It was 82 years ago that the world was warned as to what the Nazi plan was for the Jewish people. Make no mistake about it, the violence unleashed against the Jews in Austria and Germany on November 9 and 10, 1938, presaged what was to come. The Nazis’ actions made crystal clear their view of the tenuous nature of Jewish existence in Europe.
Each year, for 50 years, my high school classes created an original Holocaust museum designed to teach their own class as well as the many invited visitors this chapter in world history, which formally began with those two days in November 1938. Part of the museum was given over to students who wanted to contribute an original project. There were so many unique and breathtaking works: a facial picture of Anne Frank using the words from her diary; Mengele twins juxtaposed against twins from my class in a collage; and dramatic original artwork. The list could go on and on.
One particular project has always stayed with me. One young lady broke a pane of glass into small pellets. She took the numerous fragments and made them into the face of a young woman with a tear dropping from her eye. She simply called it “Kristallnacht.”
This young woman’s innovative effort represents the true challenge and best promise of our collective efforts to advance
Holocaust education. For those efforts to make an enduring impact on our youth so that generations to come are committed to “Never Forget,” we must inspire their creative grasp of the subject matter. If Holocaust education is to succeed, our educators must help guide students to honest and creative self-expression in the topic. When students embrace the subject in this way, then it truly becomes their own.