“On Austrian Soil”

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    • #31855

      “On Austrian Soil” provides such key elements in regards to our profession, and rereading Sondra’s book seems even more relevant than last time. I wanted to address a passage from Thomas’ letter to Sondra:

      “What happened fifty years ago is just inconceivable, but similar things are happening all over the world today. Will they continue to happen as long as humans exist? How can I remain silent when an old man in the supermarket blabbers to himself what a wonderful man Hitler was?…And I can only be angry with myself for being so helpless for taking no action” (123).

      My time arrived this past December when I had to take action. My silence had ended. After my school district had been taken over by board members (supported by SPLC identified hate groups) dedicated to destroying public schools, incorporating a Christian nationalist agenda, promoting intolerance and bigotry, I could not remain apathetic. I had been so scared to fight back, perhaps, putting myself and my career at risk. It is so much easier to just wait – hope for the best – rely on “others” to fix the problems. But this doesn’t work. And all of my years of Holocaust study informed my decision of just how imperative it would be for me to ACT and to ACT NOW. So I do what I can. I attend every single board meeting, making sure to share my voice and dissent. I write letters. I research and make sure I am informed. I try to educate others. I post on social media. I have been a part of the recall efforts. I surround myself with others in this fight who inspire me each and every day. It’s horrible and I am beyond scared, but I must fight – I must stand up. Every year when I teach “Night”, we discuss the little things people did or didn’t do, and we discuss how we all like to think we would be on the right side of history, standing up against injustice. Of course, we all know the reality of just how many “upstanders” there were. Well, my test is now, and I hope to be like those before me who resisted against hatred – an ally for marginalized groups being discriminated against. Sadly, I must admit, I get very angry with my colleagues who don’t do anything, just watching, thinking everything will turn out okay because somehow our democracy is secure, untouchable, guaranteed. Of course, history has taught us differently, but to many, history is history – never about the here and now.

      Thomas told Sondra how she “crack[ed] that world of silence” for him, but most importantly, he ended with the resolve “the rest [was] up to [him]. I know I alone cannot fix my school district, but I am part of something, a momentous time in history. I will not stand idly by because I know each “little thing” has the potential to make a huge impact.

    • #31893

      Lisa – Your response really stuck with me. I’m also teaching in an environment where a chunk of the students/parents have been actively targeting my school, our admin, and teachers like myself. I look forward to talking more with you about your experiences. – Kelly

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