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Sophomore class gains perspective on WWII atrocities 

Whether in conversation or in the classroom, most people rarely dwell on a topic as dark as the Holocaust. Nevertheless, learning the causes, effects, and stories behind the 20th century’s deadliest genocide reveals lessons applicable today.

Alyssa Reese | The Feather Online

Students watch a presentation on Nazi Germany at the Museum of Tolerance, Oct. 17. The field trip supported the Holocaust unit in Andrea Donaghe’s sophomore English classes.

In an effort to understand the forces behind and responses to the Holocaust during WWIIAndrea Donaghe‘s sophomore English classes read “The Hiding Place“, written by Holocaust survivor Corrie Ten Boom, “Night“, by Elie Wiesel, and made Holocaust theme-based presentations.

Donaghe understands the curriculum upsets some people, but says students can gain world-changing inspiration.

“I get asked often at the end of ‘Night’, because it is a sad novel, ‘Why did you have us read this?,’” Donaghe said. “I say the same thing: ‘I want you to be better people. I want you to see something wrong in the world and have the guts to unite and step up and step forward.’

“As Christians especially, to realize this is the world we live in, we are not of the world but we’re in it,” Donaghe continued. “To teach tolerance and to be what Christ demands us to be, even in some place like a museum, we’re realizing the difference is out there and that we need show them Christ’s love to bring them to Christ.”

To supplement the classroom studies, Donaghe organized a field trip to the Museum of Tolerance (MOT) in Los Angeles. Founded by Holocaust survivor and Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal in 1993, the museum features exhibits on the history of Nazi Germany and their atrocities and the civil rights movement in America.

The Feather posted a Tweet during the sophomore class visit to the Museum of Tolerance.

With thousands of artifacts, the MOT provides perspective that books often fail to provide. This historical immersion impacted Riley Goldsborough, ’21, who says the Museum of Tolerance exposed the evil behind the Holocaust.

Andrea Donaghe

MOT guide O.C. Smith, left, speaks to students about lessons from the Holocaust. The museum also features exhibits on America’s civil rights movements and global humanitarian issues.

“I was impacted the most by the extent that the Nazis went to torture these people and to erase them,” Goldsborough said. “It’s crazy to to what lengths they went and how much hate they had. It impacted me and inspired to treat everyone equally and not to discriminate no matter what people look like or what they believe.”

The MOT provides docents for groups who tour the museum. O.C. Smith, one of the guides for Fresno Christian, served as a L.A. police officer for 35 years, during which he attended the MOT as part of his training. He sees the lesson of tolerance as a vital skill, and joined the museum staff to help impart this on students. 

“Tolerance is like a muscle; you got to work on it,” Smith said. “You don’t just get there and say, ‘I’m tolerant now,’ that’s not how it works. You got to constantly work on it and evaluate what you’re thinking, what saying to people, how you’re treating people. You need to constantly evaluate that to see if those messages are sinking in.”

Bryce Foshee interviews Museum of Tolerance docent O.C. Smith during the visit.

Mr. Wiesenthal founded the Museum of Tolerance to help people understand the Holocaust and its causes. A quote from the MOT’s website explains their purpose.

“As Simon Wiesenthal expressed, it must not only remind us of the past, but remind us to act. This Museum should serve to prevent hatred and genocide from occurring to any group now and in the future. The daunting task was to create an experience that would challenge people of all backgrounds to confront their most closely held assumptions and assume responsibility for change.”

Andrea Donaghe

Sophomores pose with museum docent, Walter, center. Guides accompanied each group and shared their personal lessons and stories.

Sarah Smith, ’21, gained knowledge about the Holocaust through studying it in class and at the museum. She says she was moved to sadness.

“There was a lot more to the Holocaust than everyone else thinks,” Sarah said. “There was more than just Jews. I was most saddened by learning about what happened to the babies.”

The sophomore class continues in reading and discussing Night. Comment below with lessons learned in the Holocaust unit or at the MOT.

For more articles, read San Joaquin Valley provides family-friendly fall activities and Warnors Theatre’s 90th anniversary celebrates Fresno history.

Bryce Foshee can be reached via Twitter @brycer_f and via email.

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