Van Thyn lecture presents 'Three Minutes in Poland' author

Nov 18, 2015

The author of “Three Minutes in Poland” Glenn Kurtz is set to speak in Shreveport Wednesday as part of Centenary College’s annual Van Thyn lecture.

Six years ago, Kurtz was digging in his parents’ closet and uncovered a family vacation video shot by his grandfather in 1938. Kurtz had the fragile 16-millimeter footage restored and discovered three minutes of his grandfather’s hometown of Nasielsk, Poland, one year before the outbreak of World War II. You can view it here.

Kurtz was haunted by the faces – smiling children jumping up in front of the camera. More than 70 years later, he wanted to put a name to these faces, because, he says, the Holocaust is about numbers.

“Instead of being a number, instead of being a statistic, instead of being a recitation of the horrors in the abstract, it’s very much a personal story. It’s about a particular community and a few people who could be identified,” Kurtz said, from his base in New York.

Kurtz’s presentation will trace his detective-like journey tapping into archives around the world. He says it took almost a year for him to even identify the town where these three minutes in Poland were filmed. He attempted to build a micro-history of this predominately Jewish town with his  family movie the last lingering artifact of Nasielsk.

“We think of the Holocaust as being something that happened on this extraordinary scale. But, in the end, it was something that happens to individuals. Every one of those 6 million people was an individual with a name, a story, a life and with family,” Kurtz said.

Kurtz holds a doctorate in comparative literature from Stanford University. He hosts a discussion series, “Conversations on Practice,” about the writing process and a writer’s life. “Three Minutes in Poland: Discovering A Lost World in a 1938 Family Film” was named a best book by The New Yorker last year.

The Van Thyn Series honors Holocaust survivors Rose and Louis Van Thyn who dedicated themselves to retelling their stories.

The public lecture begins at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 18, in Centenary’s Bynum Commons’ Whited Room.