Holocaust Scholar to Be Honored at Event Benefiting Research Fund
Dr. Zsuzsanna Ozsváth
“An Evening with Zsuzsi” will recognize the founder of the Holocaust Studies program, as well as establish the Istvan and Zsuzsanna Ozsváth Research Fund, which will help students conduct original research and attend and present research at conferences. The event will be from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. in the UT Dallas Visitor Center and University Bookstore atrium. To register to attend or for information about giving opportunities, click here.
“A widely accomplished and internationally renowned scholar of the Holocaust and of European literature, Dr. Ozsváth is motivated by a profound desire to comprehend the destruction of European Jewry,” said Dr. Nils Roemer, director of the Ackerman Center and the Stan and Barbara Rabin Professor of Holocaust Studies.
“Embodied by limitless curiosity, she re-reads class assignments weekly to continually find new answers as she continues to grapple with the big questions of modernity. Beloved by colleagues, students and the wider community, Zsuzsi is an inspiring scholar and a devoted teacher for which we are all the better for knowing.”
Growing up in Hungary, Ozsváth said she was an avid reader. She started to read German literature — particularly Goethe, Schiller and Mann — when she was just 13 years old.
By the time she was 20 years old, Ozsváth had read a major part of German literature and poetry, much of which she stills knows by heart.
“I read Tonio Kröger by Thomas Mann, which is about a young man who is an artist but also wants to be like everybody else,” said Ozsváth, the Leah and Paul Lewis Chair of Holocaust Studies. “Somehow, that sense of difference and desiring to be like others, in a way, spoke to me. Because I was Jewish, the idea of being different was a very important matter for me to work through.”
She said her experience living in Budapest during the Nazi occupation of Hungary and the Holocaust has deeply impacted her work and her teaching. While she does not actively teach her personal experience in classes, Ozsváth said the experience is always present.
“It has become my basic experience in life — an unforgettable time that has marked my childhood and my entire life,” she said.
“Beloved by colleagues, students and the wider community, Zsuzsi is an inspiring scholar and a devoted teacher for which we are all the better for knowing.”
In 1957, Ozsváth and her husband immigrated to Germany. Once there, Ozsváth was a professional pianist until a job offer from UT Austin for her late husband brought them overseas in 1962.
She received her doctorate in German language and literature from UT Austin in 1968, and after a brief stint at Bishop College, she accepted a visiting professorship at UT Dallas in 1982.
“It was an incredible blessing that UTD had an interdisciplinary art and humanities department, so that I could teach courses in French literature, aesthetic history and the Holocaust,” she said.
She said that even through the Holocaust, her affinity to literature held steadfast. She channeled that love for poetry and prose into a career teaching others the beauty of language.
“I can’t even fathom how people can have other professions,” she said. “What are you doing when you read something and you don’t tell anyone about it? Especially, when it comes to something incredibly interesting or beautiful. I cannot be in a room with another person without sharing these experiences. Teaching was the most natural thing in the world to me.”
Aside from teaching European literature and history, Ozsváth is also a prolific writer and translator. In 2010, she published her memoir, When the Danube Ran Red, which recounts her experiences during the Nazi occupation of her home country.
Along with translator and Founders professor Dr. Frederick Turner, Ozsváth also has recently completed the translation of 100 poems by Goethe and is working on a two-volume translation of Goethe’s Faust.
Ozsváth published a volume of Hungarian poetry with Turner in 2014. Light within the Shade was selected for CHOICE’s Annual Outstanding Academic Title list. CHOICE, or the Current Reviews for Academic Libraries, is a magazine that reviews academic books and related media.
Ozsváth said that when she began translating poetry with her colleague, she was motivated to work on the translations partially to extend the reach of Hungarian poetry.
“It’s so beautiful and so enormously important,” she said. “Almost no one in the world speaks Hungarian, yet there is an incredible assortment of poetry in that country. Fred knew that, and he was quite aware of its beauty. So, we started to work together on this volume.”
Turner and Ozsváth have collaborated before on projects, including Foamy Sky: The Major Poems of Miklós Radnóti and The Iron-Blue Vault: The Major Poems of Atilla József.
“In our work over 30 years translating together, Zsuzsi has been to me an inspiration, a teacher and a friend — the very image of the kind of colleague that one hopes for in the academy,” Turner said.
“She is something that many humanities faculties across the country lack: a symbol of what the humanities are all about. And since the soul of any university is its humanities faculty, she is in some measure part of the soul of UTD. Generations of students have learned from her the art of understanding moral complexity and the efficacy of creative and innocent play in the face of death. She represents in her person the tragic history of old Europe, its music, its literature and its tradition of suffering: beauty, powerless in worldly terms, opposed to oppression.”
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