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Students form connections between literature, museum

After working through and studying the Holocaust and World War II, the campus sophomore English classes embarked on a trip to the Museum of Tolerance to gain a better perspective on their studies. Sophomore English teacher, Andrea Donaghe, organized a tour of the museum, Oct 20. The class recently finished reading “The Hiding Place” by Corrie ten Boom and are currently reading “Night” by Elie Wiesel. The books describe first person accounts of survivors of the Holocaust and Nazi concentration camps.

Logan Lewis | The Feather Online

After reading first hand accounts of the horrors of the Holocaust, sophomores visited the Museum of Tolerance.

The Museum of Tolerance, a Simon Wiesenthal Center Museum, is named after the famed Jewish Holocaust survivor turned Nazi hunter. The museum was formed to display the effects of racism and prejudice around the world. There are five main exhibits and four levels to the museum, but the sophomores only toured one of those levels. They toured the Holocaust and World Tolerance sections.

Donaghe reflects on the trip as a successful and thoughtful learning experience.

“I wanted to provide the students with a learning opportunity that would be relevant, and connect with what we are currently reading,” Donaghe said. “I think the field trip was a success, our students had the opportunity to journey through 20th-century history and create parallels to current events. I feel really blessed to have been able to take this group of students.”

Students learned about Adolf Hitler’s rise to power and influence on the German people through the use of propaganda. Additionally, they were shown life in concentration and work camps and the selection process between forced labor and death. Following the guided tour, every student was assigned a child who lived during the Holocaust and got to follow their story from their childhood to when they were taken by the Nazis. 

Nicole Wagoner, ‘20, learned the Nazis had lied to all the prisoners that were to die in death camps.

“I didn’t know that they told the Jews they were going to something other than a gas chamber,” Wagoner said. “I thought they just made them go, but they gave them false hope.”

According to the museum’s docent, the Nazi’s would tell the prisoners they were going to take a shower, they would even mark their clothes and belonging with their names so that they could collect them after. But in reality, these prisoners were being taken to a gas chamber to be murdered.

Sophomore Claire Palsgaard was impacted emotionally by the gas chamber part of the tour as well.

“Definitely the gas chamber part of the tour,” Palsgaard said. “I think that is where my heart broke for everyone who was murdered during the Holocaust or was affected by the Holocaust. I don’t think I will ever forget that part of the tour.”

The museum tour guide explained that the selection process was basically, anyone between the age of 15 and 40 that was in good health would live and do forced labor. If you were under the age of 14 or over the age of 41 you would be immediately sent to the gas chambers. This selection process led to the prisoners often lying about their age.

There was a selection of interactive games throughout the tour. In one interactive game called the “Point of View Diner,” students were shown a scenario dealing with racism, tolerance, a mistake or a bad decision with a cause and effect. Students were then given the opportunity to select questions to ask the characters in the video about their role in the situation. At the end, students were given the chance to vote on who they thought caused or played the largest part in the incident.

The sophomore class was split up into two tour groups. Each group branched off each with its own tour guide. One of the museum tour guides, Kasey Black, chooses to work at the museum because she believes everyone can learn something by studying past events.

“I choose to work here at the museum because I believe that we can all learn from history,” Black said. “Even though the Holocaust happened way back in the 1940’s, we can still learn from it, we can try to avoid the same mistakes they made in the past, and we can apply the history to the modern day world.”

The other group’s museum tour guide, Vanessa Frith, shared that she enjoys working at the museum because she has gotten to study the Holocaust and gets to stay up to date on hate crimes. She thinks high school students can discover a little more about how to impact and shape the world around them from the museum.

“Well I’ve gotten to know a much more in-depth look at the Holocaust and I get to stay up to date with hate-motivated crimes and the sort of things that happen in our world today,” Frith said. “As to how it relates to high school, it relates both to American and world history and civics, because you can learn how to change the world around you.”

Logan Lewis | The Feather Online

Sophomores observe a model at the Museum of Tolerance.

Black believes that this experience can be important for high school students to remember as they build careers and become potentially influential people.

“I think it’s important for high school students to learn all the things that you guys learned because some of you guys will probably be politicians, maybe the president or someone equally as important,” Black said. “If you just have that knowledge of what you can do to fight against intolerance then hopefully you guys can apply what you learned.”

Through the field trip to The Museum of Tolerance, students were able to connect the pages to visual stories of the Holocaust. 

For more articles, read Column: Cabin leaders meditate on first Calvin Crest experience and Civil War Revisited returns to Fresno.

This author can be reached via Twitter @toryntriplitt and via email: Toryn Triplitt.

Logan Lewis also contributed to the article.

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