Over the past few months, the eighth-graders in Mr. Hawrusik’s, Ms. Hoffman’s and Mr. Needham’s English classes have studied the Holocaust through literature, art, academic study and film.
In October, students researched survivors of the Holocaust and recounted their stories in digital presentations on their iPads. Students then analyzed artwork that memorialized the experiences of Jewish prisoners – particularly the painting “Arrival of a Convoy” by Auschwitz survivor David Olère. Finally, students read “The Diary of Anne Frank,” the story of a young girl’s experience in hiding from religious persecution. All of their studies culminated with an assembly with Mr. Irving Roth, a Holocaust survivor.
Irving Roth was born in 1929 in Košice, Czechoslovakia, where his father owned a lucrative lumber business. His family escaped to Hungary and hid there until 1944, when he and his brother were deported to Auschwitz. Of the 4,000 Jews in his Auschwitz transport, only 300 survived the initial selection on the Auschwitz-Birkenau arrival platform. When Irving returned home after liberation, he found that both of his parents had survived. His brother did not survive, and his last known location was Bergen-Belsen. Mr. Roth is the director of the Holocaust Resource Center – Temple Judea of Manhasset and an adjunct professor at the University of Maine. He is a recognized speaker on anti-Semitism and the Holocaust and is a frequent lecturer at colleges and universities in Canada, Europe and the United States.
The students were enthralled with Mr. Roth’s story and connected even more with his closing statement on being kind and fighting against evil and bullying. Students lined up to talk to Mr. Roth at the end of the presentation, and many even bought his book, “Bondi’s Brother,” that he personally autographed for each one of them. The eighth-graders will continue to keep Mr. Roth’s message alive by hosting P.S. I Love You Day on Feb. 8. This day will focus on standing up against bullying and fighting to end depression.