concern because memoirs are typically written in the first person. “I was confused because I wasn’t sure if Bryer was aware of that. When he made it clear we would be acting as ‘ghost-writers,’ my worry was that the information we had wasn’t going to be enough to give readers a full story,” said Minery.

Minery stated, though, that once she really got into the process, her and Sousa found an effective strategy. She said, “I think that now, we have a much better idea of how we will go about the writing process. We have organized a way that we can both stay really connected to the process itself.”

Although Minery shared that the experience has undoubtedly been a challenge, but that she remains excited and deeply immersed in Slabotzky’s story.

Nicole Guerrera, a fellow senior at Keene State, expressed her excitement upon hearing news about the upcoming memoir. She said, “I took a class in the Holocaust and Genocide Department and it’s just so interesting to learn about. It’s such a difficult subject to tackle.”

“I’ll definitely be checking out Slabotzky’s memoir. There aren’t many Holocaust survivors left, so what Autumn and Bryer are doing is that much more important,” Guerrera said.

Aryanah Haydu can be contacted at ahaydu@kscequinox.com

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