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The Holocaust: Not Even A Lifetime AgoBy Susan Bush
07:19PM / Thursday, June 07, 2007
Clarksburg - In Michael Little's eighth-grade classroom, there is a sense that a past that includes the Holocaust is bleeding into a present that includes Darfur, and the reasons are tough for 13- and 14-year-old students to understand.
|Devin Bedard and Bryana Malloy work on one of the many exhibits to be displayed during a June 13 Holocaust rememberance event at the Clarksburg Elementary School.[Photo by Sue Bush]|
* Video can be see here
Cody Remillard, 14, is among the students whose disbelief about the events in Darfur spring quickly to the surface during an interview.
"I just feel so horrible, knowing what happened [during the Holocaust] and knowing that it's happening now. The Holocaust wasn't even a lifetime ago, and it's already happening again."
The Ruined And The Righteous
Little's students will present a three-hour detailed June 13 Holocaust exhibit and speaking program at the 777 West Cross Road elementary school. Titled "The Ruined and the Righteous: The Nazi Occupation of Europe 1933-1945," the event will feature speaker David Cohen, a World War II veteran who was a member of the U.S. Army 4th Armored Division. Cohen and his fellow troops were among those who liberated the Buchenwald and Ohrdruf concentration camps. Cohen plans to share personal experiences of the liberation and a slideshow of photographs taken during the liberation, said Little.
Also scheduled to speak is Darius Johnson, a former advisor to the Sudanese vice-president. Johnson is expected to speak about the present-day genocide in Darfur.
Cody Remillard prepared a cardboard display for exhibition. [Photo by Sue Bush]
Rabbi Robert Sternberg, director of the Hatikvah Holocaust Education Center in Springfield and historical artifacts expert Darrell K. English, who will allow display of some of his collection of World War II items at the exhibit, are expected to speak during the event.
The presentation begins at 6 p.m. and concludes at 9 p.m..
"I Don't Know Why We Are Not Helping"
Cassie Lincoln, 13, participated during a 2006 Holocaust exhibit at the school. The 13-year era of cruelty and death visited upon the Jewish population by members of the Nazi party under the direction of Adolf Hitler is very difficult to imagine, and is a component of recent history, she said.
So it is difficult for Cassie and her classmates to understand the situation in Darfur. Although precise numbers are difficult to acquire, it is believed by the United Nations that about 450,000 people have died as a result of violence or disease, and about 2.5 million people have been displaced and are living in horrific conditions.
"I don't know why we are not helping," she said. "We should be helping. We are all educated about the Holocaust and yet we are letting this go on."
A Necessary Discomfort
Morgan Valois said that she's had unpleasant dreams since beginning the project, but added that the uncomfortable feelings may be necessary in order to become truly educated about the ugliness of the Holocaust.
"We watched the movies 'The Pianist' and 'The Diary of Anne Frank' and those movies got to me," she said. "But as hard as it might be, as discomforting as it is, the discomfort is what makes people realize how bad it really was."
Jeff Strange and Kolby Lampiasi work their portion of a Holocaust exhibit.[Photo by Sue Bush]
Morgan said that she is very interested to hear what the speakers will share and has already planned the questions she wants to ask Cohen and Johnson. Morgan said she knew she needed to devise her questions ahead of time.
"I'm thinking of the questions I want to ask now because I know I will get emotional when I hear them speak," she said.
"It's Just Bad"
And some of that emotion is wrapped in current events.
"After learning how bad the Holocaust was, it came as a real shock to know that it's happening somewhere today," she said."Why?"
Jeff Strange, 15, worked on many of the art displays that will accompany the exhibits.
"[The Holocaust] is so hard to understand - it's just bad - it's hard to find words," he said, his face a mirror of his emotions.
Kayla Brown-Wood was involved in last year's exhibit.
"The worst part of it is how people treated the Jews just because of their religion," she said. "Then religion was turned into a whole race, and it was so shocking to realize how many people were killed."
Jenn Schmidt, 14, participated during the 2006 event.
Morgan Valois; "The discomfort is what makes people realize how bad it really was."[Photo by Sue Bush]
"It still comes as a shock to see what was actually done," she said. "I think that the adults were too easily influenced and it was even worse when children were influenced [to hate the Jewish people] because the children were the next generation."
For Bryana Malloy, 13, the harsh, unforgiving images of concentration camp inmates in various stages of starvation were difficult to view.
"That was the hardest part for me, the images of the people in the concentration camps, the ghettos, the death camps," she said. "These people would be starving and it was hard to look at. I, myself, can't go a day without eating and these people went on and on without eating. I can't see how anyone survived."
School sixth and seventh grade students have prepared projects for the exhibit and ninth and tenth grade level Catechism students from the St. Patrick's Church in Williamstown are expected to join the student groups during the presentations, Little said.
School seventh and eighth grade teacher Shannon Toye and teaching assistant Donald Hardaker are assisting Little with the project, he said.
Little described the catalyst for teaching the Holocaust and creating the exhibit for public presentation a second time.
"If you teach it once, it falls away," he said. "You have to be repetitious."
Kendall Demarsico and Jenn Schmidt will have "stations" set up as part of a June 13 "The Ruined and The Righteous: The Nazi Occupation of Europe 1933-1945." [Photo by Sue Bush]
He pointed to Darfur as proof of the forgetfulness of humanity.
"That is why we have to do this every year," he said. "As a human race, we don't learn so quickly, do we?"
A 13-year timeline focused on the Holocaust is available at a www.historyplace.com/worldwar2/holocaust/timeline.html Internet web site.
Susan Bush may be reached via e-mail at email@example.com or 413-663-3384 ext. 29.
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