Thursday, August 11, 2022

I would like to pay tribute to a most skillfully lived life, by René Slotkin (may his memory be a blessing). He had the charisma of a rock star and the even keel of a ship captain. It came as a complete surprise to me that this completely American sounding happiest man around, the life of the party, was in Auschwitz from ages five to seven. He and his twin sister were subjects of human experiments on twins by an infamous physician whose name I won’t even give the dignity of typing.

You can see Renés amazing personality on YouTube at https://tinyurl.com/ycxz663p in a documentary about him and his sister. Words cannot describe it. It is an honor to the subject of mathematics that this part of the video shows him teaching math. His line at the end about peace as a concept not just between people and nations, but also between one’s hammer and their thumb, is priceless.

René saw the world with a clarity from heights beyond imagination. His combination of brilliance, humility and kindness was inspirational. His passion for doing the right thing upped everyone’s game. Once, after not seeing him for a few years, I saw him celebrate finding the owner of a lost object he came across, with the same passionate fist-bump as a baseball player executing a double play.

René, you deserve a standing ovation! Thanks for sharing your amazing personality with all of us.

Steve Miller
Chair, Mathematics Department
Rutgers University
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