Monday, March 31, 2008

Holocaust survivors offer first-person accounts of history in small-town classrooms in Appalachia

In April 1945, Allied soldiers first discovered Nazi concentration camps and the horror of the Holocaust. In recent weeks, some of the survivors of those camps have shared their stories with students in grade schools and on college campuses in Appalachia, and The Roanoke (Va.) Times and The Daily Independent in Ashland, Ky., have passed those stories on to readers.

Ferrum College, a private school of about 1,000 students in the shadow of the Blue Ridge, has been offering an elective class on the Holocaust for 10 years, reports Ruth L. Tisdale of the Times. During the semester-long course, a different teacher lectures each session on a different aspect of the Holocaust. This week, the class had a visit from Nathan Kranowski, whose parents had been confined in a concentration camp and later executed while he was child during World War II, facts he did not learn until he was 25. (Kranowski shows photos to the class, in a Times photo by Josh Meltzer.) (Read more)

In Russell, Ky., middle school students heard from Ann Klein, who as a child survived Auschwitz, reports Mike James of the Ashland daily. Of the 1,600 people taken from her hometown in Hungary, "seven men and 21 survived to be liberated" from the concentration camp and the infamous Josef Mengele, James writes. Klein, now 86 and living in Louisville, was taken to Auschwitz in June 1944. Klein spoke to the middle schoolers about her experiences, and James recounts one:
“When we got out of the train, there was Mengele. He was pointing to the right and to the left,” Klein remembers.

At the time she didn’t know what that meant. Prisoners who went to the right lived, at least for a while, to work and suffer. Those who went left went to the gas chambers.

Mengele looked at her and pointed right. Moments later Klein looked over her shoulder for her mother. She wasn’t there.

“Later we wondered where the old people were and the children and the babies,” she said. “The inmates who had been there knew exactly where they were. They pointed to the dark smoke coming out of the crematorium chimney and said, ‘That’s where your family is.’”
In addition to the interview with Klein, James also spoke with John Rosenberg, who visited Russell Middle School to talk about growing up Jewish in Germany and then escaping to America in 1940. In a third story, James explains how the visits came about, and how a Russell Middle School teacher, Benji Adkins, filmed the talks as well as student reactions afterward. Adkins sent both to Channel One News, an advertising service that airs news programming in schools.

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