Meet Joanne D. Gilbert
Award-winning Author, Editor, Ghost-Writer, popular Public Speaker, and successful Personal Historian, Joanne D. Gilbert, M. Ed, was born and raised in Detroit, Michigan, and in 1985, moved to the San Francisco Bay Area. In 2004, she relocated to Las Vegas in order to be close to her son and his family. Since retiring in 2008 from a 40+ year career as an educator, she has filled her days—and many of her nights—by researching, writing, and speaking publicly about the Jewish and Gentile women who successfully defied the Nazis. Her passion for, and dedication to, this topic actually began developing at a very young age, eventually becoming her life’s work.
As a young child, I was profoundly affected by the poignant stories that my Jewish immigrant Grandmother, Millie Wineman Ron, told me as we snuggled in a big easy chair and poured over old family photo albums.The photos showed page after page of handsome, vibrant relatives that I had never seen. After each story, I’d ask, “What happened to . . .?” And the answer was always, “Hitler got him.” Or, “Hitler got her.” With typical little girl curiosity, I would ask lots of questions that my Grandmother was never able to answer. One was, “Why didn’t they fight?” And another, “Why didn’t their neighbors help them?” With tears in her eyes, my Grandmother would just hold her hands out, as if to say, “Who knows?”
As I grew up, I remained haunted by these questions–along with the faces and experiences of my relatives whose lives had been so brutally ended in 1941 by the Nazis. In addition to my curiosity about the victims, however, I also began to wonder about the perpetrators, collaborators, and bystanders.And then, when I retired from my career in education, I decided that my mission in life would be to find out if there had been any heroes—specifically, any female heroes.
The result of these questions, and my determination to find answers, is my book, “WOMEN OF VALOR: Polish Resisters to the Third Reich,” which was published in 2014, to enthusiastic reviews. The first of a series, this book is based on my research and 1st-hand interviews with women, who as teenagers, actively defied the Nazis—and survived! That they went on to live long,loving, and productive lives is a testimony to the the spirit and strength of the female mind, body, and soul.
My research and speaking engagements have taken me throughout the States, Canada, and Europe. I was honored to be a speaker at the 2015 Krakow Jewish Culture Festival. Also in 2015, one-hundred years after my Grandmother had left Vilna, I was able to walk the streets of the Vilna Ghetto. It seemed as if I could feel the spirits of my ancestors wrapping around me, keeping me safe, and thanking me for keeping their memories alive.
And I silently thanked these heroic spirits for being the inspiration for my life’s purpose.
I was finally able to visit the Vilna Ghetto in June 2015.
Here are some Highlights of my Continuing Journey:
70 years after the end of the Holocaust, I was honored to bring the true stories of the extraordinary Polish Jewish and Gentile women who defied the Nazis back to the place where it all started: Poland.