Some of the teachers who have been to the library this week are working on assignments related to to Holocaust. One assignment had some great potential: students were asked to create a persona of a person who had been taken to the concentration camps. They had to write three letters to family or friends. I read two of these letters, one from a top student and one from a student who I know is bright, but might not get just how deep this assignment could have been. I glimpsed pieces of other letters too. The one from a top student nearly had me in tears. She took on the persona of a gay man being transported to the camps along with a friend. Her imagery was amazing and I could really feel the fear of this persona in the letter. I hope to read all three of her letters. She explained to me that “everyone else” in her class had picked Jewish personas, which makes sense, but she and one of her friends wanted to pick gay personas, to lend a voice to them. I’m so impressed by this student and her level of writing and understanding.
I know there are a few Holocaust assignments happening in the school (it is a common thread between History and English classes for freshmen). One teacher wanted to have students learn more about the Hitler Youth and how easy it was for young people to be caught up in the fervor. Children turned on their parents under the Nazi regime. She was connecting that assignment to Freedom Writers, which empowers high-risk students, gives them a voice, and helps them succeed.
I feel there are lessons there about the power of government and the power of the people. I’ll admit, I was disappointed by Occupy because it didn’t have a voice. But now, I see protests around the world; Kiev is the one I saw pictures from today. I was scrolling through Tumblr (which is all fandom and fluffy animals for me) and suddenly, I saw a picture that could have been straight out of Les Mis. I couldn’t believe it was real until I kept scrolling and saw more.
I don’t know much Ukrainian history, despite growing up with a friend whose grandparents came from there. We all need to be informed of what is happening and why. We need to remember that we have a voice and that the people have power.