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November 04, 1994 - Image 22

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1994-11-04

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

1

In Any Language, This
Teacher Makes Grade

ELIZABETH APPLEBAUM ASSOCIATE EDITOR

lice Herman's grand-
mother was determined to
teach her French.
Young Alice had other

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ideas.
Alice was the only daughter of
parents who believed, as did
many prominent families in pre-
war Czechoslovakia, that any
young woman of good standing
had to learn French. They set her
grandmother, a linguist, to the
task.
"But since a granddaughter
can twist her grandmother
around her fin-
ger, I persuad-
ed her to tell
me stories (dur-
ing lesson time)
instead," Ms.
Herman says.
Today, Ms.
Herman knows
not only
French, but
German, Span-
ish, English,
Czech and
some Swahili.
Her talents
are put to use
at the Detroit
Public Schools,
where she
serves as for-
eign language Alice Herman
supervisor.
Last week, she
was honored for her work with
the Barbara Ort-Smith Lifetime
Achievement Award.
"Alice is outstanding for her
unselfish dedication to foreign-
language instruction," said DPS
teacher Linda Crystal. "Even
though she has accomplished so
very much as an administrator,
she's commented that her real
love lies in the classroom, for she
considers herself first and fore-
most an educator. But she is
much more than an educator and
role model; she's an exemplary
inspiration to students and teach-
ers alike."
Ms. Herman was born in
Teplice-Sanov in northwestern
Bohemia, which had been home
to a Jewish community since
1414.
The family was forced to flee
when the Nazis entered the city.
Taking "anything we could sal-
vage," Alice and her parents first
drove to the Czech interior,
where they stayed with Alice's
grandparents.
But Alice's father needed
work. An offer came from his
brother, who headed an import-
export business in Manchuria.
"On March 15, 1939, my father

crossed into Manchuria. That
very day, the Nazis invaded the
city," Ms. Herman recalls. "My
father sent a telegram: 'Leave.
Join me immediately. Get out.'

It would take 15 months to se-
cure the paperwork (supervised
by the Nazis) for permission to
leave. Alice, then 10, and her
mother did not set out for Dairen,
Manchuria, until Aug. 26, 1940.
During the war, Manchuria
was occupied by the Japanese,
who increasingly enforced the
anti-Semitic
policies of their
Axis partners.
Alice's father
was arrested
and tortured on
numerous occa-
sions.
Alice attend-
ed the Dairen
Maryknoll
school, where
she learned
English (the
only alternatives
were the Japan-
ese and Chinese
schools). Mean-
while, she and
her family
awaited news of
what the war's
end would mean
for them.
"We had hoped the Americans
would occupy Manchuria," she
says. "But instead it was the Rus-
sians and the Chinese commu-
nists."
Their chance to emigrate came
in August 1946, when an Amer-
ican merchant ship, carrying sup-
plies for the new American
consulate in Manchuria, arrived
in the city. The ship's captain ,J
agreed to take 20 men, women
and children with him to the
United States. "We were three of
those 20."
The Hermans settled in De-
troit, where Alice's uncle was
working. There was never any
question of returning to Czecho-
slovakia, Ms. Herman says. "We
knew the communists were tak-
ing over," and besides, virtually
the entire Herman family who
had remained had been sent to
Auschwitz.
Alice was 17 when she came
to the United States. She gradu-
ated from Marygrove College (se-
lected because the name was
fdamiliar, from her Maryknoll
days) in 1951, with a major in
Spanish and a minor in French.
In graduate school at Wayne
State University, Ms. Herman

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