History is replete with crimes against humanity, including the Holocaust as well as other genocides against groups in Armenia, Sudan, Cambodia, just to name a few. A great irony in the study of history is that to gain some understanding of unspeakable events, we must, in fact, speak of them and educate our children about these horrific events.
Utah public education officials have taken seriously the study of difficult history. A reading of the Utah K-12 social studies standards will show that Utah students are expected to learn about the specific genocidal event called the Holocaust, as well as other examples of genocide. This study begins with a standard in 5th grade, and continues with seven more specific examples, at multiple grade levels, until 12th grade.
However, a March 2018 national study revealed that many young people had, at best, limited knowledge regarding many aspects of the Holocaust. This lack of knowledge has caused legitimate concerns. Similar deficiencies in knowledge and understanding of the Holocaust and other genocidal events, both historic and contemporary, have also been noted and cited in studies from 1992, 1994, and 2006.
It is incumbent upon Utah educators to provide students with knowledge about the Holocaust and other genocides that have taken place throughout history. It is also crucial that educators help students develop the skills and nurture the dispositions necessary to understand, identify, and counter “othering”, denial, and scapegoating, all of which are the effective ways genocides have been, and continue to be, perpetrated against specific groups of people.
Lesson Plan/Background Resources
Mariam was born to Eva and Sender Seidel in Kalisch, Poland. Sender was in the embroidery business and Miriam attended high school until the Nazis seized their home and were relocated to the Lodz Ghetto. In 1944, when the ghetto was liquidated the family was transported to Auschwitz. Miriam’s mother was immediately sent to the gas chamber, and her father was sent to work and later died in the camp. Miriam survived and eventually returned to Kalisch to look for relatives and discovered nobody had survived. She married Irving Volk, also a survivor of Auschwitz in 1946. They came to the United States in 1947 where they eventually started a successful embroidery business in New Jersey. Miriam has one son, Steven, daughter-in-law, June, and two grandchildren. She currently lives in Salt Lake City. Miriam was the key-speaker on the Utah Community Holocaust Commemoration Day on May 2019, and has experience speaking to students.
Noemi will describe her story as a hidden child in Belgium during the Holocaust, and her parents’ role as heroes of the underground. The Jewish Underground movement was founded in her parents’ home in Belgium and they were among its leaders. Noemi got a chance to express her gratitude to the American soldiers who liberated Belgium. Noemi grew up and was educated in Brussels, obtained a law degree from the Free University of Brussels at age 21 (she was the first in her class). Shortly after, she married. Her husband, Daniel Mattis, was saved, during the Holocaust, by the Portuguese consul Aristides de Sousa Mendes who gave 30.000 visas in a few days, against the orders of pro-Nazi Portugal President Salazar. Noemi prefers to speak to high-school students.
Rabbi Levinsky trained teachers about the Holocaust at the University of Utah Tanner Humanities Center on Summer 2019.
Levinsky was born and raised in Chicago, IL. He was ordained at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 2002. He continued his education at Stanford University, where he received a Ph.D. in 2009. He has worked as the Director of the Taube Center for Jewish Life in San Francisco, served as a rabbi at Chicago Sinai Congregation, and currently serves Temple Har Shalom in Park City, UT.
Rabbi Spector is the Rabbi of Congregation Kol Ami in Salt Lake City. He was born and raised in Seattle, Washington. He graduated from the University of California, San Diego, with a B.A. in Judaic Studies, and a minor in Behavioral Psychology. He received his MA in Hebrew Letters and Rabbinic Ordination from the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Los Angeles. Rabbi Spector loves working with children. He is passionate about education, Israel advocacy, social action and social justice. He is an avid fan of baseball, Jewish history, and traveling.
