Holocaust survivors recount stories for students

Educators believe the “Youth & Prejudice Conference on Reducing Hate” provided “an invaluable lesson” for approximately 450 Quakertown Community High School students.
Posted on 05/05/2022
Quakertown Community High School students took part in  the “Youth & Prejudice Conference on Reducing Hate,” where they heard from Holocaust survivors and their family members.

By Gary Weckselblatt

Quakertown Community High School social studies students heard from Holocaust survivors and their family members in an online symposium designed to prepare students to challenge prejudice and intolerance.

Five speakers addressed approximately 450 QCHS students during the program, titled the “Youth & Prejudice Conference on Reducing Hate,” presented by the Institute for Religious and Cultural Understanding at Muhlenberg College. The conference has run continuously for more than 25 years and has impacted more than 26,000 students and allowed nearly 100 survivors and family members to recount their testimony.

“By giving our students an opportunity to hear Holocaust survivor voices, our school district and teachers are promoting unique learning opportunities to inspire critical thinking, social awareness, and personal growth from the Holocaust tragedy,” said Dr. Michael Zackon, QCSD’s Supervisor of Secondary Programs. “It’s an invaluable lesson about how discrimination and prejudice can lead to brutal acts of violence and illustrates for us the imperative learning lessons of inclusion, empathy, and respect.”

Speakers included:

  • Sophie Kleinhandler, who told the story of her grandfather, David. He was only 4 years old when he learned that his father had been killed by the Nazis at Auschwitz concentration camp. David and his family were held at the Gurs camp in southern France before being rescued and hidden by the French Underground.
  • Susan Musselman, a second-generation survivor shared the story of her father, Frank Gittler. He was a child of the Kindertransport, an organized rescue effort of children from Nazi-controlled territory. He came to the United States and fought during WWII for this country.
  • Nicholas Blue, a third-generation survivor whose paternal grandparents were spared from the fate of concentration camps and death through the Kindertransport program. This program rescued 10,000 European Jewish children from this fate, by granting them permanent visas to the United Kingdom.
  • Marcel Guindine, a child survivor of the Holocaust. He survived because of the bravery of his mother and the courage of those who helped her.
  • Tama Tamarkin, the grandchild of Holocaust survivors. Her grandmother Judith Ginsburg’s story is one of dramatic and perilous survival.

“It was a really cool story about her grandmother and as she spoke you could feel the emotional connection they had,” said Carson Wood, a QCHS junior. “She spoke about what happened and how it changed her whole family tree. The audio of her grandmother was remarkable.”

Ivonna Duarte, also a junior who heard Tama Tamarkin’s story, said “We shouldn‘t forget something so it doesn’t repeat itself. It never should have happened in the first place.”

That’s the message educators are hoping their students take from these stories of the systematic devaluation of Jews that led to worse consequences over time. “This is something real that happened to real people,” QCHS social studies teacher Michael Sandler said. “You don’t want the gravity of what occurred to be lost on future generations. If anything, it’s more important because numbers (for racial intolerance) are on the rise.”

Dr. William “Chip” Gruen, director of Muhlenberg’s Institute for Religious and Cultural Understanding, said “Today’s students are a new generation who need to be aware and informed about the horrific events of the Holocaust. “Youth and Prejudice” is, however, not only about the retelling of personal narratives recounted by family members of Holocaust survivors, as riveting and important as they are. It is also about learning from the examples of the
Holocaust to confront the hate and bigotry that we experience in our own world, so that this
new generation is prepared to confront prejudice and intolerance wherever and whenever
they may find it.”

Gary Weckselblatt, QCSD Director of Communications, writes about the people and the programs that impact the Quakertown Community School District. He can be reached at 215-529-2028 or [email protected].

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