CLARKSBURG, Mass. — Clarksburg Elementary eighth-graders will host the school's 13th annual Holocaust Exhibit featuring Auschwitz survivor Magda Brown on Monday night.
English teacher and exhibit organizer Michael Little said the exhibit this year will focus on anti-Jewish legislation in Nazi Germany.
"This exhibit features 18 different [display] boards of Nazi laws from from 1933 to 1939, and the purpose was to show what happened through the legal system, the coming of the Holocaust and the routes of it," Little said. "The boards accumulate on your consciousness and some stuff is unbelievable that was passed."
Little said the students read "I Will Bear Witness: A Diary of the Nazi Years, 1933-194" by Victor Klemperer and quotes from the book are dispersed throughout the exhibit to show how the laws effected actual people.
"We have taken an individual consciousness and we have infused it throughout the entire exhibit," Little said. "There is a central idea and then we put a human voice in that gives some context to what you read or see in the pictures."
Clarksburg is the only school in the Berkshires that has a Holocaust studies program. Each year, the eighth grade has selected an element of the Holocaust, ranging from the roots of discrimination and prejudice to genocide and concentration camps. Little invites a survivor or someone with a connection to the Holocaust to speak to the students and to the public after the class's work is exhibited. The course is topped off with a visit to the U.S. Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C.
Little said he guides the students though the process because of the heaviness of the topic and the denseness of the reading material. He said it was difficult to find information on some of the laws even though there are so many.
"When we were doing these, we found that it was sometimes very hard to get information on the law other than what it was so we did two per board," Little said. "We didn’t do all of them but we did a lot of them."
Brown spoke at the event two years ago.
"She has a tremendous story and she is looking forward to coming back. She is 90 years old but she is tireless," Little said. "She is such a positive person even with all she has gone through. In light of the world today and the negativity that swirls around every day, Madga has no hate in her and just wants to teach people."
He added that it is important for the kids to meet a survivor because it puts a face on everything they have studied.
Little added that the time to meet a survivor will soon come to an end.
"It is very hard to find survivors now and I think the contents of this exhibit and how we do things will shift real soon," he said. "In the past year, I have talked to eight survivors and a lot of them can't travel or do the presentation because they are simply getting old."
Little said Rabbi Robert Sternberg, professor of Holocaust history at Westfield State College and American International College, will also speak Monday night.
Little said he hopes the students take away more than just the educational aspects of the project.
"I want them to understand the world that we live in. They are going to have a say in it and you have to be awake and you have to be alert," Little said. "You have to pay attention because you will either help shape the world or someone is going to shape it for you."
Little thanked the many sponsors who make the event possible. The event is free but donations are appreciated.
The event starts at 6 p.m. at the school and runs until 9.
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