Dr. Guiora is Professor of Law at the S.J. Quinney College of Law at the University of Utah and a retired Lieutenant Colonel in the Israel Defense Forces. His late parents were Holocaust survivors. He is actively involved in bystander legislation efforts in Utah and other states around the country. Professor Guiora has an B.A. in history from Kenyon College, a J.D. from Case Western Reserve University School of Law, and a Ph.D from Leiden University. He has published extensively both in the United States and Europe on issues related to national security, limits of interrogation, religion and terrorism, the limits of power, multiculturalism and human rights. His books include The Crime of Complicity: The Bystander in the Holocaust (2017), Earl Warren, Ernesto Miranda and Terrorism (2018), Tolerating Intolerance: The Price of Protecting Extremism (2014), and Freedom from Religion: Rights and National Security (2009).
Liz has taught in Utah independent schools for the past 30 years and served as the Director of Education at a Jewish summer camp for two summers. She is currently the Director of Ethics and Cultures at The McGillis School. She has taught students in grades 5-12 about the Holocaust, as well as mentored teachers in developing age appropriate curriculum about the Holocaust. Liz earned a Masters of Arts in Religious Education from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, a Master of Education from Westminster College and a Bachelors of Arts from the University of Michigan. Her Master's project at Westminster College was focused on teaching difficult and controversial topics to students and focused on teaching about the Holocaust. Liz is a past president two Jewish religious congregations, Congregation Kol Ami and Chavurah B'Yachad, and is a current member of the United Jewish Federation of Utah
Dr. Osherow is the author of eight collections of poetry and Distinguished Professor of English at the University of Utah. Her work has appeared in many anthologies and journals, including a number of anthologies of Jewish literature and Holocaust literature and Holocaust Poetry, including the one sold at Auschwitz (translated into Polish). She has given poetry readings at holocaust conferences and will be the keynote reader at this year’s Jewish American and Holocaust Literature Conference in Miami, as well as at many universities around the country. Prof. Osherow is willing to give a poetry reading of her holocaust poems and answer questions. She thinks this is appropriate only for high school students.
Diane is originally from Philadelphia, PA, and has lived in Utah for nearly 25 years. Since her late childhood, Diane has heard the stories from her mother and grandparents of their harrowing experience during WWII and the Shoah. In 2013, she and her mother attended their first conference of the Child Survivors of the Holocaust and Their Descendants, where Diane learned the importance and the means to tell her family’s story as a second-generation survivor. In 2015, she and her mother returned to Germany to visit where her mother’s parents originally lived, and then travelled to southern France, where Diane finally met the family who rescued her mother and grandparents. Diane is an active community volunteer, serving as Treasurer for the United Jewish Federation of Utah, and she is coordinating with the Utah State Board of Education to increase awareness of the need for Holocaust and Genocide Education. In her desire to “pay it forward,” Diane donated her left kidney to a friend in October 2018 and is a passionate advocate for living and deceased organ donation through Intermountain Donor Services. She also served as a French interpreter at the Salt Lake Winter Olympics Diane earned an MBA in Finance and International Business from the Leonard N. Stern School of Business at New York University and a B.S. in Economics in Finance and MIS from the Wharton School of Finance at the University of Pennsylvania. She is the CEO/Owner of Transworld Business Advisors of Utah County.
“The darker the outlook, the more clearly you see your task – to teach, to train, to influence, to open up vistas into the past and into the future” -- Henrietta Szold
It is a dangerous time. Hate and Antisemitism are on the rise around the world and in the United States. According to the ADL, anti-Semitic incidents in the United States have spiked 57% between 2016 and 2017. 11% of adults and 22% of millennials (ages 18-34) have not heard of or are not sure if they have heard about the Holocaust. Personally, Drora feels obligated to her grandmother, Drora, whose name she carries. She was murdered during the Holocaust because she was Jewish. The story of Lachwa, Drora’s parents were born, and her grandparents were killed, is a story of courage and inspiration. On September 3, 1942, the residents of the Lachwa Ghetto began what may have been the first uprising by a Jewish population against the Nazis. 600 Jews (out of about 2,300) managed to flee, but only 90 of the escapees were still alive at the end of the war. To study the Holocaust while examining the roots of prejudice, intolerance and hatred has a very important message to our educators and students, in order to build a better world.
