This week began with International Holocaust Remembrance Day commemorating the 77th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. Fund for Teachers grant recipients often design fellowships around sites associated with the holocaust so their students can better understand the political climate contributing to the Nazi Party’s rise and the ensuing extermination of six million Jews. Last summer alone…
Jane Law (Harding Senior High – Saint Paul, MN) conducted an independent study tour of France, focusing on the French Resistance and deportation of Jews from France during World War II, to engage French 4/5 students in this period of history and help them establish parallels with current events.
“My personal perspective has been sharpened as regards present American political realities. The parallels with events 80 years ago are striking. Racism, homophobia, antisemitism– to name a few–are alive and well in our larger community. With our present political climate, for the first time in my teaching career I have actively encouraged students to protest, to get involved, and to take a stand.”
Melissa Torrente and Christina Bernard (Nathan Hale-Ray Middle School, Moodus, CT) researched lesser known triumphs and tragedies associated with World War II in Eastern Europe to broaden students’ exposure beyond their “vanilla world” and provide primary sources that enrich National History Day research and projects.
“The information that we obtained from local tour guides was invaluable. I was able to make contacts with several local guides who are willing to communicate with our students and serve as contacts for our students’ research in the future. Additionally, I’ve stood at the Bridge of Spies; I’ve walked through Auschwitz. These are not experiences I could ever get from a book. I took hundreds of pictures which will be useful in the classroom to show as artifacts and to support instruction.”
Daniel Sawyer (Sultana High School – Hesperia, CA) examined remembrance and memorialization of the Spanish Civil War, the Second World War and the Holocaust by analyzing museums and memorials of the wars in Spain, Germany and Italy and using the information to create a project in which students research an event and design a museum or memorial.
“My knowledge grew immensely on my fellowship simply by visiting many of the sites that I teach about. Being there in person is a totally different experience from reading about it in books–some things are enormous in perspective, while other places are smaller and more confined. I got ideas for student projects that I wasn’t even thinking about beforehand, simply by absorbing the atmosphere and witnessing ways that locals taught about their history.”
Lastly, Kelly Lucot and Dena George (Park View Intermediate – Pasadena, TX) researched the Holocaust in Germany, Poland and the Czech Republic to improve knowledge of this seminal event in human history and increase student awareness and learning.
“The grant has changed my perspective by literally putting things in perspective,” said Kelly. “When you study the holocaust you think about how hard or sad or tragic the events were but you don’t really feel it beyond the surface. Having walked through the camps [Kelly’s photo at Auschwitz above], seen the lives they left behind, and stood where they were judged and gassed, you can’t help but feel it deeper, to want your students to feel it. With this experience I think I can help them feel it deeply, to go beyond memorizing facts.”
Elie Wiesel, Jewish writer, activist, Nobel Laureate and Holocaust survivor said, “To forget a Holocaust is to kill twice.” We are grateful that students of these teachers (and 95 additional FFT Fellows who have pursued knowledge about the Holocaust since 2001) will #neverforget.
For a timeline of Hitler’s rise to power and eventual defeat, visit this Newsweek piece.