Teaching the Lessons of the Holocaust: An Outreach Program in Sugar Land
On February 11, 2015, Clements High School, the Southwest Region of the Anti-Defamation League, and the Holocaust Museum Houston (HMH) collaborated with Michael Madden in presenting his annual community outreach program, which explores the pains of prejudice through the lessons of the Holocaust. Over the past 13 years, more than 15,000 community members and students from across the greater Southwest Houston, Texas area have attended the free event.
Michael, a participant in the 2014 Holocaust Library Summer Seminar, was so committed to the idea of launching a public outreach program about the Holocaust that he funded the first one in 2002 out of his own pocket. Since 2003, however, support from the local ADL chapter and the HMH has enabled both the program’s expansion as well as its ability to bring prominent speakers to the area.
For Michael, the program represents the ongoing fulfillment of a promise made during a 1998 visit to Jerusalem with the Holocaust and Jewish Resistance Teachers’ Program to Israel and Poland. While at Yad Vashem, he met survivor Hannah Pick, a childhood friend of Anne Frank, who took his hand and appointed him “an ambassador to my story, our story, to future generations.”
“Hanna put a burden on my heart that day, one I have been honored to uphold,” says Michael.
It is one he shares with the students in his 11th grade US History class and his 11th and 12th grade Global Studies Seminar on Genocides throughout History, which he teaches at Clements High School in the Fort Bend Independent School District. In 2002, Michael and his students created a Hall of Remembrance outside his lecture hall classroom in a hallway that extends over 155 feet. More than 300 projects researched and produced by his students, covering topics that range from the start of the Holocaust to the liberation of the concentration camps, fill the hallowed space.
Because a visit to the Hall of Remembrance is a key component of the outreach program, students have the unique opportunity to take what they learn in class a step further: by playing an active role in educating the wider community about the Holocaust. Having a platform on which they can take a stand against the evils of prejudice, hatred and intolerance also “empowers them to be upstanders,” says Michael.
“Studying the Holocaust in-depth gives them a blueprint for recognizing acts of genocide in our modern world,” he adds. “This is very important if future generations are truly going to embrace the idea of ‘Never Again.’”
The highlight of this year’s community outreach initiative was the screening of the documentary The Righteous Among Us: The Journey of Waitsill and Martha Sharp, followed by a question and answer session with director and co-producer Artemis Joukowsky III. The award-winning documentary – co-produced by Ken Burns and narrated by Tom Hanks – looks at the powerful yet largely untold story of Joukowsky’s grandparents, an unassuming Unitarian minister and his wife from Massachusetts, who went to Europe to rescue Jews from the Holocaust. In 2005, the Sharps became only the second Americans to receive Righteous Among the Nations recognition from Yad Vashem.
Outreach program attendees also view the multi-media docudrama, The Shoah, a piece Michael created in 1998 to expand on two paragraphs referencing the Holocaust in the US History textbook being used in the school at the time. The 42-minute presentation tells the story of the Holocaust through the eyes of a little girl and her American liberator.
Michael believes that the community outreach program’s overall impact is immeasurable. As one Houston area survivor, Walter Kase, observed after addressing a crowd at a previous event, “Mike, tonight we touched people’s lives and as a result we touched eternity!”