Darrell K. English procured a datebook used by Oskar Schindler to promote his enamelware factory. The datebook will be exhibited at this year's Holocaust exhibit at the Clarksburg School along with a medical text used at Auschwitz.
CLARKSBURG, Mass. — Students at Clarksburg School have been studying aspects of the Holocaust for years, but this time, they have focused all their attention on a single individual.
"Faith and Destiny" follows the struggle for survival of Rabbi Philip Lazowski of West Hartford, Conn., only a child when the Germans invaded his Polish homeland. Lazowski would lose most of his family and spend nearly three years hiding in the forest from the Nazis.
The retired rabbi and deputy chaplain of the Connecticut State Senate wrote about those events of 70 years ago in a memoir, "Faith and Destiny." He and his wife, Ruth, have spoken to students and others about the Holocaust, and their experiences are part of Voices of Hope, a Connecticut organization dedicated to documenting and sharing the stories of survivors.
"We came across him 3-3 1/2 months ago. His book was recommended by the U.S. Holocaust Museum," said teacher Michael Little. "We gave [students] the basics and said we're going to study one life very intensively."
The small rural school is unique in its Holocaust program — there are no other programs comparable to it in the region. It's also unique in the orginal artifacts and documents used to illustrate the children's research and the ability to attract speakers with direct experience with the Holocaust — including Rabbi Lazowski.
The rabbi had at first demurred from traveling to an elementary school in the far northwest corner of Massachusetts, said Little. He was more used to speaking to universities and colleges.
"I told him, 'we'll give you a night that you won't forget,'" said Little. "I really wanted him to come. He had a great story. It's an incredible story."
This is the seventh year of the program. The students do a lot studying, and team and individual research. They also take a trip to the U.S. Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., through the generosity of Robert and Elaine Baum of Stockbridge. For their annual exhibit, they create boards or dioramas to explain a specific area of their studies.
The exhibit is more difficult in that there is only one surviving picture of Lazowski and none of his family from that time.
The students will rely on "thematically related images," said Little. "That's going to invoke a similar feel to what that person went through."
Also helping them in their efforts are a small portion of the thousands of World War II and Holocaust artifacts collected by Darrell K. English, a strong supporter of the program. Many of his pieces are unusual and rare; some have been on loan to the U.S. Holocaust Museum.
For English, getting a piece of that tangible past into youngsters' hands is a way "of capturing a moment in history."
"If you can give a kid something related to what they've been working on, they just light up," he said.
A book from Hitler's library.
This time around, two of his most recent acquisitions will be on display: A small promotional datebook from Oskar Schindler's enamelware factory in Krakow, Poland, and a textbook stamped as part of the Auschwitz concentration camp medical library, a tome that could well have been perused by Nazi war criminal Dr. Josef Mengele.
The Schindler one is exceedingly rare, said English, because most people were unaware of the businessman's actions in saving the Jews in his factory until Steven Spielberg's 1993 Oscar-winning film "Schindler's List."
Those books, as well as a copy of "Rasputin" from Adolf Hitler's library, may also be exhibited at the small museum English is establishing on Eagle Street in North Adams.
He's trying to "capture that moment" and ensure it doesn't disappear at a time when the numbers of the Greatest Generation and Holocaust survivors are fast diminishing.
"There are a whole pantheon of people who have passed," said English.
The school presentation runs from 6 to 9 in the gym. Lazowski will meet with the students before speaking at 7:15. English and Rabbi Robert Sternberg, a professor of Holocaust history, will speak at 6:15.
The event is free and open to the public but donations to help defray costs will be appreciated.
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