The true impact and lasting effects on society of historical events, be they tragic or revolutionary, cannot always be learned in a classroom. In her desire to see that her students become “inspired” and “witnesses themselves” to the atrocities of the Holocaust, Rahway High School teacher Debra Maller brought 48 of her students to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 19 “to plant the seeds of interest and understanding in a new generation.”
Maller’s fascination with this area of study began in her childhood and she now teaches English and Holocaust/Genocide Studies at the high school.
Along with two other teachers and several parents, the students were accompanied by Fred Heyman of Morris Plains, a ‘hidden child’ Holocaust survivor, who shared his story with the students as they traveled by bus to D.C.
In answer to numerous student questions Heyman offered, “If I can teach one kid not to stand by when they see someone being bullied, and not to initiate that kind of behavior, that’s what I’m after.”
The three-hour tour of the museum brought many emotional moments to the students. Particularly moving for them were the cattle car on display and the pile of shoes taken from camp inmates which were, as Maller describes, “artifacts that truly spoke volumes in their silence.”
Student Gabrielle Gonzales adds, “The way they teach us in school about the Holocaust is completely different from going to the museum, seeing the shoes, seeing the candles, seeing actual photos, seeing their things. When you think and see numbers, it’s not the same as seeing those shoes.”
Following the museum, the group went to the Lincoln Memorial where two students solemnly read the Gettysburg address and paid tribute to those whose lives were destroyed during the Holocaust. As their visit came to an end, students shared the feeling that this experience was not merely a window into history but also into their todays and tomorrows as well.
Student Marissa Grady offered that she had been given “a different mind-set of life” and that she would now “put greater value on the things I’ve been taking for granted.” Michael Durham adds, “I have realized that not only do I owe it to change myself but to try and change this society to make sure nothing like that happens again.”
By Suburban News
on February 02, 2016 at 4:10 PM