Dr. Drora Oren has a BA degree in Sociology and Anthropology from the University of Tel-Aviv, Israel, M.A. Degree in Judaic Studies from UNISA, South-Africa, and Ph.D. degree in Comparative Literature from the University of Utah. She is a retired teacher and language professor at the University of Utah, and active member of the Utah Jewish community. Currently, she is helping the Utah Board of Education in its effort to create the UEN webpage dedicated to teaching the Holocaust and Genocide.
Susanna is committed to keep alive the story of her family survival and trauma during the Holocaust by talking about it. The Holocaust is a historical fact, yet too many people in our world today don`t know about it, don`t want to believe it happened, minimize and denying it. Susanna was born and grew up in Hungary. It’s a miracle that her parents, who were in Auschwitz death camp, survived the Holocaust. They met after the war, a second marriage for both, after losing their spouses from their first marriages. Her father’s first wife and four Children were murdered in the gas chambers in Auschwitz, and the husband of her newlywed mother died there of starvation. Their Parents, Susanna’s grandparents from both sides, were taken to the gas chambers upon arrival to Auschwitz. Susanna’s parents made it back, on foot, from Poland to Hungary in the middle of a bitter winter. Their HOPE was to find other family members who survived. But included in the 600 thousand Hungarian Jews that were murdered during the Holocaust were most of Susanna’s Family members. Her parents got married in 1946 and started a NEW FAMILY – Susanna and her two siblings were born. After the WW II ended, the Russians occupied Hungary & Eastern Europe, and so began another era with its own terror of communism! Because of his suffering during the war, Susanna’s father was not healthy, and he died at age 59 when Susanna was only 5 years old. Her mother lived a very hard life till age 86, but sadly – she relived again the trauma she experienced during the Holocaust in her dying days.
Ida is a registered Art Therapist and a second-generation artist. She is the co-founder of Expressive Therapies Utah (ETU). Her father, Leon Reisman, dreamt to be an artist in Paris. As Ida writes in the Art Therapy Journal: “World War II cut his plans and aspirations short. As a Schindler’s List survivor, he found himself in Auschwitz, where the devil flourished, and the flames of death were constantly burning” (Journal of the American Art Therapy Association, 24 (2) pp. 87-88 © AATA, Inc. 2007).” Hear from Ida, how her father’s artistic expression saved his life, and how courageously, he used his art as a form of protest in Auschwitz. Ida’s mom was saved from the gas chamber in Auschwitz when the gas supply didn’t arrive on the date her name was included in the gas chamber’s list.
Ida’s life was influenced by her parents’ experience. She says that “Genocides that impact the individual continue today like waves in the sea of indifference. Fortunately, creativity is eternal to help and to document.” As a child of survivors and as an art therapist, Ida is fascinated by the role of art during the holocaust and its implications today.
Steven is a retired Pulmonary Physician, born and educated at New York City. Dr. Powell has taught high school students in Eastern Connecticut about the Holocaust using his parents’ history. He has photo album as aids to tell their story. His parents survived WW11. They were captured by the Germans and Russians but managed to escape to the southern Russian Republics. His father’s name is Alex Powell (Pawlowicz), from Pabanice (Łódź), Poland. His mother is Eva Powell (Salomon), from Krakow, Poland. She survived six different concentration camps. Dr. Powell lives in Park City, UT.
Sarah grew up in the Toronto Canada area and came to Utah to do a Master of Education in comparative and international development of education and have been here ever since. She has been involved in humanitarian work for the last 14 1/2 years here in Utah and around the world.
Sarah’s grandmother, , spent from 1940-1945 in Grunberg Labor Camp and Bergen Belzen. She was 14-19 years old during this time. She never spoke publicly about her experiences but was interviewed in 1994. Sarah has an almost 2 hour long DVD of her interview, and a transcript of it as well.
Sarah feels the need to do more to speak out about her grandmother’s experiences during the Holocaust, and raise awareness about the effects of hate and racism.