Students in Amy Leatherwood’s and Mrs. Millers fifth grade homerooms were given the opportunity of a life time, to meet with a Holocaust survivor face to face thanks to technology and Skype. Students had been doing an in-depth study of the Holocaust in connection to their reading of the novel Number the Stars, by Lois Lowry.
Although the Holocaust is a topic typically taught to older children, Leatherwood discovered that many of the scholars (as she refers to them) are passionate about civil rights issues. Scholars studied topics such as the Resistance movement, propaganda, and how the excruciating torment of this time period affects us today.
“It was interesting to learn about the Holocaust because I had never even heard of it before,” Jairell Barrera said.
“I think it was a hard time in history but we were mature enough to learn about it and it teaches us how to love one another today,” Linda Mecen said.
Leatherwood set out to make the experience come to life for the scholars by contacting Simone Arnold Liebster, a Holocaust survivor currently living in France. Simone was only 11 when she was confined to a Nazi Reeducation School after her parents were sent to concentration camps.
After months of planning and preparation, the scholars held an hour long Skype conference with Simone where they had the privilege of asking their own questions such as how she handled persecution of her faith, what France was like during Hitler’s rise to power, and how she copes with her experiences today. Instead of focusing on the terror she experienced, Simone chose to focus her discussion on forgiveness and how to love one another despite differences.
“It was exciting because she explained to us how there is always good and bad in the world but to always look forward and keep your head high despite of obstacles,” student Brianna Serrano said.
Simone praised that the scholars were some of the most well-behaved and knowledgeable classes that she was ever spoken to. It was definitely an experience that the students will never forget.