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Understanding the Multigenerational Impact of the Holocaust through Personal Testimony
recipients: Andrea Kirkpatrick, Oakland Middle School, MO
date: March 6, 2013
In the culmination of a month-long unit on the history of the Holocaust and genocide, Andrea Kirkpatrick invited Holocaust survivor Ben Fainer to address 8th graders at her middle school, thanks to a mini-grant she received from the Memorial Library. Students also had the opportunity to hear Vera Emmons, the daughter of survivor Gerda Nothman Luner, tell her late mother’s moving story. To contextualize their testimonies, Andrea, who teaches Language Arts and Social Studies, asked a member of a local synagogue to speak with students about Jewish traditions. Classes prepared for the event by working their way through Art Spiegelman’s testimony-based graphic novel, Maus II, which pivots on the author’s struggles as the child of survivors.
Andrea, a participant in the 2013 New York City Summer Seminar, saw the experience as life-changing for the 175 students who came to hear Ben and Vera make an abstract experience tangibly real for them. Though many of them face personal struggles that often manifest as behavior problems, the students proved the perfect audience. On their own initiative, they dressed up out of respect, asked insightful questions, and stopped to hug the speakers. By witnessing first-hand the broad implications of the Holocaust, these students had the opportunity to expand their understanding of it beyond its succinct time in history.