Salloch’s Protégée Offers Lecture At Hillel House
At Washington College, Jacqueline Vansant ’76 discovered the two great passions of her life. One was a music major named Ron Garrett ’74, who became her husband. The other was the German language, inspired by Erika Salloch, a beloved professor of German who, as a young Jewish woman, escaped Nazi Germany in 1937.
As an undergraduate, Vansant came to Washington College from Dorchester County and intended to be a science major. But just a few days after she arrived on campus, she happened to be among a group of students who were taken to visit Professor Salloch at her home on Water Street. “It was like walking into another world,” Vansant says. “Her husband Henry was a graphic designer and the house was filled with Native American rugs, watercolors, beautiful weavings. I soon discovered that German was more interesting to me than biology. She opened up the whole world of German literature to me.”
Salloch also opened Vansant’s eyes to the world of Jews displaced by the Nazis. Vansant, who earned her doctorate in German at the University of Texas at Austin and is now a professor of German at the University of Michigan, Dearborn, has been researching and writing on this topic ever since.
This fall she delivered a lecture to a standing-room-only audience at the College’s new Hillel House about her most recent research—the heartstopping story of a group of 15- and 16-year-old Jewish schoolboys from Austria who made a pact in 1938 on a bridge in Vienna to keep in touch forever. They devised a complicated plan that kept them writing to one another for more than half a century, and Vansant has been poring over their letters, hundreds of which are preserved in an Austrian archive.
“I was amazed at how many people came to my talk,” says Vansant. “It was wonderful to have my talk in the new Hillel House, and it was also interesting and gratifying to discover, talking to people in the audience, that there is now a vibrant Jewish community in Chestertown.”