Lessons in hate from the Holocaust to Buffalo – Harvard Gazette

Posted By on May 20, 2022

One person helping educate younger generations is Ruth Steinfeld, a child survivor of the Holocaust who features prominently in Werners film and who took part in the panel. Born in Germany in 1933, Steinfeld was sent to Gurs, a concentration camp in southwestern France, with her sister and parents when she was 7. A French aid agency helped smuggle the children to safety, but Steinfeld never saw her mother or father again. Decades later she learned they had both been killed at Auschwitz. Today she shares her story, she told the audience, to honor them and the staggering number of children murdered during the Nazi regime.

When I found out what happened to my parents, I made a silent decision that I will not let it happen, that the world will know what actually did happen, that 1.5 million children were murdered. And to me that is of utmost importance, to let the world know not to let this happen ever again, said Steinfeld. We know that in many places, a lot of this is happening. And we need to keep talking about it.

The film captures Steinfeld speaking to Laporche Abrams history class at Hastings High School in Houston. Abram, who took part in the panel during a lunchtime class break, said Steinfelds visit helped her students connect her story of struggle and survival in one way or another with their own personal stories.

Daniel Braunfeld, associate program director of special projects for Facing History and Ourselves, a nonprofit using lessons of history to challenge teachers and their students to stand up to bigotry and hate, said stories from the past can help students better understand empathy, motivations, inspirations, and consequences of peoples everyday choices, and the decisions students they make in their own lives.

[History] provides a little bit of arms length for students to be able to wrestle with these questions about how people treat each other, engage in processes, what are the impacts of ideologies, said Braunfeld, so they can begin to recognize their agency in the present.

In her class, Abram asks her students to study the personal narratives of children who experienced the Holocaust and to keep their own diaries. For the past two years the teens have chronicled their lives during the pandemic, she said, writing about school closures or losing a loved one. By comparing their own experiences to those of the children who suffered during World War II, Abram said they feel that empathy and are better able to understand what these particular groups of individuals were going through.

I think that thats important because once were able to make those connections, and theyre able to find something that they can relate to they then become invested in wanting to learn more.

ModeratorEric Shed, a lecturer on education at HGSE, asked Steinfeld what the world still needs to learn from the Holocaust and from her own experience. What the world has experienced is 6 million Jewish people died for no reason other than someone decided that we were not welcome in this world, my parents included, she answered. What we need to learn is that were all created equally.

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Lessons in hate from the Holocaust to Buffalo - Harvard Gazette

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