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April 22, 2013

Making a history lesson ‘more real’

APA teachers bring traveling Holocaust exhibit to school

ANDERSON, Ind. — It’s the 70th anniversary of World War II’s Warsaw Ghetto uprising, the Jewish resistance that arose within Warsaw Ghetto in German-occupied Poland in 1943, and students at Anderson Preparatory Academy received a more hands-on lesson.

APA teachers Kristina Retherford and Jeff Brunnmer worked together to write a grant to get the Center for Holocaust and Humanity Education’s traveling exhibit, “Out of the Attic,” brought to the school for a day on Monday.

Retherford’s eighth-grade students read “Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl” while Brunnmer has been teaching a topic class on World War II and the Holocaust.

He said the question became “what can we do for these kids to make it more real for them?”

Since the students were unable to travel while preparing for state testing, Retherford said, the grant provided a “unique opportunity” for students to spend a class period examining the exhibit.

They viewed newspaper clippings, clothing and other items from the Holocaust and World War II that they’d only seen in photos.

“To read about it is one thing,” Brunnmer said, “to see it is another.”

The students also heard stories from survivors on videos; “stories that need to be told,” Retherford noted.

One of which came from an Indiana man whose family had helped Jews during the war and later been killed, she said, allowing the students to “realize survivors could be their neighbors.”

Brunnmer said the exhibit reinforced what was taught in the classroom while having the ability to “basically bring history alive.”

In addition to learning about Anne Frank and her family, eighth-grader Tomisha Nunn said she heard more about the hardships Jews faced in World War II and the “silly,” untrue information Nazis spread to turn people against them.

One of the most important lessons people should take away, she added, is that discrimination can lead to horrible events like the Holocaust; an event that shouldn’t be the topic of jokes.

“It was really serious and people care about that,” Nunn said.

Eleventh-grader Isaiah Jones said he learned more about how Jews were deported to ghettos — where they were only allowed a small amount of food and money and killed if they tried to escape.

“It’s a really important part of history,” Jones said of World War II. “The United States wouldn’t be what it is today if not for taking down Nazi Germany.”

To put an end to discrimination, he said, people need to “stand up for what (they) believe in.” Despite the odds, Nunn said, Jewish pride didn’t waver during World War II.

“One thing I hope everybody gets out of it (the lessons and exhibit) is that there needs to be tolerance in the world,” Brunnmer said.

As one survivor pointed out in the video, the teacher added, groups of people can be nearly eliminated without that tolerance.

Of all the topics she’s taught, Retherford said, the Holocaust was one the kids seemed to be most enthralled by. She added, it’s a historic event they can find some way to relate to.

Find Dani Palmer on Facebook and @DaniPalmer_THB on Twitter, or call 640-4847.

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