Walter Ziffer

Ziffer headshot facing camera
Born in 1927 to a German-speaking Jewish family in Těšín, Czechoslovakia, near the Polish border, Walter Ziffer saw his hometown invaded first by Poland, then by Nazi Germany. He and his family were deported in 1942, and Ziffer was interned in eight Nazi concentration and slave labor camps. Liberated in 1945 by the Russians, Ziffer trained as a mechanic and emigrated to the US in 1947 via France. In Nashville, he converted to Christianity in 1951, married, graduated from Vanderbilt University with an engineering degree in 1954, worked for General Motors and was later granted five US patents.

Seeking a more rewarding life, Ziffer earned two master’s degrees, in New Testament and Greek, at Oberlin in 1963 and became a Christian minister. He taught and preached in Ohio, France, Washington DC and Belgium. In 1971, he earned a doctorate in theology from the University of Strasbourg, France. Ziffer directed the Accueil Fraternel language center for missionaries in Le Chambon-sur-Lignon, France. He taught at the Faculté de Théologie Protestante in Montpellier, France; the Inter/Met Theological Seminary in Washington DC; the University of Maine; the University of North Carolina Asheville; and Mars Hill University in Mars Hill, NC.

In 1987, Ziffer returned to Judaism, and he now considers himself a Jewish secular humanist. Besides his memoir
Confronting the Silence, he has published two books, The Teaching of Disdain and The Birth of Christianity from the Matrix of Judaism.

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