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Educators return from Poland with new plans for educating in regards to the Holocaust

Summer time trip has arrived, however a number of native educators are already waiting for their fall lesson plans.

After getting back from a 10-day journey to Poland with Lecture rooms With out Borders, some western Pennsylvanian academics are rethinking their strategy to Holocaust training and retooling associated curricula.

Michele Russo, an English trainer at Seneca Valley Excessive Faculty, has taught Holocaust research for practically 15 years, however visiting Poland from June 25 to July 4 gave her an opportunity to “join the dots,” she mentioned.

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Previous to the journey, Russo saved coming throughout numerous “inconsistencies” in her understanding of the Holocaust. She didn’t know why just some survivors had tattoos on their arms, or why not each prisoner of a focus camp had their picture taken.

Touring Poland with CWB, and practically 50 different educators, not solely answered these questions, but in addition gave her an opportunity to “get to the deep stuff,” which will likely be useful when college begins once more, she mentioned.

Whereas stopping in 93-year-old Holocaust survivor Howard Chandler’s Polish hometown, Russo and her fellow vacationers noticed Chandler go to his former residence and work together with its present inhabitants.

Watching Chandler graciously have interaction with the property’s occupants was perplexing, Russo mentioned: “That’s his house. That home was stolen. They don’t have a title for that house. They don’t personal that house.”

Russo mentioned she began enthusiastic about all the opposite properties throughout Europe and the individuals who had been stripped of correct possession.

With the ability to personalize the horror of the Holocaust was one of many greatest takeaways, agreed Marie Dufalla, a center college librarian at Riverside Beaver County Faculty District.

As an example, earlier than coming into the Auschwitz focus camp, Dufalla assumed she’d spend the complete day in tears given the quantity of loss of life that occurred there.

“The truth of it’s that it’s only a constructing with bricks or wooden, and what makes it impactful is listening to a survivor converse or seeing the photographs of individuals and their households,” she mentioned. “Specializing in one individual helped me make sense of it.”

Dufalla mentioned that she and her colleague Chelsea Kordecki, an English and language arts trainer at Riverside Center Faculty who additionally joined the journey, hope to share related concepts with their college students.

How precisely these classes will likely be conveyed has but to be decided, Kordecki mentioned, however the purpose is “constructing the narrative to the scholars and serving to them notice there’s extra out on the earth than simply what they’ve seen.”

Riverside is situated in Beaver County. The world is basically rural and plenty of of its college students have by no means left western Pennsylvania. In actual fact, a few of the college students “have by no means even been to Pittsburgh,” Kordecki mentioned.

Because of this, many college students could not know quite a bit about Jewish individuals or various cultures, however learning the Holocaust is essential, Kordecki mentioned. Touring Poland with a survivor and studying extra in regards to the pre-war years made clear that the Holocaust is “one thing that may occur once more,” he mentioned. It’s crucial that college students perceive the results of “not standing up for your self or chatting with one thing that’s going in opposition to a pal.”

Joshua Andy, an higher college historical past trainer at Winchester Thurston Faculty, mentioned that visiting Poland final week gave him an opportunity to additional contextualize his upcoming Russian historical past class.

Throughout a go to to Chandler’s hometown, Andy and different vacationers spoke with Ukrainian refugees and discovered in regards to the neighborhood’s efforts to assist.

Andy mentioned he plans on contrasting the actions of Polish residents and communal leaders now with what transpired practically 80 years in the past when Chandler’s “Polish Catholic neighbors sat by.”

Tsipy Gur, founder and government director of CWB, mentioned the group has led quite a few journeys to Poland, however this summer season’s tour supplied an consciousness that educators and college students desperately want.

“This journey isn’t merely in regards to the Holocaust. We educate about what life was once in Poland,” she mentioned. When educators and college students have this data, it turns into clear that the Holocaust “didn’t must occur.”

That realization hopefully generates new inspiration for each academics and college students, Gur continued. “We wish them to consider what they will do to vary the world and the way they’re going to make it a greater place so the Holocaust doesn’t occur once more.” PJC

Adam Reinherz will be reached at

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