Skip to main content


Stevens in US working

Give Today

Give Today

Your gift to the Joseph Stevens Freedom Endowment will assure the continued work of the fund to bring speakers on topics of human rights and freedom to GVSU. Since 2003, over a dozen high profile speakers have offered presentations on the GVSU campus on topics including the Holocaust, Latin American Studies, African American Studies, International Relations, the War on Terror.

Learn more about programs sponsored by the Joseph Stevens Freedom Endowment here.

The endowment is administered by the GVSU Department of Political Science. Please find our contact information here.

The War Years

Józef Szczecinski (later Joseph Stevens), rightly fearing that the Nazi order to wear the yellow Star of David would only put him in harms way, made a decision in 1941 to hide his Jewish identity and attempt to survive by blending into the population of the cities to which he fled. He first found employment in Vilnius, and when that became a dangerous place to stay, he found a job in the small city of Rukojnie where he worked on a farm and in the fish hatcheries on the estate.  While there, he served in the underground Polish resistance--creating a perilous environment for himself and others working on the farm. By day, German soldiers frequented the farm to hunt and to secure eggs and butter made by the farmers.  Because Joe spoke German, they befriended him in the hope of obtaining these delicacies. By night, he helped to destroy German supply routes. Each time that he left on a resistance mission, he feared that "I would not return to say "Good morning," my happiest expression" (Good Morning 147).

three children

The Szczecinski Family

At left: Józef with his younger sister, Lila, and older brother, Abraham. At right: A family picture that includes his parents, Helena and Jacob (Józef is on the right).  When Józef left his family to report for military duty with the Polish resistance in the fall of 1939, he had no way of knowing that he would be his family's only survivor of the war. In his memoir, Good Morning, he writes: "I had no idea that the war would be with me for six more years, costing me my entire family and changing my life completely" (54). As nearly as he can determine, his entire family perished in Auschwitz.


Grand Rapids plant

Joseph Stevens Freedom Endowment

Joseph Stevens shared his experiences because "I feel that everybody should know what happened because any history should be a lesson for the future" (Survivor's Story). In that spirit, the Joseph Stevens Freedom Endowment was established with proceeds from his book, Good Morning. The endowment is continued through contributions from individuals and assures the continued ability of Grand Valley to bring many voices speaking on behalf of human freedom, its history and consequences,to the campus.